Inside St. Louis

Vintage 72"

 An original watercolor of Herbie's by local artist Marilynne Bradley.

The original Balaban’s now Herbie’s Vintage 1972



     It’s easy to refer to Herbie’s at 405 N. Euclid Avenue as Balaban’s as for most food fanciers it remains the same tried and true gourmet gathering spot that was Balaban’s for some 36 years - and around here memories are cherished and not quickly discarded. Herbie’s Vintage 1972 is the new name that was posted on the old place in August ’08. Rather than pay what I’m told was a stiff price for the name Balaban’s, the new owners of the restaurant wisely selected a moniker that both honors founding father Herb Balaban Carp as well as the year he ventured into purveying victuals. There is a place in a far west locale that carries on the Balaban’s name and we’ll get into that.

     Venerable is a word that well describes the environs of Euclid and McPherson Avenue (the latter named for one-time St. Louisan William M. McPherson). Let’s traipse back to the area before Balaban’s and stop off in the late 1920s and early 1930s when the Balaban’s northwest corner of the intersection housed the Thomas B. Chamber’s drug store with Dr. H. Lewis Glynn practicing dentistry upstairs in a space in which years Herbie would live. A Kroger store occupied the next two addresses to the north and farther up the block was Louis Gazzo’s restaurant, where these days Dressel’s and its upstairs mini-Gaslight Square museum holds forth. Albert H. Hoppe, “embalmer to the trade,” had a funeral home at 429, now Frontenac Cleaners, and part of the Western Automobile Co. used car department was where antiquarian Bill Fellenz currently archives a forest of architectural artifacts. Hoppe would later move to 4111 Lindell Boulevard then to the former site of the Mahler School of Dancing that’s now the Mahler Ballroom around the corner on Washington Boulevard. Western Automobile Co. was owned by one time St. Louis Baseball Cardinals owner Sam Breadon. They first peddled Pierce-Arrows from that spot; then Ford. By the late ‘30s it was Vogue Motors.

     On the east side of the 400 block of N. Euclid some 80ish years back, among other places, there was the Lorraine Hotel at the northeast corner (where rumor had it in the fifties that the Bobby Greenlease kidnapping ransom money was secreted). There was also a Piggly-Wiggly grocery and the Hoenenschuh-Carpenter College of Embalming. In the 300 block there was the Vanity Fair women’s wear shop, now the location of Kopperman’s, the Woman’s Exchange in a spot that would become a ‘60s hip hangout called Frank Mormino’s Europa 390. Duff’s (also circa 1972) occupies that space and others today. Both the Warfield Tea Room and Warfield Antique shop were in the Euclid Building on the west side of Euclid.

     A time-tour of McPherson gives us the H. B. Berger Undertaking Company (still there); Karl Bissinger confectioner, recently relocated to Maryland Plaza; Jos. Witek florist (now an antique “mall”; Wagner-McLaughlin Corset Shop, Margaret Groh’s linen shop; one of the many Lungstraus Cleaning and Dyeing locations in town; Joseph Lendenschmidt’s grocery store. West Side Buick – later Castles-Wilson Buick was at McPherson and N. Kingshighway Boulevard in the building now occupied by Reliance Automotive. The currently on-the-market one time Second Baptist Church is at the northeast corner.

     We could cover many more earlier and later years, but let’s just take a peek at the basic neighborhood in question at the time Herb became a restaurateur. Herbie who owned the building that now houses Herbie’s had vacated the NW corner to supplant his former tenant Timothy’s restaurant, owned by Tim Conley, and changed the name first to Annabelle’s then to Café Balaban and finally Balaban’s. His love of French styled bistros came both from his years as a child in France and from April, 1959 when he and his first wife Nedra Anderwert and their 3 year old daughter Terry took a year touring Europe to study antiques and absorb the culture.  In 1959 he started H. Balaban Carp Antiques then moved to the corner at 401 Euclid opening as 401 To The Trade, specializing in Mexican imports. It evolved into The Gypsy Cowboy where he oft officiated sitting in a large chair made of animal horns. Gypsy Cowboy was an eclectic operation that dealt primarily in clothes and paraphernalia for the “hippie” generation as our town’s first true “boutique” offering bell bottoms, tie-dyed dresses and t-shirts, thick belts, Mexican and American Indian inspired accessories and the like. The customer base included those who were into the “underground” scene whether they lived in Laclede Town or Ladue. It was not your grandmother’s dry-goods store and his wares were not being stocked at Stix-Baer & Fuller. That corner spot which for some time had been a Gasen’s drug store was under the Balabans’ apartment.

