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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Retreat Gastropub Now Open in the Central West End

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2015 at 7:20 AM

The Farmhouse Burger — two smashed patties, topped with bacon and a peppery eggs. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • Photo by Sarah Fenske
  • The Farmhouse Burger — two smashed patties, topped with bacon and a peppery eggs.

If you're the kind of person who likes everything that is modern and stylish in dining circa 2015, you will undoubtedly love Retreat Gastropub (2 North Sarah Street, 314-261-4497), the one-week-old restaurant tucked into the southeastern edge of the Central West End. There are mocktails featuring the suddenly ubiquitous (and incredibly tasty) fruit-based vinegars now being branded as "shrubs." There is a kale Caesar salad, a beet carpaccio, and a delightfully executed "Farmhouse burger." There is even, naturally, a poutine.

But if you're the kind of person who resists all that, well, what the hell are you doing at a place with "gastropub" in its name? This isn't a dive and it's not a diner. What it is should be abundantly clear in that name: a smart-looking restaurant with food that aspires beyond bar fare.

Retreat's kale caesar salad. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • Photo by Sarah Fenske
  • Retreat's kale caesar salad.

Retreat's owner, Travis Howard, was previously general manager at Bailey's Range, and he's brought with him Dave Bailey's ability to tightly curate a menu. The options here are not numerous, but each one is carefully chosen and executed with precision, down to the artisanal ketchup. 

The portion sizes aren't huge, but that's by design. The food is good for noshing, for sharing, but not for gorging yourself.

Clean lines with whimsical touches define Retreat's look. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • Photo by Sarah Fenske
  • Clean lines with whimsical touches define Retreat's look.

And the space is a stunner, with clean lines and clever touches. A row of kerosene-style lamps hang from the ceiling, just like your grandfather's old fishing cabin. Another row of gently old-fashioned lights above the bar suggests the soft glow of fireflies, or maybe just a lazy evening sitting out by the lake and enjoying a brewski. Retreat succeeds at being thoroughly modern by plumbing nostalgia for the past.

Along those lines, it's worth noting the unusual beer program here. In addition to the eight beers on tap, the gastropub offers a host of options in cans — and not just the usual PBR. The menu divides its canned beer into five types — bright + citrusy, malty + full, bold + layered, hoppy + balanced, and light + smooth. You can get anything from a 16-oz. Deviant Dale's from Oskar Blues to 4 Hands Oatmeal Brown.

Service is friendly and professional; our server was happy to let us linger, but the minute we made it clear we wanted the check, she was extremely efficient. Howard surely learned about much more than food while working for Dave Bailey — the overall presentation here seems much more fine-tuned than you'd expect from a first-time restaurateur's first few weeks of service.

The space, which previously held 6 North Cafe, also includes a lovely little patio tucked away from the street. Retreat is going before the city soon to add additional outdoor dining; when those plans succeed, it's almost impossible to imagine this won't be one of the Central West End's busiest outdoor dining options when the weather is nice.

The block is a particularly lovely one — sufficiently tucked away to be unbothered by fumes, but busy enough to feel vibrant. It's not quite as lovely as your family's lakeside house, but then again, do your parents have shrubs in the fridge? And can your grandma make poutine?

  • Photo by John Schoemehl

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected]

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