The Season of Stop, I: Bar Reviewing

This story begins, as all good ones do, with a visit to see minor-league professional wrestling.

Some months back, winter still with us, I decided to catch a pro show in East Carondelet, IL. It was held in a strangely-clean community hall and featured the usual assortment of tag bouts, pimpings of coming matches and an appearance by former WWF star Hillbilly Jim. It was a fun night and I wrote about and photographed it for the blog, Look/Listen.

For the same blog, I’d been doing a recurring series called “The Bars Of…” It was a continuation of the bar reviewing I’d be doing around town, for a variety of publications, for about a decade. These, though, typically were based on geography or type. So, five reviews of bars on far-flung Manchester, or five bars founded in just the past month. It was a fun series to execute on a mostly-monthly basis and it typically drew a good number of readers. The bars were usually enjoyable to visit, but equally interesting was the chance to run through a lot of different neighborhoods or municipalities. Without the conceit of the column, I’d never have jetted up-and-down St. Charles Rock Road with a mission; I’d certainly not have hit a bunch of suburban chain bars for a first-time visit, not that my visit to Joe’s Crab Shack was a life’s highlight.

By driving to East Carondelet for wrestling that night, I passed through Dupo, noticing a few bars along the way. These looked like classic corner taverns, the kind that still offer $1.50 drafts and $2 you-call-’ems. After a bit of time passed, I went back to Dupo and found that my basic assumptions were correct. These were old-school affairs, the types of places where everybody knows your name; unless, of course, you’ve driven in from the big city on a random night, looking to write a piece of quick-take, online journalism. At the three places I visited, I sat alone, ignored, unbothered by the usual social norms. It was kinda, to be honest, depressing.

Already thinking of buying into a bar with friends, it struck me that the day we’d go official with a contract was the day I’d be forced for make an easy decision: you can’t write bar reviews and run one yourself. Bad policy, bad idea. But the fun stopped that night in Dupo. Like air rushing out of a balloon, I sat at a place called Judy’s Corner and knew it was over. It was a fun run, which went from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to to, where the idea went into that multi-bar mode.

The Tick Tock Tavern will be a amalgam of ideas borrowed and stolen from all those visits. Luckily, the memories are written down for easy recall.

Press Release: Tick Tock Tavern & Steve’s Hot Dogs

Coming, Summer 2014: The Rebirth of the Tick Tock Tavern
South City Bar to Team With The Second Location of Steve’s Hot Dogs

For Immediate Release
Contact: Thomas Crone, 314.77x.x929;

A classic South City bar, the Tick Tock Tavern closed on May 12, 1994. (How we know: the signs still-hanging on the walls say so.) Twenty years later, this corner venue will be reborn with the same name, but with new ownership and an accompanying restaurant: the second location of Steve’s Hot Dogs. Both sides of the business will look to serve the immediate Tower Grove East neighborhood, a few minutes from the heart of South Grand’s business/dining district.

The Tick Tock Tavern, 3459 Magnolia (63118), will be owned-and-operated by a partnership trio involving Fred Hessel, Thomas Crone and Steven Fitzpatrick Smith. Steve’s Hot Dogs will be a conjoined business, at 3457 Magnolia, operated by longtime local musician Steve Ewing, who runs the popular Steve’s Hot Dogs on The Hill (2131 Marconi, 63110).

The businesses are currently working through various strands of City-wide and neighborhood licensing processes. With these benchmarks in mind, the anticipated opening of the Tick Tock will be summer of 2014, official opening date TBD. Working in tandem, the Tick Tock and Steve’s Hot Dogs will complement one another, in the style of The Dam/Amsterdam Pub on Morganford and the International Tap House/Epic Pizza in Soulard.

Though not operating as a bar since 1994, the Tick Tock’s still-in-place interior retains the touches that defined South City corner bars from the 1970s-’90s, a time when the room was running under proprietor Charlotte Horvath. Keeping a number of the original touches intact, the bar will be updated for 2014 sensibilities, while keeping the best, quirkiest aspects of the original look’n’feel.

