One of the original members of Joe's Class of '72, the restaurants that he said changed St. Louis dining, Balaban's started hot and stayed that way.
Probably my strongest memories of it come from the sleep-hungry hours after working an overnight shift in an ICU at Barnes. Sometimes one of my colleagues and I would decide that our spirits needed more encouragement than our bodies did, and we would head for an indulgent breakfast in the cafe section. Perhaps what the bodies were craving was that sunlight falling through the east-facing windows as we could finally relax. But it was the hot croissants, gently pulled apart as their flakes fell everywhere, that rewarded us. Coffee, delicious and so different from the vile industrial stuff at the hospital, was almost inhaled - we were too young for it to keep us awake when we went home and off to bed. I know there was orange juice, too, but I remember it only for how it looked on the table. The cafe was always nearly empty, so we could talk shop, in the clinically specific, horrifying-to-outsiders way that nurses can do.
Years later, after I married Joe and was living a very different life, we went to Herb Balaban Karp's memorial service down the street. Everyone returned to the restaurant - specifically, the bar, of course - to drink and reminisce and generally schmooze. It was a daylight version of the late-night bar gatherings that happened in the old days. But no guy with a moustache and suspenders to keep an eye on things.