We're not sure where it started or when exactly it became a thing, but lately restaurant crawls seem to be all the rage in St. Louis. Pub crawls we understand. But restaurant crawls? Aren't those just glorified progressive dinners? We've been over progressive dinners for a few years now, so what's the appeal of a restaurant crawl?
On April 24, Gut Check tagged along on Dishcrawl's first St. Louis gastronomic adventure on Wash. Ave. to find out.
As we reported back at the beginning of April, Dishcrawl is a fairly new organization that has just arrived in St. Louis to host restaurant-hopping adventures. Dishcrawl ambassador Sara Graham chose Washington Avenue downtown as the first spot in town worthy of gourmet food tastings en masse, and as the date of the first crawl got closer, she released more details about the places the group would be visiting.
A few days before the event, Dishcrawl STL revealed on its Twitter that the featured restaurants would be the Dubliner, Mosaic and Robust, with a Kakao Chocolate nightcap at Mercantile Exchange movie theater.
Guests met up at the Dubliner (1025 Washington Avenue; 314-421-4300), where they were greeted by Eddie Neill, partner at both the Dubliner and Café Provencal. Neill talked about the similarities and differences between Irish food (like the kind served at the Dubliner) and French food (which he serves up at Café Provencal). He also informed diners that everything they would be tasting was sourced from local farms.
The offering from the Dubliner was a charcuterie platter with liver pâté, wild mushroom pâté, a pâté called "Cheek to Cheek" (clever, Dubliner) and pork rillettes (which is similar to pâté). The pâté par-tay was served with toast, whole-grain mustard, pickles and olives.
This first meal immediately set the tone for the entire event. Midwesterners, beware: You will be eating pâté. For Gut Check, this was a pleasant surprise. For some of the other diners, not so much.
Find out where we went next...
Next, the gang of foodies headed to Mosaic Modern Fusion (1001 Washington Avenue; 314-621-6001), which unveiled its new spring menu just for the Dishcrawlers. New sous chef Bobby Vickers presented the diners with a mini lamb belly gyro with labneh and a pickled cucumber marmalade, spicy fried chicken with baked lentils and a honey-thyme sauce, and roasted pork shoulder with sweet corn purée and a mystery yellow sphere of deliciousness. After prodding Vickers for a while, he finally revealed it was pickled pear. YUM.
The third stop was Robust Wine Bar (635 Washington Avenue; 314-287-6300), where the group was treated to a special cocktail called the Fleur de Lou, in honor of the St. Louis flag. It was a refreshing mixture of gin, lemon juice, brûléed orange simple syrup, Cynar (a bitter Italian liqueur) and François Montand sparking wine. This, on top of the several glasses of wine offered by the previous restaurants, started to turn this restaurant crawl into a pub crawl as well. But hey, no one was complaining.
Robust offered some customer favorites off its menu: Spanish meatballs, crab cakes and roasted mushroom flatbread. Then they brought out more wine. Thank you, Dishcrawl. Now we know that even if the food is no good, there will be booze.
Fortunately, all the food was pretty tasty. The three featured restaurants pulled out all the stops to impress the crowd, even offering dishes that most wouldn't consider "safe" fare for a diverse group of people. And they must be applauded for that.
The evening ended with a trip to the new MX District (700 Washington Avenue), which sells Kakao Chocolate at its concession area. Maybe not the most obvious place for a chocolate tasting, but it was a great way to get people to check out the theater. The Dishcrawlers were offered a chocolate trio consisting of a sea-salt truffle, a Viennese truffle and a strawberry-rhubarb truffle. The dessert was standard Kakao fare, which means it was absolutely delightful. It was, however, somewhat unnecessary after all of the food from the three previous restaurants.
So yeah, it was essentially a progressive dinner, but without the cleanup that comes after hosting a course at your own abode. Most of the guests were surprisingly young and hip and open to expanding their culinary horizons. The food was tasty, and the drinks were plentiful.
Would we go again? Absolutely. At $45 for a three-hour gourmet meal with drinks and pleasant conversation, it's a pretty good bargain. The next Dishcrawl will be on May 29 and will feature restaurants on Lafayette Square. It's a month away, so we say get your tickets now!
If you just can't wait that long for another restaurant crawl, check out Savor St. Louis Food Tours. Gut Check hasn't been on one of these tours, but they run every Saturday morning in the Central West End, so eventually they should have that tour down to an art.
Know of any other regular St. Louis food tours? Let us know!