Quite a gaggle of folks to be fed, vegetarians, carnivores, omnivores and just plain picky eaters, the categories frequently overlapping - and these folks are related to me, so I felt a certain responsibility. We ended up heading for Michael's Bar and Grill on Manchester, just inside the St. Louis city limits. And it turned out to be the right choice. A group of seven didn't faze them, for instance, and the menu is the right balance between familiar and exotic.
Things kicked off with saganaki. Michael's saganaki. When I first met saganaki at the late Grecian Gardens on Euclid, it was kefalotyri cheese in a metal gratin pan popped under the broiler to melt, arriving at the table bubbling and with a squeeze of lemon over it courtesy of the wonderful Aris-the-waiter. No "Opa!", no flames, just gooey cheese and some bread. I digress; no one seems to do it that way any more, and Michael's offers theirs as triangles that have been breaded lightly and deep-fried. Even the most cautious eaters were thrilled. Fried mushrooms in honor of another restaurant in another decade for some at the table were fresh and moist and well-drained; the horseradish sauce was superfluous.
Entrees ranged from light to heavy. Michael's does a fine Greek salad, and putting gyro meat on it is nigh perfect, although this particular visit, the gyro was a tad dry. Still, they understand that such salads should be lightly dressed with vinegar, oil, and a little oregano and little if anything else. Our dedicated carnivore knocked back the half rack of lamb, two double chops cooked properly rare, above a pan sauce of a little red wine and some rosemary, and looked around for the other half. Spanokopita, the spinach pie made with filo dough, stayed crisp and tasted almost like fresh spinach. One of the group had heard of the soft cheddar that goes on their cheeseburgers, but didn't understand the waiter when he rattled off the cheese choices, and went for American, so the gooeyness went untried. A fairly good hamburger, but not yet approaching greatness; however, it was cooked to the requested medium. Another, more daring, youth went for dolmades, the beef-lamb-rice mixture wrapped in grape leaves. Wearing an egg-and-lemon sauce laced with dill and topped with a few bits of diced tomato, they tasted good, and disappeared immediately.
With all this and mounds of thick-cut fries, the mob fell back in satisfaction and were herded home. Service? A little slower than I expected, but we were talking a lot, and I suspect the server figured we were in no hurry.
7101 Manchester Ave.
Lunch & Dinner daily
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Tight