Banners snapping in the arctic December breeze announce the Precinct Sports Bar & Grill as “the safest bar in town” and also the “home of the hottest wings.” The former claim, like the name of the restaurant itself, is a bid to become the hangout of choice of city cops once they move into their new headquarters just around the corner. Police-themed memorabilia shares space on the walls with framed Cardinals jerseys and flat-screen TVs.
The “hottest wings” boast refers to the Precinct’s Hot Pursuit sauce. Of course, there’s a challenge. Finish a pound of these Hot Pursuit wings in eight minutes, and your meal is free, and you get a T-shirt and your photo on the wall. Fail, and you’re on the hook for $15, which does include a draft beer, though I suspect what you’ll really want is a gallon of cold milk.
I didn’t attempt the Hot Pursuit challenge. I did order a pound of the Stop Resisting wings ($9), which are supposedly one step down from the Hot Pursuit variety, heat-wise, but still managed to tase my taste buds into a quivering, mewling wreck.
For most diners, however, the Precinct won’t be a cop bar or a place to indulge in culinary masochism. Instead, it will be the new restaurant from beloved former Cardinals outfielder Jim Edmonds. Edmonds and business partner Mark Winfield have opened the Precinct in the Downtown West building that formerly housed Jim Edmonds 15 Steakhouse.
(In fact, the Precinct occupies only one part of the former 15 building. The rest is dedicated to special events. Edmonds and Winfield are also planning to open a new higher-end restaurant in Clayton next year.)
Andrew Shrensker, who was the executive chef at 15 at the time it closed and who will also oversee Edmonds and Winfield’s new Clayton venture, put together the Precinct’s menu. For the most part, it follows the sports-bar boilerplate: burgers, wings and sandwiches. A few dishes veer slightly from this course. These, coincidentally enough, were the dishes I most enjoyed.
The chicken and waffle sandwich ($9) hides two pieces of fried boneless chicken breast between thick waffle wedges drizzled with maple syrup and a thin, vinegary hot sauce. The chicken is crisp and juicy, the waffle is airy and butter-sweet, and even though — or is it because? — you can’t pick up the sandwich without making a mess, it’s a fun dish.
The shrimp po’ boy ($10) overloads a baguette with fried baby shrimp, lettuce, tomato, onion and banana pepper. The baguette could be crustier, but the shrimp, while tiny, are quite plump and fried crisp. The banana peppers and mayonnaise spiked with Sriracha sauce provide a one-two punch of heat.
The more conventional fare disappointed. A basic burger ($10) arrived a few ticks above my desired medium-rare temperature. Worse, the patty tasted far too strongly of char. The Italian beef sandwich ($8.50) promised spicy braised beef on the menu, but the bits of meat that spilled out of my sandwich were dry. The only spice came from banana peppers.
Sides for these sandwiches include decent french fries (very crisp, if not especially flavorful) and onion rings (ditto). If fried relatively recently, the housemade potato chips are the best bet. Those that accompanied my shrimp po’ boy, on the other hand, were room temperature and lacked snap.
The menu also includes four entrees, which are available only after 4 p.m. The potato chips in my order of fish and chips ($12) were freshly fried and excellent, but the piece of fried cod was much too thin. I couldn’t taste the fish within its thick jacket of batter. A pork steak ($13) — a boneless “flat iron” or blade cut — was very juicy, but its natural flavors were overwhelmed by generic blackening seasoning.
The kitchen takes no chances with its appetizers, and for mindless snacking while you quaff a beer or two, you could do worse than soft pretzel sticks ($8) dipped into a thick, sharp beer-cheese sauce, or good ol’ fried cheese sticks ($7) with marinara sauce.
Toasted ravioli filled with chicken in buffalo sauce ($7) make for a nice change of pace from the usual T-rav — though these, too, are available.
The safest bar in town? It’s a contender.
What The Precinct, 1900 Locust Street • One and a half stars out of four • More info 314-588-8899; theprecinctstl.com • Menu Traditional sports bar-and-grill fare • Hours Lunch and dinner daily, closed Sunday