The Block's Burger Makes The Pepper Mill's 'Burger Hall of Fame'
The Webster Groves butcher shop/restaurant focuses on locally produced products.
A small display case welcomes guests to The Block, stocked with cuts of fresh chops, ribeye, tenderloin and other choice meats, like ground beef and bacon. Not too many items, but they look good; begging to be plopped on the grill in the backyard.
A bar extends to the right of the case, and beyond that, diners sit in an open room enjoying a meal. What is this place? A butcher shop or a restaurant? There's a moment when it all seems a bit surreal. Rod Serling where are you?
The Block is fully committed to the farmhouse trend in restaurants where anything and everything is sourced locally. The meat is not only local, but it's butchered in house. As much as possible comes from local farms and bakers, and even local beers are prominently featured. The suppliers are listed prominently on the chalk board above the meat display case when you enter.
It's all the creation of members of the Del Pietro family, the same group that owns Luciano's Trattoria in Clayton. There are a lot of hits here, and some misses, but overall, the experience is very good one.
The atmosphere is perplexing. On one hand, you have the emotional atmosphere. You are greeted cheerfully and quickly. The waiter was attentive and knowledgeable, and all the guests were engaged in conversation with smiles and pleasant looks. Everyone was having a good time, so it's a warm feeling, emotionally at least.
But visually? Not so much. The overall look is modern warehouse or, dare I say it, slaughter house. The ceiling is corrugated metal with exposed steel girders surrounded by plain walls with no artwork to break up the monotony. A line of small windows along one wall near the ceiling gave me the feeling of a claustrophobic basement apartment. Bare Edison light bulbs hang from the ceiling. No tablecloths to soften things. The four large windows that face Lockwood could not save it, at least not at night. The overall feeling was cold and stark, in sharp contrast to the warmth emanating from the staff.
As my food arrived, all that was forgotten. The Mussels ($9) were served with local tomato, garlic and white-wine herb broth. They also featured a generous sprinkling of fresh cilantro on top, a detail the menu failed to mention. Generous if you're a cilantro lover; cruel if you are not.
I am not terribly fond of cilantro and found the mussels on top overwhelmed with the herb. Once down into the brothy portion however, the cilantro worked well. I learned a lesson; to dip the mussels on the top down into the broth, which was good enough to eat with a spoon—not that I would ever do such a thing.
For the main course, I had the burger ($10). It was stunning. The grass-fed beef was flavorful and blended harmoniously with the smoked cheddar that came on it. Cooked a perfect medium rare, the burger took its place in my burger hall of fame.
If you're not a fan of smoked cheddar, the waiter informed me they'll be happy to leave it off. In fact, he said, “We can do anything.”
The burger came with delicately julienned French fries as small as matchsticks, slaw that was crunchy with just a hint of sweetness but leaning towards sour—just the way I like it—and the pickled vegetables were a delight, with onions sliced thin in a tangle, cucumber slices and pickled radish slices that were peppery and a vital element on the plate.
There's lots more at The Block than just hamburgers. Chops ($15), pork steak ($14) and Butcher's-cut, grass-fed beef steak of the day round out the meat choices, but there's also lemon herb chicken ($15) and cornmeal-encrusted Missouri trout ($15).
You'll also find some interesting appetizers, like cheddar and jalapeno cornbread ($4), fried green tomatoes ($8) and the family-style platter ($14) with a variety of house cured meats, chutney and country bread. Several sandwiches are offered ($8-$10) and three salads ($6).
As one of Webster's newest eateries, you could definitely say there's a new kid on the block, and that kid is singing a mean tune.
The Block is located at 146 W. Lockwood Ave. in Webster Groves. Hours are Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. The restaurant plans to be open for lunch soon. For more information, call 314-918-7900 or visit the restaurant's website.