kreis' steakhouse and bar in frontenac photo by david kovaluk

Kreis' Steakhouse & Bar has been a St. Louis landmark for over 70 years

Kreis’ Steakhouse & Bar, famous for its gargantuan prime rib, has operated in the same location in Frontenac since 1948. The German Kreis family opened the restaurant as a roadside tavern positioned on U.S. Hwy. 67 that specialized in providing  “chicken dinners and shuffleboard” to road-weary travelers, according to the current owners, siblings George Tompras and Renee Tompras Bogdanos. The restaurant’s German roots are still visible in menu items like the Vienna Schnitzel and Schnitzel a la Holstein.

In the early 1980s, George and Renee’s father, Byron Tompras, was dining out at the steakhouse when he learned that the Kreis family was searching for a new operator. Byron owned the original Garavelli’s Cafeteria, then still in its original location on DeBaliviere Avenue, which he expanded to new locations throughout the metro area over the years.  

It was a small miracle that Byron heard about the opportunity at Kreis.’ “My dad never went out. Never! He worked seven days a week, 15 hours a day,” recalled Renee. “The ironic thing,” she added, laughing, “was the friend that told him it was for sale, they were kind of feuding at the time!” 

Byron called the Kreises to put in an offer the very next day. By the mid-1980s, the Tompras family had purchased the restaurant outright; George and Renee took over operational duties in 1991. For the most part, the Tomprases made minimal changes to a menu and operations that had been running smoothly for nearly 35 years. The steakhouse’s soft furnishings, formal waiters and dim lighting may be holdovers from an older era in dining culture, but that is precisely what Kreis’ patrons love about eating there. 

The kitchen is helmed by chef Trent Thrun, who said he is particularly proud that Kreis’ is “a 95, 96% from-scratch kitchen,” a rarity in modern restaurants. “We’re not making our own ketchup, we’re not making our own mayo. But everything else is brought in raw, chopped down [and] cooked up.” By balancing good taste and an eye for new dining trends with respect for tradition, the Tomprases have succeeded in keeping longtime customers satisfied while cultivating new devotees through word-of-mouth websites like TripAdvisor – a surefire recipe for institutional status.