The Deliverance

The long road back to St. Louis took us slowly through Iowa’s never ending rows of corn and into Missouri’s endless rows of whatever green crop Missouri grows, at what felt like a snails pace on a wide open, empty road. Empty save for one state trooper who issued a speeding ticket and ensured that we proceeded at a glacial clip for the duration.

At some point, in some tiny town, just past the “pray to end abortion” signs and right before a collection of corn silos, we came across what a first seemed to be a mirage, but later revealed itself to truly be one of our fave Midwest fast fooderies, Taco Johns.


A departure from our normal order led to this cup of potato nuggets (meh)


along with a giant collection of delicious, mystery meat filled, crispy tacos


and an even bigger collection of Taco John’s hot sauce packets (not pictured, already tucked away in purses), for future culinary events.


From there, more slow driving, and then, a hankering for a cold beer, that led us to the subject of our title, the deliverance. Enter Palmyra, MO, where yelp led us to believe that there was a bar in this place:


The view from the dusty “parking lot”


As that Calaboose sign suggests, we tried to enter someone’s apartment, rather than a bar. That someone happened to be seated on the arm of his couch staring at the wall when we arrived. Kindly, instead of serial killing us, he informed us that the bar is now gone, and before he had a chance to invite us in for sweet tea, we peeled out of the Calaboose and searched for some sort of downtown, passing more than one police cruiser along the way (pretty sure they were summoned by a local(s), the second our rental SUV rolled off the freeway exit).

Palmyra has one main drag (block), more blight than functioning businesses, boarded up windows, literal rubble in the street. We spotted this bar


and headed in to an assault of cleaning product scent and staff wondering aloud what in the hell we wanted with a beer at 3PM (also, were we there to see Dave?). A quick sprint to the door revealed yet another police cruiser, creeping slowly by the bar, and with that, we were out of Palmyra, by the skin of our teeth to be sure. The retreat:


Back in the car, feeling vulnerable and in need of comfort, we dug into our Taco Johns potato and cheese burrito, which was confusing enough in my mouth, at the time, and even more confusing now that I am looking at it all blown up in a photo. Comfort, not granted.


Our next attempt would be more fruitful, over in ominously named, Hannibal Missouri, which is, in reality, an inviting, quaint piece of earth, where one Samuel Clemens spent his boyhood, a fact not easily forgotten if you spend any time there at all


An outdoor smoker beckoned us to the The Mark Twain brewery, a more familiar fit, with man bunned staff serving delicious craft beer, baseball on TV, and a solid selection of smoked meat bar snacks. If Palmyra was a glimpse into small town hell, Hannibal was a shining ray beaming straight from the heavens.


Our wings, smoked to a lovely shade of caramel, were imbued with the rich flavor that only a carcinogen filled outdoor smoker can deliver


As was the meat in this deliciously plump quesadilla


Respite complete, we inched our way slowly and deliberately back to St. Louis’s Central West End for a civilized meal at Taste.


We took residence at the bar, where we giddily perused their seriously meticulous cocktail menu. Suburban Iowa, this was not.


Behold the exquisite half-glass, chunky salt rim on The Grendel:


We were immediately rewarded for our culinary misfortunes of the past few days with one mouthful of this bacon fat fried corn bread


Our palates reawakened by this exhilaratingly fresh mix of sweet melon and berries, brightly dressed and flecked with spicy jalapeno coins


Also in the category of finding water after suffering an agonizing, near death by dehydration moment in the desert, an Octopus salad with cherry tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, and fresh corn


And a nod to home, where Banh Mi is blessedly abundant


And then, feeling properly restored from our recent stint with fly over state fuds, we dove back in with vigor, finally scratching that fried cheese curd itch. These, rightly plump and salty, with a nice light fry; the antithesis to the hard, chewy, dirty oil version we sampled at the Iowa State Fair.


And the grand finale of our savory selections, Taste’s extraordinary version of scrapple, with a perfectly cooked, plump egg draped over the top, garnished with a little hit of fried sage. The scrapple loaf inside was exceptionally moist and meaty, rich and dense, an absolute victory.


The dessert menu was too thoughtful to shrug off, and for some reason, the crew agreed to  indulge my love of all desserts fruit, with this exhilarating lemon tart, topped with sugared blueberries and herbs.


Of course, by this point in the meal, we’d exchanged plenty of chatter with the bartender, who gifted us these nightcap cordials.


Finally, blissfully, we had been delivered.


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