STL AFTER DARK: WEST
A neighborhood guide to St. Louis’ top spots to sip, socialize, and shake it on the dance floor.
KIRKWOOD/WEBSTER GROVES/ ST. CHARLES/ CHESTERFIELD/ CREVE COEUR/ WESTPORT
Sophisticated settings rule the county.
Branica Wine Bar
This offshoot of Trattoria Branica in Kirkwood stocks 300 wines, including interesting by-the-glass options like white Bordeaux and a light Sangiovese. If you’re not sure why those are interesting, this is a good place to find out (without having to put up with a lot of pretension). For example, compare 3-ounce pours of white Bordeaux to the more familiar red, or Sangiovese to its Italian cousin, Chianti Classico. The menu focuses on simple, wine-friendly foods like pizzettas, cheeses and cured meats. 451 S. Kirkwood Road, 314.984.9595.
When it opened, the consumer-friendly approach of organizing wines by flavor profile (bubbly, crisp, mellow, etc.) was just reaching St. Louis, and it continues to make Robust a hit with people looking to learn about wine. It helps that the menu gives hints as to which wines pair well with particular dishes. The staff, with certified sommeliers, is just as comfortable talking with beginners as with connoisseurs—earning the restaurant a reputation as a go-to place for dates and groups. 227 W. Lockwood Ave., 314.963.0033.
One 19 North
Although the menu says “tapas” at the top, dishes range from Greece to New Zealand to Louisiana. The diversity gives customers the opportunity to order a glass of wine and sample their way through a table full of dishes. The menu has some pairing suggestions (though like most wine experts, it punts on the question of what to serve with asparagus). None of the foods or wines are “out there” enough to be intimidating, and the quality from the kitchen is top-notch. 119 N. Kirkwood Rd., 314.821.4119.
This reincarnation of the old CWE restaurant can tout its unique wine list because, thanks to a quirk in Missouri liquor law, some of the labels and vintages here aren’t available anywhere else in the area. (This is what the homepage means when it talks about the “wine library.”) For a special occasion, or to impress a special someone who knows a lot about wine, let the sommelier be your “librarian.” If you’re building dinner around the chosen wine, the menu’s pairing suggestions will help you match up the best small plates. 1772 Clarkson Rd., 636.449.6700.
The wine list here is already a semifinalist in the 2011 James Beard Foundation Awards, thanks to the work of Glenn Bardgett, and it may get even better with the addition of former Truffles wine guru, John Cain. And quite a list it is, with page after page of names and descriptions. Luckily the staff is trained to suggest pairings based on your taste (or to ask for backup from the pros if they need it), so you’re almost guaranteed to wind up with something you like. 16806 Chesterfield Airport Rd., 636.532.7684.
CARVING A NICHE
Pujols 5 Westport Grill
Baseball is the obvious theme at Albert Pujols’ namesake restaurant, but the more subtle theme is the Dominican cuisine the Cardinals’ first baseman and his wife grew up eating, like the arrozo con pollo the menu touts as his favorite entrée. And being the sports fan that he is, he probably eats while watching highlights on one of the 40 high-def TVs. [342 West Port Plaza, 314.439.0505.]
Highway 61 Roadhouse
Just reading the menu is like a road trip through blues country: tasso (spicy ham), andouille (spicy sausage), shrimp and crawfish étouffée (Cajun stew), fried okra, gator toes (OK, it’s just chicken, but it sounds authentic, doesn’t it?) With live music—either dueling pianos or a band—every Friday and Saturday, you can get down and dig into Southern-style food until the kitchen closes at midnight. [34 S. Old Orchard Ave., 314.968.0061.]
Mile 277 Tap & Grill
This is one biker bar you’ll want to check out. Even if the collectible motorcycles on display don’t get your motor runnin’, the food and music will. The late-night menu might not be too out of place in your average Sturgis hangout—nachos, wings, potato skins—but the atmosphere is less about gear grease and more about wall-sized murals and VIP seating. [10709 Watson Rd., 314.691.6504.]
These late-night small plates are big on flavor, and they’re not confined to the weekend; the kitchen cooks until midnight daily, and signature cocktails are served with a side of live music all night long. 302 West Port Plaza, 314.542.2000.
Trailhead Brewing Co.
Not only are all your favorite appetizers (wings, stuffed jalapenos, nachos, onion rings) and pizzas available into the wee hours here, they’re also half price. Raise a glass of Trailhead Red amber ale, Missouri Brown dark ale or Old Courthouse stout to the good people at this St. Charles microbrewery. Late-night menu 10pm-11pm, Sunday through Thursday, 11pm-12:30am, Fridays and Saturdays. 921 S. Riverside Dr., 636.946.2739.
The Corner Pub and Grill
You can always get a burger late at night, but no drive-thru can match the quality or options here: chili burgers, sliders, turkey burgers and traditional burgers topped with Gouda, bleu cheese, chipotle mayo, peppercorn sauce or barbecue sauce. Open until 11pm, Monday through Saturday. 13645 Big Bend Rd., Kirkwood, 636.225.1300 or 15824 Fountains Plaza Dr., Chesterfield, 636.230.3400.
There are savory dishes on the menu, for sure, but let’s be honest: When a date is going well and you don’t want it to end quite yet, nothing lights a fire like a flambé for two. Open until midnight, Fridays and Saturdays. 603 E. Lockwood Ave., 314.963.3232.
The Melting Pot
The Town and Country location of this nationwide chain lives up to its reputation as a romantic getaway. The whole menu, from the Love Martini to the dessert flambés, can be arranged to get you in the mood—and with the kitchen open until midnight Friday and Saturday, you can take your time lighting the fire. 294 Lamp and Lantern Village, 636.207.6358.