Located in St. Louis’s Arts District, Bulrush is a singular restaurant, both its cuisine and its mission. Chef and Missouri native Rob Connoley has dedicated his current career to helping define Ozark cuisine and educating diners one dish at a time.
Connoley spent a great amount of time exploring what he describes as the “food of his childhood” in regional church cookbooks. His search for information on Ozark cuisine would ultimately take him to a library in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was there that Connoley discovered a variety of weathered, archival documents that helped shape his vision for Bulrush.
Connoley settled on a very narrow group of historic foodways to inform the kind of cuisine his restaurant serves. His focus is food from before 1870, as it is prior to the Industrial Revolution and therefore a purer reflection of the region’s authentic taste. Through this lens, Connoley defines Ozark cuisine as a fusion of flavors from three distinct cultural groups: the Indigenous persons of the Osage tribe, European settlers moving West, and enslaved persons who were brought to the region.
To bring these flavors to life at Bulrush, Connoley has engaged the Osage community in Oklahoma and is actively reaching out to living descendants of enslaved persons in an effort to help tell the Ozark food story while avoiding engaging in cultural appropriation.
History and authenticity are at the heart of Bulrush’s take on Ozark cuisine. Bulrush only offers a tasting menu comprised of seven courses. Locally sourced ingredients, such as paw paw and acorns, are often featured and foraged in a manner that draws upon historic practices. There are no servers in the restaurant. Diners simply gather around the open kitchen while each course is prepared.
Bulrush is full of dichotomy. Familiar foods are reimagined, evoking a sense of both discovery and nostalgia. Diners come away not only with full bellies, but also a new perspective on the food and culture of a region that has often been overlooked.
Know Before You Go
Because of the limited number of seats, the restaurant seldom takes reservations for large parties.