the bartender makes a drink at ryder's tavern on chippewa photo by jonathan gayman

Review: Ryder's Tavern

Friday nights at Ryder’s Tavern, everyone wants the burger. Thick, charred double stacks of beef oozing with American cheese sit on a delectable little premix spread of lettuce, mayo, onion and relish that you don’t ask for, but fall in love with anyway. Unceremoniously wrapped in paper, it may not be the prettiest dish you’ve ever seen, but it’s one of the most simply indulgent, wow-didn’t-that-just-hit-the-spot bar food experiences our city has to offer.

Way too clean and updated to qualify as a dive bar, Ryder’s is a neighborhood watering hole popular with bar industry folk, young professionals and blue collar-types who make the Tower Grove and South Grand area their regular stomping ground. The T-shirt-and-jeans crowd comes to chat at dark wood tables, relax on the patio and puff on Camel Lights. They drink, play darts and don’t miss flat-screen TVs, which are thankfully absent. A steady mix of old Motown tracks is pumped in at a nice volume – meaning you can happily lose yourself in it or conversation without shouting over the noise.

with bulleit rye whiskey, the old-fashioned is a dangerously drinkable little monster. // photo by jonathan gayman

The smooth tunes and laid-back vibe are complemented by bartenders who mix up a variety of classic cocktails served stiff enough to put an Uber on standby. They don’t have much of a formal cocktail list, but they don’t need one. Efficient staff members are quick to recommend their own takes on classics like Old-Fashioneds and Manhattans. The whiskey of choice for both is likely Bulleit. Cocktails like these are washed down with tall pints foaming with a dozen or so draft options dominated by local breweries such as Urban Chestnut, Schlafly and nearby Civil Life. Bottles and cans of easy drinkers like Lone Star, Magners Irish Cider, 4 Hands City Wide and a score of others are also available. 

The food at Ryder’s is a pleasure worth planning your visit around. The bar’s kitchen only pushes out a few exceptional items with the “keep it simple stupid” method deftly applied. The rotating menu features the fantastic single- or double-stack burger and fries on Friday nights, $2 crunchy or soft tacos and $4 margaritas on Tuesdays, a variety of pizzas to accompany trivia night on Wednesdays and assorted brunch options on Sundays alongside a sea of bloody marys and mimosas.

order ryder’s simply indulgent burger on fridays. // photo by jonathan gayman

The small space, formerly inhabited by the underground favorite Bleeding Deacon, has the look of a hard-ridden old-timer spiffed up and back in fighting shape. The slick, multicolored tongue-and-groove wood floors have a bright, almost marble shine, and the walls are decorated with a scattering of kitschy vintage beer signs and random posters of sensational pulp novels. The old jukebox was busted on several of my visits. The back of the bar houses a pair of well-used dartboards and a bright green pool table, all of which can be enjoyed for free. A handful of wrought-iron tables and chairs are scattered on the popular back patio, sporting ashtrays that have seen some serious use.

Located on an industrial section of Chippewa on the southern fringe of Tower Grove, Ryder’s is hardly a see-and-be-seen hotspot – unless you want to be seen halfway through a gorgeously greasy burger and a tall pint of High Life. It’s an old-school haunt that looks like it, with nothing fancy or fussy. But with a stellar bar stocked with good hooch and a cozy little kitchen turning out standout fare, it’s the perfect corner retreat.

Ryder’s Tavern
4123 Chippewa St., St. Louis, 314.899.9343

Tags : Cocktails, Places, Reviews, Beer, Restaurants, Bars