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Scape

Destination: St. Louis, MO

Once in a great while you come across a restaurant with a style you haven’t seen before—one that, in fact, clearly knows what it is and doesn’t really care if its been done before or not.

That’s what we found in Scape American Bistro, a restaurant that is about five years old and part of the renaissance of the Maryland Plaza area of St. Louis. It’s right next to the elegant Chase Park Plaza and part of the revitalization of an area that is now a hot spot. It’s not really trendy as much as it is here to stay, at least as long as they keep doing what they are doing.

The best definition we could come up with was “fine comfort dining.” It’s upscale, with white linen tablecloths, lots of windows and mirrors, and elegant service. It’s also some of the most creative comfort food you’ll ever find, served in an environment that makes you feel right at home (yes, you can wear your comfortable jeans).

We talked with Chef Eric Kelly and found that Scape has been adapted to fit the city of St. Louis. That alone marks a departure from traditional thinking, where restaurants go into cities and say, “take me or leave me.” The way Scape staff think, it’s more “We’re in your ballpark; let’s have fun together.”

Chef Eric is also a believer in being on site and visible, with a lot of what he calls “table touching.” He says, “When I took this on, I took it personal. I believed in the restaurant. I believed in the city of St. Louis. I knew the city was just about to turn the corner on its culinary identity.” And, he said, he wanted to be part of that. Along with owner Ted Koplar he created an identity they call American Bistro, with the term “scape” used to identify the different culinary environments, or landscapes, they offer.

Want a pleasant drink or meal outside? They offer a beautiful patio away from the crowd, where you can sit on couches and comfy chairs and relax, or choose a table within view of a televised Cardinals game. Need private dining for a group? The downstairs “landscape” offers great rooms with a view of the wine cellar. Prefer traditional dining? You can still take your choice of high top tables near the bar, cozy tables for two, or elevated tables great for friends or business meetings . . . or both.

“The question we ask ourselves,” says Chef Eric, “is ‘are people in the mood for your food?’ Hypercreative food is OK once, but what people really want is great food. We combine an innovative spirit with high quality ingredients and then apply discipline to the cooking technique.” The combination obviously works, since it’s moved Scape into the position as one of St. Louis’ top restaurants.

The restaurant also has a second floor demonstration kitchen, where they do competitions and other events. And, if you just want to grab a quick lunch, their companion restaurant, Crêpes, is right next door. You can watch your crêpe being made and enjoy it in the sidewalk cafe or take it back to the office for others to envy.

When you make it to Scape, try the Macadamia Nut Chicken, or the Braised Short Rib Goulash, or any of the daily specials. In fact, work your way through the entire menu, starting with great appetizers like the vegetarian lasagna (trust us, it’s terrific) and ending with a delectable panna cotta. Or try the shrimp and grits appetizer and end with chocolate pate. Or the flat bread pizza . . . seriously, you will want to try them all.

Be sure to discover the lemony scones in the bread basket, too. There are treasures everywhere across the menu, including the well-chosen wine list.

And say hello to the chef when he comes around. You can tell him you were simply in the mood for his food.