Best Restaurant Character

Andy Ayers, Riddle's Penultimate Café & Wine Bar

If you've ever eaten at Riddle's Penultimate (and if you haven't, you should), you've no doubt seen the big guy with the beard, the beret and an apron bustling out of the kitchen into the dining room. That would be Andy Ayers, the world's youngest 48-year-old, Missouri-wine evangelist and all-around wine connoisseur (with 30-some Missouri and more than 300 total choices on his wine list), sometime food-related political activist, music impresario, friend to the local farmer and owner since 1979, along with wife Paula, of U. City's eclectic, unusual but thoroughly enjoyable hangout for music lovers, gourmets, wine twinks, Vietnam-era multiple-identity fugitives and all the other denizens that give the Loop its unique character. After dropping out of Pattonville High, Ayers worked one of his first food-service jobs as a 17-year-old bartender (he was big for his age) at a Clayton hotel, then, after several years away, returned for gigs at places as diverse as the Tack Room at the old Chase Hotel, Anthony's and the original Caleco's on Laclede, followed by a brief stint as a roofer, an abortive restaurant opening on South Grand and, finally, the original Riddle's, located just west of the University of Missouri-St. Louis on Natural Bridge Road. He and Paula went on to have three daughters -- the middle of whom, Kate, is now Riddle's kitchen manager -- and have two grandchildren as well. We're pleased to raise a glass (perhaps of one of those less-than-you'll-pay-elsewhere, if-you-can-even-find-them) mature Bordeaux that Andy features, to one of our favorite restaurant folks.
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