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A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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The remarkable Jewish story of the iconic Culpeppers and the famous ‘sign on the door’


Culpeppers was started by five Country Day friends in 1934 and progressed through multiple owners until Herb Glazier bought it in 1977. Click here to read the complete history of Culpeppers on Dr. Harley Hammerman’s website LostTable.com

Louis Herbert Glazier was born in St. Louis on August 3, 1928. For most of his life he went by the name Herb — never Louis.

Glazier grew up in University City. His father was a pharmacist. After graduating from University City High School in 1946, he briefly attended the University of Missouri, where he said he “majored in pool.”

Glazier was drafted into the Army and sent to Korea. Back in St. Louis, he graduated from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy and briefly worked as a pharmacist at the Venture Stores. Glazier wasn’t happy in his father’s profession and set his sights on the saloon business.

In 1958, Glazier purchased a half interest in the Golden Eagle Saloon in Gaslight Square. He subsequently opened the adjacent Opera House and ran both establishments until the mid-1960s.

In September of 1974, Herb Glazier partnered with Herb Balaban Carp to buy The Castlewood Bar at 4747 McPherson. It was at the Castlewood that Glazier met Mary McCabe, who was waitressing there. The two would live and work together for 15 years, before marrying in 1990.

In November of 1974, the two Herbs opened “Herbies’” in the Woman’s Exchange space at the northwest corner of Euclid and Maryland.

According to Adalaide Cash Balaban, the other Herb’s wife, Herbies’ was not a good fit for Glazier.

Glazier left Herbies’ and opened a more “pub-like” restaurant across the street.

In November of 1977, he and Mary McCabe resurrected Culpeppers in its former space — dropping the apostrophe.

When Culpeppers reopened, it was no longer a pizzeria; it was a bar with food. But its food was several notches above what traditionally came from bar kitchens.

Culpeppers’ original menu featured a dozen or so items — wings, salads, a soup of the day, and sandwiches. The early menus were hand-written by Glazier, including menu #1 on opening day.

Culpeppers was an “adults only” restaurant, or at least Glazier tried to make it so. He called his establishment “an adult drinking atmosphere” and said he didn’t want children dropping sugar packets all over the table tops and floors. He posted a hand-written sign on the door to that effect, which remained in place for 20 years.

Glazier and McCabe expanded Culpeppers’ menu into the 1980s, although it remained relatively small.

In addition to listing food and drink options, the simple printed menu also codified Glazier’s “rules” — no coffee warm-ups or refills, no separate checks, no orders to go, no split orders, no children under twelve, no personal checks.

While customers flocked to Culpeppers for its soups and sandwiches, the restaurant’s signature dish was its spicy chicken wings. They were on Glazier and McCabe’s menu from day one and became synonymous with the Central West End restaurant.

According to Joe Pollack’s March 31, 1983, Post-Dispatch article, chicken wings may have been introduced to St. Louis in 1975 at Jackie’s Place on Clayton Road. Marty Powers borrowed the recipe when he opened his restaurant in Clayton later that same year.

Herb Glazier said he got the idea from Powers, although he made a few changes to the sauce recipe.

They go back to the turn of the century in Buffalo. They used to be part of the free lunch that every bar had in those days. You know, spicy or salty food to make you drink more.

Glazier’s sauce recipe was simply Frank’s Hot Sauce and butter, although countless other concoctions were conjured up over the years by those wanting to duplicate the tangy sauce.

Culpeppers sold its chicken wings by the pound — 1,500 pounds were sold each week. The wings were cooked-to-order, tossed with the sauce in stainless steel bowls and served in china bowls. Paired with Culpeppers’ iceberg house salad and a cold can of beer, the combination was one of the most popular in town.

Norm Leve

In 1987, Norm Leve was a 47-year-old real estate executive. He was also a regular customer at Culpeppers.

“What happened was, I fell in love with their chicken wings and salad. I used to go down there and eat every Monday and Thursday. On Mondays, I would be joined by Alan Steinberg and, maybe, Michael Litwak. On Thursdays, they were always busy, so I ate there by myself,” said Leve.

“I had a standing joke with Herb Glazier, “Herb, as much as I eat here, I ought to own the place.” So, one Thursday I’m down there and Herb comes up to me and he says, “Are you serious about buying Culpeppers?” I said, “Herb, I’m in business to make a dollar. I love the restaurant. Show me your numbers.

“So, meantime, I talked to Alan Steinberg and Michael Litwak and Ben Phillips, who also used to join us on Mondays, and Jerry Raskas. I said, “Guys, I have a chance to buy Culpeppers for twice the yearly earnings. Is anybody else interested?” They all said yes,” said Leve.

Leve and his group formed a Missouri corporation called the Monday Club, named after their weekly lunch dates. On March 1, 1988, the Monday Club took over ownership of Culpeppers.

We were determined not to change anything. The only thing we did change, which met with a lot of resistance from the help, was we added decaffeinated coffee. They were beside themselves. “You mean we have to make two different kinds of coffee now?”

In his October 3, 1988, Post-Dispatch review, Joe Pollack mentioned a few additional changes but agreed that things had stayed pretty much the same.

“Herb Glaser and Mary McCabe aren’t involved anymore, but their imprint seems to have remained at Culpeppers, to the relief of all those who lunch there.

“The Central West End bar and soup-salad-sandwich spot is arguably the best in the city in that department, and we can be hopeful that the additions of chicken salad and whole wheat bread are as experimental and trendy as we’re going to get.

Culps, which introduced the so-called Buffalo chicken wing to the area, still serves hundreds of pounds of them every week. They’re crisp and fresh, and the sauce is excellent.”

Growing Culpeppers

While Leve loved Culpeppers’ chicken wings and salads, he and his partners purchased the restaurant as an investment.

“So, we were running for about a year — a year and a half — and we pretty much had our investment back by then. We decided we would open up in Westgate Shopping Center. That was number two Culpeppers,” said Leve. “That ran for quite a number of years. None of them were ever as successful as the Central West End. The Central West End had a certain ambiance, a certain flavor to it, that people loved. You couldn’t really duplicate the magic of Culpeppers Central West End.”

The Creve Coeur location in Westgate Centre opened in 1989.

Culpeppers Kirkwood opened in 1994. With the new restaurants came expanded menus. The Creve Coeur and Kirkwood locations offered a fried chicken special on Sunday nights. Highchairs appeared, along with a children’s menu for kids twelve and under.

In addition to their initial investment in the Central West End, The Monday Club would open eight more Culpeppers restaurants — Creve Coeur (1989), Kirkwood (1994), St. Charles (1999), Florissant (2000), Bridgeton (2001), Arnold (2001), O’Fallon (2004) and Wentzville (2009).

Closing Culpeppers

Good investors have an exit strategy. Leve and his group started closing restaurants in 2010.

“Many of them [the investors] were getting older. All of us were signed personally on the leases. So, as they started coming due, a lot of us said, you know something, for what we’re making here, I’m really not interested in signing personally anymore. It’s just not worth it,” said Leve.

So, the group closed six of the restaurants; leaving three open; O’Fallon, St. Charles, and Central West End.

Chris Olsen took over the Culpeppers franchise in May of 2015.

On December 4, 2019, Olsen shuttered the Central West End restaurant to make way for an expansion of the St. Louis Chess Club.

“The Central West End was never the same after the Michael Brown, Ferguson protests — the business never came back. When you look at that corner, it has changed significantly. The Chess Club basically got me out of the lease,” said Olsen.

On February 6, 2024, Olsen posted a notice on Culpeppers’ Facebook page stating, “After 25 years, Culpeppers St. Charles has closed its doors.”



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