Friday, May 25, 2018

Popular Vietnamese Restaurant – Brentwood Missouri

Our recent visit to St. Louis and Laurie’s family of course involved food and exploration… For a change of pace, Laurie’s sister Bonnie and her husband Bill suggested a popular local Vietnamese restaurant.  It had been a long time since we had any Vietnamese cuisine so we were enthusiastic to give it a try!

This is the exterior of the Mai Lai Vietnamese and Chinese Restaurant in Brentwood Missouri.   It's actually built into a parking garage and parking for customers is free...

Founder Lee Tran, her husband and son escaped war torn Vietnam in 1978 and came to the USA.  At first she worked as a waitress at several St. Louis area Chinese restaurants just to help the family make a living.  However, Lee Tran’s dream was to open her own restaurant.  So, in 1985, she opened Mai Lee Restaurant with a full Chinese menu.  In time however, she slowly added Vietnamese dishes to the menu.  At that time, the tiny Mai Lee Restaurant only had 6 tables in the dining area…

That tiny 6 table restaurant is long gone!  Today, it is a large and bustling place with a lot going on… The dining area is expansive and this popular restaurant and bar is a busy place! 

FYI, Mai Lee is generally credited as being the first Vietnamese restaurant in the St. Louis area.

Laurie remembered the great Vietnamese Iced Coffee that we used to order when we lived in Chicago, so she ordered it at Mai Lee.  Basically, its quality medium or dark blend coffee processed through a French press with hot water and then added to a glass with ice and condensed milk.  She did enjoy this special treat! ($4.00)

Once again, I did a poor job of taking photos before we attacked the food!  The ladies weren’t too hungry so there was a lot of focus on the appetizers.  This is the only photo I captured before we wiped out our various orders of spring rolls.  The good news is that from an appearance standpoint the difference between them is mostly what’s inside them…

We had 2 orders of Goi Cuon with shrimp, pork and vegetables wrapped in rice paper. ($3.95 per order with 2 spring rolls each) Then we had Goi Cuon Ga Nuong, grilled chicken spring rolls. ($5.25) Finally, we had Goi Cuon Thit Nuong, BBQ pork spring rolls. ($5.25)

We enjoyed all of them!  Laurie and I agreed that we could have made a meal just from a few more of these delicious appetizers…

Laurie strayed from our foray into Vietnamese cuisine to order a bowl of one of her favorite soups.  This was Mai Lee’s version of classic Chinese Hot and Sour Soup. ($4.50) It was loaded with egg, wood ear mushrooms and bamboo shoots and it was very good.

Bonnie and Laurie split a Banh Mi Thit (Vietnamese Pork Sandwich) for their dinner. ($4.50) Not only was it a good buy, it was a great sandwich too.  It consisted of Vietnamese-style pork, pate, mayonnaise, cucumber, pickles, jalapenos and cilantro served on a nice roll.

For my entrée, I ordered the Truu Xao Xa Ot. ($18.95) This is a lamb stir fry with hot chili and lemon grass.  There was a lot of onion as well and while I’m not big on large pieces of onion, they were easy to eat around.  I loved the flavor and heat offered by my entrée but in my opinion the lamb was tougher than it should have been…

Bill ordered the Mi Xao Thap Cam – Vietnamese-style Lo Mein for his meal. ($15.95) It came with a combination of meat and shrimp.  He’d had this dish before at Mai Lee and he knew he liked it!

I had to check on the difference between Vietnamese-style Lo Mein and Chinese style Lo Mein.  It seems that the Vietnamese version uses a fish sauce whereas the Chinese style uses more ginger and sesame oil.

We wish that we had a restaurant like this anywhere in the Knoxville area!  Mai Lee Vietnamese and Chinese Restaurant is located at 8396 Musick Memorial Drive in Brentwood Missouri.  Phone: 314-645-2835.  Website:   

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for dinner!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

National Register of Historic Places - Metro St. Louis

One more break from my series of food related posts… We took these photos of historical places in a couple of suburbs that are located close to the city of St. Louis Missouri.

These are the Bellecourt Apartments at 1107 – 1123 Bellevue Avenue in Richmond Heights Missouri.  Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, these late 19th Century/Early 20th Century revival style apartments were built in 1924 with a central courtyard area.  There are 30 apartments, 18 studio, 6 1-bedroom and 6-2 bedroom units.  They were renovated in 2002 – 2003 and they’ve retained their Italian Renaissance features. 

The apartment building is located just west of St. Mary’s Hospital…which incidentally is where our son David II was born.  Originally, these brick and stone apartments were strategically located just north of the tracks for the Forest Park Streetcar/trolley Loop, giving the residents easy access to downtown St. Louis. the moment, there are no vacancies in the building.

