The food writer of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch named his favorite “The Ten Best New Restaurants of 2008” in an article last week. By my count, nine of the ten new stars were in the city limits, confirming my belief that the City not only has the region’s largest stock of great restaurants of all types, but also that we are a test kitchen for the most creative chefs and restaurant professionals.The State of Missouri sent along a note that the minimum wage had automatically risen to $7.05 an hour from $6.65. This adjustment also increased the minimum wage for tipped employees, such as those who work at restaurants. An article from an outstate newspaper included quotes from several restaurant owners, grumbling that the higher wages would require them to raise prices and hurt business. As the son of a restaurant owner, I understand their concern. The rough economy is making of plenty of diners more price conscious than usual. However, it is also true (and more compelling to me) that making ends meet at $6.65 an hour is a virtual impossibility. I am glad to see the rate rise.A reader of this blog wrote in to ask that I repeat my position on smoke-free restaurants in the City. That’s fair enough. I do not smoke. I prefer dining in smoke-free restaurants. I wish every restaurant in the City were smoke-free by its own choice. With that said, I would support a national, statewide or City/county policy that restricted smoke in restaurants. I would not support a local ordinance that put restaurants in the 62 square mile area of the City at a financial disadvantage to their unrestricted competitors in St. Louis county by requiring that only City restaurants install expensive air-handling technologies or banning smoking.
Restaurants seemed to the common theme of several items on my desk on Saturday. Restaurants represent a significant part of the City’s employment and tax bases — and of our fun and cultural diversity bases.