10 S. Broadway
St. Louis, Missouri
Cribbing from recent Pulitzer Prizer Joe Rago of the Wall Street Journal, “there is something out of time about lunching” at Anthony’s Bar. Mr. Rago turned the phrase in describing his luncheon with William F. Buckley, Jr., in New York City, but we’ll take it; standing on the shoulders of giants, etc.
Saint Louis, Missouri boasts exactly one restaurant worth three Michelin stars: Tony’s, a redoubtable Italian institution down-town on Market Street and Broadway, near the river. The Bommarito family has run it for generations and, in years past, ran also a small waiting room on the ground floor of the office building in which it operates. The room was originally a reception area for dinner guests, who could sit in one of the bolted-down leather stools around its oblong, polished wooden-slat bar and have a drink while their tables were made ready.
The reception area was one small room, two stories tall, fitted out in floor-to-ceiling wood, that oblong bar in the middle and a handful of lower circular tables around it. Two-story blackout curtains cut outside light, keeping things clubby. One white-shirted barman worked the counter, one white-shirted waiter the tables. That waiting area became Anthony’s, a restaurant in its own right, some years ago. The Bommaritos still run it, and thankfully keep it stubbornly athwart decades. Service at Anthony’s moves as quickly as fossils turn into gasoline.
Today, Anthony’s is open mainly for lunch: lawyers and bankers generally, blue shirts with white collars and cuffs. Tasselled loafers or maybe horse-bits, alligator belts, that crowd. Occasionally it’s open after ball games, too. The menu is, put generously, spare: three kinds of hamburgers (plain, with cheddar cheese, or with Bleu cheese), a beef tenderloin sandwich, a Ceasar salad, a daily special. Sometimes soup. Old-fashioned glass Coca-Cola bottles, the small ones. Every table gets one glass bowl of Lay’s baked potato chips, unlimited. “Out of time” is an apt description; a time capsule unto itself, more so.