Speaking of streetcars or trolleys…Laurie’s sister and her husband Bill pointed this little structure out to us as we were driving around the area.  This is the former “Dinky” Trolley ticket station on Yale Avenue, a north-south street just outside the St. Louis city limits. 

The term “Dinky” was coined by trolley riders as a nickname for smaller streetcars.  This particular route followed a 5.24 mile route and it operated from 1895 until 1949.  Bill, a former police officer, has seen signs of the old streetcar tracks stretching from Clayton Road to the north, to Manchester Road to the south.    

These postcards showing the Maplewood Missouri trolley in various locations give you the ‘feel’ of public transportation prior to WWII.  The postcards and some of the information originated from an article by Doug Houser published in 40 South News in September of 2017. 

The Dinky Trolleys were different than most of the larger units.  At either end of the line, the conductor would manually take the fare box from the front pole to the back pole in the streetcar.  Then he would engage the rear trolley wire and tie down the front wire.  The seat backs could also be flipped to face the opposite direction…

It’s hard to believe it today, but in their heyday during the 1920's, about 1,650 streetcars rumbled along 485 miles of track in and near the city of St. Louis.  Old route maps show trolley lines running in all directions in and around the city.  It must have been confusing as dozens of different companies operated the various lines and routes…

Grace Episcopal Church is a historic English Gothic Revival church building at the corner of Taylor and Argonne Streets in Kirkwood Missouri.  It was constructed in 1859.  Later the building was transferred to the Eliot Unitarian Chapel and the Episcopal congregation moved further down Argonne Street.  This church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.  For information about the Eliot Unitarian Chapel, just go to

The membership rolls for Grace Episcopal Church in the early years included the most important people in the community.  Harry Bodley ran an insurance agency and he also established the church.  Henry Hough, who also headed an insurance agency, also acted as Kirkwood’s postmaster.  Abram Mitchell was a director of the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company and then a partner in the St. Louis Daily News.  R.S. Elliot and H. W. Leffingwell not only acquired the land for the town, they were also civil engineers and they opened one of the earliest real estate offices in St. Louis. In addition the pair was responsible for laying out Grand Avenue in St. Louis and for inspiring the Forest Park Movement in 1869.  Also, Leffingwell served as Kirkwood's first administrator after its charter was granted in 1865.

This stately red brick antebellum home is located at 302 West Argonne Drive in Kirkwood Missouri.  It is one of the largest Greek revival style homes in St. Louis County.  It was built by developer John Hoffman shortly after the Kirkwood was founded.  Today it is called the Mudd House.  

H.T. Mudd bought the home and 100 surrounding acres in 1866.  He was a county auditor and served on Kirkwood’s town board.  He was instrumental in the separation of the City of St. Louis from St. Louis County and while serving as a state legislator, he served on the committee that drafted Missouri’s constitution.  In addition he was a curator of the University of Missouri and served as President of the state horticultural society.

In 1889, George Dana, the founder and President of the Charter Oak Stove Company, purchased the home.  During the time that the Dana family lived here, the hearth room (kitchen) which had been free standing was enclosed, making it part of the house.  Allegedly Dana was the first person in Kirkwood to own an automobile.  Before the family moved out in 1921, he had added the gate lodge, a 2-car garage and the front wrap-around porch. 

Today the property is owned and operated by the Kirkwood Historical Society.  Their museum is open Thursdays and Sundays from 1 PM until 4 PM.  Mudd’s Grove house and grounds are available to rent for special occasions such as weddings, receptions and birthdays.  Phone: 314-965-5151.   Website:

The handsome Ozark Theatre at 103 East Lockwood in Webster Groves Missouri was built in the Spanish Mission revival style.  It first opened its doors back in 1921 and it could seat 1,100 patrons.  Although it no longer shows movies, it is one of the oldest remaining ‘motion picture houses’ in the St. Louis area.  After being remodeled in 1968, it was renamed the Webster Cinema and it continued to show movies (one screen) until 1979.  Later it served as a medical training school as well as the location of the current owner’s stationary and printing business.

With an eye to re-opening it as a movie theatre, major renovations were completed in 2010 but building code requirements and local politics left it sitting unused for a number of years.  However it is currently being touted as “St. Louis County’s best new jazz nightclub”.   The name has been changed though and it’s now officially called Webster Groves Concert Hall. 