     By the time Herbie started Balaban’s he had divorced and married his second wife Adelaide and even though they hadn’t planned on being long-term restaurant operators they’d stick around perfecting Balaban’s for 14 years when they sold out in October 1986. Strange, but here 24 years later Herbie’s prescience is still prevalent at Herbie’s Circa 1972.  It’s almost as if he, or his ghost, is still there making certain that every piece of silverware in its proper place and that every customer is made to feel that they are the most special person to have ever walked through the door - which is quite an art as Balaban’s has hosted more than its share of heavy hitters including Zero Mostel, Tony Bennett, Vincent Price, Paul Newman, Andy Williams, Peter Frampton, Bob Hope, Liza Minelli, Bruce Springsteen, Isaac Stern, Shirley MacLaine and countless more. As Herbie once said, “I should have kept a daily diary.”

     A person who can look back to those early days of Balaban’s is Joel Pesapane, who has a picture-perfect memory of all that went on during this time-frame in the CWE. He lived up the block above Sam Yat’s laundry which was next to Krause’s Hungry House restaurant and bar. Later the Hungry House was turned into The Crock and The Orphanage. Joel had moved his Magic Theatre “head shop” from 606 Eastgate Avenue to Euclid in a space that became part of the growing Balaban’s. The new name for Pesapane’s place was Pseudonym and when Herbie shuttered the Cowboy, Joel took over the corner spot with his store that was considered by many to be the best stocked progressive rock, folk and jazz record shop in St. Louis. At the time his neighbor to the north was Pat O’Brien’s Pleasant Peasant which was also for a time called Alice B. Toklas. Joel today operates a plant company called Growing Green on W. Pine Boulevard.

     Other neighboring establishments east of Euclid on McPherson in those early days were A&M Market, Uptown Music – a wholesale record company, Bill Burgdorf the Bookseller and Gruet Motors a Jaguar dealer. At the SE corner of McPherson and Euclid in what had been a Warfield’s antique location was Collector’s Corner antiques at the spot where soon a young Pete Rothschild, who today is as energetic and creative as ever and has likely renovated more properties in the city of St. Louis than anyone in history, began purveying clothing, “junk,” collectibles and antiques at what was first called Ultra-Alernative Clothing. It was also headquarters to Pete’s underground newspaper “Xanadu.” Pete and Herbie became close friends from that time until Herbert J. Balaban passed away on Sunday October 8th 2000 at 70 years of age. Pete’s got many great Herbie stories such as the time when Herbie and Adelaide had a pet parrot that she taught to say “Read the will” and also to perfectly imitate the sound of the phone ringing which almost always fooled Herbie. Pete didn’t say if the parrot ended up on the menu or not.   

     Carp incidentally was the last name of the man who adopted Herbie 5 years after Herb’s father, Max Balaban, died when Herb was but 2 years old. Herb and his mother Dena moved to Europe after her first husband died and after coming back to St. Louis she married I. Lewis Carp who had a chain of small department stores including a location at Tower Grove and Manchester Avenues. Herbie who graduated from Country Day in ’48 joined the family business in ‘55.

