By AMY ARMOUR
In a quest to save money for his first car, Scott Ellinger worked as a dishwater in a local restaurant at the age of 15. That first job ended up leading him into the restaurant industry and a lifelong career.
The owner and executive chef of The Brass Rail in O’Fallon, Ellinger worked his way up through restaurants including Buffalo Wild Wings, J. Alexanders and Dave & Buster’s. Ellinger said that experience ultimately trained him for his dream job – to run his own restaurant.
Ellinger’s dream was realized in February 2012 when he opened The Brass Rail at 4601 Hwy. K in O’Fallon. Since opening, the restaurant has expanded four times, adding an on-site butcher shop, indoor/outdoor atrium and outdoor patio, and expanding the overall restaurant.
All of the steaks and seafood at The Brass Rail are hand cut. The salad dressing is fresh and handmade, and all of the soups are made from scratch.
“Everything on the menu is made to order when it’s ordered, so we take a lot of special requests,” said Ellinger. “We have a pretty extensive gluten-free menu, so we can really cater to a lot of different types of people.”
At its heart, The Brass Rail is a steakhouse and sells hundreds of pounds of steak each week – but the most popular item on the menu is the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich.
“We’re [also] known for our crab cakes,” said Ellinger, who cooked in Baltimore for two years. “They are legit Maryland crab cakes that we feel are the best ones you can get around here.”
The Smoked Chicken Wings are the current house signature item – and Ellinger said they’re hard to keep in stock.
“Everyone out there right now has their standard fried wings and we are doing ours very differently [and] going through incredible amounts of them,” Ellinger said. “It’s a very popular item.”
Ellinger said he recommends that new diners check out any of the menu items containing the prime sirloin – whether it’s a steak filet, a steak quesadilla or a steak sandwich.
“All of those items are made with prime sirloin, which really is a differentiator from other places where you may not get such high quality,” Ellinger said. “We really try and tailor the menu so you can spend $7 or $40 and be really happy with what you get.”
Matching the quality of the food is the exceptional customer service.
“We have attracted a team of people who genuinely care about giving great service. We seem to attract and retain people who are conscientious and want to do a good job for our guests, and that makes a huge difference,” Ellinger said.
The restaurant takes its service to another level each Thanksgiving by giving back to the community. In 2014, Ellinger decided to provide 100 needy people with a free Thanksgiving dinner. Run completely with a volunteer staff of chefs and servers from numerous restaurants, The Brass Rail fed 1,300 people in 2015.
“I wanted to give back. It started small, but it’s exploded,” said Ellinger, who served more than 3,100 meals on Thanksgiving in 2016. He said people have already started asking about volunteering for 2017.
The Brass Rail also caters events on- and off-site – from birthday parties and retirement parties to corporate events and weddings. The 6,500-square-foot restaurant has four private rooms available for parties between 16 to 80 people.
The restaurant’s on-site butcher shop, the TBR Prime Steak Market, features steaks, burgers, ribs, homemade soups, sides and fresh produce. The market even has flavored smoking chips available for purchase.
“There are very few places out there where you can buy something of this quality and take it home to cook out if you feel like it,” said Ellinger. “Our goal is to provide a one-stop shop for a cookout without having to go to the grocery store.
The Brass Rail
4601 Hwy. K • O’Fallon • www.brassrail1.com • (636) 329-1349
Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight, Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday