Veteran St. Louis restaurateur Rex Hale has extended his reach to Godfrey, Illinois, with Bakers & Hale, a fresh, farm-to-table venture launched with longtime employee, friend and Illinoisan Kelsi Baker Walden.
“I think the most exciting thing is that we can cook with the seasons,” says Hale, who both owns Bakers & Hale and chefs there and who previously ran four restaurants, including Boundary and 360 St. Louis under Lodging Hospitality Management. “We can actually grow things on the property, serve things out of the garden and have an opportunity to share our love for food with people in this area.”
The harvest-driven menu at the casual family eatery features comfort food highlighted by locally procured ingredients. In addition to produce grown in the on-site garden, Hale and Walden work with various area purveyors, including Ferguson’s EarthDance, Doniphan’s Rain Crow Ranch and De Soto’s Such and Such Farm, to source the components for their ever-evolving offerings.
The property, which the Baker family now owns, features abundant seating, with around 60 seats in the dining room, 75 in the inside bar and another 110 at the outside bar. The farmhouse feel of the space includes highlights like a vegetable-themed mural by Godfrey artists Eric and Crystal Stevens, tabletops painted by students from the nearby Montessori school and Baker family photos.
The dining room menu features traditional meal options such as starters, entrées and desserts, while the bar menu offers more communally focused dining options like shareable plates, tacos, sandwiches and pizzas.
Highlights from the debut set of offerings included small plates like heirloom tomatoes with mozzarella from Marcoot Jersey Creamery in Greenville, Illinois, herbs and white wine vinaigrette. Entrées at that time included smoked beef brisket with a pickled beet and goat cheese salad, as well as swordfish with garden peach-tomato sauce, wilted rainbow chard and blue fingerling potatoes. For dessert, guests then visiting the eatery could choose from options including cheesecake with caramel and local fruit such as figs.
“We really wanted to serve good food with good local ingredients that express what the food is, and keep true to what the ingredients are without getting pretentious with it,” Hale says. “We’re making the food approachable, but exciting at the same time.”
From the bar, guests can choose from nine different local craft beers and ciders on tap – such as brews from Alton, Illinois’ Old Bakery Beer Company – as well as a variety of canned and bottled options. The wine list features all local or organic, biodynamic picks. Cocktails often feature locally made spirits; the Apple Blossom, for instance, incorporates local Fuji apple juice, honey, citrus and the guest’s choice of Down East wheat vodka or Four Roses bourbon.
“The cocktail program here is really in line with the vision for food,” head bartender Rory Morse says. “We’ll have fresh juices paired with local honey, local maple syrup and herbs from our garden. It’s really meant to be as fresh as humanly possible.”
Bakers & Hale, 7120 Montclaire Ave., Godfrey, Illinois, 618-433-9748, bakershale.com