Pat’s Bar & Grill
6400 Oakland Ave
St. Louis, MO 63139
Recently, I had the option of spending 15 bucks either on gaining entrance to a club to meet Jersey Shore’s “the Situation” or on going to Pat’s Bar & Grill to try out their supposedly excellent food. I chose the latter, and although I was initially hitting myself for making such a heinous decision, I felt better as it became apparent that Pat’s is one of the best-kept secrets in St. Louis.
For what appears to be a subdued and depressing establishment from the outside, Pat’s, in fact, has a cute interior environment that is brimming with energy at dinnertime. Dim lighting, several small televisions and the smell of intoxication greet the entering customer. Pat’s was filled almost to capacity by a very diverse crowd of people, none of whom appeared to be in their 20s. Few things are better to pass the time than being able to watch a toddler try to eat a crayon at one table and then turning to the nearby bar to see two women battling for rights to the same bandana-wearing man. I found it all endearing.
Everyone working at Pat’s is so friendly, and they appear to genuinely care that you have come by. I think they were surprised to see college-aged kids, and even more surprised that we weren’t preying on the older women. But Pat’s staff made it feel like a beer-scented version of home for all of us. The waitress, Judy, made an extra effort to ensure our Cokes were always full, and, while the food did take its time to come out, I never got the sense that she wasn’t trying her best. A-plus for Judy.
Before our entrees, most of us had the house salad. In general I’m a big proponent of salad, but please don’t go to Pat’s for salad. The salad wasn’t horrible, just kind of dull. The lettuce leaves were lifelessly thrown on the plate, and you could tell just how limp the lettuce was with every bite.
The salad debacle was easily forgiven as soon as I took my first bite of their Reuben sandwich. The first thing I noticed about Pat’s version was the meat. Thick pieces of corned beef lined the sandwich. It had a wonderful hint of salt and a nice sear from the grill. Oftentimes, this sandwich is cooked in its component parts, yet Pat’s appeared to cook the meat, sauerkraut and cheese together, giving the sandwich a unified temperature.
The melted Swiss was great to look at and, of course, to eat. The slightly nutty taste of the cheese was cut by the surprisingly effective presence of the fermented sauerkraut. The only flavor I thought was drowned out in this plate was the dressing, but the sandwich tasted so good that I had no problem with this small sacrifice. The sandwich came with french fries, which also exceeded expectations. Along with their crunchy texture and salty disposition, I found them very addicting. Ask Judy for Pat’s tangy barbecue sauce on the side of the fries, and you won’t be sorry.
I have reviewed fried chicken from a different venue for this very newspaper before. I wrote that it was the best in St. Louis. I lied. Why some little Irish drinking shack would have fantastic fried chicken, I do not know. All I can say is this: Pat’s has the best fried chicken I have ever had anywhere (you can trust me!).
This place knows how good its chicken is, and every time an order comes from the kitchen, it’s a semi-spectacle. A single order comes with a plate covered by golden-brown poultry that seems like a massive quantity even from across the room. There’s definitely a “holy cow” moment when the plate is placed in front of you. The thick batter on the chicken resulted in an uneven terrain of flaky crust that provided an unbelievable coarse and crispy texture. When a piece of the chicken is torn off, juice from the bird starts to run and steam pours out, revealing just how succulent the meat is.
Furthermore, the chicken is so tender that you can feel it falling apart inside your mouth. Unlike the versions you might find at Church’s or Lee’s, Pat’s fried chicken tastes clean and very fresh. Pat’s doesn’t shy away from salt with their chicken, which for me was a positive since it complimented rather than overshadowed the rest of the flavors. Pat’s offers original and “spicy” versions of their fried chicken. I highly recommend the latter, as it provides a nice kick to the palate without being overbearing. For a dish that is incredibly filling, even bites past my satiation point were incredibly satisfying. I opted to have my plate come with macaroni and cheese, but I hate to put it in the same paragraph as the chicken. It lacked much flavor except for a beer flavor I must have cognitively placed on it due to the alcoholic surroundings. Go with the french fries instead.
Almost every meal at Pat’s is $9 or under, making it a great value for the large amount of food they provide. If you’re looking for mouth-watering food and a great people-watching experience, look past Pat’s flaws and see the bigger picture: They offer a tremendous product at a reduced price. I’ll definitely be going back there, and I recommend you try it yourself.