Tom Struharik and business partner Alan Shelby were busy working musicians 33 years ago when they set down their guitars and picked up a circa-1892 building in Soulard with the intention of starting a restaurant. That brick structure became Tucker’s Place, and it’s been a staple for the meat-and-potatoes set ever since.
“We had zero restaurant experience when we started,” says Struharik. “We’d never so much as bussed a table or anything like that. We didn’t have any big, fancy ideas; we just thought, ‘What do we like? What are customers going to want to eat?’”
Turns out they wanted beef, and lots of it. So Struharik and Shelby locked in high-quality beef suppliers from the very beginning, a business arrangement that continues to this day. The choice and prime strips and filets served at Tucker’s Place are all sourced from the Omaha area – the heart of the cornbelt – where there are the highest concentrations of English-bred cattle, Angus and Hereford. That breeding and upbringing in the chilly northern plains of the United States, Struharik says, play a greater role in producing the most flavorful steaks than whatever feeding regimen is trending at any given time.
“The most important thing about steaks is not only quality of the [breeding of the] beef but the region that it’s growing,” Struharik says. “Where we’re sourcing from is a cooler climate, so the cattle are putting on more rich marbling. Where there’s more marbling, there’s more tenderness and flavor in the beef. It makes all the difference in the world.” The beef shows up on the menu in the form of 16-ounce strip steaks, 16- and 24-ounce prime rib (offered on special during Prime Time Tuesdays at all three locations) and juicy burgers. Steak dinners are served with a salad and 1-pound baked potato.
In addition to the signature grilled steaks and seafood, Tucker’s Place serves a lineup of appetizers, salads and sandwiches, as well as pizzas with housemade sauce that comes from a family recipe.
Tucker’s Place has never been about riding the latest wave of “out-of-the-box trendy” culinary innovations or luring big spenders with special occasion and event services: The menu customers browse today is the same one they read in 1982. It’s a large part of what’s helped the owners keep quality and affordable pricing consistent across three locations in Manchester, South County and the original Soulard spot.
Keeping the menu affordable – even with choice and prime steaks – means concentrating on volume, rather than “upselling” a sandwich customer to a steak dinner. “We don’t try to hit a homerun with every customer who walks through the door by upselling or charging high prices. We just go for a lot of base hits. We keep the place busy, busy. All three restaurants are always busy, and we’ve stayed that way for 33 years.”
Note: All three Tucker’s Place locations will feature Friday twin lobster tail specials during Lent, Feb. 18 through April 2.
Tucker’s Place, multiple locations, 636.227.8062, tuckersplacestl.com
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