     Hard to believe it’s been 10 years since Herb Balaban died as he was such a strong, vibrant presence in the rebirth of the Central West End and at his restaurant. Today there’s a bust of Tennessee Williams outside Rothschild’s Antique Store. Maybe funds could be raised to create and place a similar sculpture of Herb Balaban on the opposite corner. I’d be among the first to make a donation. Balaban’s is the premier first-class dining spot that’s always been a place in which you can feel comfortable in most any attire and that philosophy as Joel Pesapane recalls was obviously a directive from the top down as one-time Balaban’s associate, the late Tom Flynn said at Herbie’s funeral: “Until I met Herbie I didn’t know a pair of jeans and an ill-fitting t-shirt worn for three days could be a fashion statement.” 

     Following two ownership changes that ultimately resulted in a negative vicissitude at Balaban’s, current owners/operators Jeff Orbin and Aaron Teitelbaum with the graceful guidance of Shea Behymer, who has a long association with the place, have restored Balaban’s; now Herbie’s Vintage 1972, to the way it was when it was the center of gastronomy and goodwill in the Central West End. The place is polished to perfection from the bistro addition that grew on the front walk to the wine cellar styled basement private dining room that with its stone wall is reminiscent of the original Cyrano’s that opened in 1960 on De Mun Avenue and Clayton Road. The solicitous service and pristine presentation mimics what you’d expect from a place such as Herbie’s if Herbie’s had been located at the Place de l’Odeon in Paris before the war.

     Within the hallowed walls of Herbie’s circa 2010 is a place of awe few diners have the opportunity to enter, and that’s the spotlessly clean and big…make that huge…bustling kitchen. There is where time honored recipes and nouveaux dishes are masterfully concocted by artful perfectionists such as long-time culinary experts such as Brem, who among other duties creates Herbie’s fresh pasta and the rich and wonderful chocolate fritters. And hidden from the diner’s gaze is a large lobster tank replete with…you guessed it, large live lobsters. Years back there was such a tank in full view of all at places such as the Rock Grill on 8th Street, the Bismarck on 12th Street, the Bevo Mill, Edmond’s on Gravois and the Tenderloin Room of the Chase-Park Plaza, where maitre’d Hack demonstrated his prowess at “putting the creatures to sleep.” It may be that today gourmets are less inclined to observe their dinner observing them.

     Herbie’s has a myriad of menus having one for the Bistro, a bill of fare for the main dining rooms, a gluten free menu, an exceptionally good listing of interest to vegetarians…and the Sunday brunch menu. Your taste buds will be well treated at lunch with, and this is a random selection, a cup of the legendary chilled cucumber bisque, firecracker shrimp, and Herbie’s Balaburger zested with a smoked goat cheese spread, strips of crisped peppered bacon served on a Brioche bun with romaine, tomato, red onion and a dill spear on the side with a soupcon of “special” sauce. This very satisfying lunch minus drink and dessert would be just under $23. At dinner a judicious selection to consider, to wake the appetite might Oriental style shrimp dumplings followed with Caesar salad. And though this type salad is now appearing on the menus of countless eateries, Herbie’s is preeminent. To choose the Wellington of Beef would be a tribute to Herbie and Adelaide as this from right after Balaban’s was basically a creperie some 38 years ago has been as they say today their signature dish. It’s prepared with a golden raisin marsala sauce, haricots verts and glazed carrots and is somewhat changed than the original. Your total tab, not including drinks and dessert, comes in at $43.

     For brunch we can’t pass up the Oysters Rockefeller. The freshest of oysters rest under a creamy artichoke, spinach, Pernod and bacon béchamel with lemon glacage. For an entrée consider Herbie’s Country Fired Steak which is a fried in buttermilk filet mignon served atop bacon Lyonnaise potatoes crowned by an egg, sausage gravy and Hollandaise. For a lighter option there’s the original Balaban’s created Ligurian shrimp pasta which is a spinach and egg pasta tossed with sundried tomato, walnuts, feta cheese and shrimp in mildly spicy garlic olive oil.  These choices sans drinks and a sweet would total $24.