The building can also be rented out for birthday parties, private screenings, special events and corporate functions.  You can check out upcoming musical performances at the Webster Groves Concert Hall (aka. The Ozark Theatre) by going to

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, May 21, 2018

Afternoon Bakery Treats

After touring around Kirkwood Missouri to check out a number of homes and other buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Bonnie and Bill decided that they’d take us to a local spot for an afternoon treat…

This is the Nathaniel Reid Bakery on Manchester Road in Kirkwood.  It’s located in the small strip shopping center and, if you didn’t know what you were looking for, you might just drive on by… Even the store front is understated.

This is an overview of the inside of the bakery.  It’s straightforward and simple with a few seats along a counter by the front windows.

As the saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover… Nathaniel Reid is the owner and chef of the bakery.  He graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris with a Grand Diploma in Culinary and Pastry Arts.  In 2012 Dessert Professional Magazine named him as one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in the USA.  He has received a plethora of other awards as well. 

Most recently, Reid served as the pastry chef at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in St. Louis.  He has also served in similar positions at the St. Regis Hotel in Dana Point California as well as the Michelin 3-star Joel Robuchon Restaurant and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, both in Las Vegas Nevada.

As these photos of the bakery display cases demonstrate, the variety of available treats is a bit mind boggling!

Customers can choose from selections of breakfast pastries, sweet snacks, sandwiches, fancy pastries, chocolates and confections, salads, macarons, pound cakes, meringues, quiche, jams and beverages.

Hopefully I’ve identified our choices correctly… This is a luscious blueberry cream cheese Danish. ($3.50)

This was the Chocolate Almond Croissant. ($3.75)

…and this one was the Financier Almond Cake. ($3.25)

I thought that my treat was the most unusual of all.  The “Bostock” was a special menu item. ($3.50) Basically, this is a sweet moist almond covered slice of French toast and it was terrific!

I had to look up my special treat on the Internet.  The Bostock is a buttery day-old brioche roll that is sliced into thick portions.  Then its soaked in an almond simple syrup and generously spread with frangipane almond cream.  In this case, almonds coated the outside.  In the oven, the syrup caramelizes the edges and the almond paste forms a crunchy top crusts while the middle turns rich and custard-like.  Wow!
We were all very happy with our afternoon delights!  The Nathaniel Reid Bakery is located at 11243 Manchester Road in Kirkwood Missouri.  Phone: 314-858-1019.  The Bakery’s website can be found at  If you’re into self-torture, there are several photos of the goodies available on the website!

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, May 18, 2018

St. Louis County Missouri – Historic Homes and Places (#1)

It’s time to take a break from food/restaurant reviews!  While we were visiting Laurie’s family in the St. Louis area, Laurie’s sister Bonnie and her husband Bill indulged this blogger…driving around to several historic homes and other sites.

The David Keith House, ca. 1855, is located at 116 North Woodlawn Street in Kirkwood Missouri.  This Italianate style home with some Greek revival elements was innovative for its time.  It is the oldest known home in the area to use the distinctive siding and quoin system which emulated stone work.

Note: I had to look up the definition of a quoin.  They are blocks at the corner of a wall that either provide actual strength for the wall or to provide a feature creating an impression of permanence and strength.  The latter is true in this case. 

The Egbert W. Halsey Cottage is located at 126 East Washington Street in Kirkwood.  This one-story frame cottage in the Folk Victorian style is now owned by the YMCA and it’s used for offices.  The cottage was built ca. 1864.  It sits on land purchased by Egbert Halsey in 1863.  He was a real estate developer who also built the first school in Kirkwood.  The cottage is significant in that it’s associated with the ‘working class’ in Kirkwood.  There are relatively few surviving homes in this area that served the working class.
In this posting I focused on Kirkwood Missouri, a western suburb of St. Louis.  Kirkwood was founded in 1853.  The city is named after James P. Kirkwood, builder of the Union Pacific Railroad through the town.  It was the first planned suburb located west of the Mississippi River.

This is the Olive Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church at 309 South Harrison.  Formerly known as the Evangelische Friedens Gemneinde Lutheran Congregation, the church was built in 1896.  The Evangelische Gemeinde Lutheran congregation had broken away from the Concordia Lutheran Church in Kirkwood, so they built their own church.  There was a reconciliation in the 1920s and their former church was put up for sale.

The Olive Chapel of the African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in Kirkwood in 1853, making it the second oldest church for this denomination west of the Mississippi.  The Olive Chapel purchased this church in 1923.  Significantly, this site was the location of Kirkwood’s first public education class for black students. 

The two and a half story John P. and Dora Blake House at 549 North Taylor Street is a virtually unchanged example of a high-style Craftsman design.  This handsome home, which was built ca. 1922, is situated on its original 1.25 acre lot.

