Review: The Rustic Goat in St. Louis

The Rustic Goat
2617 Washington Ave., St. Louis, 314.371.4031, Facebook: The Rustic Goat

The old axiom “first we eat with our eyes” rings as true for an establishment’s atmosphere as it does for its actual food and drink. But looks can deceive. Such is the case on the quiet corner of Washington and Jefferson Avenues. Here, inside massive storefront windows sits The Rustic Goat, a gorgeous music lounge and eatery where style, unfortunately, trumps substance.

First impressions: There’s no getting around the fact that this place is a joy to take in. Those who show up early in the evening are able to snag a prime spot on one of the lounge’s low white couches, which line the windows of the central area. Looking across the huge space, they can take in the high polished tables and designer model chairs that surround an open kitchen, which spits out roaring flames and savory wafts; an additional level of booth seating hovering over a long bar; and a split level rear area with additional lounging space as well as pool and foosball tables. Everything about the place – down to the bathrooms – is modern and well-adorned. This is where the moniker of the joint can confuse. Nothing is rustic about this slick, urban, industrial loft space with its high ceilings and fancy lighting. Rather than folksy or quirky, the atmosphere is smart and contemporary yet warm and approachable.

Like the venue, the crowd at The Rustic Goat is decidedly well-dressed. Around 10 o’clock on a Friday, The Goat’s reception area teems with patrons looking to grab a seat near the jazz trio busy tuning up for the first set of the night. There’s a buzz in the air and a growing din in this crowd of primarily middle-aged, 20- and 30-something professionals. The bar is lined with a handful of friends busy chatting with the waitresses and manager. The jazz trio starts, and the acoustics prove well-pitched. Some of the groups look up from their cabernets and watch the show, but most are still lost in conversation.

Soothing late-night jazz vibe aside, however, there are some unfortunate issues with The Rustic Goat. Lack of effort is not the problem here. Staff is attentive, engaged and eager to help. Unfortunately, it seems like they’re the ones who need the help. These people need training, badly. The flow of liquor is slow and sloppy. If a waiter doesn’t know the proper ingredients to a cocktail, it’s understandable, but a bartender should. Case in point: After ordering a simple dirty vodka martini on the rocks, I waited nearly 10 minutes to be presented with a tepid glass of vodka, straight up, no ice, no olives and no olive juice. I spent the rest of the night ordering off the ample menu of specialty house cocktails like the Purple Hospitality and the Oriental Goat, but, unfortunately, these seemed thrown together almost as haphazardly as the drink recipes themselves. Like many bars, The Goat falls prey to the overuse of flavored vodkas and sweet overbearing mixers. Even a whiskey and Moonshine sub-section is wrought with oddly chosen, too-sweet combos: i.e. The Blonde Goat, a sugary mess of Southern Comfort, amaretto and Sprite; or The Whiskey Orchard, which is little more than well whiskey and too much apple juice. On occasions like these, it’s advisable to stick to beer. The bar service even for this proved agonizingly slow.

The accompanying plates were likewise less-than-satisfying, although they did get served faster. A flatbread pizza was soggy and bland, while the house burger might have been good had the server asked how I wanted it cooked rather than rushing off and returning with a crispy little hockey puck of ground beef sandwiched between a crumbling biscuit.

Whether or not The Rustic Goat is a welcome addition to Washington Avenue’s social scene has yet to be determined. While the space is phenomenal, the menu and service need some reconsideration. Hopefully, management will build on the strength of the physical structure and the jazz lounge vibe, both of which set this raw little newcomer pleasantly apart from the rest of the neighborhood.