     Sean Gallagher a “fixture” of so many years at Balaban’s remains a vigilant standard bearer of Herbie’s heritage while the well-recalled Lady Charles Perrine of kitchen fame is no more. Sean is a living, breathing encyclopedia of Balaban’s lore, just in case you’ve got a question for him. He can tell you of the zinc bar, the neon clock, the classic posters, the original light fixtures and on it goes. Plus the many guests who’ve lamented that the landmark “chef” figure at the front door has vanished will be pleased to learn that noted artist, and proprietor of the mysterious Joe’s Café, Bill Christman; who made the statue, is in the final phase of restoring the piece for its reinstallation. The chef’s name is not Herbie but rather Bonzo, possibly in honor of the 1960s rock group the Bonzo Dog Doo Da Band…but also possibly not. I’d bet Sean would know. I’d also wager he could give you the lowdown on the original Herbie’s that Herb Balaban and Herb Glazier of Culpepper’s fame, started in 1975 at the NW corner of Euclid and Maryland Plaza. It for some 4 years was a most attractive dining house and a hot discotheque. Oh, if you happen to come across Pete Rothschild ask him tell you the bagel story that relates to his and Herbie’s soft-coated Irish Wheaten terriers. Pete’s was Willie and Herbie’s was Spike. We could fill volumes with Herbie’s real-life adventures including his years in Montana in search of trout adventures on the Gallatin River.    


     For those who stay out west there was in the late ‘90s Balaban’s Bistro 201 at Clayton and Kehr’s Mill Road in the former Ganahl Dairy space that had been Sam Wilson’s Meat Market. The chef was David Timney and the vino expert was Tom Flynn. That place, which was reported to be haunted (I’m serious) is long gone but near there today we have Balaban’s Wine Cellar and Tapas Bar Restaurant at Clarkson and Baxter Roads. This multi-purpose establishment is the property of former Balaban’s executive chef and co-owner Steve McIntyre along with co-owner Brian Underwood.

This newest venture under the Balaban’s banner carries on in the style and tradition of the original location but with more emphasis on tapas/small plates. Chef Kevin Sthair prepares several feature foods from Euclid including cucumber bisque, trout pancakes with horseradish crème fraiche and pasta Ligurian, but the menu also sports dishes such as Applewood Bacon wrapped Bershire pork loin, Portabella eggplant stack and grilled hanger steak plus the Amaretto Orange Essence cake with blueberry compote and hazelnut ganache is to say the least, quite tempting. And the wine selection including a library of wines from the original location is outstanding. Their slogan is: “Relish the wine, the food, remember the experience.”
Written by: Ron (Johnny Rabbitt) Elz Host of Route 66 Saturday nights on News Radio 1120 KMOX &, February 2010.

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Contact Information

405 N. Euclid Avenue in the Central West End at
the NW corner of McPherson Avenue.
- St. Louis, MO 63108
Phone: 314.769.9696

General Information
- All Major Credit Cards.
There’s a smoking section well isolated from non-smoking
spaces and there’s even a private cigar club.
- Special needs access is not the easiest.
Live music on Tuesday and Sunday night. Easy on the
ears recorded music, especially during the day and at dinner.

Hours of Operation for Food Service
Monday - Thursday
11:00am - 2:00pm & 5:00pm - 10:30pm

11:00am - 2:00pm & 5:00pm - 11:00pm

5:00pm - 11:00pm

10:30am - 2:00pm (brunch) & 5:00pm - 11:00pm


Hours of Operation for the Bar
Monday - Friday
11am - 10pm

5:00pm - 11:00pm

10:30am - 11:00pm

Click here for directions

Contact Information
Balaban’s Wine Cellar and Tapas Bar Restaurant

1772 Clarkson Road at Baxter Road in Dierberg’s Market Place.
It’s a mile south of Highway 40.
636.449.6700 – Toll free: 877.236.5701

General Information
Credit cards
Access is good

Tuesday through Thursday 10-8

Friday and Saturday 10-9

Sunday 11-8

Retail wine shop. Gourmet Deli. Wine Bar. Wine Clubs. Wine dinners. Classes. Private events. Creative gift baskets.

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