The St. Louis restaurants we miss the most

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ST. LOUIS — Fox 2 dug into why we have such a love affair with restaurants from days gone by.

Historic Al’s Restaurant near the riverfront is so “St. Louis” with its five-star food, five-star decor, and five-star customers, including Frank Sinatra, who still has a table “reserved” there. However, after nearly 100 years, we still have Al’s. It’s the long list of places we don’t have anymore that leave a little grumble in the belly and maybe a little hole in the heart.

Busch’s Grove in Ladue is near the top of that list. It drew customers from Teddy Roosevelt to Stan Musial before closing in 2003, reopening a short time later, only to close for good in 2008.

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“That’s where I had my wedding rehearsal dinner,” said Diane Knight of West County, heading into the 110-year-old Crown Candy Kitchen for lunch with a friend, to celebrate Knight’s birthday.

“I liked Maurizio’s,” said Crown Candy customer Jasmine Clerkley.

Their pizza, salad, and wings were a downtown staple.

“Caleco’s,” said Knight’s friend, Myra Lorio.

Jodi Burton of Waterloo was wishing for one last meal at Eberhardt’s German restaurant in Columbia, Illinois.

“The kids always went to Breezy Hill (in Waterloo) for pizza,” she recalled.

“Garavellis,” said Debra Wakeland of St. Louis.

For Mickey Ragsdale it was an old drive-thru called Price’s in East St. Louis.

“They had a hamburger that was called the ‘nightmare’. It had all this chili and cheese and stuff dripping all over. It was fantastic!”

It sounds like something you could get at the Parkmoor or maybe Noah’s Ark back in the day.

The old Big Boy’s in Wright City was known for its famous “fat man” neon sign and fried chicken.

Romines was the place for fried chicken in North St. Louis.

A former employee has reopened the place as a supper club.

The names and places from JBucks to Dierdorf & Hart’s, may come and go but the bonds we forge over the food never do.

There are all those places we loved to go before the game, after the game, and during the game — or maybe when shopping with your sister.

“Famous Barr downtown!” said Deborah Lore with a smile. “I’d meet her for lunch. We’d split a Reuben sandwich and have that French onion soup; the best in the world!”

“Rossino’s,” in the Central West End was the place for Crown Candy Kitchen owner Andy Karandzieff. He’d go there with his brother after working all day in their family restaurant and candy shop.

“My brother’s been gone 11 years… we’d have late-night pizzas and a few beers; that bonding moment over pizza and beer,” he said.

We understand.

Retired St. Louis restaurant legends, Ray Gallardo and Pat Hanon met as co-workers in the 1960s at the original Cheshire Inn.

The Cheshire closed by has since reopened.

“Casa Gallardo… that was my first restaurant that I opened up on my own (in 1975),” said Gallardo.

It grew to 37 locations. The last four, including the original at Wesport Plaza, closed in 2012. He and Hanon owned multiple places on their own and together through the years.

There was the Bevo Mill (now an event space), Patrick’s (which became Pujols 5 for a short time), and Ozzie’s.

Keeping restaurants going was non-stop work and closing them was a heartbreaker.

“I feel like I’m coming to a funeral,” an Ozzie’s customer told Fox 2 News when it closed in 2009. “These people are my friends. I was hugging my servers.”

“At ‘Patricks’ I had a couple of customers that actually met each other there and wound up getting married,” Hanon said. “I miss the excitement. I miss the thrill of owning a restaurant. When I went up to the table to check on the customers, I would see their faces light up they met somebody.”

“It’s the food, the atmosphere, the people who work there…it’s a second home, so to speak,” said Gallardo.

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Joe Sanfilippo owned Flippos restaurant in Chesterfield and J.F. Sanfilippos in Downtown St. Louis after being raised in a restaurant family. His parents owned Francos and Antonios in Belleville and Cahokia.

He adopted a slogan for his restaurants before getting out of the business a couple of years ago.

“I started saying, ‘where memories are made.’ You would come to Flippos or Sanfilippos because you wanted to make a memory with your family. Then your family became an extension of our family,” he said.

Clerkley says that’s really why we still pack places like Crown Candy Kitchen after 110 years.

“When you come somewhere for so long, even the people that work here become like family. They call you by name, like ‘Cheers’! You want to go where everybody knows your name,” she said.

In St. Louis, we always seem to be ‘glad we came’.


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