There are some people who like to go to various fancy or trendy restaurants and collect food memories like merrit badges. I have never been into this, and I particularly was not into this when I lived in St. Louis. Seamus McDaniel’s will never be called a fancy or a trendy restaurant. It is a modest pub with modest food, most of which is not even very good. But Seamus McDaniel’s in Dog Townwas a place that I went to for just about every occasion, and it sums up what food was to me in St. Louis.
Before arriving, we had already had breakfast at Uncle Bill’s and then went to the reunion picnic. Uncle Bill’s was good and filling. The picnic also featured a ton of food, but we passed on it. In part, this was from nervous social anxiety on my part that made me lose my appetite. But mostly, it was because I knew we would be coming here afterwards.
And so, after leaving the picnic and then giving my wife a tour of the few places on campus that haven’t been torn down or replaced, we walked inside the entryway of the bar. There, we were greeted by Golden Tee 2011 on one side and a cigarette machine on the other. (I know, right? A cigarette machine? It was the second one that I would run into that weekend). You have to walk past these machines and down the entire length of the bar to get to the hostess’ station. It’s a weird setup.
When we got to the hostess’ station, I looked past her into a room with stone floors, stone walls, and old wooden tables. After touring the brewery, I had lunch on my 21st birthday in that room. Past that room is an outdoor area. I don’t remember when they first started using that outdoor area. But out there, I saw my first game of bocce ball ever. It was played in some sort of sand/dirt pit.
We were seated at a small table in the main room of Seamus McDaniel’s. And when we sat down, we were quickly greeted by our waitress. I ordered a McSorley’s, and my wife had a diet coke. We looked over the menu, and I was happy to see that it hadn’t changed since the last time I had been there. In fact, I’m pretty sure they were the exact same menus. The lamination is crinkling and peeling back at the edges and corners, just as they were ten years ago.
The menus still feature the same old story about how Dog Town got its name. I have always found offensive the story about how Asians used to raid the area to steal dogs and eat them. Not only do I view this anecdote with a heavy dose of skepticism, it is a complete non-sequitur to how the area got it’s name, and it seems to embody a sometimes-veiled xenophobia that permeated much of my St. Louis experience.
For our appetizer, we ordered the toasted ravioli. By this point, toasted ravioli seems to now be part of the national appetizer vernacular. (La Gondola does a particularly good job of it). But it was something I was completely unfamiliar with when I first came to St. Louis, which boasts the food as a local creation. Seamus‘ is not particularly known for their toasted ravioli, but I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to get it later in the day, and I wanted to make sure we had some at some point during this reunion weekend.
The toasted ravioli came out super fast, super hot, and with grated parmesan carelessly thrown on part of the dish. The toasted raviolis were obviously frozen and store-bought, and the marinara sauce was analogously straight out of a can. But we didn’t mind. After all, this was an Irish pub, so the expectations for this Italian-ish food are low. Plus, the food memory of what toasted raviolis mean to me made for a nice sauce that helped hide these toasted raviolis’ obvious shortcomings.
For lunch, we decided to split a blue cheese burger. For all that Seamus McDaniel’s does poorly, it redeems itself with its burgers. They are juicy, enormous, and served with a ton of double fried fries. The meal is both delicious and a great value, which was important back when quantity was culinarily more important to me than quality.
Even though we split the burger on this particular day, there was still a lot for each of us to eat. I jumped into mine with fervor, and it was just as good as I remembered it, if not better. Eating that burger while sitting in that dark room, with it’s annoyingly slow ceiling fans and stamped tin ceilings, just brought me back.
I ate my half of the burger and most of the fries. I would have eaten an entire burger by myself, but I can’t quite eat like I used to during college. Plus, we did just have a particularly large breakfast, and after a quick trip to the Galleria Mall to buy a new Cardinals hat, we were going to be eating a particularly large dinner.