Thursday, August 2, 2012

Patrick’s Restaurant and Sports Bar

(Formerly 'Pujols 5' and 'St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame Bar and Grill')
342 Westport Plaza
Maryland Heights
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Back in February, when Cardinals legend Albert Pujols announced he was picking up stakes and heading to California, this restaurant changed its name to ‘St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame Bar and Grill.’ A few weeks ago, the place changed its name again to 'Patrick’s', as it was known for many years prior to being called Pujols  5.
According to ‘The Sporting News’: “Pujols did not have an ownership stake in the restaurant but was paid for making appearances and allowing his name to be used.”
That’s fine, I was never a big fan of sports, any sports, except for women’s beach volleyball for some completely inexplicable reason.
But that’s beside the point.
This was a work thing. Traditionally when our team gets a new member, our lovely and wise boss, Larry (not his real name), pulls a few people from the team to take the n00b to lunch.
Naga joined us on Monday. Larry rounded up a small group, including yours truly, and we headed out.
The Team:
All names you may remember. Doug, of course, Larry, the boss,  and Swami, whose adorable young wife is from an actual city in India, not a ‘village’ as I’ve previously reported, (because I’m just a stupid, geographically illiterate American that presumes to know more about foreign places and cultures than he really does.)  Naga, the new guy (also from some village in India), and Keith, who you will recall from that same Thai Kitchen review where I insulted Swami’s wife. I meant no ill by calling her city a village, but if they want to call it a city, fine we'll call it a city, whatever. I'm no idiot though, I studied up on India a while back, it's situated between Ohio and Illinois, and is primarily rural, so forgive me for just assuming that most people from there lived in villages.
 We took two cars, Larry drove his shiny, polished and well-deserved Mercedes and took Swami, Naga and Keith. I jumped into the passenger side of Doug’s little tiny '88 Toyota, but only after he assured me that the exhaust was no longer leaking into the passenger compartment. Doug’s little car is easy to spot, it’s about the oldest one in the parking lot, formerly bright red, and it sports a slightly scary bumper sticker that reads: “Tried to fight stupid, ran out of ammo.”  He had the sticker custom-made. 
His Toyota reminded me a lot of the 1984 Mazda RX-7 I used to have when I lived in Maryland. It smelled of burnt oil, sat about an inch off the ground, ran a little dirty, and would neither shift nor shut down without complaint. The Mazda, much like Doug's car, wasn't very dependable, but it sure was uncomfortable.
The Place:
As I said, this place has been around for quite a while, mostly as Patrick’s but recently notable as Pujols 5. Inside the large place were racks and wall-loads of sports memorabilia, though I saw nothing from the world of women’s beach volleyball so it didn’t really hold my attention. Jerseys, helmets, bats and balls. . . yawn.
The interior was very big, but there were not a lot of people on this day. The waitress said it was because it was Monday, I just assumed it was because they didn't have any actual beach volleyball memorabilia.
We were escorted to a large table already set up for six. I sat myself in the corner, once again so I could scan the entire operation.
The place was bar-dark, the walls were lined with sports-related posters, paintings and paraphernalia. TV’s were bolted to the walls, and as this was during the Olympics, there were several sports being aired. I recall no music in the background, and the TV’s were muted, so other than the occasional cackling coming from our table it was pretty quiet. We sat in padded metal chairs that were not as uncomfortable as they looked. Each chair’s back had a stencil-style ‘5’ cut into the back, reminiscent of the Pujols days.
The Food:
There were several items on the menu that looked quite good. I decided to keep it simple. The only BLT they had also contained a slab of chicken, I knew better than to fall for that since chicken sandwiches are either a sinister part of the vast right wing conspiracy, or the last bastion of American values standing between us and the inevitable showdown at Armageddon. I didn't really want to pick a side in that silly fight and I was in no mood to make a strong political statement while sitting next to my boss. (sarcastic Chick-Fil-A reference.)
Somewhere along the line I decided a bacon-cheeseburger would be fine, since I couldn’t recall burgers being directly tied to any particular extremist cause. Our drinks were delivered and after three more returns by the waitress, we were finally all ready to order.
Larry: Buffalo Chicken Salad
Naga: Blackened Swordfish
Swami: Buffalo Chicken Wrap
Doug: Bleu Burger
Keith: Mahi Mahi Sandwich
