The Tavern Kitchen & Bar is another one of those gems hidden in the strip mall sprawl west of I-270. It straddles the line between Kirkwood and Valley Park, taking up the corner of a group of store fronts that includes a boxing gym and the former home of a sub shop franchise. But once you get past the bland surroundings and step inside, you’re treated to a nicely appointed interior. There’s plenty of dark wood furniture, artful photos of favorite St. Louis locales including The Tivoli and Forest Park on the walls, and some warm, homey touches, like an antique-looking sideboard topped with vintage family photos.
The restaurant promotes its offerings as ‘high-end comfort food,’ and the menu is chock full of culinary takes on classic feel-good fare. We couldn’t wait to see what kind of spin the Tavern would put on some of our favorites like the shrimp & grits ($11) and the bacon & eggs ($12). The grits, maybe the quintessential Southern comfort food, were oh-so creamy and the combination of roasted tomato and chorizo gave the dish a nice kick. The bacon & eggs dish was actually miles away from the breakfast classic the name implies. The ‘bacon’ is actually a nice chunk of pork belly, and instead of a traditional fried egg, this dish features a one-hour egg, which has an almost custard-like consistency, somewhere in the realm between soft-boiled and poached.
Next we dug into the arugula salad ($7) and the baby spinach salad ($7). Both were fresh and tasty, though the arugula salad was a little heavy on the vinaigrette. We just mentioned this to our server in passing, and we had another order, with dressing on the side, in no time. This was but one example of the great service we experienced during our meal. The wait staff was ultra-attentive, and we received new silverware after each course.
We took on the fish & chips ($14) and the bacon-wrapped meatloaf ($18) for our entrees. The fish was fried in a batter featuring Schlafly APA, and was served with a light, lemony tartar sauce. We expected the APA, with its high hops content, to lend a little tang to the fish, but it was surprisingly mild. The meatloaf, presented as three small medallions, was served on parsnip puree with green beans and what was billed as Hunter’s sauce, a smoky, flavorful take on ketchup.
For our sides, we took advantage of the Trio ($8), small portions of some of the sides available: creamed spinach, tater tot casserole and madeira mushrooms (actually listed as a sauce on the menu). The tots were hands down the standout here, decadently cheesy and served with a dollop of sour cream that proved to be the perfect accent.
For dessert we indulged in the carrot cake ($7) and cinnamon donuts ($7). While we definitely had no complaints about the cake, the donuts (really donut holes, to be exact) were the star of this show. They were warm and soft and came with a dipping sauce of cream cheese and bacon that was the perfect balance of salty and sweet.
We were impressed that the Tavern offers fairly extensive gluten-free, vegetarian and kids menus. There’s definitely something for everyone here. Be advised, though, that even though the Tavern serves comfort food, the portions are more in line with what you’d get at a white-tablecloth eatery than at Mom’s kitchen table. While the roots of the Tavern’s menu may be modest, the end result is definitely upscale.
Carrot Cake Recipe
Courtesy of Tavern Kitchen & Bar
4 c flour
4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 T cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t cloves
2 c sugar
1 ½ c Crisco oil
1 tsp vanilla
3 c shredded carrots
8 oz can crushed pineapple
Sift together flour, soda, salt and spices, then set aside. Combine sugar, vanilla, oil and eggs. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add dry ingredients to oil mixture and beat at low speed for 1 minute. Add 3 cups shredded carrots and One 8 oz can of crushed pineapple. Stir until combined. Bake 300 degrees for 1 hour in 9 x 13 pan.