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Cleveland-Heath Owners Leaving Restaurant and STL Metro Area

Cleveland-Heath Owners Leaving Restaurant and STL Metro Area

Award-Winning Edwardsville Restaurant Gets New Owners, But Not Changing

Edwardsville, IL/September 3, 2017 (STLRestaurant.News) – Often times when we bring you news of a restaurant changing hands, it’s with the promise of new things to come.  In the case of the exceptionally popular metro-east restaurant, Cleveland-Heath, it’s with the promise to keep things going just the way they are.  That’s according to chefs Jenny Cleveland and Eric “Ed” Heath, who have sold their Edwardsville restaurant and plan to head to Utah.  The new owners, Kari and Keith McGinness officially took possession of Cleveland-Heath September 1st, and they’ve promised not to change a thing.  The beloved Edwardsville eatery will keep its name, along with its menu, management team, kitchen staff, and casual vibe.  Both sets of owners say customers won’t see a difference.

The new owners each bring strong restaurant backgrounds.  Kari McGinness will draw on her experience tending bar and managing independent restaurants and handle front of house duties.  Her husband Keith, with a background in corporate restaurant operations (including a recent stint overseeing 25 Applebee’s locations) will handle operational matters.  That includes maintaining the current Cleveland-Heath brand.  McGinness has said they don’t want to change a thing at this already successful restaurant.  The McGinnesses are so committed to a seamless transition that they’ve been working at the Edwardsville restaurant for the past several weeks.

Chefs Jennifer Cleveland and Eric “Ed” Heath opened Cleveland-Heath at 106 North Main Street in the historic Boehm Building in 2011.  The comfortable restaurant offers their gourmet takes on classic American foods.  And, as we told you when they took Best Burger top honors last November, they do it brilliantly.  But then Heath is a two-time James Beard Best Chef semifinalist (2015 & 2016) and Cleveland-Heath’s Executive Chef Rick Kazmer was his classmate at culinary school.  Chef Kazmer has been running the restaurant’s kitchen for the last five years.  It’s he who developed the recipes for the restaurant’s famous grass-fed cheeseburger, as well as the lemony Kale salad and that divine Pineapple Gooey Butter Cake.  And Chef Kazmer is staying put.

The gourmet duo of Cleveland and Heath moved to Edwardsville to be closer to Cleveland’s family in Central Illinois.  Now, they are planning to move to Heath’s native Utah, so that he can be closer to his family for a while.  At least at first, the pair plan to work for a local restaurant group, but could eventually open a new place.  The McGinnesses both have ties to the St. Louis area.  Kari is a St. Louis native and Keith grew up in Collinsville.  Those strong ties to the area are reflected in the couple’s determination to maintain Cleveland-Heath’s strong commitment to the community that so lovingly embraced the restaurant and its founders since day-one.  For that community support, the dedication of their restaurant staff, and the new owners’ commitment to keep their greatest accomplishment going, Cleveland and Heath have said they are most grateful.

Contact Information:

New Owners: Keith and Kari McGinness
106 North Main Street
Edwardsville, IL 62025
Phone: (618) 307-4830


By Susan Smith-Harmon – published on STLRestaurant.News by St. Louis Media, LLC

1st Annual Smokin’ on Main BBQ Competition in Collinsville

1st Annual Smokin’ on Main BBQ Competition in Collinsville

Collinsville’s Inaugural Smokin’ on Main BBQ Competition

Collinsville, IL/July 26, 2017 (STLRestaurant.News) – Proud carnivores of the St. Louis area, your time has come!  The weekend of July 29 – 30, the first annual Smokin’ on Main BBQ Competition will be held in Collinsville, Illinois.  The event along Main Street in uptown Collinsville will offer a little something for everyone, summertime backyard barbeques buffs, fans of world class BBQ prepared by local grilling champions, cooking competition enthusiasts, festivals lovers in general.  Admission to the festival is free and some of St. Louis’ favorite barbecue restaurants will be offering concessions during both days of the festival.  Look for Sugarfire Smoke House, Doc’s Smokehouse & Catering, Beast Craft BBQ Co., Mr. BBQ’s Rib Shack, Fire-N-Smoke Wood Fired Kitchen, and Red Top Barbecue & Chili.  Three of the top pro competitors will also be selling their wares.

Besides great barbecue, festival goers will also enjoy live music both days of the event, or test their skills on the “Climb for PTSD” rock climbing wall.  The world-famous Budweiser Clydesdale will make an appearance Saturday from 2–4:00 p.m.  The event host, Code 3 Spices at 302 E Main Street in Collinsville, has a reputation for supporting American heroes.  Every bottle of their award-winning barbecue seasonings and Patriot Sauce raises 25-cents for organizations that support police, fire, medical, and military personnel.  So, it’s not surprising that proceeds from the Smokin’ on Main BBQ Competition and festival will benefit the U.S. Veterans Foundation and the Collinsville Food Pantry.  Code 3 Spices co-owner Mike Radosevich was a police officer for 15-years before he and Chris Bohnemeier started Code 3 Spices.  Radosevich says they decided right away to make giving back part of their business model.

