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The Restaurants of St. Charles, MO (Part 1)
Welcome to Historic Saint Charles
I would like to start this particular hub off stating that this is an unsolicited, personal-opinion only review, and that I am not being paid by any of these restaurants to say anything one way or the other about them.
I just like to eat, and, having a boyfriend who likes going new places, we've started going up and down Main Street Saint Charles, Missouri.
This is part one, I'm hoping to do some kind of a part two in the future, but for now this deals with those major restaurants that I have (mostly) been to up and down Historic Main Street Saing Charles.
Should you ever find yourself in St. Charles, and, to be honest, it's kind of not on the big map of places people put on their bucket lists or anything, you'll be glad to know, after reading this, that there actually is a bit of civilization there (a little), and that, more importantly, there are actually a few things to do (as long as it's not a Sunday night).
A little bit about St. Charles, MO
St. Charles is a smaller city, and county, than St. Louis, it's "over-the-bridge" neighbor. St. Charles is nestled right in between the bends of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and the County of St. Charles itself has less people than the city of Santa Monica, California, where I grew up.
Someone from outside the state once asked me if this was a big city - "I can drive ten to fifteen minutes in any direction and reach corn fields. No. It's not THAT big," was my answer.
However, we do have a small "historic" district.
Small but mightly, St. Charles boasts the State's First Capitol city, and there's even a small stretch of Main Street where the original cobblestone style has been restored, and the first state capitol building itself is still standing. Getting in to actually see it, however, is not something I know how to do, but I hear that you can - they always seem to be closed when I come by, but I rarely go there during the day on weekends, which is the most popular time for any place of that nature.
My absolute favorite time to go down to Main Street, however, is Between Thanksgiving and Christmas - They pull out all the stops. There are horse-drawn carriages you can ride in, the entire street and all of the shops are done up, carolers pass by. Usually there are multiple Santa's to see, some of them based off of more historic types of good old St. Nick. Last year there was even a little drummer boy with his friend playing the flute, in period costume.
But, whenever you go, there is always, ALWAYS, plenty to eat.
The following are just a few of the restaurants down on historic Main Street, the ones I hear talked about the most around town, and my personal opinions of them.
Trailhead Restaurant and Brewery
This is, by far, the pride of St. Charles dining. St. Charles people tend to like certain things: good, fatty food, and good beer. That being said, this combines the two, as Trailhead has, right there on the second floor for you to see, its very own brewery.
For the drinking type, as a local staple, Trailhead has a variety of lagers to choose from as well as its seasonal menus.
For those a bit more interested in cuisine, it's completely American. Appetizers usually involve toasted ravioli or spinach and artichoke dip, fried calamari, soft pretzels, that sort of thing. They have pizzas, sandwiches, great burgers, prime rib, popular fish entrees, soup and salad combos.
Overall, my opinion of it, not being a beer drinker, is that it's pretty average. It's decent food, but half the time the place is so busy that the waiters are irritable, the line's out the door. When it's not super busy, it's great. For instance, my boyfriend and a work friend of his went there with me once, and it was nice, not too terribly crowded but not dead (at five in the evening), and they offered half-price appetizers and pizzas between certain hours, so it was a great experience all around. As far as price goes normally, they're pretty middle-of-the-line, costing somewhere around $10-20 per person depending on what you get and when you go, but they give gigantic midwestern portions that always last me three meals.
Summary: I've had good and mediocre experiences there, but I'd definitely go back.
Lewis and Clark's
Lewis and Clark's, further down the road, is also owned by the Trailhead brewing company. However, their specialty is not in the same area as Trailhead's. At Lewis and Clark's, the sandwich takes center stage, leaving the burger menu a little shorter, as well as those the traditional entrees of beef, chicken, and fish, but they still have a full menu of Trailhead beers.
While I'm not a beer person, as I've said, they do have one very redeeming non-alcoholic drink that they DO brew in-house throughout the company as well - Root Beer. Their hand-crafted root beer is one of my favorite things to get alongside one of their 'specialty' sandwiches.
If I had to choose between Trailhead and Lewis and Clarks, I'd actually pick Lewis and Clark's. It's just down the street, but it's a different place entirely.
By far one of my favorite food places on mainstreet. Llewellen's pub is a good old Irish place, and, while not a native of St. Charles, a really good import from over-the-bridge.
