We ended up dining at scape completely by accident.
After wandering the Central West End district of St. Louis searching for dinner, we made a full circle and peeked inside to ask about a table. It was a last resort, really. We call it a happy accident.
I should probably preface this post by mentioning that we’ve spent the past four years living in Fargo, ND and Mason City, IA. I honestly can’t remember the last time we made a restaurant reservation. It’s not that these communities didn’t have thriving restaurants; it’s just that you could probably find seats at the bar even on busy nights. Mason City’s most famous restaurant Northwestern Steakhouse didn’t even accept reservations. You just knew that you had to get there an hour early on a weekend or nice evening.
This date night was Jake’s pick. “I could go for a burger,” he said.
scape looked a little fancy for our mood, but we had unsuccessfully tried to visit about five restaurants prior. Several were completely booked and could not seat those without reservations period or within 1-2 hours. Before we had landed at scape, we actually found a more casual sit-down restaurant with open seats. When we asked the hostess if she was seating, she didn’t give a definitive “yes” or “no” answer, but did grab two menus and walked away. “I think we’re supposed to follow her,” I whispered. She stopped at a table and tossed the menus down without saying a word before walking away.
We looked around. Used dishes sat on tables and everyone looked generally pissed-off. After a few minutes, we decided to leave. “Should we tell them we’re going?” I asked Jake. There was no one at the front door when we left, anyway, so we didn’t feel too bad.
scape was the last restaurant we passed before reaching our car. With tempered expectations we asked the hostess if she was still seating non-RSVP’s. She gestured towards the bar and said we were welcome to wait for a seat. Otherwise, they did have this one two-top in front of the entrance near the bar. “We’ll take it!” we enthusiastically replied!
“Thank you so much!” I gushed as she walked us to the table. “We’re new in town, forgot to make reservations, and have been wandering around for an hour looking for a restaurant with open seats. We’re so excited you have a table.” I’m not sure she quite knew what to make of us.
Once we relaxed into our seats, we looked around. The crowd was dressed well. Jake and I weren’t dressed badly, but also weren’t donning our Sunday best. We really hadn’t anticipated choosing a fine-dining restaurant, but at this point, we were so hungry that we wanted to make the best of it.
Lo and behold, I spotted the $18 burger on the menu. We had set out for burgers, though, so we ordered them. The menu described them as “handcrafted filet burgers” grilled and topped with smoked white cheddar, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, and bacon jam. Because the restaurant felt so fancy and offered many seafood dishes, Jake worried that the expensive burger would be an afterthought.
The burgers arrived after a short wait and looked glorious.
First, the burgers were huge. One burger-half equaled generous normal burger. Second, they were accompanied by a big pile of crispy, seasoned french fries and garlic aoili.
We had ordered our burgers medium-rare and they were plenty of pink inside and juicy. The patty was thick and loosely packed and salted perfectly. We especially loved the sweet and savory bacon jam.
The Manhattan ($12) was refreshing, too. And strong.
I took half of my giant burger home. The take-out container sat inside a large shopping bag with handles.You know, the fancy kind you might receive at a Nordstrom’s. For some reason I found this amusing.
Two days later, the burger and fries still tasted good eaten cold from the fridge. I was delighted to find a little cup of the leftover aoili inside the box.
On this night, the chef at scape cooked one of the best burgers we’ve ever eaten. I’m always keeping a running ticker of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten that I can recite on the spot. There’s always room for one more.
Jeni’s Favorite Burgers , Thus Far (in no particular order)