When John Marciano opened Yellowstone Café in Town & Country and Lazy River Grill in Ballwin in 1996 and 2001, respectively, there was a shortage of casual, comfortable, locally-owned dining destinations in West County.
Fast forward to 2017. The area’s restaurant scene has grown immensely, yet these two West County stalwarts continue to offer simple, straight-forward, high-quality food that puts them ahead of the rest.
Many local diners boast of the restaurants’ fish, but Marciano said that reputation developed out of coincidence. The walls of the restaurants are adorned with nostalgic fishing relics, which exude a deep woods, rustic feel and create a cozy, comfortable environment.
“People assumed because we had an extensive collection of fishing memorabilia that our specialty was fish,” Marciano said.
For those who enjoy salmon, both locations have a special opportunity during July and August. Marciano’s “Salmon Run” features a well-priced portion of wild-caught Keta salmon. This heart-healthy, mild species is served only during its short-lived prime availability in mid-to-late summer. The restaurants offer four homemade basting sauces; barbecue, honey dijon, lime-grilled and native [olive oil, salt and pepper]. Ten additional sauces and toppings, including Asian sesame and horseradish-encrusted, rotate during the Salmon Run.
A best-seller on the regular menu is the Shoreman’s Lunch, a house specialty that features a moist, thin freshwater white fish filet. Elevating the fish from average to exceptional is the breading, which adheres to the fish without being too thick or overpowering. The mix of ingredients seasons the filet thoroughly and provides texture without heaviness, creating a pan-fried consistency with deep-fried flavor.
Though fish plays a prominent role in the success of both the Yellowstone Café and Lazy River Grill, it’s not the only star on the menu.
If you find burgers a ubiquitous afterthought when dining out, you owe it to yourself to try one here. Marciano sources only fresh Iowa beef and, unlike the standard 80/20 grind used by a majority of restaurants and home cooks, he chooses an 81/19 ratio; the 1-percent difference somehow equates to sheer deliciousness. The bacon cheeseburger is a pure palate pleaser. The well-seasoned patty is perfectly complemented by not-too-thick, crisp bacon as well as evenly melted cheddar cheese. Best of all, the flavorful meat has a beefy essence that is balanced and not greasy nor dry. When kissed by the charbroiler, it demonstrates what proper technique and quality ingredients can do for a classic pairing.
Both restaurants feature children’s menus for less than $1 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Regardless of the day, little ones receive a complimentary scoop of ice cream to finish off their meal.
For those desiring adult libations, both locations run an extensive happy hour. And Lazy River Grill’s “all occasion” room can hold private events from 20 to 40 people with a full banquet menu available.
631 Big Bend Road • Ballwin • (636) 207-1689
165 Lamp & Lantern Village • Town & Country • (636) 207-0501
Hours [at both]: 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday-Saturday, 4-9 p.m., Sunday
Happy Hour [at both]: 4-7 p.m., Monday-Friday • www.lazyyellow.com