To St. Louis Cardinals fans, Mike Shannon is a local institution as both a radio broadcaster of Cardinals games as well as the namesake of one of the city’s best-known fine-dining establishments. Since it opened in 1986, Mike Shannon’s Steakhouse and Seafood has been a destination for locals and visitors looking to mark a special occasion and admire the retired major leaguer’s one-of-a-kind collection of baseball memorabilia.
Earlier this year, Shannon’s family extended the restaurant brand into a new location and new concept meant to attract diners for not just special visits, but regular meals or even just a drink or two. Mike Shannon’s Grill, which opened in March in Edwardsville, Ill., maintains its sister location’s reputation for high-quality food in a more casual atmosphere.
“This is a more casual version of what we do in St. Louis,” says co-owner Gary VanMatre, son of Pat Shannon-VanMatre, Mike Shannon’s daughter, who owns both locations. “We still serve steak and seafood, but also have burgers and sandwiches. This is more a place you can go a few times a week rather than once a month or a few times a year.”
Like the St. Louis location, Mike Shannon’s Grill offers a unique atmosphere highlighted by memorabilia such as baseballs autographed by all-time legends of the sport including Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Johnny Bench and Bob Gibson. The 5,000-square-foot restaurant has a vintage athletic club look accented with modern industrial design elements and features leather booths, raised-wood paneling, repurposed gym lights and 18 flat-screen televisions. The venue includes a dining room, a bar area and an outdoor patio area with a fire pit.
“The experience holds the same as in our original location, only presented in a different way,” Gary VanMatre says. “We want to offer people a place where they can come in and see some memorabilia and other things they won’t see anywhere else, but also get great food and service.
“We want to be a place where people can leave happier than they were when they came in,” he adds.
In addition to the food and the atmosphere of both locations, one major attraction for diners is Shannon himself. “A lot of what sets us apart has to do with Mike, his name and the memorabilia he’s collected,” VanMatre says. “There’s a lot of things here you just couldn’t see anywhere else.”
Born and raised in St. Louis, Shannon began his big-league career with the Cardinals in 1962. He became the team’s regular right fielder two years later, but eventually shifted to third base in 1967. He played in three World Series: 1964 against the New York Yankees, 1967 against the Boston Red Sox and 1968 against the Detroit Tigers.
In 1970, Shannon contracted nephritis, a rare kidney disease, which ended his playing career. He joined the team’s promotional staff the following year and was soon moved to the Cardinals’ radio booth, where he continues to be heard today.
In his 36 seasons as a member of the team’s radio and TV broadcast teams, Shannon has been a part of five Cardinals World Series seasons (1982, 1985, 1987, 2004 and 2006), and he received an Emmy award for his work on Cardinal broadcasts in 1985. In 1999, he was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
Shannon has become known for his baseball aphorisms affectionately called “Shannonisms.” For instance, when opposing pitchers are being victimized by a Cardinals batter, Shannon will simply shrug and say, “You can’t sneak the sun past the rooster.” Other times, he’ll quietly note, “A hit up the middle right now would be like a nice ham sandwich and a cold, frosty one” – evidence that his admiration of food often mirrors his love of the game.
Shannon and his family maintain close ties to the community and regularly participate in local business and charity organizations including a brain tumor research fund established in honor of his late wife Judy, VanMatre says.
Safe at Home
Located just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Edwardsville is an ideal location for the new restaurant. The suburb is close to Mike Shannon’s heart, as he has owned a home there for 30 years, VanMatre says.
Shannon’s family first started planning a second location shortly after Pat Shannon VanMatre moved Mike Shannon’s Steakhouse and Seafood from its original location to a site across the street from Busch Stadium in 2006.
“Our location in downtown St. Louis is fantastic for what we do with fine dining, but as we looked to expand, we wanted to put a new location somewhere where people would want to see us once or twice a week,” Gary VanMatre adds. “We had been looking for five or six years before we finally found a place and people we wanted to work with who owned a development we liked.”
Although the family is not ruling out potential future locations, it is focusing its efforts on the new site for the time being. “We always have our eyes and ears open, but right now we’re very happy with what we have, and we want to concentrate on making it the best we can,” VanMatre says.