WHO we are:

Fred Hessel is the newly-appointed executive director of the Carondelet Community Betterment Federation and has worked with Beyond Housing and the Grand Oak Hill Community Corporation in prior years. He has extensive experience in residential and mixed use neighborhood spaces; in fact, he owns two, storefront/apartment buildings in Tower Grove South, where he lives with his wife and two children. He’s a recently-retired, 21-year veteran of the Missouri Air National Guard.

Steven Fitzpatrick Smith is the owner/operator of the Royale Food & Spirits at Kingshighway and Juniata, where he currently resides. The Royale has just enjoyed a ninth-anniversary this spring. The Royale’s won multiple awards for food, drinks and ambiance and has been named “best neighborhood tavern” in various publications. Members of his family, also active in the Royale business operations, have begun a food touring business called Savor St. Louis, which currently operates specialty tours in the West End.

Thomas Crone is a Tower Grove East neighborhood resident, with deep ties in the immediate area, dating back to his days as a student at nearby Rose Fanning and St. Pius V schools. He’s been a freelance writer around town since 1999, after a decade writing and editing for the Riverfront Times. He currently writes for St. Louis Magazine. He’s been an adjunct professor of communications at Webster University for 17 years. Since his teens, he’s worked at a variety of nightclubs and restaurants in St. Louis, including O’Connell’s Pub, the Webster Grill & Cafe, Frederick’s Music Lounge, Pablo’s, the Side Door and The Royale.

Steve Ewing is the lead vocalist of The Urge, which remains one of the most-popular bands in St. Louis, now two-and-a-half decades into its still-vibrant career. He also gigs dozens of shows a year with his solo project, the Steve Ewing Band. He landed upon a perfect complement to his music career by founding Steve’s Hot Dogs on The Hill, a lunch-only restaurant featuring hot dogs and sandwiches in a family-friendly setting. Steve’s Hot Dogs will launch its second location in tandem with the neighboring Tick Tock Tavern. He lives with his family nearby, just across Tower Grove Park in the City’s Shaw neighborhood.

WHERE we are:

The Tick Tock Tavern and Steve’s Hot Dogs will be located at the corner of Magnolia and Arkansas, one block east of Tower Grove Park. The buildings are catty-corner from the longtime home of KDHX (as well as the current home of our attorney, Jonathan Beck).

WHAT we’ll offer:

As far as Steve’s Hot Dogs, you can get a full feel of the operation from its website:

In terms of the Tick Tock Tavern, alone, let’s touch on some basics, some wills-and-wont’s:

* We will offer a select batch of handcrafted, classic, Sou’Side-style, backbar foods, such as: pickled eggs, beer-brined pickles, jams, jellies and jerky. These will be prepared by Robin Wheeler, who operates her culinary efforts under the tag of Subterranean Homemade Foods. She’s been a food writer for a variety of local publications, including time penning the Dive Bomber column for
* We will feature wines selected by Civil Life Brewing Company’s Jake Hafner, founder of 33 Wine Bar.
* We will offer a wide selection of local craft beers, along with selections from the macro-brewery down the block. Lots of familiar-and-niche bottles, a rotating quartet of tap handles, and a standing selection of popular and niche brews, including a goodly number via environmentally-friendly cans.
* We will offer a few signature cocktails, a small’n’funky list that’ll recall some mid-century tastes.
* That said, we will not feature mixology, ever.
* We won’t be “sorta like the Shaved Duck,” or “kinda like Riley’s,” since our new neighbors are already succeeding with their own concepts. We will encourage our out-of-neighborhood guests to make a night of it in TGE when they visit the Tick Tock.
* We will rock the drop ceiling and disco ball. With style to spare.
* We won’t be The Royale, Jr., despite family ties. Think of the Tick Tock as The Royale’s quirky cousin.
* We will never make-or-let a customer feel invisible.

WHAT else do you need to know?

Contact: Thomas Crone, 314.77x.x929;