Code 3 Spices co-owner Mike Radosevich talks about the inspiration behind the Smokin’ on Main BBQ Competition.

More than 50 teams are expected to show off their barbecue prowess at the Smokin’ on Main BBQ Competition.  The competition’s Pro Division is expected to draw 35 teams of professional BBQ chefs from across the St. Louis area to compete and prove themselves the best in the business, while the Backyard Division will give 20 teams of non-professional grillers the chance to show off their skills and potentially win a little cash while they’re at it.  The Pro Division will feature the classics: ribs, chicken, pork (butt and shoulder), and brisket.  The Backyard Division will feature party barbecue favorites, ribs and chicken wings.  The competition’s total prize money is a whopping $8,000.  A top prize of $6,500 will be awarded to the Pro Division winner, while $1,500 will go to the Backyard Division champion.  Additionally, awards and cash will be given to the top five competitors in each division.

The festival kicks off Saturday at 11:00 a.m. and goes until 10:00 p.m.  On Sunday, it’ll run from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.  There will be live music on both days, as well as traditional festival concessions, and of course, all that luscious smoked the meat! What a great addition to summer in the Metro East.


By Katie Smith

Taqueria Z Adds Spice to Edwardsville Restaurant Scene

Taqueria Z Adds Spice to Edwardsville Restaurant Scene

STL Area’s Newest Mexican Joint is Taqueria Z

Edwardsville, IL/May 29, 2017 (STLRestaurant.News) – The newest Mexican restaurant in the St. Louis area opened last November with the hope of creating quality Mexican street food for students at SIUE and others in the metro-east.  Taqueria Z was so well received when it opened that the first few times they fired up the grill, the little Mexican joint ran out of food.  And “joint” is the right word to describe this authentic taqueria in the heart of Edwardsville.  It’s a small cube of a restaurant at 109 East Park Street, in a rehabbed garage.  The place is clean, and has a definite Mexican vibe, but it’s small.  Takeout is a mainstay of business at Taqueria Z, but that may change now that the weather is warming up.  They have only a tiny counter space and a couple small tables for diners inside, but they have a nice patio with sail awnings and twinkle lights.  The restaurant’s creation comes from an unlikely pairing.

Mike Zanger brings the authentic Mexican know-how.  He visited Mexico for the first time at age 15, returned time and again, after falling in love with the culture and its cuisine.  He lived in central Mexico for a few years, where he learned how to prepare authentic tacos and chacos.  Now in his late 50s, Mike says starting the taqueria is his version of a “midlife crisis.”  Issues with his health (liver cancer and a transplant in 2015) spurred him to stop putting off his dream, and create the life he wanted.  Zach Miller brings business savvy to the partnership.  He met Mike at acoustic concerts hosted at the Zanger’s rural Edwardsville home.  It was there the two men struck up a friendship, and their they began making tacos together.  At 32, Mike is the owner and publisher of the Main Street Beat, an advertising publication for the local Edwardsville community.  He also owns an online-only business called Ziller Reptiles, that specializes in breeding and selling designer ball pythons and crested geckos.

Zach Miller spoke with BND.com last fall about some of the menu items at Taqueria Z.

In order to ensure the highest quality, everything is handmade from scratch using only fresh ingredients.  They don’t even have a freezer on the premises. And the menu at Taqueria Z is simple, with a few starters, tacos, chacos, quesadillas, and margaritas.  What’s a chaco?  It’s a Taqueria Z original—a taco with chihuahua cheese toasted on a fresh corn tortilla.  Tacos, chacos, and quesadillas are each available with a variety of craft meat options including carne asada, chorizo, pollo (free-range chicken) and al pastor (crisp-thin shavings of marinated, vertical spit-roasted pork.  Vegetarian options include mushrooms and poblano y papas (a combination of poblano chile peppers and potatoes).

There are six taps offering craft beer, including a Mexican brown ale that’s the result of a collaboration with Recess Brewery (307 N Main St, Edwardsville).  They also offer a selection of fine tequilas—even a signature margarita that’s made with just Corralejo Reposado tequila, cointreau, and lime juice.  It’s very simple, but exceptional.  They also offer non-alcoholic beverages, including bottled soda, both Mexican imports and locally produced varieties.  They also offer teas and locally roasted Goshen coffee.