Plans for a new community close to St. Louis were initiated following the St. Louis Fire and cholera outbreak that occurred in 1849.  At that time, cholera killed 10% of the residents in downtown St. Louis.  Kirkwood, a planned railroad community, was the first suburban municipality built outside St. Louis City boundaries. 

This frame Italianate style home located at 549 East Argonne in Kirkwood is called the Lizzie McLagan House.  It was built ca. 1863 for Lizzie McLagan.  She owned 40 acres and by 1878, the land had been subdivided.  Note the distinctively tall floor to ceiling windows.  The house is sheathed with wide shiplap wood siding with appropriate quoins at the corners to provide the impression that the home was built with stone.

In 1879, the house was purchased by Charles Black, who published the Clayton Argus Newspaper.  From 1972 until 1992, the building was owned by the Kirkwood Historical Society.  They used it as a museum and it was called “The History House”.  In 1922, the house once again became a private residence.

The George W. and Virginia Fishbach House is located at 440 East Argonne Street.  This large Greek Revival Style home was built in 1867 and the exterior looks much as it did back in the 1860s.  At that time, it occupied the entire city block.

George Fishbach came to St. Louis to practice law.  Instead he became a newspaper reporter and editor.  By 1872 he owned the Missouri Democrat Newspaper.  He sold it in 1875 to the owners of the Globe who then merged the two papers into the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.  That paper continued in operation until 1986. 

This is the Romanzo N. Bayley House at 419 East Argonne Street.  This very early Italianate style home was constructed on a 20 acre lot back in 1858.  It now occupies about 1.25 acres.  A 2-story carriage house that dates back to at least the late 1890s is situated behind the house.  Most of the homes during this era were clad in beveled wood siding but this home was built using clapboard.

Here’s a bit of Kirkwood Missouri’s history to close out this posting.  In 1850, H. W. Leffingwell and R. S. Elliot bought land 14 miles from downtown St. Louis.  At the same time, James P. Kirkwood was laying out a route for the Pacific Railroad.  Coincidence…I think not!  In any case, when the railroad reached the community in 1853, the developers sold lots for the Kirkwood Association.  The original town plat included quarter section blocks and industrial development was prohibited. 

A Richardson Romanesque style railway station was built in Kirkwood in 1893.  That station, which is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places has become a symbol of the town and it’s currently an active Amtrak stop.   For a number of photos and to learn more about this active railroad depot, you can check out my previous posting at

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Family Visit – St. Louis Missouri

This edition for my blog will be short and sweet… It’s all about our brief April visit with Laurie’s family in the St. Louis area.  It was our 39th wedding anniversary trip…and no trip to St. Louis would be complete without breaking bread with a few family members.

This is Laurie’s middle sister Karole with her husband Bob.  Bob is retired from the grocery business but Karole continues to work part time.  They have 3 sons…Chris, Marc and Bryan.  With Bob, Karole spends quite a bit of their spare time with their granddaughters Abby, Regan and Cate.

Laurie took this nice photo of Karole and Bonnie.  Bonnie and her husband Bill are our frequent visitors and traveling partners.  Laurie’s younger sister Bonnie is retired and while Bill is retired from police work in general, he still works as a 'civilian supervisor' over a multi-community jail.   Their son Kyle and their daughter Kasey have 6 children between them, (Collin and Keaton with Kyle and Melissa, and Delaney, Avery,Charlie Kate and Elliot Jane with Kasey and Kevin.  They keep their grandparents very busy!   

Johnny and his wife Rose joined us for lunch.  Johnny is the sister’s first cousin.  Both of them are semi retired but Rose keeps extra busy looking out for Johnny’s mother Lois who lives in a retirement village.  Aunt Lois and Doris (Glenda, Karole, Laurie and Bonnie’s mother) are both sisters who married the two Templeton brothers.  There are a heck of a lot of double first cousins in the family!  

Time now for a short food break...

As usual, we met at The Local House Restaurant and Bar in Arnold Missouri.   What the heck…we had to eat and I like to comment on our food experiences. 
This was Laurie’s Fried Pickle Burger. ($10.49) This excellent burger creation was topped with cheddar cheese, bacon crumbles and fried pickle chips, then topped with chipotle ranch dressing!  The house made potato chips were great too... Yum!

I was trying to behave 'a little' so I started with a house salad and then followed it up with an order of 12 chicken wings. ($10.99) I asked for the wings served up as the ‘trashed butter and garlic’ version.  I just didn’t care for them…not enough pizzazz!  But, as they say, ‘different strokes (or wings) for different folks’. 

