Schoemehl's Southside Grill doesn’t “officially” open until Sat., Sept. 29, but if you’ve got a hankering for smoked meats, cold beers, fat burgers and crispy and caramelized wings, don’t wait until then. Park yourself on the tree-shaded patio, dine inside or settle in at the bar on the comfy padded bar stools and enjoy the eats the owners are bringing to the up-and-coming Patch neighborhood on the southern end of the Carondelet neighborhood.
The grill opened around Labor Day with little fanfare when business partners Jean Ann Mantia, Greg Schoemehl and his nephew, Pete Schoemehl, fired up the big black smoker on the patio and got cooking.
“Originally, we thought we would do a food truck, then Greg found this great building,” Mantia says. “We’re still setting the menu and training staff.”
Greg Schoemehl’s not a stranger to the restaurant business. He opened a small nightclub in 1981 when he was just 26. In 1987, he set up shop at the Row House Restaurant Downtown. He's worked mostly in the restaurant business since, with a stint in construction and painting in the 1990s. "When Pete wanted to open a place, I thought, 'Why not?' We could do that," he says.
The 1880s building they found provided the space they needed to add unique items to their menu. “What makes our food unique is how we use the smoker in the back. We use pulled pork or smoked chicken in our South City Get Down nachos,” Mantia says. “We marinate our wings, smoke, then deep fry them. We dip the fried wings in our special sauce and bake them until they caramelize.”
Mantia whips up a cool buttermilk sauce to complement the sweet smokiness of the wings. She makes the avocado ranch dressing for Schoemehl’s towering signature salads well as soups, relishes and sides that look as good as they taste."Presentation is important to me," she says, "from how the vegetables for soups are chopped to how we plate each dish."
Menu item names come with a creative twist, too. “We love the neighborhood, and the names on our menu reflect its history. State Street Caesar Salad is for all the streets named for states here,” Mantia says. “Ivory Tower onion rings refer to the Ivory Theater and the Ivory Triangle just down the street. Our pulled-pork sandwich, the Powerhouse, is named for the old power station nearby.”
On Sundays, Mantia cooks a special Italian dinner. "It's my heritage," she says. "Most Italian restaurants close on Sunday, so people will have a place to come for Italian food." She features specials during the week as well, like smoked pork chimichangas.
As for the drinks: “We've got local beers on tap," Greg Schoemehl says. "I ordered a house wine that's a step up, too. We're a restaurant, but people do enjoy drinks here. We have our Facebook page up now where you can see what we offer. We’ll have live music on the patio.”
Hours of operation are 11am to 1am Tuesday to Sunday. Although the grill is closed on Mondays, during football season, the doors will open in time for the NFL’s Monday Night Football games.
Schoemehl's Southside Grill, 7529 Michigan Ave., Patch, 213.932.7774, southsidegrillstl.com