February 4, 2023
I’m in St. Louis right now for my grandmother’s funeral. Despite the sadness that comes with that, it has been really wonderful to see my family again. I was in Florissant, MO at her wake on Thursday night and hadn’t eaten anymore than a cup of clam chowder at the airport before I took off. My godfather suggested we go to Henke’s Tavern. He was even nice enough to give me a gift certificate he had on hand. So my dad, may brother, and I headed over.
In addition to being obsessed with food, I’m also the family genealogist, and Henke is a family name. So I was optimistic that I could find a connection. I couldn’t. I’m not done trying, but for now the restaurant is named for a distant cousin at best. That distant cousin, bought Schroeder’s Cafe in 1955 and named it after himself. Henry Henke and his son Joe ran the Tavern for many years before it finally left the family when Henry’s grandson, Joe Jr. retired.
The original Schroeder’s Cafe dates back to 1926. Opening during prohibition, it was simply a cafe, or so they claim. As soon as that crazy time in American History ended, it quickly became a Tavern. They added on to the original building, but I enjoyed sitting in the bar that maybe just used to be a lunch counter.
I always eat toasted ravioli when I’m in St. Louis and even though I was just in town a couple of weeks before, I started my meal with them. They were light on the parmesan cheese, but had a good filling ratio and were piping hot and crispy. I asked the bartender her thoughts on the fish sandwich versus the patty melt. Without taking a breath she recommended the fish. “It’s better and it’s bigger,” she said. It was absolutely big, topped with American cheese and served with tartar sauce. I would have liked some lettuce and tomato. I probably could have asked for it, but I was starving and it was good even without it.
My dad ordered the Henke’s Special. It is an open-faced cheeseburger and fries topped with either gravy or chili. He went with chili. You can get a whole or a half. he went with the whole. I’m glad he did, because he couldn’t finish it so I did. If I ever get back to Henke’s, and I hope I do, I’m trying the Special with gravy. We washed our meal down with a Southern Comfort and 7up. That was my grandmother’s drink for many years. Even if Henke’s Tavern isn’t my family’s restaurant, it’s a restaurant my family recommends, and I get it. Laid back, good food, friendly people, it feels like home.