Explore: Hot Eats: Monarch
A Southern-inspired concept takes flight at this established St. Louis restaurant and lands on solid ground.
When Monarch co-owner Jeff Orbin decided to close the restaurant for a renovation in June, he had two goals in mind: “Keep the Monarch brand alive and make the new menu completely chef-driven,” says Orbin. With a longstanding reputation for creative, upscale cuisine and a James Beard Foundation Award-nominated chef, Orbin’s plan proved both smart and successful, and a reinvigorated restaurant took flight in August.
A New Beginning
Monarch’s story is a familiar one for most St. Louisans—the globally-inspired restaurant and wine bar opened in ’03 and the innovative, modern fare and well-selected wine menu garnered attention locally and nationally, including “Bon Appetit” and “Food & Wine Magazine.” So why the transformation? “It was time for a facelift, not just for the interior, but with the menu,” says Orbin. “With Josh’s [Galliano] background, we knew that Southern comfort was the best way to go.” And while Galliano has been manning the stoves since 2008, the new menu is assuredly his, and Galliano even credits his grandmother’s meals back home as the inspiration for many dishes.
The identifiable butterfly logo has been replaced by the Fleur de Lys emblem—although to maintain Monarch’s branded elegance, Orbin kept the butterfly’s presence. The original lighted butterfly art is displayed at the entrance to the formal back dining room, which was revamped with several Randy Barker butterfly prints and a “swarm” of ceiling-suspended butterflies. The main part of the restaurant—the previous wine bar area and casual front dining room—has been dubbed the “Southern Bistro” and features the new insignia-patterned walls and soft tan and gray tones. Two chalkboards featuring a few specials and the entertainment lineup lend a New Orleans eatery feel.
Galliano is clearly at home with the new bistro menu—dishes are traditional in basic Southern flavors and style, but Galliano’s interpretations are inspired and approachable. The Maque Choux, for example, is a traditional South Louisiana stew, but Galliano’s version includes shrimp and okra and is served with crispy boudin balls—Cajun pork and rice sausage coated with Japanese bread crumbs. You can also order the boudin balls off the “snack” menu, which also includes praline-coated housemade bacon and hush puppies with a burnt lemon sauce.
Signature Po’boys sandwiches have been a surprising hit, according to Orbin, and include a grilled Andouille dog, roast beef with gravy and a fried shrimp and roast beef sandwich. Shared plates like grilled oysters with shredded parmesan, popcorn shrimp and crawfish bread filled with crawfish étouffée also have been popular options thus far. A well-outlined “Nightly Specials” section of the menu features red beans and rice, Southern fried chicken and Missouri grass-fed beef filled peppers.
With most items under $15, save room for sweets. Galliano’s pecan pie is spiked with Bourbon and the root beer float features Monarch’s own homemade root beer and vanilla bean ice cream. Orbin says the bar will soon have the root beer on draft—no doubt an idea that, along with the new menu, will land Monarch another hit.
Where to Go:
7401 Manchester Ave.
Bistro Menu Nightly Specials: $12-$18
Bistro Menu Entrees: $14-$20
Hours: Dinner Mon.-Thurs., 5pm-10pm and
Cumin-roasted shrimp with black garlic romesco, marcona almonds and cauliflower À_fregolaÀ_ at Monarch
Photo credit: Photos by Jennifer Silverberg