They serve traditional pub fare AND good Irish items, including (but not limited to) bangers and mash, Welsh Rarebit, burgers, sandwiches, Irish stew, shepherd's pie, pub curry. But my favorite (depending on what it is) is the Chef's cottage pie - which changes from day to day based on whatever the chef feels like making it. It was outstanding the first time I went there, but the next time, it was Lent, and they had something with fish, which I won't eat. I got the Bangers and Mash instead, and, really, that was amazing as well.
For those that imbibe, like my boyfriend, they have a variety of good Irish whiskey, scotch, beers, and more.
All in all, never had a bad experience there, I'd highly recommend it.
I'd have to say it's my absolute favorite place. Also, not the only Picasso's, but it's the closest one to me and the only one I've been to.
Hippies are most welcome, as well as new-generation hippies. Which, by the way, seem to run the place. I felt right at home, as I was raised by two original flower-children.
Picasso's combines one of my favorite things in the world - coffee - with a laid-back, organic atmosphere, GoGreen/eco-conscious decorating style, kick your feet up on the table, and they have live music certain nights of the week to boot. If you're looking for that absolutely amazing small-town hang out place, Picasso's manages it while still maintaining a "big town" cafe menu, including - wait for it - soy substitutions for dairy-based drinks. Yes. That was a BIG selling point for me, as I became lactose intolerant a couple years ago.
They also have sandwiches, treats, and beer, but who cares about that stuff anyways? I just go there for the coffee and music, and sit down to let the atmosphere take me back to some of my favorite memories.
Excellent place to stop.
Quintessential dining and nightlife.
Alright...I'd heard a lot of hype about this place from people closer to my age, and let me tell you, I don't really do "nightlife" like that. However, the dining was nice. We got there around five, though, and the place almost seemed closed up, so they definitely take a break between lunch and dinner, so be forewarned about that.
Now down to the important stuff: the food was pretty good. Not the best, but good. I've only been there once, mind you, but I had a pizza (which I later paid for thanks to the cheese and my lactose intolerance), and had no complaints about it. They are a little bit more on the pricey side with some of their things, however they had decent staff and a good-sized menu, full of options.
Favorite part: dessert. I don't often let myself get dessert at restaurants because, one, it's usually overpriced and half-hearted, two, I'm usually full from dinner, and, if I'm not, three, I don't really need the calories.
However.... The dessert crepes were close enough to give me memories of france even though it wasn't stuffed with nutella and bananas. Instead, it was stuffed with a whipped cream lightly flavored by kahlua, raspberries, candied pecans, and caramel. The crepe was tender, not overdone like some other restaurants, and the rest was just the right amount.
I'm not sure if I'd go back there often, but I wouldn't turn it down if someone invited me.
Little Hills Winery and Restaurant
Alright, it's a winery - it's a bit pricey, and a little posh, but overall, it was a great place to eat. Another one of those one's I've only tried once, but I'd DEFINITELY go back. They had a large variety of food - my boyfriend got vegetable stir fry, and I had a burger with fries, and I overheard a lady at another table who was quite obviously VERY gluten-intolerant -- they have a whole selection of gluten-free items, including beers. There are other fanciful items like tortilla soup, lobster ravioli, etc, etc.
Spinach and artichoke dip seems to be the way my boyfriend and I test a restaurant, sometimes. It's a staple - if they've got it, we usually order it, and if it's good, it seems like the food is usually of the same quality. Their spinach and artichoke dip is one of the best I've had.
And yeah, it's a winery, too. The waiters are more than happy to get you samples of something, even recommend things. For example, I'd been eyeing something completely girly - the fruity, semi-sweet strawberry wine. Which, as it turned out, they had just sold out of a few hours before we got there for dinner. However, he immediately offered a sample of the blackberry, a similar one, as well as to bring out a couple of others that people who usually like the strawberry tend to enjoy. He brought out a concord grape that tasted like cough-syrup (not my thing), but also a white semi-dry that was absolutely what I had been looking for. Sweet, but not syrup-y, with enough acidity to help me remember that it was wine and needed to be savored in a certain fashion. My boyfriend, who has seen the movie Sideways but didn't pay too much attention, got the driest thing he could order and downed it without any ceremony. We'll have to work on that whole swirl, sniff, sip thing.