Chris Meyer and Mike Miller didn't set out to make the perfect breakfast sandwich. Really, all they wanted to do was provide a little something for people to eat after noticing the popularity of breakfast items at the Tower Grove Farmers' Market, where they ran their booth, Kitchen Kulture. When they first started doing the market there were already several vendors doing breakfast, and the market seemed saturated with good options, so they focused on their prepared-food business and left the morning fare to others.
However, over the years, Meyer and Miller noticed breakfast vendors dropping off one by one. Figuring that they had the following and know-how to put something together, they set out to fill the market's breakfast void, experimenting with different ideas and trying them out on their customers week in and week out. Over time, what developed was a crowd-sourced specimen of breakfast sandwich perfection called the Combo — flawlessly, buttery-griddled sourdough, a gooey egg, applewood smoked bacon, a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of honey — that developed such a cult following it came to define their booth.
The Combo is the cornerstone of the menu at Meyer and Miller's new restaurant, Songbird, which opened this past November in the Grove. A sister eatery to their beloved Lindenwood Park spot, Kounter Kulture, Songbird came to be after the pair realized that they needed a daytime-focused business that would be not only a home for their breakfast sandwich, but also an opportunity for their staff to work together and seek out new opportunities within their restaurant family.SEE ALSO: The People Behind Kitchen Kulture Open Songbird, a Soulful Breakfast Spot [PHOTOS]
Finding the right space solidified their vision. Thanks to a regular, pre-COVID catering gig with Square in Cortex, Meyer and Miller would regularly drive through the Grove and fell in love with the more residential area just north of Manchester's main commercial drag. When the storefront at the corner of Chouteau and Taylor avenues came open, they knew they had their spot and got to work on developing their ideas as well as the space. This included their daytime-focused offerings, as well as a partnership with their longtime friends at Sump to run the restaurant's coffee program.
The COVID-19 outbreak temporarily put their plans on hold, but it also allowed Meyer and Miller time to really think through what kind of restaurant they wanted Songbird to be. After months of planning and figuring out how to navigate running a food business during a pandemic, they opened their doors for curbside service on November 28, bringing to life a soulful spot that is sure to become the city's go-to for outstanding breakfast fare.
Songbird is so successful because it evokes the easy comfort of breakfast nostalgia while maintaining Meyer and Miller's commitment to quality, local sourcing and thoughtful touches. Easily recognizable yet inspired, the menu builds upon the popular Combo with items like a Sprouted Grain English Muffin, another outstanding breakfast sandwich that pairs a Buttonwood Farms turkey sausage patty with an over-medium farm egg cooked so perfectly it survived even the twenty-minute journey back to my house. The English muffin made from Lindley Mill flour is more rustic than traditional sourdough, and pairs beautifully with a nutty brown butter aioli.
The mushroom and kale frittata is perfection of the form. The hearty greens, earthy mushrooms and cheddar cheese are folded into a custard that's both impossibly rich and light as air at the same time. A side of mixed greens with a bright plum vinaigrette balances the dish.
Songbird's take on steak and eggs is St. Louis through and through. In place of a generic t-bone, Meyer and Miller pair two fried eggs with a nine-ounce Newman farm pork steak and cheesy grits. There is no Maull's to be seen on this plate, though; instead, apple compote adds just a note of sweetness to the pork, giving the dish a lovely brunchtime feel.
Meyer and Miller credit one of their cooks, Chino, with the breakfast tamale; he should receive an award for such an example of breakfast glory. The cotija cheese-filled masa serves as the base for a deeply rich and savory black bean stew. There's just a whisper of spice on the finish, though you can amp that up with Songbird's piquant hot sauce (recommended). Cilantro crema and a fried egg crown this outstanding dish.
Songbird's collaboration with Sump goes beyond just coffee service. The Sump coffee poundcake is a wonderful, almond flour breakfast treat that's nutty and subtly sweet. Served with housemade coffee jelly and luscious coconut cream, this is exactly what you want to pair with Sump's first-class coffee.
Hopefully, diners will be able to linger over a slice of that poundcake and a cup of coffee on Songbird's patio soon. Meyer and Miller envision the small restaurant as a combination of takeout and dine-in service, with limited seating indoors and a bit more outside on the sidewalks that line the side of the building. In the meantime, however, they've absolutely mastered curbside, not just in terms of accuracy and ease of ordering, but in how well their food translates to takeout. Dishes are beautifully packaged with the same care as if they were being plated for white-tablecloth service, and the food is flawlessly cooked. Case in point, the yolks on every egg I ordered were still runny when I went to eat them roughly twenty minutes after they were packed up — no small feat, but would you expect anything less from the people who've made their name by giving us breakfast-sandwich perfection?