Camp hopes that the food found at The Drawing Board is a welcome surprise to patrons.
Fans of Ryder’s Tavern have a new spot in Tower Grove South for dining, drinking and games, courtesy of co-owners Matt and Paul Wamser and chef Alexa Camp. Their two-month-old bar and restaurant, the Drawing Board, promises to build upon the success of its former occupant with a creative and approachable menu, expanded beverage list, bar games, trivia and more.
The Drawing Board, which opened June 1 in the former Ryder’s Tavern, lives up to its name with chalkboards serving as menus and as entertainment for guests. Patrons scrawl a variety of personal messages, pictures of birds, and, most consistently, a friend of Camp shades in large, detailed dinosaurs. Camp says that anything erased from the chalkboards will live on in small Polaroids hung on the walls.
There are more than just chalkboards in the old Ryder’s Tavern, though. Free darts and pool, live music on weekends and a spacious dog-friendly back patio keep guests entertained. Camp hopes a trivia night will be coming soon.
Perhaps the biggest change to the space is the food. Unlike the former occupant, the Drawing Board hopes to become known as much as a place to grab a good meal as it is a drinking establishment. The menu is the first that Camp, a former sous chef at Urban Chestnut, has built herself. Though the smash burger lives on from Ryder’s, the rest is new.
“Small-plate things and Creole are my biggest draws,” Camp says. “I wanted it to be things that people will enjoy but maybe aren’t things they would normally see on a menu in a south city bar.” Camp recommends the Medart-style (fully dressed) smash burger, the falafel sliders, and the flatbread, which has a rotating selection of available meat and vegetables.
“The veggie selection right now is a chile and roasted garlic Brussels sprout that’s topped with a little bit of lemon, and I’m obsessed with it,” Camp says. She is also is passionate about pickling seasonal vegetables, a skill she brings from her time at Urban Chestnut. “Right now, we’ve got pickled green beans and carrots that are in a kind of Bloody Mary style, so they’re a little spicy with a little cayenne in them, but also vinegary, and rounded out with a really nice amount of oregano, so it’s savory but has a little tang at the back of it.”
A grilled cheese fills out the menu, featuring garlic herb goat cheese, white cheddar and the option to “make it fancy” with the addition of mushrooms, apple butter, and/or bacon. For dessert, “Gooey Babies” are a tiny take on a St. Louis classic.
Camp was brought on to the Drawing Board by co-owner Matt Wamser, who she became friends with while working together at Urban Chestnut. He admired her cooking, so when he was looking for someone to lead the kitchen at his new spot, he reached out. Camp shares that he has been encouraging throughout the process of creating her own menu for the first time.
“It’s been really, really fun with Matt," Camp says. "He’s been so supportive and so open to letting me try a lot of different things. I’ve always liked to play with food, it’s one of the most gratifying things for me. I’ve always loved to cook… I enjoy the risk and reward of putting yourself out there in a way you’ve never been able to before. I’m really grateful that it’s been received as it has.”
Another upgrade from Ryder’s is the tap tower, which offers six local beers. More beer options are available in bottles and cans, and the bar boasts a deep and growing selection of whiskeys. A cocktail menu is in development.
Matt’s brother and co-owner, Paul, owned the space when it was Ryder’s Tavern. The COVID-19 pandemic spurred the decision to close Ryder’s and renovate the space into something that Camp describes as having a similar feel, but a little bit more elevated and welcoming. They’ve opened up windows to let more light in and refurbished the bathrooms and patio, with still more renovations planned for the future. While Ryder’s Tavern was mainly a place to drink and play games, the three are hoping that the Drawing Board will be known as a place to eat from a creative but approachable menu, scribble on chalkboards, and hopefully hang out with some dogs on the patio.
The Drawing Board is open Tuesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. and on Sundays from 4 p.m. until midnight.
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