Soulard Hotspot Expands
Mollys merges a hip hangout with an elegant eatery.
Bar-hopping in Soulard is pleasantly predictable, in a jeans-and-bottled beer sort of way. Those of us who live in the neighborhood are almost guaranteed to run into someone we know—it’s like “Cheers” multiplied by 20. When Luke Reynolds and Sam Berger bought Molly’s six years ago, they bought into the Soulard bar scene whole heartedly. The only thing that could have made Molly’s better, in their eyes, was a kitchen.
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When Norton’s Café next door closed earlier this year, Reynolds and Berger saw their opportunity to expand. They just had to figure out what to do with it. “We didn’t want to destroy the feel of Molly’s—mainly because we like it,” Reynolds said. “It’s tough to wear more than one hat.” But they knew what they didn’t want: the same bar food already available in a couple dozen other Soulard watering holes. As if he sensed their dilemma, Eric Brenner of Moxy—who’s built up a considerable side business as a consulting chef— called them up. Ideas flowed. “The space reflected the traditional Soulard architecture at the turn of the century,” Reynolds said. “The menu we developed from there, with Eric.” Starting from a classic French bistro feel, they’ve added winter items like cassoulet and are considering southern French and northern African influenced-dishes—and wait a second, are we still in Soulard? Can I still wear a baseball cap? Yes, because even though Molly’s has a nice French wine list now, plus single-malt Scotches and higher-end brandies and cognacs, its bartenders are not too gentrified to serve candy-flavored shots or bottles of Bud Light. Which beverage category you choose depends whether you’re west of the patio (Molly’s bar) or east (Molly’s restaurant). The fabulously huge patio is a melting pot of both.
The décor, too, flows from exposed brick and flat-screen TVs in the bar to exposed brick and upholstered banquettes in the dining room. Berger credits their new partner, local fashion photographer and director Rick Gould, for “using his artistic flair” on the interior design—and for coming up with the iconic black-and-white image of “Molly.” The best thing about the new Molly’s, from a neighborhood point of view, is that the nightlife is spread out over more hours. “Without food, 75 percent of our business was after 10 o’clock at night,” Reynolds said. Now there’s a whole menu full of reasons to head to Molly’s all evening long.
Diners enjoy a late-night meal at Molly’s
Photo credit: Liz Reiff Sloan