Lunch Pick: Annie Gunn's
I get that St. Louis has a little bit of city vs. county competition, but the number of times that knowledgable food enthusiasts that I trust have brushed off "The Gunn" is both disheartening and aggravating. If your aim is to eat at all of St. Louis' best restaurants, a visit to Annie Gunn's is in order. Actually, two visits are in order. Go for lunch and ask to be seated in the semi-outdoor atrium. Go for dinner and enjoy a decadent steak dinner with the finest wines. At some point I'll write about their dinner, but this post will serve as a lunch guide.
Many moons ago, I wrote about one of my favorite sandwiches in St. Louis: the French Dip at Annie Gunn's. My pictures do it little justice. It's got a perfectly buttery and soft bun, some of the best roast beef on Earth, and the right amount of cheese. Add to that the au jus and creamy horseradish dip and you're in heaven.
A French Dip might be a bit too heavy for you daintier eaters, so I figured now would be a good time to share some of my other favorites. First off, if you're an eater of chili, theirs is a must-try. I don't really have much to say about it besides "it's really good chili." If you're the kind of person who tells people that you're just big-boned, you should probably go for the potato soup.
For main dishes, there are almost always two fish specials, and they are always good choices. Chef Lou Rook and his team are constantly changing fish and preparations, based on what's available. This past weekend, for example, they featured both fluke and rainbow trout; below is the roasted trout with a badass salsa verde on top. The dish originally came with braised greens and some kind of starch, but my dad is watching his figure, so he opted to get green beans and asparagus instead.
If you really want to take advantage of The Smokehouse Market aspect of Annie Gunn's, you should do the smoked seafood sampler (or the WOW board—I'll cover that another time). I get this all the time because I'm fancy as hell. The plate is composed of their famous Vermont maple glazed jumbo shrimp, Viking Village sea scallops, Troutdale Farm trout, and sturgeon, served with onion, tomato, capers, Pennsylvania Dutch BBQ sauce, a dill sauce, and Guinness rye bread.
The shrimp are good, but overhyped. Your server will almost certainly tell you how you can get them individually as an appetizer. They're a little too smoky and a little too sweet for me. The sturgeon is a nice meaty chunk of fish, with a light smoke and a little sweetness. To me, it tastes a lot like swordfish. My Jewish soul loves it. But nothing tops my love for the unbelievable little sea scallops, something I've tried to replicate at home but failed miserably at doing so. Oh, and the trout—once again, perfectly smoked. I sometimes get a salad with a side of the trout, when I'm feeling particularly healthy—which is rare.
You can't visit The Gunn without stopping by the Smokehouse Market, the connected market and smokehouse. Bolyard's and Truffle's have both done an admirable job of bringing meat to the masses, but no one does it quite like The Smokehouse. There is so much meat in this store, it is unbelievable. Cured meats, fresh meats, sausages, steaks wrapped in bacon, bacon wrapped in steaks. Whatever you want, they have. Their smoked chickens make for a great dinner, their roast beef (the same as the French Dip) is always great to have for sandwiches, and butcher Andrew Jennrich (formerly of Farmhaus) is there to help guide you to the right meat choice.
The Smokehouse also has its own rather large take-out menu of sandwiches and salads. The not-secret but oft ignored sandwich that really shouldn't be ignored at all is the John's Smoked Trout. The same hickory smoked trout from the seafood plate with sliced red onion, capers, cucumbers, and the dill sauce. It is so good.