Monday, November 21, 2011

Giovanni's On the Hill

I will be the first one to tell you, I love anything fancy. Say what you will, but I enjoy getting dressed up, great atmosphere and wonderful food. When my fiance told me that he wanted to take me a nice dinner at a fancy, well known, Italian restaurant for our anniversary, I didn't hesitate.

The last time we went to The Hill, we did not have a great experience. My fiance wasn't wearing a jacket and we were not allowed inside. This time, we would be prepared. He wore dress pants, dress shirt, nice shoes and a jacket. I wore a dress, and we were both looking pretty snazzy. When we looked at Giovanni's website, I was very impressed. President Ronald Reagan, President George Bush and Oprah Winfrey have all visited and have pasta dishes named after them! We decided that we needed reservations.

We made reservations for 6:30 on a Friday night. When we walked inside it was very quiet and had many tables open still. I felt a little silly that we had made reservations. I then thought about our 6:30 reservation. What was I thinking? That's way too early for the distinguished set! Oh well, at least we will get great service, and I won't be ready to eat my hand by the time we're seated.

We were seated in the dimly lit back room and greeted by a handsome looking, middle aged man with an Italian server's attitude, but an indistinguishable accent. We started with water, which probably made him think, "oh great, I got the cheap youngsters". I was just trying to be healthy, and I was really thirsty! I looked to my right and there was a couple wearing jeans. That's fine, I thought, just being casual. Then I looked to my left and saw a disheveled looking twenty something with a hoody and tennis shoes. This is it, all formalities have officially left the country. Although we didn't have to get dressed up after all, I was glad that we did. In a way, it marked the occasion.

I decided on the Pappardelle alla Bella Oprah. How could anything associated with Oprah be bad right? On my strong recommendation, my finance went with the Bucatini all'Amatriciana. Both were good, but mine was definitely the winner and if I went again I might order the same thing. The Bucatini all'Amatriciana tasted a bit too normal, like a standard spaghetti. I always grade a restaurant on their bread, and the bread here was very good, and served with olive oil.

I was a little shocked at how rudely the staff spoke to each other, loud enough for customers to hear. It made me a little uncomfortable. That was the only thing I disliked about Giovanni's. I highly recommend it and I hope to go back some day.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Duck Room, Blueberry Hill

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I agreed to go the Duck Room one night after a St. Louis Blues hockey game. All I knew going in was that it is in the basement of Blueberry Hill restaurant on Delmar.

Walking down the narrow stairs into the basement, is like walking into another era. The low ceilings and brick and wood decor, make you feel like you're at one of the Beatles first performances at the Cavern club in Liverpool. What a great, intimate venue! So intimate that the majority of the audience, most of whom were over 40, felt comfortable enough to get up and dance. Naturally, we made our way to the tiny, crowded, dance floor as well. Concerts in the Duck Room are not for spectators, which is good since there aren't enough chairs for everyone to sit anyway. If you must have a seat, you need to get there pretty early. If it's a very popular show, e.g. Chuck Berry (the original duck walker himself), an hour ahead of show time is still not early enough.

The sound in The Duck Room has been perfected. It is neither too soft nor too loud. You can sing along without hearing yourself but your ears won't be ringing on your way home.

After my first experience at the Duck Room was so great I had to go back. I have since been to the Duck Room two more times, and had two enjoyable experiences. I highly recommend this place!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

City Diner (North Grand)

City Diner at the Fox on Urbanspoon
After seeing a show at The Fox Theatre, there is another spectacle to watch right next door. The City Diner, located right next to The Fox Theatre, is the perfect people watching venue. That's without even going inside! With its all glass walls, the diner likens a fascinating store window display when the sun goes down. After walking by the Diner for years, wanting to venture inside, I finally got the chance to see what it's all about.

The decor in the City Diner is a bit confusing. At first the colors, clean lines, and the light fixtures would suggest a modern theme. At the same time, the booths, star burst patterns, and geometric shapes are circa 1950's. There might be some parallels there, but when you throw in lava lamps that's when I'm stumped on the theme.

Admittedly I am a breakfast food junkie, so extra points were awarded when I saw the all day breakfast menu. My crew ordered the trio grilled cheese with fries, chicken strips with fries, the garden burger, and I had the Greek omelet. There was a fuss made over the grilled cheese, "oh it's the best!", and the fries. I didn't hear much about the chicken strips or garden burger so I will say they must not have been spectacular. My omelet was very good. It had spinach and feta and it came with a side of hash browns and toast.

The service we received left more to be desired. Our server was not friendly and our order took a very long time. To be fair, this was during the lunch rush. All in all, I think I will return to City Diner. Maybe for a late snack after a show at The Fox, or maybe just for some pancakes at midnight.