Ironically, it’s never Taco Tuesday at Taqueria Z, because they’re closed Mondays and Tuesdays.  They are open Wednesday – Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Friday – Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.  On Sundays mornings, they offer Bloody Maria’s (like a Bloody Mary, but with tequila).  They also have a Sunday-only breakfast burrito made with poblano y papas, chorizo or a combination served in a rolled-up flour tortilla with eggs, Chihuahua cheese, rice, beans, cilantro, and onion.  Fresh, authentic Mexican food and a tequila-laced cocktail might be just the hangover cure Guy Beringer (inventor of brunch) had in mind!  Whether it’s Sunday brunch, drinks after work, or late night tacos, Edwardsville is eating up Taqueria Z.

Contact Information:

Taqueria Z
Owners: Mike Zanger and Zach Miller
109 E Park Street
Edwardsville, IL 62025
Phone: (618) 307-5018

Belleville Craft Brewery to Celebrate New Facility

Belleville Craft Brewery, Belleville, IL

Grand Opening of 4204 Main Street Brewing Co.’s New Digs

Belleville, IL/March 13, 2017 (STLRestaurant.News) — Belleville’s favorite little craft brewery is about to get a whole lot bigger.  4204 Main Street Brewing Company at 4204 West Main Street has announced the grand opening of their new, larger brewery, canning plant, and tasting room about 1.5 miles up the road from their original location.  The new facility at 6435 West Main Street will also include banquet hall seating for more than 500 and a catering kitchen.  The grand opening of the new bar and banquet hall will showcase the $3 million renovation of an abandoned store.  It will also showcase their newest draft beer, a Vienna lager.  The public is invited to have a look, and a taste at 5:00 p.m. Saturday, March 25th.

Back in August 2016 we told you about brewery owners Todd and Julia Kennedy’s plans to open a new canning facility and tasting room in the old Mad Pricer grocery store on West Main Street in Belleville.  The Kennedys signed an agreement with developer Adam Hill at that time.  Hill had purchased the run down shopping center and secured $2.49 million in tax incentives from the Belleville City Council to help pay for renovations.  The Belleville News-Democrat reports that Kennedy and his developers don’t expect to use all of the tax incentive once the project is finished.

Once complete, the new facility will expand 4204’s brewing capacity by more than 1600-percent.  Currently, they make about 4,000 barrels of beer each year.  That will jump to about 65,000 barrels starting next month.  The original brew house at 4204 West Main Street will remain operational, and the restaurant with the great patio will stay open.  Their Alton restaurant at 180 E Center Dr will also remain open.  The original 4204 West Main brewhouse will become the laboratory for new brews.  The plan is to try new things out at the original restaurant, and see how people like them.  New beers that become popular at the restaurant will likely become available by can at other sales venues.

Why the drive to put high quality craft beer in a can?  The marketing opportunities are obvious: get your beer into more sales outlets (other restaurants, bars and stores), and sell more beer.  4204 brews are currently available in dozens of locations in Missouri and Illinois.  Beer makers and distributors like canned beer because cans are lighter and cheaper to ship than bottles.  They’re also 100-percent light proof which protects the beer’s flavor (especially important for very hoppy beers, like 4204’s 2 Hop India Pale Ale), and they seal airtight, also ensuring freshness.  Cans chill faster than bottles and they’re 100-percent recyclable.  That sustainability factor is valued by beer makers and consumers alike.

That same philosophy of sustainability permeates the craft beer industry, and it’s behind the Kennedys’ choice to renovate an existing building rather than constructing an entirely new space.  Craft brewers in St. Louis and elsewhere have made it a practice to convert abandoned buildings like the old Mad Pricer store in Belleville into breweries and brewpubs.  Todd Kennedy has said that’s part of the ideology behind craft brewing.

If you can’t make Main Street Brewing Co.’s grand opening, you can still get a look at the new facility at the 5th Annual Belleville Ale Fest on Saturday, April 22.  They’re hosting it this year at the new 6435 West Main facility.  The new digs provide ample space inside and outside, so the festival will go on rain or shine.  As in other years, there will be a selection of 4204’s products to sample, as well as beers from around the country, and those of other local craft breweries, along with live music and food vendors.  Because it will be at the brand new facilities, this year’s guests will be able to watch the beer brewing in progress.

Contact information:

Original Main Street Brewing Company
Owners: Todd and Julia Kennedy
4204 W Main Street
Belleville, IL 62226
Phone: (618) 416-7261


Main Street Brewing Company
180 E Center Dr.
Alton, IL 62002
Phone: (618) 465-7260


Main Street Brewing Company
Canning Facility, Bar and Banquet Hall
6435 West Main Street
Belleville, IL 62226

Merz on Main – Columbia, IL

Merz on Main

“Home-style Favorites” – Merz on Main

COLUMBIA, IL/January 23, 2017 (STLRestaurant.News) Merz on Main is a corner tavern in Columbia, Illinois, located just ten minutes from the Jefferson Barracks Bridge.  They cater to those seeking comfort – comfort food, that is.

