Mall restaurants are a risky proposition. Shoppers who go to
malls are generally looking for familiar places to shop, and when
they turn into diners, they are most comfortable at familiar
Thus, when they see a place called Hanley’s in West County
Center or St. Clair Square, it’s not going to ring the same bells
as Houlihan’s or Friday’s or some place in a food court.
But Hanley’s owner Jeff Constance — a veteran of the J. Buck’s
spaces he took over, and a chef with an impressive New York and
Chicago background — has made a calculated gamble that the name can
become familiar quickly.
And by actively leveraging Hanley’s local ownership and emphasis
on locally purchased ingredients, he’s hoping to shape a different
opinion of what a mall restaurant should be.
We visited the West County location twice and would recommend
that mall denizens give the place (and the one in Metro East) a
shot. We saw families with very young kids, office get-togethers
and dates. The most festive atmosphere we encountered involved
sports fans who erupted when a certain adjoining state’s team got
knocked out of the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament.
People are also reading…
The menu is basic but relatively long, starting with classic
bar-food appetizers. The only slight deviation was the inclusion of
chipotle flavoring to spice up a couple of the offerings, including
fried chipotle shrimp ($7.99). The portion of about two dozen
shrimp was generous; the presentation of ungarnished shrimp around
a bowl of cheese dipping sauce was spartan. The chipotle added a
slight kick, but this was quite simple fried food.
On the other hand, prosciutto flatbread ($9.99) was a pleasant
surprise from both flavor and visual perspectives. An elongated
oval had still-crisp apples above the prosciutto and cheese,
providing an excellent balance of salty and sweet. We’d intended to
share it as an appetizer for two, but it easily could have
stretched to three.
Sausage and pepper pasta ($12.99) was punctuated with feta
cheese, adding sprinkles of white to a moderately sweet marinara
that was also contrasted by green lines of pesto.
House specialties were divided between steaks and chops on one
page and not-steaks-and-chops on another. Chili-roasted cod
($17.99) sounded unusual, although the peppers brought only a hint
of spice. That was probably a good thing, as much more would have
buried the cod flavor and interfered with bits of lobster in
“Famous” pork chops ($17.99) were nicely grilled and juicy,
served with a bit of a flourish with squeeze-bottled reduced
balsamic, making the base resemble a dessert plate.
We had a mixed reaction to a deep-fried brownie bite dessert
($5.99): I found the gooey interior appropriate, but my wife would
have preferred the batter to be firmer. Rice Krispie breading,
however, worked for both of us.
The beer list isn’t connoisseur level, but it has good depth for
this style of restaurant. It includes a house ale for $3 for a
20-ounce pour and bottles of Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale for $4.
Surprisingly, our service on a half-full weeknight was much more
indifferent than the frequent attention we received on a
near-capacity weekend — and on both nights, successive courses were
served before the prior ones were finished.
Sure, Fio’s La Fourchette started out its life as a mall
restaurant. Conversely, the Crazy Fish empire fell after a mall
expansion, a cautionary tale for local restaurateurs who would risk
the winds of traffic and rent in such a setting.
Constance seems to have read his audience very well, providing a
comfortable hangout for a diverse set of diners.
79 West County Center, Des Peres, 314-984-8900; 315 St. Clair
Square, Fairview Heights, 618-632-6500 • hanleysgt.com • Menu:
Steaks and chops; sandwiches and burgers; pasta, pizza and
flatbreads • Smoking: No • Kitchen hours: 11 a.m-10 p.m.
Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday