Most restaurants have a signature aroma, but Room 38 Restaurant & Lounge has a signature energy. It pulsates, hums and shakes amid radiant lighting, soft modern music and smiling servers. This vibrancy spills out of the restaurant’s steel doors at 38 N. Eighth St., welcoming regulars and newcomers as they pass.
The restaurant’s tagline — “AFTERNOON. AFTERWORK. AFTERDARK.” — is an appropriate statement for a place that always features something delicious. Co-owner and manager Billy Giordano says the lively lounge and eatery is far from a traditional restaurant; the small space features a variety of seating options, including lounge seating, high-top bar seating and traditional dining tables. “It may be a small place, but everything we do is unique,” Giordano says.
Though it may be small, the restaurant features a big culinary concept: modern global cuisine. It’s an approach that takes inspiration from great food around the world and serves it with an American approach in mind.
“The idea when we opened Room 38 was that we didn’t want to categorize ourselves as specifically American, Italian or Mediterranean but as an eclectic and unique approach to all of the above,” Giordano says.
Chef and co-owner Jeremy Bowles crafts dishes that feature a variety of global influences, presented in a way that makes them approachable for a mid-Missouri customer. The Jalapeno Crab Rangoon Sticks served with a sweet Thai chili dipping sauce blend the heat of a traditional Mexican morsel with the crunch of a favorite Asian appetizer. For dessert, diners at Room 38 can indulge with a Gourmet Funnel Cake topped with Oreo cookie crumbles or enjoy the award-winning Gooey Butter Cake, drizzled in raspberry sauce and topped with fresh strawberries and powdered sugar.
Much of Room 38’s modern global menu features tapas and showcases sharing plates of smaller portions. The restaurant has never offered an entrée on its menu in the five years since it opened. Instead, guests are invited to order a couple of small plates to share and try a variety of options with their tablemates, creating a more social dining experience.
“Sharing plates has always been our concept,” Giordano says. “We’re pushing the concept of ordering multiple items off the menu for your group and having more of a social atmosphere, where people will be sharing, snacking and trying new things instead of being restricted to just one plate.”
To accompany their small plates, diners are encouraged to order one of Room 38’s specialty cocktails or wine by the glass. The restaurant’s drink menu features a variety of wines and lounge cocktails, including seven mojitos with fresh-squeezed lime juice and martinis with chocolate and fresh raspberry puree. Giordano, an experienced bartender, crafts all of the restaurant’s cocktail creations with certain principles in mind.
“I learned from a lot of really talented, experienced bartenders, and then grew over the years from what they taught me,” Giordano says. ”When we decided to open Room 38, I wanted to create a menu that coincided with Jeremy’s food menu and offer quality cocktails using only the best ingredients. For our cocktails, we use fresh herbs, freshly squeezed juices, interesting house-made syrups and quality liquors to make the perfect drink every time. It’s definitely an art.”
Giordano’s personal favorite concoction on his drink menu is the Turbo Mojito, which features Bacardi Coconut and Bacardi 151. A close second is the Blueberry Singe, a cocktail of dried blueberry and cayenne-infused honey syrup with blueberry vodka and a fresh citrus mix of fresh-squeezed orange juice, lemon and lime.
Well into weekend nights, Room 38 transforms. The energy amplifies as the music gets louder and the staff welcomes a stream of regulars to its late-night lounge and nightclub. The kitchen closes at 10 p.m., but the cocktails flow until close. From lunch to last call, Giordano and his staff work to provide quality customer service.
“Most importantly, we strive to impress,” Giordano says. “When people come in with no previous experience and don’t really understand our concept, they’re not really sure what kind of experience they’re going to have. More often than not when people leave, they seem to be surprised by how good our food is, the attentiveness of our staff and our overall atmosphere.
“With as much as we have going on in one small space, we just continue to push the limit and do the most with what we’ve got.”
A Taste Of Room 38
Room 38 hosts monthly tastings on the third Wednesday of every month. Previous tastings have featured wine, tequila, craft beer and whiskey. The restaurant hosts tastings to reach out and interact with its clients, says co-owner Billy Giordano.
“Our tastings are an opportunity for them to get involved and connected,” he says. “It’s also an opportunity to educate our clientele on new wines, whiskeys and scotches that are coming out. They get a little bit of education, while we provide a fun event for them to be entertained and share with their friends.”
To find out about upcoming tastings, visit www.room-38.com.
Room 38’s signature happy hour runs 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, featuring $4 glasses of wine and half-off sharing plates and drafts.