A new restaurant called Eatery 253 has opened in Festus.
The restaurant operates out of the basement at the American Legion Post 253 at 849 American Legion Drive, but it is open to the public.
“Anyone who is not a member of the American Legion can come in the door at the bottom floor. People can also come in from upstairs, and they (post members) will direct them down here. They just have to be buzzed in upstairs.”
Eatery 253 chef Tim O’Brien said the restaurant prides itself on the large portions it serves.
“It’s American fare,” he said. “None of the food is small. It’s big portions.”
The 253 BLT, for example, is made with a half-pound of bacon, O’Brien said.
He expects customers to fall in love with his smash burgers.
“We have, by far, the best burgers,” O’Brien said. “We have a signature burger; I’d call it a novelty burger, the Big Texan Burger. If everything stays together, it’s probably 10 inches tall.”
The Big Texan Burger is made with two smash burger patties, cheddar cheese, pulled pork, coleslaw, onion rings and barbecue sauce.
“We also sell very large portions of nachos and tochos,” O’Brien said. “Tochos are like nachos, but made with tater tots instead of tortilla chips.”
The Eatery 253 menu also includes snacks, salads and soup, sandwiches, pasta and plate meals with steak, pork chops, chicken and fish.
The restaurant offers indoor dining and carryout service, and the Door Dash delivery is available.
O’Brien, 46, and his wife, Monica, 41, currently are operating the restaurant on behalf of Post 253, but they will become owners of the business in February.
“It’s currently the American Legion’s restaurant. We’ve been open about two weeks,” O’Brien said Jan. 12. “We are operating it for the American Legion. We have a contract where we take it over sometime in mid to late February.
He said the menu will remain the same when he and his wife take over ownership.
“I changed (what had been offered by the American Legion) from frozen burgers and fries to a full-fledged restaurant menu,” O’Brien said.
The American Legion is handling all beverage sales in the building, including soft drinks and liquor.
“The Legion will offer alcoholic drinks,” O’Brien said. “It’s not my part of the operation.”
Post 253 Commander Ted McCart said he is thrilled with the arrangement.
“It’s both a fundraising effort for the post and a service for the members,” McCart said. “He’ll be leasing our kitchen from us. Part of the contract is sharing the profits. We have an equitable partnership. Having catering here is a service to our members and the community.”
McCart acknowledged the arrangement is unusual for an American Legion.
“Every Legion is a little different in their facilities,” he said. “Having a public restaurant is different.”
McCart said he gives a thumbs-up to the food he has eaten at Eatery 253.
“I have tried the food and it’s a treat for the eyes. It’s a treat for the palate,” McCart said. “The service is really good.”
The section of the post where the Eatery 253 restaurant is housed is smoke-free, O’Brien said.
“If the Legion were to rent out this hall, we will stay open,” he said.
In that situation, restaurant customers would be served in another hall, O'Brien added.
He said Eatery 253 is operating with a small staff right now, but he would like to add more employees.
“We’re trying to hire more,” he said.
For more information, call Eatery 253 at 636-933-3981 or visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Eatery 253 is open 11 a.m.. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.