After years in the food and beverage industry, Aurel Bardho had more or less gotten out of the restaurant game. He'd gotten a degree in criminology and sociology and then got into real estate, moonlighting as a bartender a few nights a week.
But it was real estate that pulled him back in — one particular piece of real estate. Bardho was living near Francis Park when Johnny Gitto's closed its location on Chippewa, just east of the River Des Peres. And Bardho was convinced it was absolutely the perfect spot to open a restaurant. "Lights were going off," he says of the moment he saw the "for sale" sign. Asked what was perfect about it, he says, "Everything."Indeed, the space that houses River's Edge Social (6997 Chippewa, 314-659-8756), which began soft openings on March 24, has much to commend it. There's a terrific patio, with areas both covered and uncovered. There's a huge kitchen, a big dining room and a separate room with a bar. There's even a large private room in the back for special events.
And then there are the things that make it an A+, things a savvy real estate investor can't help but notice: The generously sized parking lot, the prominent placement on a busy stretch of Chippewa. "There's something like 36,000, 37,000 cars that pass by every day," Bardho says. Simply putting up a sign for his new restaurant was like buying a billboard; even with no advertisements and little publicity, neighbors keep stopping by to see what's up.
But if the location lures diners in, Bardho and chef Phillip Paris aim to keep them coming back with a seafood-heavy menu of small plates, pizzas, sandwiches and entrees. While much of the food is date-night worthy — mussels in a tomato saffron basil broth, paella, and bone marrow mac n cheese among the options — the price are determinedly south city. At $22, the grilled ribeye tops the menu; just about everything else is $16 or less. "I don't want to make it too pricey," Bardho says.
Bardho moved to St. Louis in junior high school with his parents, who were fleeing the civil war in Albania. His chef, Paris, is of Greek descent, and the menu they've put together has a clear Mediterranean influence without being heavy-handed about it. You can get a classic Greek salad, the flaming cheese called saganaki or a lamb burger. If you want to keep it more basic, there's also an American-style burger that Bardho says is a showstopper.
For dessert, though, who wouldn't try the baklava or the loukomathes, a Greek delicacy akin to beignets?
River's Edge Social is open Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. It is closed Mondays.
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Editor's note: A previous version of this story contained soft opening hours for River's Edge Social; the correct hours going forward are now listed above. We regret the error.
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