A recovering alcoholic shouldn't go to a bar. A recovering drug addict shouldn't hang out at meth labs. A former fatso probably shouldn't go to Juniper. I am that fatso. All I knew about Juniper going into the meal is that it was southern and the chef had a beard. As we waited for the slowest eaters in the world to sign their check, we took in the surroundings. The interior is rustic; lots of wood, brick, and old refrigerators. A number of the tables are large enough to seat 10 or so people, which means communal seating, more often than not. But enough chit chat about the interior. It's time to eat!
As we perused the menus, we were given a cup of boiled peanuts to munch on. They were good. They tasted like boiled peanuts. Oddly enough, it reminded me of going to Chinese restaurants throughout Asia. You always get to start the meal off with some boiled peanuts. The more you know.
The restaurant was kind enough to have an order of the Fried Green Tomato salad ($9) delivered to us almost as soon as we sat down due to the long wait. I friggin' love fried green tomatoes. Crispy on the outside, juicy and tangy on the inside. Little chunks of smoked trout and orange were scattered over the tomatoes, but those were too healthy for me to care about. I was like a bull seeing red: all I could think about was eating more fried things.
If a fatty can't have something deep fried, what's the next best thing? Bread. Lots of bread. It was time to cargo-load these love handles. The full basket of bread ($9) was recommended to me by some Twitter angel and thank god for that. This isn't your normal stale white bread basket. This is some next level shit: Fritz Hollings' Carolina Biscuit, Angel Biscuits, Cornbread, Hushpuppies and a Honey Glazed Drop Biscuit, all served with seasonal jams and butter. They were all incredible. I can't even remember which one is which because I completely blacked out and came to again with jelly and crumbs on my hands and face. So worth it.
Fried Oysters ($9) came next. Beautifully plated and very good. Like Forrest Gump said, "that's all I have to say about that."
The next dish...oh man. The next dish is the kind of thing I've joked about making before, but never have done so because my conscience won't let me. It's just too far. I'm talking about the "Nashville Hot" Fried Chicken Skins with strawberry buttermilk. The whole table was fighting over these. They were easily the star of the night and the most talked about for days to come. I think these may be the best post-drinking snack ever made. Fried chicken skin should be used more.
Between the five of us, two got the Frogs Legs ($21), two got the Shrimp Andouille ($22) and one got the Market Fish Plate ($21) for mains. All of us agreed that the fish special, blue fish, was the best of the three dishes. This was partially due to the fact it was the lightest, but it really was a stunning fish dish. I knew I wasn't going to be getting it though, so I didn't listen to the waitress' description of the dish. I've failed you, dear readers. I bet that orange stuff is sweet potato related.
I'd never heard of a shrimp andouille before, so that's what I went with. It was a sausage made of shrimp with crispy chicken skin as its casing. Perhaps it was intentional, but this tasted so much like Har Jeong Kai, a prawn-paste fried chicken from South-East Asia, it was uncanny. It was served with a collard greens kimchi that was intensely vinegary and spicy, as well as a soft Carolina Gold rice purloo. The dish proved too much for one of my tablemates, so she traded hers for one of the frog legs. I can see how this could be a divisive dish, but I enjoyed it.
Frog legs are just french chicken wings, and chicken wings are delicious, so frog legs must be as well. These had the great crunch one would hope, plus a really nice flavor inside. They came with a summer bouillabaisse poured around the grits, but I didn't really get to try that. There wasn't much left at the end, so it must have been good.
As you can probably tell, our meal at Juniper was a gut busting fried frenzy. Is it worth the calories? Yes. Yes it is. You're going to leave full, happy and probably slightly intoxicated. The American dream.
360 N Boyle Ave
St. Louis, MO