Expansion Joint

Lunching at the Missouri History Museum's new cafe, Meriwether's

It's not as if you need any excuse to explore the profound changes occurring at the DeBaliviere entrance to Forest Park. No matter which side you espouse in the debate over the Louvre-like modern graft onto the park side of the Jefferson Memorial, the exhibit space of the newly expanded Missouri History Museum is a treasure trove, and the way the landscaping is shaping up around the museum, tennis stadium and golf courses bodes extremely well for the park's next 100 years.

The sweeping glass walls of the museum expansion offer a panoramic view of the park, which is perhaps best enjoyed while munching at Meriwether's, the new lunch restaurant within the Missouri History Museum building.

The food comes from Patty Long Catering, which recently ceased regular restaurant service at its Ninth Street Abbey in Soulard to focus on private parties and on managing Meriwether's. Choices include a soup and a buffalo-augmented "plainsman's chili," four meal-size salads, two pastas, six sandwiches and wraps, a quiche of the day and a couple of gourmet pizzas. Also available for about 10 bucks is a lunch buffet, which recently featured shepherd's pie, seafood Newburg en croute, a simple spaghetti in tomato sauce, roasted new potatoes and a vegetable medley.

Despite the inherent dangers in serving pastry-based dishes from a buffet table, both the Newburg and the shepherd's pie remained flaky. A daily special of smoked-trout pizza was manifested as a four-piece, 6-inch pie, tomatoless but dotted with roasted yellow peppers, with two grilled pieces of fresh asparagus crossed into the slice marks and a delicate coating of trout and bacon layered into a mild white cheese. A selection of about a half-dozen homemade desserts, ranging from tarts to baklava, is available for those who have the luxury of an afternoon nap.

But who wants to dream when you can see the latest evolution of Forest Park becoming reality? Go early or late, because even though Meriwether's has only been open a few weeks, there's almost always a wait during the prime lunch hour and it's all first-come, first-served.

MERIWETHER'S, Missouri History Museum, Lindell at DeBaliviere, 361-7313.

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