First Look: Wright’s Tavern in Clayton Celebrates Steakhouse Classics | Food & Drink News | St. Louis

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Spencer Pernikov

Wright’s Tavern’s steak frites are sure to become a St. Louis specialty.

Matt McGuire and Cary McDowell could have opened Light’s Tavern (7624 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton; 314-390-1466) It was only a week ago, but this restaurant has been around for a long time (about 23 years).

“I met Matt 23 years ago at King Louise, where I met my wife Holly. My love affair with Matt began with my love affair with Holly,” says McDowell. “I started holding court there and we became best friends. I can’t remember when he wasn’t my best friend. We were always talking about doing something together one day.” This is it.”

McDowell and McGuire, two industry veterans, have helped shape St. Louis’ culinary scene with years of business.

For McGuire, it started with his unforgettable restaurant, King Louie’s. King Louie’s is a South St. Louis institution that defines the perfect upscale neighborhood tavern for the modern diner. McGuire has worked in several respected restaurants in the city, including serving as Director of Service for Niche Food Group, and ultimately, in one of the area’s most important restaurants today. We opened Louie which is highly rated by DeMun.

click to enlarge Matt McGuire and Cary McDowell are the dream team behind Wright's Tavern.

Sheryl Bear

Matt McGuire and Cary McDowell are the dream team behind Wright’s Tavern.

McDowell’s resume is equally impressive. From working for esteemed New York City chef Daniel Boulevard to opening Clayton’s Crossing with Jimmy Fiala, McDowell spent much of his career at the top of fine dining before Chris Sommers decided to take his place. Left to help run pizza powerhouse Pie. Properties such as Gringo and Pi-Rico.

Earlier this year, McDowell found himself ready to take on new challenges. Coincidentally, it was around the same time that McGuire was in talks with legendary St. Louis restaurateur Zoe Robinson about taking over the space that housed her former Italian restaurant, I Fratellini. It was a sign that the two men had to realize it was the right time to finally realize the restaurant they had always envisioned.

“In this business, timing is paramount, and people in the room,” says McGuire. “If I looked nationwide for someone who wanted to get this, it would be Cary. He’s the best cooking instructor in St. Louis and the best chef in St. Louis. We’re basically about how things should be.” I agree with you, and we like each other.

click to enlarge Pictures hang on the walls of Wright's Tavern's dining room.

Sheryl Bear

Pictures hang on the walls of Wright’s Tavern’s dining room.

McGuire describes Wright’s Tavern as his neighborhood steakhouse, but he and McDowell stress that they’re not obsessed with concept, and instead focus on creating a place that embodies what they want to experience when they go out to eat. doing. A restaurant is a sensation, McGuire claims, and he and McDowell hope to create a special kind of alchemy on the basis of it. consistency; and the kind of hospitality and overall experience that makes people happy.

“Good is good,” says McGuire. “You don’t have to be told why. People get hung up on where things come from, but you don’t have to be told why tomatoes are good. You just have to experience it.”

To that end, McDowell and McGuire built Wright’s Tavern to be an iconic culinary extravaganza. A perfect Caesar salad. Crab cakes made up of actual crab meat rather than crumbs or shredded shellfish. Ribeye broiled to perfection. As McDowell explains, he considered it his duty at this point in his career to articulate the ideal form of these dishes and remind people why they were typical. I’m here.

click to enlarge Shrimp Scampy.

Spencer Pernikov

Shrimp Scampy.

“Matt and I have always shared the view that good things are good things and that certain things have a certain degree of integrity,” says McDowell. “The most complicated things are often thought of as the easiest. It’s hard to make a really good Caesar salad every time. You have to know your role and do it. Perfectly seared. Ribeye steak and pomme purée, or a really good crème brûlée.This may sound grandiose, but I find beauty in purity.I feel obligated to present the right iteration of things.”

To that end, the menu at Wright’s Tavern has all the hallmarks you’d expect from an ideal steakhouse. Oysters on the half shell, crab cakes, shrimp scampi or cocktails, and wedge salad are examples of classic appetizers, while filets, ribeyes, strips and steak frites make up the bulk of the entree section. As both McDowell and McGuire emphasize, these dishes may look simple, but they require impeccable skill and uncompromising sourcing, as there is nowhere to hide. They come in the traditional steakhouse price range. McGuire admits Wright’s Tavern isn’t cheap (steaks range from $39.95 to $74.95), but unlike an à la carte steakhouse, all entrees at Wright’s Tavern come with a side dish.

Like I Fratellini, Wright’s Tavern is small and shotgun-style, but the black-and-white color scheme has been replaced with deep green (almost black) painted brick and light wood ceilings. White tablecloths, amber glass candles, and brass chandeliers adorn the space, while the walls are adorned with photographs depicting the lives of McDowell and McGuire. At the far end of the room is his shimmering three-seat bar, and an open kitchen with ceilings slightly higher than the dining room gives the illusion of a grander space than its footprint suggests.

The overall ambience, from the menu to the atmosphere to the service, is elegant, comfortable, stylish and welcoming. As McGuire explains, this is not only what he looks for in a restaurant, but also what drives him to create.

“For me, everything I do comes from enthusiasm,” says McGuire. “That’s why I say yes or no to anything. I’m not going to be a spectator, but I think of things as if I were a spectator, and if you’re not happy with the place, Why do you do that? If you’re trying to proselytize about what you think someone else likes, you’ll miss out. not.

Wright’s Tavern is open Monday-Thursday 5-10 PM and Friday-Saturday 5-11 PM.

click to enlarge Hamburgers and fries at Wright's Tavern are the perfect form.

Spencer Pernikov

Hamburgers and fries at Wright’s Tavern are the perfect form.

click to enlarge Crab cakes at The Wright's Tavern feature generous amounts of crab meat.

Spencer Pernikov

Crab cakes at The Wright’s Tavern feature generous amounts of crab meat.

click to enlarge Filet cooked on the grill.

Spencer Pernikov

Filet cooked on the grill.

click to enlarge A painting in the dining room of Light's Tavern.

Spencer Pernikov

A painting in the dining room of Light’s Tavern.

click to enlarge Cary McDowell is dedicated to serving quintessential versions of traditional dishes. - Spencer Pernikov

Spencer Pernikov

Cary McDowell is dedicated to serving quintessential versions of traditional dishes.

click to enlarge Chef coat with embroidered Wright's Tavern logo.

Spencer Pernikov

Wright’s Tavern has opened in Clayton.

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