100 years gone, Tony Faust’s Oyster House still sets the bar high for St. Louis dining | St. Louis Public Radio

100 years gone, Tony Faust’s Oyster House still sets the bar high for St. Louis dining

Jun 29, 2016

It has been 100 years since a lavish downtown restaurant closed, signaling the end of an era in St. Louis.

On June 30, 1916, Tony Faust’s Oyster House and Restaurant gave its final last call, after four decades of serving as St. Louis’ social epicenter — for the rich and famous and working class alike. 

Faust’s restaurant at Broadway and Elm Street was renowned for extravagant meals, rooftop dining and being the first in St. Louis to offer electric lighting.

Notable regulars included beer baron Adolphus Busch, who lunched there almost daily, along with other leading businessmen, at what was known as the “millionaires table.” It was also a go-to destination for notable authors, athletes and dignitaries staying at the adjacent Southern Hotel, as well as actors and crowds from the nearby Olympic Theater.

The restaurant drew on the German roots of its proprietor, who was adored by many and regarded as one of the country’s first celebrity restaurateurs.

“I think one of the largest reasons for Tony Faust’s restaurant having such popularity is because of Tony Faust himself,” said local historian Elizabeth Terry, author of  Oysters to Angus: Three Generations of the St. Louis Faust Family.

“He was known far and wide as being kind and fun and jolly. He loved whimsy and everyone wanted to be his friend.”

The Gilded Age institution, however, succumbed to a familiar westward trend in the St. Louis area, said Andrew Wanko, public historian for the Missouri History Museum.

“St. Louis was a very dense city in the 1870s and 1880s when Faust’s was really at the peak of its popularity. By the nineteen-teens, you’ve got street cars, you’ve got suburban neighborhoods that are developing. People are moving farther away.” 

Wanko explained that Faust’s restaurant business declined as the city’s growth and wealth shifted toward Midtown and the Central West End.

“St. Louis was marching westward … towards what we now call Grand Center, where the Fox Theatre is – the Grand Avenue Theater District was becoming the new nightlife center.”

Terry said even after its closing, Faust’s restaurant has left a lasting impression on St. Louis.

“People are still talking about Tony Faust’s restaurant after it closed a hundred years ago. I can’t think of a place today that’s on the world map like Tony Faust’s restaurant was back in his time.”

The restaurant was demolished in 1933. The Stadium East parking garage near Ballpark Village now stands in its place.

Faust’s legacy lives on in many ways, including in Chesterfield where his descendants donated 200 acres of family land to create Faust Park

Follow Joseph Leahy on Twitter: @joemikeleahy