Inside St. Louis

Beffa Brothers Buffet

An original water color of Beffa Brothers Buffet by local artist Marilynne Bradley.

Beffa Brothers Buffet: A St. Louis Time Machine



     In St. Louis, as in any city, dining and drinking establishments come and go with the ebb and flow of societal evolution. Most are forgotten, some live long in memory, but one, and only one; Beffa Brothers Buffet, truly transcends time by its continuum of existence under the guidance of the same family in three centuries; a testament to the resilience of the Beffa's. If you could go back in time to 1898 when transportation was almost exclusively truly horse-powered and if perchance you were to come upon the intersection of Beaumont Street and Olive Street you’d run right into the future as there would be, as there is today, at that very intersection, a member of the Beffa family to serve you!





     It’s perplexing to ponder the vortex of change that has occurred in our town, let alone the world, since Anselmo (Sam) Beffa arrived from Switzerland and set up a saloon on St. Patrick’s Day in ‘98. Sam’s brother Atillio (Till) joined the business in 1900 and they dutifully attended to wetting the whistle of countless customers as they built on the Beffa tradition as tavern keepers that dated here from at least 1872. At that time, earlier arriving relatives had set up shop on the riverfront when steamboats were king and James Buchanan Eads still had his bridge on the drawing boards. Constantine Beffa operated from 104 S. Levee Street and Daniel Beffa held forth at 2 S. Levee. By 1880 the Beffa Bothers Place saloon and restaurant was part of the three-story Garfield House Hotel at 13th and Market Streets. So at this writing the Beffa name has been associated with our hometown hospitality for at least 137 years.







     From its Midtown vantage point Beffa’s has seen our urban landscape transform time and again. The only major change the Beffa's made was a move across the street in 1966 to the southwest corner of Beaumont and Olive. 2700 Olive Street to be exact. This occurred when their original location at the southeast corner was decimated in a conflagration. At that time Atillio’s sons Francis and Robert and their sister Marie took over the operation with Robert behind the bar and Frances and Marie in the kitchen and at the steam table. Other than photographs and memories few items remain from the old place. There are two statuettes with lights that are in storage, but on display in the dining room there’s a remnant of the etched-glass front door, cracked from the heat of the fire, and a large copper kettle. The original terrazzo entry floor to the first location was removed and is currently behind the place the Beffa's once called home in the 4500 block of Olive Street. It’s very possible, with the help of Greg Rhomberg of the Antique Warehouse, that this, almost forgotten, piece of history will soon have a more prominent location.





     Beffa’s Buffet was spared the ignominious fate that befell most all of Mill Creek as it clung to the very northern edge of the Ford Foundation guided (or misguided) redevelopment district. Almost without exception most everything from the alley south of Olive to the railroad tracks south of Scott Avenue and from 21st Street to Grand Boulevard were indiscriminately bulldozed away in the name of urban renewal. Thousands of residents were unceremoniously sent packing and hundreds of businesses, houses, churches and schools were decimated. Among the handful of buildings that survived this holocaust were: Waring School on Compton and Laclede Avenues (recently razed to make way for the Chaifetz Arena), Vashon High School in the 3000 block of Laclede Avenue and the Vashon Community Center at Market Street and Compton Avenue, now part of the Harris-Stowe University complex.



     Beffa’s, sometimes called “the secret buffet,” is not just a survivor of extreme merit but an establishment that continues to defy the odds and the usual rules of business. There’s no flashing neon sign hanging outside the door…there’s no sign at all, just the address – 2700. If you can’t find Beffa’s, don’t bother calling 411 or checking the Yellow Pages or the Internet phone directory…Beffa’s isn’t listed. A criss-cross street directory will also be of no help as there’s no listing for Beffa’s. If you get in the area and query a passer-by on the street, chances are they too won’t be able to help you in your Beffa treasure hunt. But once you locate this somewhat mysterious Mecca of good eats and drinks you’ll become a regular. And they, unlike most places downtown, midtown or in the CWE, have an ample free parking lot right behind their two-story building just north of the A. G. Edwards, Wachovia, Wells-Fargo or whatever it is complex.



     Once inside at the always-aromatic steam table, you’ll quickly note there is no posted menu and no posted prices. Don’t worry about it, your host and master-carver Michael, today’s Beffa in charge, will explain your menu choices - and the price is always fair. Michael, the son of Frances Beffa, learned his preparation and serving skills well, and, as they say, for all practical purposes the Beffa Brothers Buffet of today is just like the Beffa Brothers Buffet of yesterday…of yesteryear. The corned beef is superior to ANY to be found in the St. Louis area, the great beef roasts seem just as they were in my recollection of over 60 years ago, the baked ham, though the original supplier has gone out of business, is just as tender and flavorful as ever, the whole turkey breast is prepared using an old-fashioned method and the daily specials remain just that…special. Lunch is served from 11 to 2 and they fix orders to go.



