It is now solidly the season of polar vortices, wind chills and comfort food. To celebrate these hearty, stick-to-your-ribs dishes, we went straight to the culinary equivalent of that old comfy sweater for this week's Thursday Throwdown: meatloaf. Two of the area's most prominent chefs, Kevin Willmann of Farmhaus (3257 Ivanhoe Avenue; 314-647-3800) and Rick Lewis of Quincy Street Bistro (6931 Gravois Avenue; 314-353-1588) are both known for their takes on this humble yet mighty loaf. Who will be the victor?
Diners can smell Farmhaus' meatloaf before they enter the front door; the smoky aroma of bacon wafts onto Ivanhoe Street. Farmhaus serves meatloaf every Wednesday during lunch as part of its blue-plate-special program, and one bite of the hearty entree makes it clear why loyal customers make a point to visit every week. The dense yet moist beefy loaf is studded with onions, wrapped in bacon and seared so that the beef and bacon fat caramelize together. The meat is then slathered with Pappy's sweet and smoky barbecue sauce, giving the dish a spicy molasses undertone. Crispy fried onions add crunch.
Quincy Street Bistro
Chef Rick Lewis' meatloaf is all about texture. Lewis takes freshly ground beef and bacon then mixes them with oatmeal so that it soaks up the meaty juices as the dish cooks. The result is a meatloaf that has the melt-in-your-mouth texture of butter. Lewis' glaze tastes like tomato-y chili sauce that warms the back palate, and fried onions gives the tender dish texture.
The Winner: Farmhaus
If we could issue a draw, we would. Quincy Street Bistro's meatloaf has such a unique, tender texture that it deserves an honorable mention. If this match-up was based on the meat alone, Lewis would be champion. However, Farmhaus' sweet barbecue glaze and caramelized beef and bacon fat give it the very narrow edge.