Tuesday night I had the pleasure of dining at The Block in Webster Groves. Voted one of St. Louis’s Best New Restaurants in 2011 and St. Louis’s The Riverfront Times’s Best Neighborhood Restaurant 2012, I may have a new favorite restaurant of my own.
The Block combines locally grown and raised ingredients in its dishes and locally brewed beers behind the bar. Setting itself apart from most local eateries, The Block also features a full service meat counter where you can buy whole and half hogs as well as cuts of beef and pork from local farms. My dad and step-mom took my girlfriend and me there for birthday dinner and it’s one of those places where literally everything on the menu sounds incredible. From the salads and appetizers to sandwiches and full plate entrees, the Block offers what I felt was the kind of comfort food you’d want to cook for yourself at home, but with exotic twists most of us probably don’t have stocking the fridge or cupboard.
We started off with these amazing pretzels, dark and crunchy on the outside, white and chewy on the inside, served with a delicious savory and sweet mustard sauce with some kind of caramelized onions. Wow. My dad and I both commented that we could probably just eat the pretzels and drink beers and be happy! More on the beers later. For the main course my step-mom had the Double Star Farms Amish Chicken: grilled chicken accompanied by Yukon gold potatoes, butternut squash, mushrooms, and arugula with a local honey balsamic reduction.
They have a Grass Fed Beef menu special, sort of like the “catch of the day,” and that night it was a 12oz ribeye, served with garlic herb fries and The Block’s house steak sauce. Ribeye is my favorite cut so that was a no-brainer and it was cooked exactly how I asked. The meat was smooth and cut like butter though I didn’t even need a knife. I believe the cut of Grass Fed Beef changes, but I will get that ribeye every time they offer it.
The off-the-menu specials were amazing too. We enjoyed a flatbread appetizer with shrimp and roasted red peppers which changes daily, like the Grass Fed Beef on the menu. My girlfriend had pan-seared cod with roasted red potatoes, roasted garlic, shaved Brussels sprouts, wild mushrooms and topped this unbelievable bacon jam (that you can buy in jars from the butcher’s counter, do it!) AND truffle oil! Decadent. My girlfriend and I thought we’d end up sharing but both of us cleaned our plates relinquishing only a bite or two at most.
My dad had an 8oz sirloin, also cooked perfectly, served with a root vegetable gratin: potato, sweet potato, fennel maybe? And Swiss cheese. The coup de grâce though, was a BIG rib, cooked sous-vide, and riding shotgun along with the sirloin. The meat was falling off the bone as the plate was presented at the table. Amazing. All the meat is butchered fresh, on-site, and again, most of the vegetables were said to have been harvested locally. The Block even has a garden project with the local grade school nearby in the spirit of seed-to-table.
Go to The Block for the food, but by no means ignore the incredible, locally brewed beers on tap. There are a lot of micro and artisanal breweries in St. Louis these days, and most restaurants in town feature at least a couple of selections. At The Block their choices matched SO well with the food. It was masterfully done. IPA, altbier, a vanilla porter (awesome) Perennial’s Hommel Bier (RFT’s Best beer 2012) and multiple Urban Chestnut offerings, including Zwickel, Urban’s “flagship lager.” Cloudy, yeasty, unfiltered, unpasteurized, authentically German, and I swear to you, probably the best beer I’ve ever tasted while eating a perfectly cooked steak. I’m a dark beer guy and they also had Civil Life milk stout, one of my favorites, but the grass-fed beef and that Zwickel were so good together it was almost criminal.
My folks drove a good hour to meet us last night. They got there ahead of us and had time to meet and talk to some of the staff who were genuinely grateful they’d come all that way to try the place. The Block is co-owned by Marc and Amy Del Pietro and Brian and Lea Doherty. Our server was friendly, knowledgeable, and made excellent suggestions. She even brought us a bit of dessert, complete with a candle, when she found out about our birthdays. A very sweet gesture, pun intended. No, they don’t sing Happy Birthday.
The owners are present and engaging. Everyone there did a nice job of making the patrons feel like guests in their home, in my opinion. Oh, and while they’re making mouth-watering lunch and dinner, The Block makes their own ice-cream too! We will try that on our next visit (maybe even the Bacon Candy Crunch!) but honestly, the Six Row vanilla porter would’ve sufficed as my dessert all by itself.
Come to St. Louis, seek out Webster Groves, and find The Block. You’ll be glad you did, and like us, you’ll be making plans to come back even as you’re walking out the door.