On any particular day, you’ll likely find owners Steve and Linda Merz in the kitchen or behind the bar.  Their grown children, Danielle and Jason, also lend a hand.  The clientele is laid-back and the faces are often familiar and friendly.  Merz on Main serves home-style favorites where families are welcome.

Steve and Linda Merz bought the restaurant (formerly Gruchala’s) a few years ago.  Along with it, they kept a few of the signature recipes, including neighborhood favorites, fish and fried chicken.  “Fish, fried chicken, and barbecue are our biggest sellers.  The fried chicken is second to none,” says Steve Merz.  “We used to only have fish on Friday and chicken on Sunday, but now we have an open menu so you can have those any day you like.”  Barbecue is another favorite. Their special smoker runs for hours on Saturdays cooking ribs, pulled pork, chicken, and pork steaks to perfection.  But be warned – once they’re out, they’re out.  The same goes for fish, which is popular on Fridays.

Entrees aren’t the only attention-getters at Merz.  Side dishes deserve to be front and center; many are homemade.  German potato salad, green beans with bacon, and mashed potatoes are just a few of the everyday choices.  Seasonal sides include tasty items like cucumber salad and pea salad.

Merz on Main is open every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Pop in as early as 8 am for a slinger or McOllie sandwich.  Or, choose from waffles, omelets, and many more of the classics.  Lunch and dinner are served between 11 am – 8:30 pm.  Homemade soup, a pound of wings or a meatloaf special might fit the bill.  Another favorite item is the pork tenderloin deluxe sandwich, hand-tenderized and breaded to order.

The daily specials menu changes each month, except for Mondays, which is always an “all you can eat” item. Portions are generous at Merz on Main, and the prices are enjoyable, too.  Burgers start at less than $4, chicken or fish plates (complete with sides) are in the $7.50-$11.50 range, and full barbecue dinners start at about $10.  Add a cold beverage along with a view of one of the big screen TV’s and you’re all set for a nice meal at Merz.

If the Merz name rings a bell, you may have had their salsa, or at least seen it in area supermarkets.  The salsa business is where it all started over 20 years ago. Growing up on a farm, Steve’s family began putting those home-grown vegetables to use, resulting in five delicious varieties of Merz salsa.

Merz on Main opens every day at 8 am, and the bar closes at 1 am.  Carry out is available.

Contact information:

Merz on Main

210 S. Main Street

Columbia, IL 62236

Phone: (618) 281-9901


Picture courtesy of BND.com


Copyright 2016 St. Louis Media, LLC d.b.a. STLRestaurant.News.  All rights reserved.  This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Fezziwig’s Wine & Fondue Party Postponed Due to Ice

Fezziwig’s Wine & Fondue Party

Tickets Still Available for New February Date – Fezziwig’s Wine & Fondue Party

O’Fallon, IL/January 16, 2017 (STLRestaurant.News)  Fezziwig’s Wine & Fondue Party – When gourmet food mixes with artisan goods and an enchanting setting, it’s a recipe for a lovely afternoon or evening affair.  Fezziwig’s Marketplace at 225 West First Street in O’Fallon, Illinois is a unique establishment.  At its heart, this charming boutique is a retail tea and wine shop, but to customers who’ve followed it from the original location in historic Lebanon, it’s so much more.  It’s part boutique, part event space, part cooking school, part pop-up restaurant, and part gourmet shop.  Fezziwig’s Marketplace is a culinary experience center, complete with cooking classes, wine tastings, special holiday parties, and events like Art in the Barn, Farmers & Artisans Markets, Barbecue & Blues Night, Beast Craft Grilling Classes, and loads more.

Fezziwig’s annual Winter Wine Tasting and Fondue party was supposed to be Friday, January 13th, but the icy weather that pushed into the metro area earlier in the day forced them to postpone it until Friday, February 10th.  The good news is that it hasn’t sold out yet! So the ice is creating a new opportunity to join in the fun!  Those who had tickets for the January 13th event can use them February 10.  Those who didn’t have tickets can still get in on the fun.  The $25 ticket includes fondues, nibbles, and samples of eight different wines.  Reservations can be made online through February 7th, or until it sells out.  This event sold out last year, so this extra chance to participate is a rare treat.

Ellen Leaf-Moore and her husband Tim Moore established their business in an historic brick storefront in downtown Lebanon, Illinois in 2007.  Both have strong retail backgrounds.  His is in formal wear sales and manufacturing.  Hers runs from her family’s bridal business in Ohio, to William Sonoma in Atlanta, and then to general manager for Pottery Barn at Plaza Frontenac.  They both love food and fine things, so Fezziwig’s began as a boutique shop selling fine teas, wines, gourmet oils and vinegars, and the accoutrements of serving them.  Ellen’s exquisite taste is seen throughout Fezziwig’s merchandise selection.  She’s also one of the few people in the U.S. and Canada certified to teach and educate about tea.

