Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Golden Year, Golden Years

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Golden Year, Golden Years

Article excerpt

The mortality rate of restaurants is somewhere up there with bullfighters and monarch butterflies. Just because you're pretty and have a lot of flash doesn't mean you're going to be around very long.

A restaurant that survives for 50 years in this day of hanging-fern competition and trend-of-the-month food styles obviously has pleased more than a few palates. And if that restaurant has hung onto essentially the same menu for all those years, it just goes to show that old-fashioned cooking can still be a winner in this day of California, Southwest and anything-ethnic cuisine.

Chaney's Restaurant on Olive Boulevard in University City is a no-frills establishment with a loyal clientele that is not embarrassed to order baked beans, coleslaw or applesauce. Or, of course, barbecue.

It's the barbecue ribs, chicken, pork steak that has given Chaney's its come-back-for-more reputation. The barbecue is the old-fashioned type, cooked over an open fire and dipped in a time-tested sauce. No fancy smokers. No parboiling. No elaborate marinade.

Mike Chaney, who took over the restaurant after his father died in 1981, is not against change. He just knows what works.

In fact, Mike made quite a few changes after putting on the chef's hat. When he moved back to St. Louis from New Orleans, the business was 75 percent liquor and 25 percent food.

"It was pretty much a neighborhood bar," he recalls.

So he took out the jukebox, cut down the bar and tried to make the place more conducive to families. Today, the business is more than 80 percent food.

Drexel Chaney, Mike's father, opened the restaurant in July 1945 in a wood-framed tavern that stood in the lot next to where the existing restaurant sits. Back then, that was considered far west county.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary, Mike Chaney has put up a glassed display of old pictures, advertisements and memorabilia from the original restaurant.

In 1962, the new building went up but an outdoor pit remained. Today, that pit with a 5-foot diameter grill sits in a gazebo-type wooden structure, from which smoke and luscious aromas waft through the University City air. …

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