They say everything comes around again, but Jim Probstein of Ladue has a given a new twist to that concept. The son of Sportsman’s Park founder Norman Probstein, he recently purchased the Ladue landmark (which was sold outside the family five years ago), and is giving it a face-lift, in order to return it to its former glory.
Long the darling eatery of the Ladue glitterati, not to mention sports greats like Jack Buck, football Cardinal Hall-of-Famer Jackie Smith and hockey’s Brian Sutter and Al MacInnis, the bar/restaurant was definitely in need of a little refurbishing (at least). It was opened in 1974 as Jackie’s Place by Smith and the elder Probstein. In 1980, it became Sportsman’s Park.
Jim Probstein started working at the restaurant in his teens, doing everything from cleaning and washing dishes to bussing tables. “I started at 15, and then worked on and off through college. I also worked there after college, up until it was sold in 2003,” he says. After concentrating on his real estate business for the past five years, Probstein says he’s excited about coming back to Sportsman’s Park. “I recently made a deal with the (previous owners) to buy it back, and here I am.”
Probstein’s return marks a new era at the restaurant, which closed for business over the 4th of July weekend for a makeover. Among the changes, a redone bar area complete with new ceramic tile floors, stools and a drop ceiling. The dining room was also updated with new lighting, carpet and paint, Probstein notes, adding that the renovation will be ongoing. “We’re getting new dining room chairs and refurbished booths, as well as window treatments.” More important, though, are the infrastructure improvements, such as upgrading the kitchen. “We’ve also fixed the HVAC system. The temperature should be more balanced now, that’s a big positive.” As for the exterior, there are plans to redo the parking lot, but Probstein plans to keep the eatery’s pub-like look.
Probstein says he’ll be ‘tweaking’ the menu, but don’t worry about losing your favorites. “The basic menu will still be intact. We’re just working on upgrading the food quality.” He hopes to get the improved menu in place by fall. “We’re easing into it, it’ll take some time,” he says. “We’re certainly preserving the ambience and character that people expect when they come here. It has a special history: A lot of grown-ups remember eating here as kids, and now they take their children to eat here,” he says. “It’s reliable, cozy and seasoned.”