the outdoor dining area at rockwell beer garden in francis park photo by david kovaluk

Best New Restaurants // No. 5 Rockwell Beer Garden

In an ancient viral video, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen once sang, “Gimme pizza! P-I-Z-Z-A!” Here in reality, the good people of St. Louis Hills have been singing the same tune since last spring, when they learned that Rockwell Beer Co. would be adding a pizza-centric outpost in the middle of Francis Park. Now that it’s finally here, we’re happy to say that Rockwell Beer Garden – one of the most anticipated openings in recent memory – is a more-than-worthy sophomore spot.

The beer, of course, comes from head brewer Jonathan Moxey, who has won many national accolades for his outstanding brews. Cocktails, wine and boozy slushies are also available. Running the food program is Michael Petres, a former Niche Food Group executive chef, who started perfecting his Neapolitan-ish pizza game last year during the pandemic, while he was posted up at home with his family and his trusty Roccbox backyard pizza oven. Now, after graduating to a Cuppone electric pizza oven, Petres is slinging a fabulous array of park-friendly dishes.

clockwise from top, garlic cheese bread, the rockwell margherita pizza, chickpea dip with pizza bread and the emilia pizza // photo by david kovaluk

Petres’ fermented dough crisps and puffs up beautifully, yielding the perfect amount of char and chew – not something you’d normally expect to find coming out of an old shed next to some tennis and pickleball courts in the middle of a park. The Broccwell pizza, which has red sauce, smoked mozzarella, charred broccoli, caramelized onion and red pepper flakes, is earthy and savory; the Emilia pizza, which features mozzarella, fior di latte, Parmesan, Pecorino, black pepper and arugula, deeply impressed our resident cacio e pepe expert. All the pies are cut into squares – a serving style ultra-familiar to St. Louisans – and each bite offers a sublime opportunity for either crispy edge bliss or gooey interior goodness.

For people feeling snacky, the chickpea dip with pizza bread is airy and delicious, and the chopped salad (with fantastic, dill-forward ranch dressing) is a refreshing and bright option. The roasted veggies, which are topped with chile, lemon and Parmesan, are the Platonic ideal of a great but unfussy veg side. And the garlic cheese bread … I mean, what else do you need to know? 

There’s no indoor seating at Rockwell Beer Garden, which means it’s picnic tables or carryout; if the weather isn’t perfect, it may require an intrepid spirit to eat there, though fans, a few heat lamps and two fire pits are there to take the edge off any inclement conditions. The restaurant plans to keep its current operating hours through the end of the year and then may close in January and February, though that could change depending on the weather (they recommend checking their Instagram page for the most up-to-date hours). But with tasty beer, a fresh ’za and some homies, what could there be, really, to complain about? The elements are no reason to avoid such a fun place.

Rockwell Beer Garden, 5300 Donovan Ave., St. Louis, MO 63109,