Diners can anticipate a wait at prime time but also free samples, sometimes smoked chicken wings, “any time the line backs up,” the pit master promises.
All Steele will say about the dry rub he uses is that it contains 23 ingredients. “Whatever you pick,” he tells customers who try to guess, “I’ll say yes to.”
1627 S. Ninth St. 314-621-3107.
www.bogartssmokehouse.com. Sandwiches $6.38 to $10.99, plates with two sides $9.99 to $14.99.
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If it’s Thursday and you find yourself in St. Louis for lunch, the sensible thing to do is to switch on the GPS and make a beeline for Lindenwood Park (where even taxi drivers are known to lose their way) and the $10 blue plate at Farmhaus.
It’s a sunny autumn afternoon when I land in an old church pew in the restaurant’s small bar and begin taking stock of chef Kevin Willmann’s first self-owned enterprise. Butcher paper covers the tables; dish towels serve as napkins and hint at the name of the place, open only since 2010. Is it fair to judge a man by his reading material? The cookbooks lined up behind the bar are by Jacques Pepin, James Beard and David Chang, the creator of the wildly popular Momofuko and its offshoots in New York.
It turns out there’s only one choice for lunch. Sometimes the blue plate stars roast beef and smashed potatoes; other times it’s mounded with fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. Today starts off with a spinach salad so big and pretty, you could almost make a meal of it. Sliced cooked egg, pickled red onion, a sail of lavosh and a mustard-and-onion vinaigrette make the introduction pop. Tea is included in the tab, but I prefer a glass of wine as an escort to today’s catch, fried grouper. My glad-to-have-you-here server comes through with a malvar from Spain with the bright notes of a sauvignon blanc.
“Instead of advertising,” says Willman, 33, who was raised 40 miles from St. Louis in Illinois and whose family owned farms, “we put money into the blue plate.”
The effort shows. The cornmeal crust on the fish breaks open to a puff of steam and snowy pleasure. A big scoop of red beans and rice, meaty with ham hocks, flanks the centerpiece, as do hush puppies the size of golf balls and all too easy to finish. An eater by profession (and somewhat mindful of my diet), I rarely finish everything on my plate, but right now, I’m picking up crumbs and scraping up tartar sauce. My neighbors are all requesting to see dinner menus, and I follow suit.