Serving Comfort Food and Community – Iron Barley
St. Louis, MO: (STLRestaurant.News) – Cookbook Author and teacher James Beard famously said, “Food is our common ground, a universal experience,” and nowhere is that better demonstrated than at South St. Louis’ Iron Barley. When Tom and Gen Coghill opened their restaurant at 5510 Virginia Ave. in 2003, they dubbed it “An Eating Establishment.” But to the community surrounding it, Iron Barley has become much more than that. It’s a gathering place, feeding the body and soul. It’s a year round destination for creative takes on American comfort food, a terrific craft-beer selection, and late-night music and in summertime, terrific parties on the patio. Iron Barley and the Coghills are also a “go to” source for community service.
In August 2016, Iron Barley was one of three restaurants honored with a Missouri Restaurant Association Restaurant Neighbor Award. Recipients are nominated by the communities they serve, and selected by the National Restaurant Association. The criterion is simple: give back in a way that has a real impact on your neighbors. Iron Barley has certainly done that.
Each summer for the past 11 years, Iron Barley has held the Tomato Fest in the street in front of the restaurant. It features foods that use tomatoes as a prominent ingredient. The event includes food sales, a farmer’s market, craft fair, live auction and raffles—with proceeds going to help Lift For Life Gym, a youth activity center aimed at easing the burden of poverty on St. Louis kids, and other worthy causes. About five years ago, they celebrated Tomato Fest by building the world’s largest BLT. It took 600 lbs of bacon to make the nearly one-ton sandwich, but they did it, and they raised money for LFLG and wounded Afghan war veteran Corporal Todd Nicely in the process.
Then there are the Tom Hall Guitar and Resophonic Extravaganzas that started about ten years ago. Hall, a blues guitarist, regularly played at Iron Barley. When his rare guitar was stolen, Tom Coghill recruited other local musician to help him put together a fundraiser so they could replace the stolen guitar. They offered a fried chicken dinner and show at Iron Barley that raised so much money, they had extra to give to a music school at St. Frances Cabrini Academy. The events have become annual fundraiser for St. Frances Cabrini, Lift for Life Gym and Six String Heroes, a volunteer group that teaches returning combat veterans how to play the guitar.
Every year Iron Barley’s Memorial Day Rib Fest raises money for organizations like the USO and Fisher House, which provides housing for families of wounded soldiers undergoing medical treatment. They’re also regular sponsors for events benefiting local neighborhood, civic, and business associations, veterans services, 9/11 memorial events, etc.
When Food Network’s Guy Fieri visited Iron Barley for an episode of Diners Drive-Ins & Dives in 2008, he called it a “neighborhood joint.” That’s a fitting moniker for a restaurant dedicated to making everyone comfortable and giving back so much to the Carondelet neighborhood and the St. Louis community. But it wasn’t just the Coghill’s sense of community that drew Fieri and fellow Food Networker Adam Richman (Man v. Food) to Iron Barley. Nope. It was the food.
Tom Coghill learned the restaurant business from the inside, working in kitchens around town since 1978. Over the years he developed a passion for smoked meats and BBQ. Tom says he cooks the way he likes to eat, from scratch, using time-tested methods, like cooking in cast iron.
The menu at Iron Barley is basically American cuisine, but with a definite German influence. Oh sure, there are juicy burgers (on a pretzel bun. You can add bacon, fried egg or caramelized onions if you like.), tender prime rib and delicious smoked salmon. But you’ll also find Klops (mini German meatballs), Schnitzel (succulent breaded pork tenderloin) & Spaetzle (hearty, buttery German noodles). They don’t do anything ordinary. For instance, ravioli. Theirs is made with smoked pulled pork, spinach, bacon & onion. Topped with BBQ demi-glaze & aged white cheddar! Dessert includes selections like black & white bread pudding, and warm bacon bourbon brownies. And they make their own vanilla ice cream too!
Besides amazing food and service, Iron Barley is also known for their dedication to craft beer, bourbon and whiskey. They carry at least 15 small batch bourbons and whiskeys at any given time, including the Iron Barley Four Roses Single Barrel that was aged 10 years 8 months and handpicked by the bar staff. They also have 19 beer taps that offer an ever changing selection of craft beers from St. Louis and beyond. Their bottled selection includes mainstream domestic labels, select imports, hard ciders, and ales.
They’re a south city favorite, but they’re only open four days a week: Wednesday & Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Friday & Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. They’re closed Sunday through Tuesday.
This Wednesday (November 23) is special. It’s Thanksgiving Eve, so Iron Barley is hosting a Black Wednesday Celebration from 5:00 p.m. to Midnight. Customers are invited to drop by the Underground (their secret, not so secret concert venue), kick back, and relax “before the holiday madness begins.” And as you might expect, the event will benefit those less fortunate. Customers are asked to bring canned goods or a new toy to help share the holiday spirit with others. That’s Iron Barley, serving food, fun and the community.
Iron Barley Eating Establishment
Owners: Tom and Gen Coghill
5510 Virginia Ave. (Carondelet)
St. Louis, MO 63111