Owning and managing a restaurant is not the easiest of jobs, but George Tompras has the secret.
His Kreis’ Restaurant has maintained its reputation as one of St. Louis’ finest eating establishments for the last 50 years.
Born in 1948 by a German family, the restaurant became Jack Kane’s in the 1960s, then the Tompras family bought it in 1983.
“Our family came over from Greece in 1910 and opened a place downtown in 1928 called Famous Tavern,” Tompras said. “We had the second liquor license after prohibition was recalled. We bought the Garavelli’s restaurants, and grew it to many Garavelli’s from the original on DeBaliviere. We had three downtown, one on Manchester, one on Chippewa, which is still there, one on Lindell and others. We had those for 11 years until 1981.”
Tompras said Kreis’ did get its reputation as a steak house until it became Jack Kane’s.
“Until then, it was a neighborhood restaurant like Schneithorst’s and Busch’s Grove,” he said. “When we had a fire in 1995, we had to rebuild the place, and we put a sign up counting down the days when we reopened, so it was a kind of advertising.”
When the restaurant reopened, it became less populated by locals and more by businessmen looking for a place to entertain customers or celebrate big deals.
“The locals could hardly get a seat anymore,” he said.
When St. Louis lost its airline hub, many restaurants felt the loss, Tompras said.
“It happened to the restaurants downtown, by the airport and in Clayton,” he said. “We didn't get businessmen coming to town or making deals and celebrating by going out for dinner, and that affected all of us.
"More and more chain restaurants have contributed to the competitive nature of the condition that St. Louis and other places are facing,” Tompras said.
Kreis,’ however, has maintained that edge of excellence and the reputation of being that “special place” to celebrate.
Kreis’ thrives on its reputation for great steak, prime rib and seafood, and this keeps people coming back.
“The value, the quality and cleanliness contributed to maintaining our reputation,” he said. “You can go to two restaurants, one with excellent food and average service, and one with average food and excellent service, and more people will go to the one with excellent service. Our waiters are professional waiters. This is their career.”
Kreis’ menu is a testament to steak and prime rib lovers.
He said their filet and prime rib are the most popular items with the bacon-wrapped 12-ounce filet and prime rib au jus at $34.95. Colorado lamb chops are also $34.95, and “The Odd Couple,” a south African lobster tail and 8-ounce filet cost $39.95. Tompras also gives a nod to the restaurant’s German heritage with a Vienna Schnitzel for $22.95. All entrées come with choice of vegetable.
This is the reason Kreis’ has maintained its place for almost 50 years. Hub or not.