Central Table Food Hall succeeds as a culinary hub for all palates

Slideshow: Inside Central Table Food Hall

Central Table Food Hall succeeds as a culinary hub for all palates
Jennifer Silverberg
Out of many, one: Scallops with summer squash, arugula and bok choy. Slideshow: Inside Central Table Food Hall.

I'll admit that I was a skeptic en route to Central Table Food Hall. True, variety is the spice of life, but I could not help but equate the food-station concept with that of an ostentatious wedding. Malls have food stations — they're called "courts." So do cruises. And if anything needs to be buried at sea, it's the threat of salmonella with your Baked Alaska, abated only by strategically positioned stations of hand sanitizer.

These thoughts quickly dissipated, though, as I entered the front doors of Central Table and was immediately greeted by a graceful host, keen on explaining the "food hall" concept before I had the chance to get confused. This was key, as one could easily be overwhelmed by not only the sheer size of the place — a behemoth at 10,000 square feet with industrial-style lofted ceilings and various nooks filled with culinary delights — but also by the bounty of options spread out like a medieval feast. Central Table is a market, coffee shop, wine bar, deli, sushi bar, raw bar, hearth and grill. From the comprehensiveness of the selections, one sees that it aims to offer a little bit of something for everyone. Yet the common thread that runs through the eatery is an emphasis on farm-to-table ingredients, as many local and regional products as possible, and housemade selections that allow the creativity of its army of chefs to run free.

Building on the dining hall concept that is catching on at places such as New York's Eataly and Los Angeles' Umamicatessen, Central Table looks to draw visitors and employees from the nearby Barnes-Jewish Hospital megacomplex as well as destination diners to the Central West End. In fact, it was the hospital that approached Central Table developer Walter McClure about bringing a restaurant to its new highrise at the corner of Euclid Avenue and Forest Park Parkway. Before the restaurant opened its doors in May the thought was that a robust lunch crowd would be the driving force of business, says Central Table's manager, Christian Bailey. But with a concept so new to St. Louis, as well as the broader country, Central Table's patrons are the ones who will ultimately define the food hall's vision, and they're going there for lunch, and dinner and drinks. (The bar, featuring craft cocktails, recently launched a happy hour.)

Slideshow: Inside Central Table Food Hall
Jennifer Silverberg
Slideshow: Inside Central Table Food Hall
Jennifer Silverberg

Location Info


Central Table Food Hall

23 S. Euclid Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63108

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Central West End


Central Table Food Hall
Bone marrow...$9
Margherita pizza...$11
Pork rib loin...$24
23 South Euclid Avenue; 314-932-5595.
Hours: 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu. 6 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri. 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Sat. 10 a.m.-2 p.m., 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Sun.

Slideshow: Inside Central Table Food Hall

But let's begin with lunch. Diners can order and pay at the individual stations and either take the food to go or seat themselves at tables of their choosing. For those wanting something from different stations, the bar offers the only option for full-service dining and centralized ordering.

On a recent weekday my friend and I picked the bar option. From the hundreds of options on the menu, we chose to split our first course, an arugula salad that came drizzled with a walnut and roasted garlic vinaigrette. The dressing had a tartness and granular texture evocative of Caesar without the anchovies that played well with the bite of the arugula. The addition of edamame and asparagus added some crunch, while small cubes of the sheep-milk pecorino were nice stand-ins for the oft-used crouton as the source of salt and texture.

The chicken pita sandwich came highly recommended — twice by the host and once by the bartender — so our expectations were high. While the housemade pita was soft and kissed with the roasty char of the wood fire, the chicken breast itself was a bit underseasoned. I was hoping for some serious Mediterranean spices — oregano, garlic, citrus zest, something — but was left to my longing with a very slight dusting of what seemed like cumin. My hopes were again stoked by the sandwich's accompaniments of "spicy" tzatziki, cucumber, mint and romaine salad, but there was not enough tzatziki for me to discern spice.

For serious pizza aficionados (as readers will learn, I do not mess around in this department), the wood-fired pizza at Central Table is expletive-inducing magnificent. From the perfectly wood-fired crust to the simple tanginess of the imported San Marzano tomatoes (thank you, Central Table, for not dumping a jar full of oregano into the sauce) to the real Parmigiano-Reggiano (no powdery shaker here), mozzarella and fresh basil, it was a win across the board. If I am splitting hairs here, I will say that they appeared to use shredded, not fresh, mozzarella, and I would call this more New York style than Neapolitan, but that is like complaining about having to pay taxes on Powerball winnings.

Dinner service sees Central Table transition into more of a traditional sit-down experience with full table service. Diners can still experience the different stations, but they exist more so to showcase the preparation rather than serve as a point at which to order.

The show was certainly in full swing the night of our visit. A sea bass and cantaloupe appetizer could not have been more refreshing on a sticky St. Louis evening. The sea bass was raw and thinly sliced, and the quality of the fish shone through in the form of its delicate texture and freshness. Its pairing with the concentrated sweetness of pressed cantaloupe underscored how you can recognize freshness in certain types of seafood by a melon undertone. Tarragon sprigs added an herbal licorice component that balanced the sweet freshness of the sea with earthiness, while crispy seaweed (nori) tied the dish together with a delicate saltiness.

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