Selecting Riverfront Times' Best of St. Louis 2011 was no picnic. Choosing the winner meant several worthy candidates would go unmentioned -- until now. In this Gut Check series, we are chewing our way through notable runners up in a number of categories. To see hundreds more winners and finalists and download the Riverfront Times Best of St. Louis mobile app, visit our Best of St. Louis homepage.
In Gut Check's day, the month of May meant precious else than Mother's Day, Memorial Day and attending one too many graduation parties. However, the passage of time (read: since 1963) has led to May also being officially dubbed Older Americans Month. Though there always seems something unintentionally exclusionary about such observances -- does that make June through April Young Americans Months? -- we're taking the opportunity to call our grandparents and buy them dinner, because they deserve it, and because it makes us feel better about ourselves.
Fast Eddie's Bon-Air (1530 East Fourth Street, Alton, Illinois; 618-462-5532): Grandpa may be getting older, but for God's sake, he's not dead. You may not be able to help him fulfill his dream of owning a motorcycle, but the very least you can do is stop taking him out for pancakes. Grandpa's sick of pancakes. Grandpa's also sick of all the screaming little kids out with the other grandpas at the pancake houses. So take Grandpa someplace he'll actually enjoy: Fast Eddie's Bon-Air in Alton. He'll like the retro signs on the wall and the retro prices on the menu. The burgers are still 99 cents, the boiled shrimp are still 29 cents apiece, and nothing's more than $3.99. The music's loud enough that he won't have to complain that his hearing's going. Buy him a beer and watch him (discreetly) check out the cocktail waitresses and listen to him tell you a few racy stories. Time's passing, but you and Grandpa are both alive, dammit, and don't you forget it.
Blueberry Hill (6504 Delmar Boulevard; 314-727-4444): If the retro collectables and St. Louis memorabilia that line the walls and halls of Blueberry Hill don't win Grandpa over, the all-American menu of burgers, fries, sandwiches and beers certainly will. As equal a local landmark as any restaurant, Blueberry Hill has a casual charm that appeals to grandparents no-muss, no fuss nature. Though the menu is sure to please with Midwest classics, you can bet that Grandpa will grouse about having to pay for French fries separately -- as he should, because that really is total bull.
Bob Evans (6528 South Lindbergh Boulevard; 314-487-1919): Is Bob Evans your favorite restaurant? Doesn't matter; it's not about you. It's about Grandpa. It's maybe not even his favorite restaurant, but here are the secrets that make it his favorite place to eat: consistency, quality, speed of service, proper coffee temperature and pleasing acoustics -- everyplace else is so loud that conversation is impossible no matter how high Gramps cranks his hearing aid. It also doesn't hurt that the menu is chock-full of breakfast staples that are served in "old-fashioned" ways. So there you have it. Bob Evans, five for five on the Gramp-O-Meter. Live it up, kid.
Fairmount Park Racetrack (9301 Collinsville Road Collinsville, Illinois; 314-436-1516): Back in his younger days, Grandpa had a strict rule: You don't get lunch at the racetrack until you win. But ever since the price of a hot dog at Fairmount Park dropped to a buck on Horse Hooky Tuesdays (during the live racing season in spring and summer), the old man's eased up a bit. It requires a full belly for him to properly explain his system for betting, and for you to properly comprehend. And if the system fails to work (as it often does), it's due to extenuating circumstances, which requires more explanation and cigar-chewing and maybe another hot dog. If one of you hits a trifecta, you can splurge for the Top of the Turf in the clubhouse, with its ruinous $4 minimum.
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