Gut Check: Café Balaban's successor is a contemporary bistro

Oct 22, 2008 at 4:00 am

A St. Louis institution is shuttered no longer. After sitting empty for most of this year, the Café Balaban space at 405 North Euclid Avenue in the Central West End has reopened as Herbie's Vintage 72. The name is a tribute to the late Herbie Balaban, the original owner of Café Balaban.

(For those needing a refresher: Café Balaban was purchased by Brendan Marsden and Harlee Sorkin in late 2006 and, after a very brief hiatus, reopened as Balaban's. That restaurant, which jettisoned many Café Balaban menu mainstays for a contemporary bistro approach initially led by chef Andy White, closed at the beginning of this year.)

Herbie's is owned by Monarch partners Aaron Teitelbaum and Jeff Orbin. Teitelbaum, a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, is leading the kitchen for the restaurant's first two months. Its menu is a rather significant nod to the original Café Balaban, featuring such classics as cucumber bisque and beef Wellington.

I spoke to Teitelbaum by phone before Herbie's grand opening last Friday. He told me that the restaurant's retro approach is potentially tricky, as fans of the original restaurant might remember its dishes as being better than they were. But he said the response during the restaurant's soft opening had been great.

(For more information on Herbie's, call the restaurant at 314-769-9595 or visit its website,

While I had Teitelbaum on the phone, I asked how Josh Galliano, former chef de cuisine at An American Place, was settling in as executive chef at Monarch. As Teitelbaum tells it, Galliano has hit the ground running: Only three days after stepping into the kitchen in late September, he revamped the entire menu. With Galliano and Matt McGuire (of the late King Louie's) having come on board this year, Teitelbaum says the five-year-old Maplewood restaurant is experiencing a "rebirth."

The James Beard Foundation is now accepting nominations for its annual restaurant awards. The process is open to the public; individuals can nominate winners in up to nineteen categories.

The two categories to which St. Louis foodies should pay special attention are Rising Star Chef of the Year and Best Chef: Midwest. Last year, Gerard Craft of Niche made the long list of nominees in the former category, while Michael Roberts of Atlas earned a place on the long list of the latter group. Visit to submit your nominations.

Are you opening a new restaurant? Know of a place that has closed? Something else for Ian to chew on? E-mail [email protected].