One of the first things Gut Check noticed upon walking into Blackfinn American Grille (1147 Saint Louis Galleria, Richmond Heights; 314-726-5300) is the sheer size of the restaurant. Occupying the former Mark Shale space at the Galleria, Blackfinn boasts almost 10,000 square feet of space and offers a variety of dining options at all times of the day, including brunch on the weekends and a late-night menu.
"We're really looking to everyone," says Sarah Newton, sales and marketing manager. "Even kids can come in and have a family dinner in the dining room. Business professionals can come in for business lunches or happy hours in every single room."
Blackfinn's dining rooms each contain large doses of character and charm. The "grille room" features a nautical theme with canoes lining the ceiling, and a large, long bar anchors one side with 35 draft taps that are a who's who of the craft-beer world (including four local breweries). The booths, which resemble small boats with material lining the seats, have power outlets for executive lunch meetings as well as free Wi-Fi. The dining room is adorned with local photographer's work of iconic St. Louis landmarks while the "saloon" proudly displays St. Louis sports memorabilia, four projection screens and a fully stocked bar. The fourth dining area, the patio, was still under construction at press time but is expected to be completely finished within the next few weeks.
The only thing to rival the restaurant's size is its expansive menu.
"We have 100 different menu items," Newton says. "We have a lot of local classics, like toasted ravioli, lasagna and a St. Louis-style pizza."
Don't be surprised if it takes you several minutes to decide on a menu item -- Gut Check took at least ten to explore the entire selection and make our final decisions. The "Ying-Yang Shrimp" is a house specialty with lightly fried shrimp tossed in a spicy Asian mayonnaise served on a bed of lettuce. After bouncing around between several tempting options (the bacon-wrapped meatloaf, "Iron Skillet Mac 'n Cheese Surf or Turf" and the bacon-wrapped, sausage-stuffed "Queen City Chicken"), the steak frites arrived at our table. The twelve-ounce New York strip was a shade over the requested medium rare, but juicy. The frites, infused with a subtle dose of truffle oil, were quite crispy. The dessert menu features a Key lime pie that is made with fresh-squeezed limes, a point our waiter makes immediately. However, the Blackfinn hot chocolate is a fun dessert that will appeal to all ages. A warm chocolate-and-peanut-butter soufflé sits in an oversize coffee mug and slowly melts the vanilla ice cream sitting on top.
At the helm of the kitchen is executive chef Jeff Lathrop, a 22-year industry veteran who also has catering experience on his résumé. This is an important note, because the yet to be finished banquet space beneath the main dining room floor is the final piece of the Blackfinn puzzle. Newton says the first banquet space will be available in a month with the entire 10,000 square foot banquet area complete by the 2012 holiday season.
"It's a community gathering spot, so there's something for everybody," Newton says.
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