Like most families, we like to visit restaurants during off-peak hours, a little before the evening dinner rush. During our recent visits, the service was prompt and friendly. Upon arriving, the host directly asked the four little ones in our large party if they'd prefer high chairs or boosters and if they wanted something to color—a small gesture that went a long way in making the experience special for them. The bright, spacious dining room (easily able to accommodate large parties, but fair warning, no reservations are taken after 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays) was filled with other families during both of our recent visits. Both the bar and the restaurant are smoke-free, but smoking is allowed on the outside patio/beer garden, which is open seasonally.
But it really comes down to the food, right? Even though farm-to-table philosophies are becoming more and more prevalent at local restaurants, it isn't the norm with places billed as "family friendly." Bottleworks was ahead of its time when they first printed their farming partners on the menu several years ago. It remains satisfying to read where the meats, veggies, grains and other ingredients in your meal come from, even if it means paying slightly more.
The menu caters to a variety of diners, offering several vegetarian options. The appetizer list was well-rounded, including pretzel sticks with Hefeweizen cheese sauce ($6.50) and hummus with flatbread ($7.75) for the less adventurous, and bison nachos ($11.50) and goat cheese dip ($8.50) for more mature palates. Homemade soups (don't miss the beer cheese, $3.50) and a handful of salads with house made dressings come next. The rest of the menu offers create-your-own pizzas (they are large enough to share, start at $11, and make a good option for picky eaters), a dozen hot and cold sandwiches (we loved the grilled portabella $9.50 and turkey burger $9) and several entrees ranging from pretzel-encrusted chicken ($17.75) to veggie enchiladas ($13.75). Sandwiches and entrees both come with sides, and the house was gracious about substitutions each time we visited. There is a kids menu, complete with the usual suspects—mac-n-cheese, grilled cheese, cheese pizza and bison burger, and while the price points are high for a kids menu (averaging $6.75), portions are large and could easily be shared. The four children at our table shared three kids' items, and we still went home with leftovers. There are four desserts on the menu, and with all due respect for the other three, do not miss the sticky toffee pudding ($7.25). It's reason enough for planning a return visit. A brunch menu is also offered on the weekends.
No review of Bottleworks would be complete without a mention of the 50 delicious Schlafly craft beers available by tap and bottle and varying by season. Servers are happy to suggest a pairing, and small 6 oz. tastes are available as is a sampler flight. For the kids, they offer milk and juice (orange, cranberry or pineapple). In general, I find the prices for kids' drinks outrageous, and Bottleworks was no exception. Prices ranged from $2.50 to $2.75, and drinks arrived in to-go Styrofoam coffee cups with lids and straws. For everything else the restaurant did to accommodate family diners, you'd think they'd also invest in smaller cups with lids, consider stocking less-sugary apple juice and rethink that steep price—considering you can order a six-ounce beer for not much more.
But our overall experience was a delight and one we plan to return often. Carefully prepared food from carefully chosen sources is what I make for my family at home, and it's a treat to go out and receive the same thing.
Schlafly Bottleworks is located at 7260 Southwest Ave., Maplewood, Mo., 63143; call 314-241-2337, ext. 2.