Trip Report, Springfield IL & St Louis

2007/02/12 12:11:50
A few regional notes for the group.

Ritz' Little Fryer, Springfield IL
(2 Locations, Jefferson St Downtown, North Grand Ave East, North End) Springfield is proud of it's many locally owned establishments and Ritz' is a favorite for breakfast and horseshoes. It is a clean family run place with big portions and low prices that has been a local fixture for years. Coffee is good with attentive refills, and the food was as follows:

EGGS perfectly cooked to order
HASH BROWNS/AMERICAN FRIES both prepared the same way, fried on the grill, good flavor and huge portions (your humble reviewer could not eat them all).
BACON/SAUSAGE LINKS good diner quality and both selections include four pieces.
BISCUITS & GRAVY The gravy was fair, with decent sausage content but just not that good. The biscuits seemed to be some sort of pillsbury rolls from a can, not biscuits. I have certainly had worse, but bear in mind the B&G is not exactly a house specialty.

An up side here is the price. My special was 2 eggs, 4 pc bacon or sausage, potatoes, and a 1/2 (side) order of biscuits and gravy for $4.25. Steak and eggs is only about $5.25. And if one comes for lunch one can get the famous Springfield horseshoe starting at about $5.00. The Ritz horseshoe is one of the best in town, with huge mounds of crinkle cut fries and a white cheese sauce that IS a specialty of the house.

TIPS They are only open until 2PM, and if you are a non smoker the downtown location is smoke free. For smokers, the north location is a smoking haven, but the ventilation is better than average.

Trattoria Branica, Frontenac MO
OK, we were in suburban St Louis and scheduling precluded a trip to the famous "Hill" neighborhood, but this looked like a good bet for good Italian and it was (although not exactly roadfood). The restaurant's reputation was for good Italian in an upscale atmosphere but with moderate prices. The owner (who we recognized from the website) was ever present, as is nice in such a place, and the large staff was extremely attentive. The location is sort of remodeled 1980's upscale suburban, but that was OK with us--the tables were not crammed in, and pleasant, quiet conversation was possible. Everything was spotless and, again, the staff and owner were everywhere tending to details. The entrees did not include salads or soups, but the portions were large enough as is. Our first basket of bread was sort of store bought rolls (but butter pats on a plate were also served) but subsequent baskets had a good sampling of crusty bread and rolls. Entrees were nicely presented, and we had:

RISOTTO PESCATORE shrimp, scallops, mussells and fish in rice with a tomato sauce, it was very good and so large that, again, your XL size reviewer could not finish it all.
RIB EYE STEAK absolutely delicious, cooked perfectly, mashed potatoes and vegetables on the side.

The rib eve was the most expensive item on the menu at $21.95, the other dishes were in the $15 range. IMO-A nice place very well run by people who care about their food and reputation.

Fitzs Root Beer, University City MO
Apparently Fitzs was a St Louis root beer drive in during the 1960s and closed down, but has been reborn as a very popular sort of campus town root beer brewpub. The root beer is said to be produced in house with real cane sugar rather than corn syrup. We went for the house specialty root beer float ($3.99) which could also be had in a tempting alternative with their own orange cream soda. An unusual twist is the frosty root beer mug is filled with root beer first and the ice cream scooped to sit on top of the mug, like an ice cream cone. My first mental response was "how do you eat the root beer and ice cream evenly?" but it is served with a straw for the underlying root beer and I observed that their way actually gives you more ice cream AND root beer than the conventional way. A delicious treat! More to come.....Todd

Filet Mignon
RE: Trip Report, Springfield IL & St Louis 2007/02/12 12:41:51
Nice report!
RE: Trip Report, Springfield IL & St Louis 2007/02/12 13:43:12
OK, we are back

Chris' Pancakes and Dining, St Louis MO
We got some mixed reviews on breakfast in St Louis but this one kept rising to the top and I found it to be a great place. We arrived early Sunday to beat the crowd, which we understand is considerable, and were quickly drinking coffee. On the table was a small plate of cookies, a little complementary extra from the house. These were small silver dollar sized, homemade walnut cookies that were a delicious little breakfast "appetizer". My first taste made me think they were peanut butter flavor, but my party and I agreed they must be flavored with maple syrup; very appropriate and a nice little custom that I really liked. The staff was very busy but they were attentive, and the food was good as follows with one exception:

