Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Weekend in St. Louis, Dinner at Nora's

In our family, September is a month of many  birthday celebrations.  Nephews Brian, Michael and Jacob turned 21 this year.  Niece Rachel turned 18, daughter Emilie is 40 something, Vic is getting older, and Jonas is a senior citizen.  This year, instead of the usual potluck, I had the bright idea of the family driving to St. Louis, Missouri  and celebrating September birthdays with dinner at Nora’s. Everyone took me up on it. Daughter, Melissa and family even flew in from Seattle. It turned out to be a fun weekend.
Stock photo from Up in the Air, Cheshire Lodge in background
I reserved rooms at the Cheshire Lodge, an old world themed hotel. (It is featured in the George Clooney movie Up in the Air.) It is old but charming with authentic hundred year old furnishings from olde England. The rooms need updating but the rent was right and the staff friendly.  It is a couple of blocks away from Forest Park so the exercise aficionados in the family had a scenic place to jog early in the morning.  The hotel had a sumptuous continental breakfast spread.  Embarrassing to say but the family just about occupied the whole lobby each morning. (In our defense, it was not a very big lobby.) The young and not so young occupied a good portion of the hotel's Fox and Hound Bar at night as well. The older of the group stayed up till closing, striking up conversations with the bar maid, also named Nora, and other hotel guests while the young adults decided they needed sleep more than conversation and drinks  and gave up early, party poopers that they were.

Saturday was spent at the St. Louis Zoo.  We all went, young kids, teens, young and old adults and senior citizens.  It was the weekend of the hot air balloon race and I picked the weekend for that purpose.  Alas, there were not very many balloons to be seen.  I did not see any but Vic had pictures to show it was, indeed, the right weekend.

Dinner at Nora’s was on Saturday night.  Nora’s is my son, Robert’s brainchild.  It is a deli at 1136 Tamm Ave in the Dogtown district of  St. Louis, Missouri.  It is two doors down from a restaurant named Felix’s.  Rob closed shop early to make room for Quiason family and friends birthday party.  For appetizer, Lola Pulido from Seattle brought her special, you can’t eat just one, chicharones (pork rinds.) You could feel the cholesterol settling in your arteries. It was that good. The entrees were smoked ribs and beef tenderloin.  The smoked ribs was meat falling off the bone tender, tasty, not too salty and seasoned so well  that adding barbecue sauce would have been a crime.  The beef tenderloin was cooked just right for every family member’s preference from rare, medium rare and well done.  The best part of the evening, of course, was again, just conversation.  Our family never seems to tire of this no matter how often we see each other.  There are so many of us that there is always something new  to talk about.  Most of the time, however, we reminisce about the same old things over and over and smile and laugh like we were hearing it for the first time. 

Rob, owner, proprietor and cook of Nora’s, is my youngest son.  He has successfully defied the family stereotype (and expectation ) of being some kind of professional with a home in the suburbs, one or two cars, a wonderful spouse, and one to three children. He beats to the drummer within and insists on being his own person.  Until he had Nora’s, he owned nothing and owed no one.  He did not own a car unless it was a hand me down from parent or uncles.  He walked, took the bus or begged rides from friends.  He does not own a house.  Like me, he shops at thrift stores.  It takes very little to make him happy.  He loves good food and good wine.  He loves us.  He knows no stranger and his friends love him. His friends brag about him, and when I hear how good a person he is, my heart swells. After all, my one wish for my children is that they become good kind people and they are.  Anything beyond is just gravy.  Our family does not really know Rob. We heard that he is an Elvis impersonator and he sometimes plays with a band, but no one in our family has heard him sing.  At family gatherings, he shares very little of himself and stays mysterious. He gives glimpses of himself like bringing gourmet appetizers and introducing us to good inexpensive wine. Aunts and uncles still give him money for Christmas forgetting that he is no longer one of the unemployed college kids.

I am glad we had September birthdays in St. Louis, had the family see Rob in his own element and know how good he is at what he does.  The food business is most difficult and unforgiving.  Rob is still very poor.  He works long tiring hours,  but he is doing what he loves. Nora’s is getting good reviews and I have no doubt that in time, it will be a thriving business. Who knows, one of these days, there could be a Nora's near you.  I envy Rob the simplicity of his take on life.  I am trying to be more and more like him.

1136 Tamm Ave
St. Louis, MO 63139
Neighborhood: Dogtown
(314) 645-2706


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