I don’t remember the first time I went to The Restaurant. That’s what we called the Bissell Mansion Restaurant and Dinner Theatre when I was growing up. If you’re unfamiliar with the establishment, it was a restaurant located inside what is considered the oldest, still-standing brick home in St. Louis. It was also owned by several members of my family as far back as I can remember.
The house was built in what is now North City in 1823 by Captain Lewis Bissell. My grandparents, along with my parents, aunts, uncles, and family friends turned it into a murder mystery participatory dinner theatre in the 1980’s. I spent so much time there, especially as a child. I remember running around the gigantic rooms with my cousins every Christmas. I remember those same cousins telling me the small door at the top of the steps (the door that led to the attic) is where the ghosts lived (the mansion was supposedly haunted). I remember playing hide and seek and sneaking down a secret second set of stairs that entered into the kitchen. It was the ultimate playground for a kid.
Sadly, as time went on and the city of St. Louis lost population, business suffered. My grandparents died. Family members sold their remaining shares to my aunt and uncle who kept the place running. Eventually they closed for the business lunch crowd and only operated as a dinner theatre. Then came COVID. Once COVID came, the place shut down complete. Now, it’s for sale.
Even though I haven’t been there in years, even before the pandemic, it’s a place I will forever miss. I will cherish the memories I have of it forever (except for that summer I worked there doing maintenance on an almost 200 year old building between 8th and 9th grade).