Fezziwig’s moved to O’Fallon, Illinois in July of 2015 in order to accommodate more merchandise, more customers, more events, and add the culinary classroom.  Many of the classes are taught by visiting chefs.  Upcoming classes: Chef Joele Pinkerton will teach “Decadent & Delicious Valentine Desserts” Feb. 2 and Valentine Cookie Decorating Feb. 11.  Learn to make Dim Sum & Dumplings with Chef Shaine Khanamuenwai on March 5. Plus there will be pasta cooking classes; wine and chocolate classes; and more.  And of course, participants of each class get to eat their lessons!  Gift vouchers are available. Some classes and events have age restrictions, so check Fezziwig’s event calendar for details.

Fezziwigs has frequent events to allow gourmet food fans (experts and novices) to sample the many specialty and signature items they sell.  Each February, they hold “Olive You” Weekend right before Valentine’s Day.  It’s a chance for customers to taste an assortment of gourmet extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars.  This year’s event is Thursday, February 9 — Sunday, February 12 during normal business hours.

Fox 2’s Kim Hudson visited with Fezziwig’s owner Ellen Leaf-Moore during last year’s “Olive You” weekend.

Besides food events, Fezziwig’s offers more than 100 premium loose leaf teas, wines not found in other stores, plus gourmet foods—including the best selection of balsamic vinegars and extra virgin olive oils in the Metro-East.  And like the Charles Dickens’ character for which it was named, Fezziwig’s is all about celebrating food, family, and fun.

Contact Information:

Fezziwig’s Marketplace
Owners: Ellen Leaf-Moore and Tim Moore
225 West 1st Street
O’Fallon, Illinois
Phone: (618) 726-2230


Copyright 2016 St. Louis Media, LLC d.b.a. STLRestaurant.News.  All rights reserved.  This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Grafton Oyster Bar Is New Cajun/Creole Contender from Old Favs

Grafton Oyster Bar

Letting the Good Times Roll Along the River – Grafton Oyster Bar

Grafton, IL/January 16, 2017 (STLRestaurant.News) – It’s not every day that lunch or dinner feels like a mini-vacation, but a short drive up the Great River Road to the Grafton Oyster Bar at 215 Water Street in Grafton, Illinois is like being transported to another world.  This oasis along the Mississippi is the newest venture of St. Louis’ perennial champs of Cajun and seafood: Broadway Oyster Bar. John and Victoria Johnson’s downtown St. Louis establishment at 736 South Broadway has been the top spot for seafood, as well as Cajun and Creole cuisine almost since it’s opening some 35-years ago.  They are the current leaders on both our customer review-based Best Seafood Top 10 and our Top 10 Cajun/Creole Restaurants list.  So it stands to reason that when they teamed up with Jerseyville native and BOB Executive Chef Brad Hagen to open Grafton Oyster Bar last March, it would be a sensation.  Customer reviews are still coming in, but so far, they’re giving GOB 4.1 stars (34 ratings), good enough for an honorable mention on our Cajun/Creole Top 10!

Grafton Oyster Bar sits right at the water’s edge, at the old Big Kahuna location. It’s actually at the marina, along the dock and floating on the water.  That means spectacular views of the waterway and both banks of the Mississippi River.  Add some party lights and a New Orlean’s vibe, and “laissez les bons temps rouler!” (Let the good times roll!)

As you might expect, GOB features many of the popular menu items from Broadway Oyster Bar, including oysters, gator, mussels, crab cakes, etc.  On the GOB menu you’ll find BOB’s famous Alligator Sausage and Shrimp Cheesecake and Shrimp Voodoo appetizers, with that enticing voodoo sauce.  And then there are the oysters of course!  Blue Point Oysters, Gulf Oysters, Char-Grilled, Fried, Rockefeller, Oyster Cardinale (with its rich Cajun crawfish cream sauce), and Bienville (baked with a spicy shrimp, Parmesan & mushroom cream sauce).  Can’t decide?  Order the Oyster Medley, a sampling of oysters Bienville, Rockefeller, and Cardinale all on one plate!  You’ll also find eleven tap beers, both local and import, along with a variety of mixed drinks and wine options.

Join them for the Comfort Food Fest this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, January 14–15.  The menu will be chocked full of Cajun comfort food, including a decadent Lobster Pot Pie: A rich cream based sauce with the holy trinity of vegetables, baby red potatoes, fresh sautéed lobster and Cajun seasonings.  It’s finished with a light, garlic cheddar biscuit crust.  You’ll also find Cajun Seafood and Andouille Lasagna on the menu.  It’s the ultimate five layer lasagna with crawfish tail meat, shrimp, lobster, Andouille sausage, fresh mushrooms, spinach, ricotta, their spicy red sauce, and a four cheese blend.  And Crawfish Mac ‘n Cheese may be the perfect marriage of Cajun and comfort.  It’s a velvety three-cheese casserole made with Rotel tomatoes, apple wood smoked bacon, and sautéed crawfish tails.  You’ll also find spicy chicken & biscuit sliders (with sweet potato waffle fries), pot roast (with garlic mashed potatoes & gravy), Southern fried chicken, bacon-wrapped Cajun meatloaf, and the Ultimate Grilled Cheese (Apple wood smoked bacon, cheddar, mozzarella, gruyere, and provolone melted between two thick slices of Texas toast, and finished with garlic aioli, fresh tomato, and basil).

