Friends & Neighbors
No need to drive downtown to taste the magic. These spots keep us hydrated closer to home
While there's a small number of tables inside at Club Taco (200 North Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood; 314-858-1488), the patio is the best place to enjoy this fast-casual restaurant's tasty drinks and tacos. The skilled bartenders focus on fresh ingredients for their sangrias, margaritas, martinis and more. The watermelon and basil margarita and cucumber mint crush are especially refreshing. Getting hungry? Despite the "taco" in the name, Club Taco isn't a Mexican joint. Instead, the menu includes more than twenty tacos featuring everything from calamari (the "It's All Greek to Me") to Southern fried turkey breast (the "Gobble Gobble"). This casual Kirkwood joint offers happy hour Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m.; grab a seat on that huge patio and get to drinking.
612 Kitchen & Cocktails
Once the home of Kirkwood mainstay Graham's Grill, 612 Kitchen & Cocktails (612 West Woodbine Avenue, Kirkwood; 314-965-2003) got a stylish remodel, transforming itself from a local watering hole into a bona fide destination. The former spot's Cajun vibe has given way to a vintage speakeasy atmosphere, complete with killer cocktails. This is the place to go if you're west of Lindbergh and in need of a manhattan, though palates that prefer more fruit-forward libations will also be at home here. From sazeracs to sangria, there is something for everyone.
If you think folks are only serious about their cocktails on the St. Louis side of the river, then you haven't been to Prasino (1520 South Fifth Street, St. Charles; 636-277-0202). Located in a St. Charles strip mall just across the Blanchette Bridge, this eco-chic restaurant serves a bevy of thoughtful cocktails in its stylish, modern lounge. The place to see and be seen in St. Charles County, Prasino entices with a thoughtful drink list that appeals to every palate. Bourbon lovers should try the "Smoke 'Em If you Got 'Em," a concoction that employs charred red pepper syrup and a smoked glass. Classic daiquiris, thirst-quenching sangria and martinis are all good options at this trendsetting bar, but a visit to Prasino is not complete without trying the "Cheshire Tea." Made with gin, St. Germain and lavender and ginger-infused tea, this beautiful drink is a feast for the eyes as much as the palate. The drink is chilled by a frozen orchid bloom, and lest you think you're just seeing the reflection of the lights of Ameristar across the way, its ethereal glow actually comes from the LEED coaster on which it rests.
Old Mill Stream
Drinking at the Old Mill Stream (912 South Main Street, St. Charles; 636-946-3287) will transport you back in time. The vintage establishment has been located in Old Town St. Charles for more than 25 years, a bulwark for those in need of a stiff, quiet drink. At the street level, patrons can enjoy pub-style eats for a quick, sit-down meal, but the main bar downstairs is where true locals gather. Descend the wooden staircase to a dog-friendly, all-brick patio underneath a canopy of trees and hop down into the basement bar, where the door is always open for regulars and newcomers alike. Inside, dim light bounces off antiquated stone walls, the bar wood is weathered dark by the storm of smokers past and bartenders get down to brass tacks pouring strong libations from an extensive drink list. No cross-country selection of beer taps here, as evidenced by the endless row of cans and bottles above the bar. Instead, it's just like things used to be.
The word "scene" may seem like an odd descriptor for a bar and grill in Kirkwood. After all, this is a neighborhood known more for its top-rated schools and wholesome Americana feel than bottle service and happening nightlife. However, the moment you step into Billy G's (131 West Argonne Drive, Kirkwood; 314-984-8000), you'll witness an atmosphere that could rival any of downtown's trendy nightclubs. On any given night, Billy G's is a "who's who" of Kirkwood: Moms eschew Lululemon in favor of Tori Burch, and the dads — well, they're probably still in khaki shorts and golf shirts. But they're definitely here to have fun. The place is perpetually packed, offering one of the best places in the mid-county suburbs to grab a "Greentree Mojito" or any number of signature cocktails. And just as good as the drinks is the stunning outdoor patio. This massive space, outfitted with outdoor fireplaces and upscale furniture, is the perfect place to see and be seen in this slice of the county.
Full of quirky charm and gorgeous, decadent drinks and desserts, this Webster Groves gem with a European vibe is a great place to head for a special occasion. The cocktail menu at Cyrano's Cafe (603 East Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-963-3232) features nearly 40 concoctions. The happy hour offers half-price beer and wine and $5 martinis — yes, really! — from 4-7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Cocktails on offer include retro classics, including Cyrano's take on the gin fizz and the dark and stormy, plus margaritas, cosmopolitans, manhattans and several dessert martinis. Salted caramel and booze? We're in.
BJ's Bar and Restaurant
BJ's Bar and Restaurant (184 Washington Street, Florissant; 314-837-7783) is a family affair, through and through. The brick corner bar in Florissant has been operated by the same north county clan since 1955, when owner Jay Russell — the "J" in the name — first took the reins. (Russell died last year; his children operate the bar now.) Less a cocktail destination than a glorious monument to no-bullshit drinking, BJ's is damn near iconic in north county thanks to both its longevity and the gigantic Stag Beer awning on the outside of the building. But even if "Steak Taters and Gravy" isn't your thing, don't worry: Thanks to the makeshift convenience store behind the bar, you're just a few purchases away from mixing up your own drinks. (Only $22 for a gallon of Ten High! Goes good with Coke and more Ten High.) Drink prices are kept intentionally dirt-cheap in order to subsidize the establishment's tasty pizza endeavors — one of the best thin-crust pizzas you'll find in the whole metro area, in fact. A delicious cocktail made by an experienced mixologist is great and all, but a delicious slice of pizza with a whiskey-heavy drink you make for yourself? That's priceless.
With reporting by Cheryl Baehr, Sarah Fenske, Alison Sieloff, Lauren Milford, Kevin Korinek, Danny Wicentowski, Daniel Hill, Elizabeth Semko and Quinn WilsonOur 2017 Bar Guide hit the streets this week. Look for a copy in most spots where the RFT is carried.