idol wolf photo by michelle volansky

First Look: Idol Wolf at 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis

Idol Wolf will open inside the highly anticipated 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis at 1528 Locust St. in Downtown West St. Louis on Tuesday, July 25. The restaurant, one of two food and beverage concepts set to open at 21c Museum Hotel, is led by executive chef Matthew Daughaday, formerly of Reed’s American Table, Juniper and Taste. 

Idol Wolf is opening slightly ahead of the hotel itself. 21c Museum Hotel is slated for an Aug. 8 opening, with its cafe concept Good Press anticipated to open on the same date. Reservations for hotel stays are already open.

The 10-story, 173-room hotel is the result of an extensive renovation that has brought the Renaissance Revival-style YMCA building back to life, and Idol Wolf occupies one particularly beautiful corner of the first floor. Every detail of this restaurant looks to have been carefully pondered over, and the execution is as impressive as any restaurant design we’ve seen in recent memory.

Idol Wolf seats 100 diners, with a private dining room seating an additional 14 guests. A tiled horseshoe bar dominates the center of a bright lounge area, with banquette seating on either side. Tall windows look out onto a large patio, while two striking pieces of art hang on the walls on either side of the room. The lounge area leads to a more secluded dining room that is cozy and a little cavernous. There are so many different details, materials and fabrics to admire, and it’s hard not to be impressed. Customers can also take a seat amid the elegance of the adjoining billiards room, where they can order drinks from Idol Wolf, in addition to a limited selection of the restaurant’s pintxos and tapas.

Chef Daughaday has created a menu inspired by Spanish cuisine and infused with the flavor of locally sourced and seasonally available ingredients. A meal might start with a few items from the snackable “bocaditos” selection: think 18-month-aged serrano ham, Spanish olives, pickled white anchovies, a Spanish cheese board, and the pan con tomate.

The tapas selection features Idol Wolf’s takes on several Spanish classics categorized as “from the garden,” “from the sea” or “from the butcher.” There’s patatas bravas, watermelon gazpacho, bacalao croquetas, gambas al ajillo, grilled octopus and albondigas, just to name a few. Daughaday said he hopes these dishes can simultaneously highlight the best produce of our region while telling something of the wide-ranging, diverse and rich history of Spanish cuisines.

Take the butifarra sausage, for instance, whose origins in Spain date back millennia. “It's the same recipe that the Romans used back when they were in Spain,” Daughaday said. “There's a deep, deep history in terms of a lot of the food that I would love to showcase and explore, and I think that's one of the fun things about food and being able to tell the story behind where something came from. A lot of people have been eating something forever, but you have no idea the history of how that came to be.”

To that end, Daughaday said the menu will evolve, not just with the seasons but as he delves deeper into Spanish cuisine himself and learns more about the cuisine. “I think that can be the fun thing about what this restaurant is, is that it starts out as this place that’s going to give you the classics and things that you're used to and comfortable with, and a few fun things that make it uniquely St. Louis and uniquely us, but there's a lot to explore in terms of what Spanish cuisine actually means and defining what that means,” he said.

The ”raciones” section of the menu offers larger, entrée-style dishes, including a grilled, barrel-cut rib-eye with garlic roasted mushrooms and pearl onions, pork tenderloin from Newman Farm, served with whisky sauce, turnip greens, chorizo and white beans, or a half chicken from Buttonwood Farm with fried fingerlings, summer radishes and greens. You can have one of these to yourself, but Daughaday said each of these plates is designed to be conducive to sharing between at least two diners.

Daughaday is also excited about putting paella on the menu at Idol Wolf. Paella is a rarity in St. Louis, and Idol Wolf will open with a seafood paella as one of the menu’s centerpieces. As well as the fresh seafood and bomba rice, Daughaday said one of the essential elements he’s training the kitchen to perfect is the socarrat, the crusty layer of rice on the base of the paella. “You’re using a specific pan, so you can develop this nice little crust on the bottom, you take a spoon and scrape it all up,” he said.

The dessert menu includes a caramel flan and a crème Catalana. “The desserts are phenomenal,” said Dylan Rauhoff, food and beverage director at 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis. The wine list pushes Spanish varietals front and center, with five whites and six reds available by the glass and a couple of rosés and sparkling wines by the glass. Rauhoff said the wine list is designed to encourage guests to discover Spanish varietals by comparing them with corresponding New World wines that they might be more familiar with. “I think people are going to be very pleasantly surprised if they haven’t ventured into Spanish wines,” Rauhoff said. Idol Wolf also offers a plentiful selection of sherries, vermouths and cocktails, including gin and tonics, sangrias, kalimotxo, and a number of NA cocktails.

“21c has always been focused on creating unique, chef-driven restaurants that are as much a part of the community as each hotel, and Idol Wolf and Good Press are no exception,” said Vanessa Miller, senior director of food and beverage for 21c Museum Hotels, in a statement. “We’re proud to add both of these restaurants to our portfolio of outstanding culinary destinations.”

Idol Wolf will serve dinner only initially, but brunch will be added at a later date. Daughaday said the brunch menu will follow a similar impulse to the dinner menu, taking in some classic Spanish breakfast dishes like huevos rotos (“broken eggs”) in addition to popular brunch fare like eggs Benedict.

Reservations for Idol Wolf will open on July 25 on Open Table.