Other upcoming events include The Grafton Winery Wine Dinner at GOB on Wednesday, January 25th.  The four course dinner featuring Grafton Winery inspired dishes, and five different local wines.  Reservations are required by calling (618) 86-3000. Seafood lovers will adore GOB’s Scallop Festival on the weekend before Valentine’s Day, February 11 and 12.  It makes a great date night!  And of then there’s the Mardi Gras Celebration on Saturday, February 25th.  There is nothing quite like letting the good times roll along the riverbank!  GOB will have all the beads, Mardi Gras-inspired dishes, and hurricanes you can handle!  They’ll also have live music and a Gulf oyster eating contest!

This time of year Grafton Oyster Bar is open Thursday – Sunday from 11:00 am to 11:00 p.m.  They’ll resume regular hours (Tuesday – Sunday) on March 1st.  Once it warms up a bit, seating on the riverside balcony will resume too.  Fresh air, the sound of water lapping and live music, fresh seafood, a cold drink, and a great sunset view.  A trip to Grafton Oyster Bar really is like a sojourn in party paradise, right across the river from St. Louis.

Contact Information:

Grafton Oyster Bar
Owners: Chef Brad Hagen; John & Victoria Johnson
215 Water Street
Grafton, IL 62037
(618) 786-3000


Picture courtesy of EdGlenToday.com


Copyright 2016 St. Louis Media, LLC d.b.a. STLRestaurant.News.  All rights reserved.  This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Holiday Fun at Josephine’s Tea Room & Gifts

Josephine’s Tea Room & Gifts

Get a Great Meal and Unique Gifts – Josephine’s Tea Room

Godfrey, IL/December 12, 2016 (STLRestaurant.News) Josephine’s Tea Room – The holiday season can be hectic.  There are parties and special get-togethers with friends, and endless to-do lists.  Shopping can become a chore, schlepping from one big box store to the next searching for the perfect gift.  It’s even harder if your special someone already has all the usual things.  But it doesn’t have to be so hard.  To find unique gifts you have to think outside the (big) box!  At Josephine’s Tea Room and Gift Shops, 6109 Godfrey Road (IL Rte. 111) in Godfrey, Ill., you can have a lovely holiday lunch with friends and get your shopping done too!

Josephine’s is a unique destination, about 30-minutes north of downtown St. Louis.  The gift shops first opened in 1979 in an historic home that was once part of the Monticello College.  They offer a variety of unique items including jewelry and accessories, home decor and florals—including Christmas decorations (on sale now!), and other distinctive gift items.  The Monticello house offers the latest in name brand fashions, specializing in hard to find, brand name, designer handbags, ladies’ shoes, and unique jewelry.  The main house is filled with artisan gifts and decorator accents.  The newest addition is Fred’s Shed, Josephine’s closeout and clearance center.

In 1986, Josephine’s added its famous Tea Room—or rather rooms.  There are three separate dining areas.  Each is elegantly decorated and serves lunch six days a week.  When the weather is nice, there’s also patio dining available in Josephine’s lovely gardens.  Reservations are accepted, and they’re highly recommended during the holiday season.  The rest of the year, you should make reservations for groups of six or more.

The Tea Room’s scrumptious menu offers a nice variety of salads, including garden salad, Caesar, Chef, Cobb, pasta salad, and their famous Fruited Chicken Salad.  This customer favorite is a creamy, savory chicken salad with bits of fruit mixed in.  Have it over a bed of lettuce, or on a sandwich.  Another customer favorite is the Crystal Bowl Salad.  It’s lettuce that’s been layered with fresh fruit and chunks of white meat chicken.  It’s topped with crumbled Bleu cheese and sunflower seeds.  The Crystal Bowl Salad and the Cobb Salad are both available in two sizes.  Adding to the deliciousness, all of the salads are served with a homemade roll or muffin.

In chillier weather, like now, Josephine’s soups are especially popular.  They are made fresh daily, and each has a legion of followers.  The cheese broccoli soup is a warm combination of cream and cheese, with just enough broccoli that you can pretend it’s a vegetable soup.  The “Famous” French Onion Soup is based on the legendary French onion soup served at the old Famous Barr department store restaurants in St. Louis.  It takes two days to make this gloriously cheese-crusted, savory soup.  And it’s worth the extra time and effort.  But it’s not available all the time, so consider it a treat if they have it when you’re there.  The star of Josephine’s soup lineup is the lobster bisque.  It’s a decadently rich and creamy soup, strewn with bits of potato and lobster, and it’s utterly delicious.  All of the soups pair very well with a half-salad or sandwich.

