Sunday, June 22, 2008

Last Night: Grand Opening at The Stable

Posted By on Sun, Jun 22, 2008 at 2:51 PM

What: The Stable Where: 1821 Cherokee Street Capacity: eventually will seat 175 Phone: 314-771-8500

Last night it seemed as if half of St. Louis arrived for the grand opening of Benton Park’s latest gem -- The Stable. Set in a recently renovated area once part of the Lemp Brewery, the impressive brick building actually did serve as a ''home to the horses that delivered their beer.'' After spending an evening dining and throwing back a few inside, it’s hard to imagine the sparkling clean joint filled with anything but table after table of folks just out for a good time.

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Check out some first-look shots and a write-up from media night at the microbrewery and distillery by Nick Lucchesi.

Just like many opening nights, there were a few expected hiccups at the brew pub: A full house made for a 45-minute wait (or longer) to dine, and it took about 15 minutes to get a cold one at the main bar. The line wasn’t as long at a second bar in an adjacent, uncompleted room, which was opened last minute to provide more seating for an at times overwhelming crowd. Bartender Tonya Colombe tended the smaller, cash-only bar without a credit-card machine or any beer -- just a ton of liquor. “Give me a couple days to get my CO2 figured out back here,” she joked with another beer-seeking customer.

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At one point, a rumor that the kitchen even ran out of food got out, but manager Bryan Boyer says that wasn’t the case. Clad in a button-down red shirt, Boyer was an omnipresent fixture inside the “eatzzeria” -- at some point it seemed like he was everywhere at all times, making sure every detail was just perfect.

Just Right: The mood. Everyone appeared genuinely excited to be a part of the first official night, as did the staff. Not Quite: Talk about a warm welcome -- someone definitely needed to crank up that AC, even just a smidgen. Overheard Quote: “A person could get sober waiting for a drink here,” says disgruntled woman waiting impatiently for her next pint.

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The Setting: The historic building alone already gives the place a vintage vibe, especially since the menu points out that beer hasn’t been brewed here since Prohibition. Lining the walls are relics of that past time, with all sorts of interesting conversation pieces. This includes a cheerful yet macabre skeleton, which according to one bartender is real, dangling high above the thick, mahogany bar. And one can’t miss the elegant, fourteen-foot long chandelier that twinkles overhead. When the lights are dimmed later in the evening, it leaves three circular chandeliers, with only ten tiny lights on each, to illuminate main dining area, giving it almost a medieval feel.

The Crowd: A mishmash of the just-legal-to-drink crowd mixed seamlessly in with the older folks and the somewhere-in-betweens. A few groups had some sort of affiliation with Amalgamated Brewing Company’s initial project Rotten Apple, located in Grafton, Ill., which is currently closed due to flooding. Others came to scope out what the neighborhood buzz is all about or to hear rockabilly group Colonel Ford play everything from Elvis to Johnny Cash.

The Menu: It’s a combination of house specialty 16-inch pizzas, pastas, salads, social plates and sandwich and burger grinders, which can be downloaded as a PDF here. We’ll leave the verdict up to RFT food critic Ian Froeb, who will check out a few items at a later date.

Bottom Line: The Stable is a must-try for its vintage décor, lively ambience and its soon-to-be-on-tap original beer.

- Jeanette Kozlowski

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