Monday, December 12, 2011

Finding Fine Dining

I'm still in my hometown, the Gateway to the West, gearing up for my book reading tomorrow at Left Bank Books.

It's easy enough to find fine dining in St. Louis , but I have fallen in love with a new place (well, not exactly new, but new to me) called Billie's Fine Dining, That "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" guy needs to know about this place.

Now if you think you're gonna waltz into Billie's and find white linen, snazzily uniformed servers and Mozart playing softly in the background, think again. Billie's is a wonderful throwback to old-school, home-cooked food still found in small town Texas (where I now live) before food fascists made us scared to eat anything that smacked of fat, cholesterol and, uh, what was that third thing?  Oh yeah, flavor.

Now I love foie gras, sweetbreads, oysters on the half shell as much as the next food freak, but lemme tell you, Billie's is the real deal if you need/want a departure from the grandiose.  Here the weekend specials include Billie's Breakfast Bowl, a vessel usually reserved for entree-portion salads, loaded with O'Brien potatoes, your choice of crumbled bacon or sausage topped with cheese or gravy which can be served with or without two eggs on top.  Not quite what you're looking for? Then go for the Heart Stopper, country-fried steak (we call it "chicken-fried" in Texas), 2 slices of bacon, grilled green pepper onions, cheese, an egg, lettuce, tomato and mayo on Texas toast with a side of home-style potatoes.

But wait. If I can get there before I leave here on the 14th, I must partake of the meat loaf omelet, which, as it suggests, contains a generous slice of home-made meat loaf; potatoes and cheese smothered with country gravy. And just to show Billie's keeping up with the times, if you choose to lighten up a bit she offers a croissant sandwich. So there. Well, in the interest of full disclosure, it containes bacon -- or sausage -- two slices of cheese, two eggs and a side of home-style potatoes. Ham added will set you back $1. And I've seen a grown man unable to eat all of the original stuffed pancake, a $5.25 steal. Bacon and eggs are also involved.

Should you break down and want to see for yourself, Billie's is at 1802 S. Broadway, one block east of Soulard Market. The most expensive item on the menu is an Angus steak  and eggs offering served with your choice of toast or biscuit. As befits its presence in the market area, it's open Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Friday, midnight to 1:30 p.m. Saturday; from Saturday midnight to Sunday 1:30 p.m.  If you want to double check the hours, call 314-621-0848.

I don't know if Billie has anything locally sourced, organically grown or naturally fed, and I don't care. I already know where to find all that. I'm just happy to know there is someplace left in this galaxy of eateries where hard-working hungry people can afford to bring the family to chow down on generous portions on good -- nothing gourmet here -- food. It's cooked when it's ordered, so don't go rushing things. And the next time you and your posse want a funky place downtown to chow down on a late-night meal in St. Louis, here ya go.

On to Sweetie Pie's and Pappy's Barbecue.

See? You can go home again.

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