The sandwiches, available whole, or as halves paired with soup or salad, are the sort you’d expect at a restaurant that specializes in ladies’ lunches.  There’s turkey breast, chicken salad, roast beef, and honey glazed ham.  Two standouts are the Ham Special and Josie’s Stacked Club.  The Ham Special is a hot sandwich made with their own honey glazed ham and cheddar, melted together on a homemade onion roll.  It’s dressed with mayo and Freddi Joe’s special mustard sauce. Josie’s Stacked Club layers their fresh baked ham with turkey breast, bacon, mayo, lettuce, and tomato in classic triple-decker, club sandwich style.  The sandwiches are generously sized, so order accordingly, because you’ll want to save room for dessert.

When pastry chef Jacques Torres coined the phrase, “Life is short.  Eat dessert first,” he probably hadn’t heard of Josephine’s Tea Room.  But nowhere is his advice more fitting.  Dessert is an event all its own at Josephine’s.  They have a rotating menu of more than 70 dessert items with at least 16 scrumptious choices offered each day.  Everything is made from scratch, and made fresh daily.  A typical dessert selection will include a couple of different cheesecakes (the Almond Cheesecake is highly regarded by customers), luscious bread pudding, crème brûlée, several pies, layered cakes, cobblers and tarts.  Their meringue-topped pies are especially popular.  If you enjoyed too much at mealtime, they’re happy to package desserts to go!

Josephine’s Tea Room is open for lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Monday – Friday, and 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday (and Sundays in December!)  The gift shops are open 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday – Friday, and 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday (and Sundays in December).  The rest of the year, they’re closed Sundays.  Weekends in December are some of their busiest days all year, so you will need a reservation, and still may have to wait for a table.  It’s nothing a little chocolate mousse cake can’t cure!  Weekdays are a little less crowded, leaving your more time to shop for a gift for that special someone!  Or give the gift of a great lunch experience with a Josephine’s Gift card.

Contact information

Josephine’s Tea Room and Gift Shops
Owners: Sherri & Fred Whitworth
6109 Godfrey Road
Godfrey IL 62035
Phone: (618) 466-7796


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Holiday Tradition

Lebanon, Illinois’ 24th Annual Celebration along Brick Street

LEBANON, IL: (STLRestaurant.news) – It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, especially in one historic metro-east town.  Lebanon, Illinois is rolling out the welcome for their 24th annual Victorian Holiday Weekend.  The festival takes place every year along West St. Louis Avenue in an area known as Brick Street (because that’s what the road is paved with) on Friday and Saturday, November 18 – 19.  The shops will open at 10:00 a.m. each day, but the festivities really get underway at 5:00 p.m., when the Ole’ Lamplighter strolls along St. Louis Street to light up the rooftops and the town Christmas tree.

This is an old fashioned holiday celebration, complete with carolers and madrigals performing along Brick Street all evening.  There will be indoor and outdoor activities both evenings, including children’s’ games and activities, and a visit from Father Christmas.  The Brickstreet Entertainment stage (near Pearl & St. Louis Streets) will feature outstanding holiday performances including the USAF Band of Mid America Airlifter Brass, McKendree Show Choir, Highland Chamber & Madrigal Choirs, performances by PhilzHarmonics and more!  Soak in the atmosphere, do a little shopping, enjoy some holiday treats and then take a ride in a Victorian horse drawn carriage!

This is a chance to experience a traditional holiday celebration and small town Americana.  Get a taste of Lebanon, Illinois the way Charles Dickens did when he visited America in 1842.  During the trip he chronicles in American Notes, the English novelist trekked from St. Louis into Southwestern Illinois so that he could lay eyes on a real American prairie.  During the trip to Looking Glass Prairie, Dickens and his entourage stayed at Lebanon’s Mermaid House.  The inn at 114 East St Louis Street was built in 1830 by retired sea captain Lyman Adams. Dickens described the hotel in American Notes: “In point of cleanliness and comfort it would have suffered by no comparison with any village alehouse, of a homely kind, in England.”  During the Victorian Holiday Weekend, the Mermaid House will be opened for tours both Friday and Saturday evenings; 5-9 p.m.  Visitors will even be able to see the room where Charles Dickens stayed.

Like all good festivals the Victorian Holiday in Lebanon will include plenty of great food.  Many restaurants that will be open along the brick street, including Brick Street Brew (coffee), Brewers Bar & Grill (not coffee), Dr. Jazz Soda Fountain & Grille, 1814 Eatery & Drinkery, and Ron’s Lounge.  Festival-goers will also find street vendors offering yummy treats.  The Refuge Family Grill will be there offering Shepherd’s Pie and Fish & Chips.  The RPTI Bike Club will sell fair-favorites like Brats and hotdogs.  Theresa’s will have cotton candy & kettle corn, and there will be a holiday dessert sale in the lower level of the Visitor’s Center, right in the middle of the block.

As if a Victorian Holiday festival wasn’t enough, Friday is also the night Lebanon’s Horner Park (Summerfield & North Alton Streets) lights up with the Winter Wonderland of Lights.  Visitors will find thousands of lights, animated musical displays, a life-sized nativity and Victorian village.  The community light display is put together each year by a group of volunteers dedicated to preserving the memory and feeling of the old-fashioned Christmas displays.  There is no charge to go through the Winter Wonderland display, but donations are collected (at the park and online) to pay for electricity and repairs.  The staff is entirely made up of volunteers.  Weather permitting, the Winter Wonderland of Lights is open to the public from Nov. 18 – Dec. 31, Sunday – Thursdays 5 to 9 p.m., Friday & Saturday 5 to 10 p.m.  There is a five-ton vehicle weight limit.  And visitors are reminded to keep an eye out for the local deer population.

Lebanon, Illinois’ Victorian Holiday tradition brings to life a Christmas village steeped in 200 years of history—and it’s sitting less than thirty minutes from the heart of St. Louis.

Contact Information:

Victorian Holiday Celebration
City of Lebanon, IL Visitor’s’ Center
221 West Saint Louis Street
Lebanon, IL 62254
(618) 537-8420


Andria’s Restaurant

Andria’s Restaurant Still Going Strong

O’FALLON, IL: (STLRestaurant.News) Andria’s Restaurant – If you live in St Louis, you already know where to go for a great steak on this side of the river.  But I’m going to let you in on a little secret on the other side of the Mississippi.  If you’re a local from the Illinois side of the river, then you already know of Andria’s Restaurant.  You also know that it’s not just a restaurant, but an institution.  If you’re not an area local and haven’t heard of it then, in my opinion, you’re missing out.

In 1978, when Sam and Mugsy Andria first opened the doors to their restaurant in O’Fallon, Illinois, they had no idea what they were creating.  Thirty years later, this award winning house on a hill surrounded by evergreens, is going stronger than ever.  And it still holds that openhearted feeling of being welcomed into a home, as if Mugsy, herself, was still at the door, greeting each and every customer with grace and a warm genuine smile.

These days the couple’s daughter, Maureen Kennison and her husband Larry, are proprietors, and their son, Max, serves as manager.  The kitchen and serving staff, many of whom are long-time employees, attend to patrons dining requests with expertise and efficiency.  That “family owned feeling” is very refreshing in a day and age with so many chain restaurants.

Described by some guests as “a religious experience,” the 4.5 star restaurant, rated #4 of 75 Restaurants in O’Fallon with 99 Reviews from Trip Advisor, has more than one reason for its long success.  Let’s start with Andria’s world famous Brush-On Steak Sauce (A.B.O.S.S.) created by Sam when he first opened.  The unique flavor it gave to both beef and pork dishes, along with the succulence it gave to all cuts of meat, quickly set the steakhouse in a class of its own.  Numerous requests from diners eventually led to the sauce being marketed and sold online.

I hadn’t eaten here in a few years but after reading the almost 99 reviews, I realized that it hasn’t changed.  They still serve the giant baked potatoes cooked on a tray of rock salt, then wrapped in brown paper bags to keep them warm and fluffy.  I challenge anyone to find me a better baked potato.

Besides the large prime rib, petite filet mignon, strip steak, rib-eye, and tenderloin filets, other items that got customer raves were the pork chops, chicken, steak kabobs, swordfish, lobster, salmon, and appetizers.  Warm bread is served when each table is seated, and all entrees come with a nice size salad and choice of vegetable or potato.

The lovely setting in a rural area and the table cloth service all adds to the experience.  Upstairs there’s a separate dining area that seats 35.  There’s also a bar, and a partition with two more tables on the other side.  A nice fireplace makes it cozy on chilly nights.  The main dining room is downstairs with 11 booths and 10 tables.  There is also an outside patio for outdoor dining.

It may be a bit off the beaten path, but well worth the drive.  It’s located just 15 miles from St. Louis. For a truly, “melt in your mouth” memorable dining experience, do yourself a favor and try Andria’s.

Andria’s Restaurant

6805 Old Collinsville Road

O’Fallon, IL 62269

Phone: (618) 632-4866


Mon- Fri 5:00pm-10pm Reservations: Accepted, Recommended
Saturday 4:45pm-10pm First come, first served unless a party of 10 or more
Price: $$$
Payment Type: All Major Credit Cards, Diners Club, cash
Parking: Lot Available
Attire: Casual attire