Now on the north side of age 40, Eddie Neill has been knocking about the St. Louis restaurant scene (including a couple of side trips) for more than 15 years now. A partially authorized biography:
T.P. Neill's. Eddie first makes his name among local diners by taking over the old Frank's 1750 space (1750 S. Brentwood), sprucing up the room and introducing innovative light entrees. He earns a streetwise business degree when he sells the restaurant a few years later, only to have the buyer go under in less than six months. Meanwhile, he opens another Neill's, also fairly short-lived, in the sit-down space of the lower level of the new Galleria.
Mercenary manager. Over the next six or seven years, Neill opens some 15 restaurants for other people, primarily in the Chicago area and Kentucky. While in Chicago, he formulates the idea for Cafe Provencal. Meanwhile, he comes back to St. Louis to help manage several restaurants for Bernard Douteau and others.
Cafe Provencal. Neill's concept of a prix-fixe, rustic country-French restaurant is realized with the opening of Cafe Provençal in a Clayton storefront in 1992. It's tiny, loud and an almost instant success, suddenly reintroducing this French-founded metropolitan area to hearty fare like beef daube. A couple of years later, he expands into an adjacent space with a wine bar and more tables, and in 1997 he opens a second Cafe Provencal in a slightly larger space with outdoor patio in a Kirkwood shopping center.
Eddie's Steak & Chop. Sometime in 1998, Neill begins to formulate a new concept for a Parisian-style steakhouse, allowing him to freshen and exploit Cafe Provencal's excellent location in the heart of Clayton, expand his menu (and price range) and explore new styles.
Chez Leon. Slated for an Aug. 1 opening, this Central West End spot just off the corner of Euclid and Laclede returns Neill to his bistro roots and at the same time pairs him up with local hospitality legend Leon Bierbaum, among other things a well-known waiter at the Cheshire Inn, wine expert at the dear departed Cheshire Cellars and 9-0-5 Charcuterie, concierge at the Hotel Majestic and one of St. Louis' leading wine twinks. The partnership makes Chez Leon one of the most anticipated openings in many years.
-- Joe Bonwich