     Here are some daily favorites, but there are more than these on the steam table. On Monday Beffa’s serves fresh corned-beef hash, that’s fresh, not the canned stuff served almost everyplace else and they have turkey with wild rice as well as tamales and chili. Come Tuesday the pork sausage is scrumptious, and if you like tongue, I’m told it’s lip-smackin’ good at Beffa’s, but you can’t prove it by me. But I almost never pass up the hearty, rich and thick beef stew. On Wednesday the BBQ franks with or w/o chili is hard to beat, but my choice is usually the fresh green ham. But there’s also homemade meat loaf. Oh, if you don’t know what green ham is, Michael will fill you in. Then on Thursday the chicken-ala-king with pimentos is terrific, I suggest it over white toast with a dash or two of Tobasco. There’s also either Italian sausage or Salisbury steak (which has nothing to do with Salisbury Street). The Friday fish fry features grouper or you can opt for grilled salmon, chicken fried steak or creamy macaroni and cheese. There’s a soup or two each day and I’m partial to the bean on Monday, chicken noodle on Wednesday, fresh garden vegetable on Thursday (always insist on “fresh garden” vegetable) and the spilt pea on Friday. If enough people pressure Michael he’ll occasionally come up with turtle soup on Friday and I’m pushing for the Mongol soup that was served at Sala’s Under The Viaduct.




     In addition to all the preceding there’s incredible BBQ ham on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and terrific BBQ pork on Tuesday and Thursday. Both are always perfectly lean, which is hard to find elsewhere. Other “not on the menu” items, even though there is no menu, are the turkey club with the crispiest of crisp bacon; tuna-salad with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on wheat toast; a sardine sandwich supreme with really plump sardines or the Sala Special sandwich. If you’re not in the know, this is made with roast beef, ham, shredded lettuce, pickles on three pieces of white toast. A little mustard on the ham and a bit of mayo or au jus on the beef are good touches. Beffa’s offers a few desserts but make mine fresh tapioca. Food by the way is available until 9 p.m. and the bar serves drinks the way drinks used to be served from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Falstaff, The Choicest Product of the Brewer’s Art was featured at Beffa’s as the head of the Falstaff Brewing Corporation was, you guessed it, a Beffa. And I’d be remiss in not mentioning that Beffa’s is one of the best breakfast spots around. They open at 7 with breakfast available until lunch starts at 11. The pancakes are dinner plate size and the omelets are perfect. It’s a Great place for an early morning meeting.






     The simple and almost austere interior of Beffa’s is softly augmented with subdued references on three oil paintings on canvas by Joe Jasinski. They represent the Beffa family’s Swiss and St. Louis heritage of which they are quite proud. Above the steam table, rather than a menu, is a long mural executed in May of ’66. It includes wine casks and St. Louis scenes along with the phrase: “Salute! Properita’ e Lunga Vita.” - a regular greeting of Atillio Beffa, grandfather of Michael Beffa, current keeper of the Beffa flame. Take a seat at the long bar and above the backbar you’ll discern a painting depicting the flags of the 23 states, or cantons, of Switzerland. In the center of this painting is the red and blue flag of the canton Ticino from which the Beffa clan hails. The bar at both the old and “new” Beffa locations was for decades under the tutelage of Robert and later his son John Beffa. The painting above the window on the north wall, which dates to 1951 and the old location, is a rendering of Switzerland that includes St. Moritz to the left and toward the right the beloved Beffa home village of Madrano. In the Madrano depiction there is a large central building, the Beffa ancestral home, which stands to this day. That’s where Luigia and Carlo Beffa raised 17 children. Luigia was born in 1833 and died in 1910; Carlo was born in 1823 and passed away in 1911. They never came to America. A charcoal drawing of the couple observes the Beffa activities from a gold frame above the bar cash register.






     Beffa’s clientele is like a composite of those who gather or did gather at the downtown Missouri Athletic Club, the former Garavelli’s Buffet in the 3600 block of Olive Street or Ben Garavelli’s Buffet in the 3500 block of Olive Street, the Racquet Club on N. Kingshighway, Van Horn’s cafeteria that was once around the corner on N. Jefferson Boulevard, The Chalet in the Frisco building (operated by a Beffa), yesteryear’s Media Club, the once upon a time Paincourt Club in the Paul Brown building, Nick Carter’s that had been in the Lindell Terrace, the Boulevard Room of the now shuttered Hotel Jefferson, the old Noonday Club, Stan Musial & Biggie Garagnani’s on Oakland Avenue or the Bellerive Country Club of a time gone by.




     Who will you see at Beffa’s. Well since this is in some respects a “private” public “club” it’s best for you to find out on your own. Rest assured you’ll see people you know, or know of, including mayors, fire chiefs, police chiefs, judges, restaurateurs, barristers, media personalities, the cream of the clergy, bankers, sports figures, business owners - the high and the mighty - all elbow to elbow with the average Joe or Joan who toil for places such as brokerage houses, the phone company, auto supply firms, hospitals, schools, elevator companies, etc.. Beffa’s is my kind of place, a home away from home that’s even more like “Cheers” than “Cheers”. I’ll lay you odds it’s your kinda place too.




     Beffa Brothers Buffet is located just west of downtown St. Louis.  Click here for MapQuest directions.

Click here for an image gallery of Beffa's


Written by: Ron (Johnny Rabbitt) Elz of KMOX and Channel  5’s Show Me St. Louis.


Contact Information

Beffa Brothers Buffet

2700 Olive Street
St. Louis, Missouri, 63103
(314) 652-7429 (the secret number)

Hours of Operation

Breakfast  7 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Lunch  11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Bar  11 a.m. - 9 p.m.  M-T-W & 11 a.m. - ? Th-F

 All items available for carry out

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