Balentine's Brings Eclectic Food to Lafayette Square

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The American flatbread pizza comes with spicy blue cheese sauce, chicken and crispy bacon. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • Photo by Sarah Fenske
  • The American flatbread pizza comes with spicy blue cheese sauce, chicken and crispy bacon.

There's an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry obsesses over a newly opened neighborhood restaurant called the Dream Cafe. The eclectic menu bothers him: "He's serving Mexican, Italian, Chinese. He's all over the place." Jerry convinces the restaurateur to cook only Pakistani food. Reconfigured, the place bombs.


You might think of the Dream Cafe when you look at the menu at Balentine's (1801 Park Avenue, 314-833-4339), the brand-new restaurant taking over the old Tripel spot in Lafayette Square. The menu is inspired by comfort food from around the world, says owner Pierre Balentine. After 21 years in the U.S. Army, Balentine boasts a diverse set of friends and acquaintances, and "these are the things we've eaten at their homes." Seinfeld probably wouldn't approve, but what did he know about food anyway? (And really, wasn't his bad judgment the whole point of the episode?)


The Tuscan-inspired panzanella has bread cubes, roasted red peppers, cucumbers and onions. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • Photo by Sarah Fenske
  • The Tuscan-inspired panzanella has bread cubes, roasted red peppers, cucumbers and onions.

And so there are Brazilian beef kebabs, served with a side of cilantro collard greens and mashed sweet potatoes with coconut milk. There is fried chicken from the U.S., garlic chicken from Cuba, Asian-inspired teriyaki salmon or Tuscan linguini. You can get your flatbreads done two different American styles (Buffalo chicken or club) or opt for Middle-Eastern or Tuscan options.

You can even get German nachos. Fries topped with sauerkraut and hamburger, then served with a side of mayo, they're a Mitteleuropa riff on the poutine everyone else is serving this year. They'd benefit from a bit more sour to the sauerkraut and a spicier sausage, but the fries were perfectly cooked on our recent visit.
The German nachos are topped by hamburger and sauerkraut, then served with a side of mayo. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • Photo by Sarah Fenske
  • The German nachos are topped by hamburger and sauerkraut, then served with a side of mayo.
There is not yet a bar, but there will be soon. Balentine says he expects the liquor license to come through in the next week. In the mean time, they're enjoying a soft opening, getting a feel for what they're doing before they begin trying to maximize the space.

And what a space! At 5,400 square feet, the room is really more like three rooms, with a sizable bar area, a full dining room with a row of cozy booths, and then another full room's worth of space that Balentine has reconfigured as a lounge of sorts, complete with couches.

Once they have that liquor license, "we're going to do wine tasting nights, speed dating nights," he promises. "We want to do things to bring people to that space. We'll have live music on Friday and Saturday nights, too."
This dining area, with booths facing Park Avenue and tables in the middle, is one of three spaces at Balentine's that could each be a full-sized restaurant. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • Photo by Sarah Fenske
  • This dining area, with booths facing Park Avenue and tables in the middle, is one of three spaces at Balentine's that could each be a full-sized restaurant.
Balentine has a long career in food, although this is his first restaurant per se. He worked in food service for 30 years — first, those 21 years in the Army, followed by 10 years in corporate America, servicing military bases all over the world. "I know how to serve over 1,000 people a meal," he says. "And I supported over 40,000 in Iraq back in 2003." Compared to that, serving the 225 people that Balentine's could comfortably fit should be a breeze.

A St. Louis native, Balentine had settled in Dallas after his military career, but then his wife died four years ago. "I decided to come back here," he says. Retirement, he admits, just didn't suit him. He loves the Lafayette Square area for its diversity, and looks forward to serving people from "all walks of life."

For now, Balentine's will be open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 the following morning. From Friday through Sunday, it will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. the next morning. 

"We're hoping people will want to stay long," Balentine says. And should they be hungry, there's a little bit of everything on the menu — dishes from all around the world and recipes from a diverse set of friends to feed a diverse neighborhood. 

The restaurant is in the space that formerly held Tripel. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • Photo by Sarah Fenske
  • The restaurant is in the space that formerly held Tripel.
We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com

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