Last week, a new dining destination opened quietly in Lafayette Square featuring eclectic contemporary American cuisine. Polite Society will hold a grand opening in a month or so that will debut lunch and brunch menus, but for now, visitors can stop in for dinner service and drinks in a decidedly neighborhood-influenced atmosphere.

The restaurant and bar comes from co-owners Brian Schmitz and Jonathan Schoen, who met in the early 2000s working at Bar Italia. Since then, the two have collectively racked up a collective culinary resume that includes running and consulting for several area businesses. 

To name a few, Schoen helped open Eleven Eleven Mississippi, worked with Basso and also owned local restaurant Savor. Schmitz helped develop Lucha as well as local venue Sol, which also featured an event space and coffee shop, the Grind.

Over the course of their friendship and various professional projects, the duo exchanged ideas for what their ideal place would be. When the space that previously held Ricardo’s Italian Cafe opened up, they decided to bring their concept to life.

“We wanted to create a place that we thought we both needed more of  where it’s safe to expect that everyone will take into account other people’s tastes, interests and sensitivities,” Schmitz says. “It’s an environment that defaults to consideration and building a ‘polite society.’”

The 3,000-square-foot space features seats for around 65. A year-long renovation yielded an interior design that pays homage to the neighborhood’s historical roots and surrounding architecture. Exposed brick and copper-tin ceilings lend a classic feel to the dining areas.

Reclaimed light fixtures and vintage furniture, including a former card catalog from the St. Louis Public Library, adorn the rooms alongside shelves of colorful antique books. Victorian-era influences include the brand’s logo: a penny-farthing.

In the kitchen, executive chef Thomas Futrell, who most recently served as Scape’s executive sous chef, turns out a menu of entrees and smaller, shareable plates. Travis Hebrank, who also comes from Scape, runs the bar program as beverage director. Chris Kryzsik, formerly of Blood & Sand, serves as the sous chef.

“We have a balance of items that are both elegant and accessible,” Futrell says. “We also tried to design the menu to be very inclusive of items that we could do gluten-free without sacrificing quality.”

The spring menu is broken down into appetizers, bites and sides, charcuterie and cheese, soups and salads, and entrees. Choose from selections such as chicken croquettes, deviled eggs with trout roe, sunchoke chowder and the Jimmy Burger, which comes with ground-chuck patties, American cheese, onion straws, sweet-smokey tomato glaze, whole-grain mustard aïoli and a pretzel bun.

To drink, choose from a list of around 30 beers, an extensive wine list and more than a dozen specialty cocktails, such as the Low Tea with green tea and kaffir-leaf vodka, Giffard Triple Sec, honey and lime juice.

“We have really talented, well-intentioned people focused on putting the tastes and interests of the community front and center,” Schmitz says. “Our only internal barometer is constant improvement. If folks like us now, they’ll enjoy it even more in the future.”

Polite Society’s currently offers dinner service Monday through Thursday from 5 to 10pm, Friday through Saturday from 5 to 11pm and Sunday from 5 to 9pm. The bar is open daily until 1am.

Polite Society, 1923 Park Ave., Lafayette Square, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.325.2553, politesocietystl.com

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