PANCAKES were excellent, a medium thickness with a touch of vanilla. They were served with excellent whipped butter and pretty good syrup (a little too thick and corn syrupy rather than maple, but I am nitpicking with that). These were much better than average.
EGGS were bad, but my fault for not sending them back. I do not like raw eggs but I do like a little yolk, so I always order over-medium. These over-medium eggs were essentially raw--an example of poor quality customer service to be sure, but I should have sent them back and did not so I cannot hold this against them too much.
HASH BROWNS were included with almost everything, fried golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside, good.
BACON was good and included 4 slices

Since we were eating pancakes we did not get biscuits and gravy, but a nearby table had large, home-made looking biscuits (the appearance of the gravy was inconclusive). Pricing was good for the amount received, 2 eggs, bacon, 2 medium size pancakes and hash browns for $6.25. The restaurant was clean and nice, non smoking, good staff, good prices, and we loved the little cookies.

Old Spaghetti Factory, Chesterfield MO
Hard core roadfoodies will sneer at my including a chain, but I have always liked the Old Spaghetti Factory (OSF) and had a craving for their house specialty, the Spaghetti with Mizithra Cheese and Browned Butter a la Homer. The OSF now has a new, additional suburban location in St Louis, the first we have ever seen from them, but the food and decor remain the same. You get coffee or tea, soup or salad, fresh baked mini loaf of bread (with either regular or garlic butter), your spaghetti entree, and a dish of spumoni ice cream for dessert for $8.95, an incredible good buy and as such very popular with families and groups. It is a chain and the food is uniform, but I really like it and it is a great value, so traditionalists be kind and give me a pass on this little pleasure. Thanks for reading, Todd
RE: Trip Report, Springfield IL & St Louis 2007/02/12 13:55:55
Wonderful report todd; sounds like you found some real winners. Good to about those suburban St. Louis locations as Mrs. Roadhouse and I head back and forth from Kansas City.

So sorry you missed a hook up with the Dr. of BBQ in Springfield. I highly recommend a stop at his trailer for some outstanding 'Que next time you're rolling through Lincoln-town. Other Roadfooders who have made the trek have been similarly been wowed.

RE: Trip Report, Springfield IL & St Louis 2007/02/12 14:05:01
YES, I wanted to say Hello to the Dr., I will be coming soon!!

To Buddy, for your input, I was on Manchester Rd west of 270 and noticed a lot of BBQ places, would be interested in seeing some info if you know about any of them, Todd
RE: Trip Report, Springfield IL & St Louis 2007/02/12 14:42:26
Sorry todd, as Missouri towns go, St. Louis is not my stomping ground. I know enough about the local eating scene there so's I won't starve. As for making recommendations, there are far more knowledgeable folks than I when it comes to "America's Gateway to the West" city.

Ask me about Kansas City and I'll help you gain ten pounds in a weekend.

RE: Trip Report, Springfield IL & St Louis 2007/02/12 16:26:25
Thanks Buddy, actually I will probably be back there this year sometime. Last time we went I got the tip to try Jacks Stack, which I really like, and The Big Biscuit in Indepenence MO for breakfast, which was good but not really as good as I expected. At Mrs Fleet's request we went to the Buca De Bepo in Country Club Plaza and we both hated it. We also tried that local doughnut chain of theirs and it was OK but, again, not as good as I expected. Any tips? And remember, when it comes to barbecue I like very smoky meat and sauce is secondary. Thanks, Todd
RE: Trip Report, Springfield IL & St Louis 2007/02/12 17:23:46
My KC faves for 'Que are The Woodyard, RJ's Bob-Be-Que, & LC's, in that order. Beyond that, you've got Stroud's remaining northside location for family style fried chicken, Thai Place for...what else, Mi Ranchita for excellent "non-authentic" Mexican, Korma Sutra has an outstanding Indian buffet (buffets are usually not my thing, but this is done exceptionally well), Mario's Italian Deli in the Westport neighborhood for grinders, Winstead's or Westport Flea Market for burgers, Genghis Kahn Mongolian Grill for one of the better representatives of that genre, Garozzo's for Italian, Jumpin Catfish for guess what, and Saigon 39 for Vietnamese.

Those are just the ones that leap into the front of my brain at the moment. There are dozens of others we've visited and enjoyed and even more that we've heard about but have yet to get to. Plus there are a number of excellent reviews her at Roadfood.

The above list is a pretty good start. I promise, you won't go hungry in KC.