She also delivered a bowl of hot cheesy biscuits, which were passed around.
We sat and interrogated Naga, two kids, 11 and 3. Lives in St. Charles, been a road warrior for several years, glad to find a good job closer to home. His wife works in a bank. His kids are very happy to have him home more often, not sure if his wife is. He seemed to be a nice guy, talkative, funny, smart.
The guys started talking sports, so I drifted and made notes. Someone explained to Naga what I was doing and Swami started trying to tell me what I could and could not write about. For example, he told me specifically not to write about him eating his biscuit with a fork. I don’t know why, I thought it was simply adorable.
Keith sat across from me, carefully guarding his words. He’s a nice guy, perhaps not as handsome, interesting or witty as his brother Kevin, (whom I’ve never actually met, just heard about) but for a co-worker Keith is not completely intolerable.
The biscuit was good at first, the butter was not frozen, so it melted nicely. Somewhere along the line though the biscuit took on a doughy texture. Not the worst I’ve had by far, but not the best either.
Bacon Burger
The food finally arrived, all of it looked pretty. This place pays attention to plating, feeding the eyes first. Larry asked me to make sure to take a picture of his salad, it was indeed quite photogenic, the bright orange spice and the caramelized pecans. I also snapped a photo of my plate, then Naga asked if I’d like to take a picture of his. He didn't seem to be too concerned about the potential slanderous things I might say about him later. Keith remarked that Naga’s blackened fish didn't seem all that blackened. Naga would later concur with that assessment.
Buffalo Chicken Salad
Keith commented on his fries, that he really liked them. Swami said they were okay, but not as good as those at Penn Station. I had to look that up later. I recalled going to a Penn Station once , but didn’t recall the fries.
“The fries were made on site, fresh to order from real potatoes, skin intact. Dirty fries, awesome. They were well cooked, brown and crispy, the way a frozen fry just can’t be.” is what I’d actually said about them, confirming that Swami is more than just one of the world’s most handsome and capable DBA’s, he’s also a discerning diner.
Blackened Swordfish
I found Patrick’s fries to be thin, crispy and golden brown, but a little on the greasy side, though not as bad as some of the limp, tasteless ones I’ve found many other places.
My burger looked nice, the bun was not the cheap, pale grocery-store kind, there was a heft to the buns, good for containing a sloppy burger, but also a little rubbery and thick. The meat itself was virtually tasteless. The bacon was okay but nothing special. I only ate about half of the burger since it really wasn’t that great, and I decided it was better to leave it than to stuff myself into a coma with sub-excellent food. Across the plaza sits the Train Wreck, whose Cheddar burger is about the best burger I’ve ever had. I’d gladly go into a caloric coma for one of those, but not this one.
Larry and Swami, since they had basically the same thing, had similar comments about the buffalo chicken offerings, the slightly sweet pecans offset the spiciness of the chicken quite well. Doug mentioned  that his Bleu Burger had a bit too much barbecue sauce, but the bleu cheese was not overpowering. I don't know how fast he ate it, I wasn't watching that closely. And finally, Keith said his Mahi Mahi was not too fishy, I couldn't tell if that was a complaint or a compliment.
 What' missing here is someone saying how great their meal was. No real complaints per se, just no home runs either. For the price, and this place is pricier than others in the area, you kind of expect something to be outstanding, or at least stand out.
The atmosphere of the place is well suited for sports fans and large groups, it would probably be a good place to hang out with a bunch of friends and watch a sporting even together, just not women's beach volleyball. That is a sport that is best watched in the privacy of your own home, preferably while your wife and kids are out shopping, training dogs, or whatever else you can find them to do. So for football, or soccer, or NASCAR, if driving around in circles is actually a sport, this would be a fine place, if the price isn't too high for you. It might even be okay for watching women's MMA, (Mixed Martial Arts) a sport my boss kept going on and on about, to an almost creepy degree. He yammered (handsomely and intelligently) on and on about an upcoming bout between 'Rowdy' Ronda Rousey and Sarah Kaufman. I tried really hard to fake interest, he is my boss, but I fear I failed to get the least bit charged up about it.
Anyway, there's nothing really wrong with Patrick's. There just wasn't a lot to get excited about. Between the two, Patrick's and it's very near neighbor, Train Wreck, I'll take the train next time.

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