As usual, the folks at The Local House were friendly and welcoming… The Local House Restaurant and Bar is located at 3946 Jeffco Boulevard in Arnold Missouri.  Phone: 636-467-9900.  Their website is at:

Of course the main attraction any time we visit St. Louis is Laurie’s Aunt Lois!  On this occasion Laurie, Bonnie, Bill and I visited with her in the facility’s coffee café. 

Aunt Lois is now 104 years old and she recently whipped pneumonia!  She dreamed that she’d gone to heaven and they told her she had to go back…they weren’t ready for her yet.  So she woke up after not eating for about 10 days and announced that she wanted to get dressed and go down to the dining room for dinner!  She loves family visits and she’s one heck of a SkipBo and Bingo player!
That’s all for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, May 14, 2018

Dinner before the Theatre in St. Louis Missouri

Since our plan was to attend the musical Hamilton at St. Louis’s Fox Theatre and since we knew that parking and crowds would definitely be a challenge, we opted to eat early.  We parked near the theatre and we left plenty of time for a leisurely dinner.

This is Vito’s Sicilian Pizzeria and Ristorante.  It’s located close to the Fox Theatre and even more important from a business point of view, Vito’s is adjacent to the campus of St. Louis University.

This is the bar and part of the dining area in Vito’s.  All in all it’s a comfortable environment.  I’m sure that the bar does a great business Monday – Friday from 3 PM to 6 PM during happy hour.  They offer $2.00 pints of beer, $3.00 ‘well’ cocktails and $5.00 glasses of wine.

The dining area was cozy and warm.  Molly, who was our server, was efficient.  She handled all of our needs and perhaps unusual requests without hesitation and she was very knowledgeable as regarded the varied items on the menu…

We’ve eaten in many, many Italian restaurants but for some reason I’d never convinced myself to try the Arancini. ($8.00) I decided that the time had come!  Arancini are risotto balls stuffed with Bolognese sauce, peas and mozzarella.  Then they are coated with bread crumbs and fried.

By the time I remembered my camera, only one arancini ‘ball’ was left on the plate.  Everyone wanted to try it because they’d never had it either.  I’m glad I tried it and while it was nice…I thought it lacked authority from a ‘flavor’ point of view.  I’m sure that it was a very competent order of arancini (3) but it didn’t tip the scales as one of my favorite appetizers.

We were also partly through this order of Calamari Fritti before I took a photo… ($10.00) This order of flash fried calamari with marinara and lemon aioli was very nice.  The calamari was tender and the breading wasn’t too heavy. 

Bill ordered a Caprese Salad…with tomato, mozzarella, basil and a balsamic glaze. ($7.00) He was happy.  If the cheese and tomato are a good quality, this is a nice start to any Italian meal. 

The ladies weren’t particularly hungry.  They decided to split a Panzanella Salad. ($8.00) The photo shows a half salad…tasty and more than enough for our wives.  The salad consisted of mixed greens, red onion, tomato, olives, cucumber, mozzarella cheese, croutons and a white balsamic vinaigrette. 

Laurie and Bonnie continued their dining trend…splitting an order of Lobster Ravioli between them. ($22.00) The photo shows Laurie’s half order.  This was a special on the menu for the evening.  The ladies did enjoy their meals…the ravioli was very good. 

For his entrée, Bill ordered a Shrimp and Pasta special.  I can’t tell you the cost as it was removed from our bill.  It was supposed to come with shrimp, asparagus and pasta in a cream sauce.  It actually came to the table with green beans in the place of the asparagus.  The kitchen had failed to tell the wait staff that they were out of asparagus and they just gambled and substituted the green beans...

It was not a professional move by the kitchen, that’s for sure.  Bill wasn’t happy but our waitress didn’t hesitate to remove it from the bill… She didn’t have to be asked either.  Kudos to Molly!  

Laurie took this photo of Bonnie and Bill at Vito's.  It was pretty nice so I decided to publish it!  Dinner and the theater were all part of Bonnie's birthday celebration...and our anniversary too!

For my entrée, I ordered the Beef Tortellini. ($18.00) The tortellini came with cream sauce, prosciutto and peas.  While it wasn’t distinctive, it was pretty good and very filling.

It must be hard to operate a successful Italian Restaurant in St. Louis.  The area has a plethora of top notch Italian eateries many of which we’ve dined at over the years.  While Vito’s was OK…other than Bill’s entrée…from our perspective, it just didn’t stand out in the competitive St. Louis market.

Vito’s Sicilian Pizzeria and Ristorante is located at 3515 Lindell Boulevard in St. Louis Missouri.  Phone: 314-534-8486.  Website:

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them… Sorry about the partially consumed items!

Thanks for stopping by for a visit…

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave