We’re big fans of neighbourhood pubs here at Hello Dartmouth – places where people can gather, eat and enjoy a couple of beer because they can walk, rather than drive, home.
So, I was pleased to learn St. Louis Bar and Grill was making its home beside Starbucks at the Penhorn Plaza. (I say “pleased” rather than “thrilled” because my ideal neighbourhood pub is something unique and local. More Celtic Corner, less Eastside Mario’s.) Fellow editor Frank Orlando and I sat down to try out their selected cuisine.
St. Louis is a chain of restaurants that’s been around for more than 20 years. It has close to 50 locations across Canada, but has only recently moved into the east coast, first to Moncton and now to Dartmouth and Dieppe.
Robert Taylor, former owner of Taylor Flooring, is the owner of the Dartmouth location. He says he didn’t set out to be in the restaurant business, but a combination of time on his hands after retirement and an incredible opportunity to open a place with a great track record wooed him.
St. Louis bills itself as part restaurant, part sports bar, part neighbourhood bar and grill. The decor is bright, airy and uncluttered. The bar is prominent, as are the multiple TVs on the walls. Despite a full house at the soft opening, the acoustics were surprisingly good. It’s a real bonus to be able to talk across a table without shouting.
We were treated to a smattering of menu items: Just Add Beer Sausage ($6.99); Honey Garlic Wings (1lb for $13.49); Onion Rings ($8.29); Buffalo Caesar Wrap and fries ($10.49) and Lindt Cake (Priceless…or at least I can’t find the price).
For the most part, the food was good but not great. The fries were bland and anemic. The wrap was pleasant-enough with a spicy kick. However, two hallmarks of pub food were excellent – the wings were meaty, tangy and finger-licking good, and the onion rings were crispy and addictive. Those seem to me to be the right things to excel at for a sports bar type restaurant.
Good service can really enhance a dining experience. The staff at St. Louis exhibited the perfect mix of friendliness and professionalism – chatty but not invasive.
In short, I expect St. Louis may become my go-to replacement for the sorely-missed Neighbours Pub – a place with good pub food, friendly service and short walk to home.
Starting with the sausage appetizer, we were presented with a good amount of strips of meat for dipping. On the side were a portion of standard mustard, ketchup and a cup of what we determined was crushed pretzels. Embarrassingly it took us a moment to realize we were to dip the strips into a sauce and then the pretzels. A process I only experimented once as it was in my opinion an odd combination. The plain yellow mustard and ketchup were nothing special and some different sauces would have been welcome. Certainly on a return trip I would ask to try some other choices.
Secondly a generously sized Buffalo Caesar wrap was presented. A large crispy chicken breast covered in a ranch/hot sauce combination along with Caesar salad. Well prepared. Again it was an odd choice combination. Nothing I have tried before but not sure it worked. I will say there was a good kick as the spicy buffalo sauce was not lost with the combination of ranch and Caesar dressing. On the side, were hands-down the best onion rings I have enjoyed in some time. Large, crispy and full. Of everything we were presented I found myself going back to have another. In fact I would be happy to be served a large plate of these with several sauce choices as my main entrée. Highly recommended.
Next on the menu were the honey garlic wings. Definitely a strong item and a customer pleaser by their very design. A bolder take on honey garlic than I was used to. Less sweet and far more zesty. The wings were well sized, very meaty and in generous amount. Supported by St Louis’s signature ‘Garlic Dill’ dipping sauce, they were a highlight.
Lastly, a slice of ‘Lindt’ ice-cream cake. A perfect foil that balanced off the spice and salt of the main dishes. A must dessert.
Overall, St Louis is a welcome addition to Dartmouth. Sport Bar fans will be pleased by the atmosphere and the pub fare. A sneak peek at the menu shows, daily specials and a huge selection that will ensure my return.
St Louis Bar and Grill is now open at 547 Portland St. Dartmouth, 902-466-6112 or 902-466-6117