Steve Kolb (now VanderKolb) and Tom Galbraith met in kindergarten at Wolf Branch School in Swansea.
They both graduated in 1988 from Belleville East.
Now, they own Felix’s Pizza Pub in the Dogtown neighborhood of St. Louis with chef Andy Roesch.
“We’ve been friends for 41 years,” said Steve, 46. “Pretty crazy.”
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So is the popularily of their pizza, a combination of homemade crust, mozzarella cheese and generous toppings.
“Our pizza came about because of Andy,” said Steve. “He’s an incredible chef.”
“He worked for us back in the day when we were a fancy-schmancy place,” said Tom. “In 2004, he left and went to chef school (Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I.).”
When he came back, Felix’s went in a new direction, something casual to pair with beer.
“I told him we’d like to do pizza,” said Steve.
“It was trial and error (perfecting the dough recipe),” said Andy, 28. “I felt like a mad scientist back then. That was a teach-myself kind of deal.”
He created something really incredible. Most compare it to New York-style, but it’s a thinner crust with a nice chew and fresh toppings from The Hill and local purveyers.
Steve VanderKolb on Andy Roesch’s pizza
“He created something really incredible,” said Steve. “Most compare it to New York-style, but it’s a thinner crust with a nice chew and fresh toppings from The Hill and local purveyers.”
The most popular pie is The Dogtown ($15.95 for a 12-inch; $24.95 for an 18-inch), topped with Italian sausage, Volpi pepperoni and pepper bacon.
Going for a new taste sensation? Try the Baby Back Pie ($29.95 for an 18-incher). A half slab of ribs is shredded on top along with green onion, barbecue sauce and spicy rib rub. It’s served with a red curry slaw and three ribs in the center.
Pizzas come in two sizes, 12-inch and 18-inch, averaging $16 to $22. Besides classic and signature pizzas, Felix serves sandwiches, salads and happy-hour specials.
But the pint and a slice is Felix’s signature crowd pleaser. Choose from 22 local craft beers and a giant one-topping slice for $5.95.
“It’s been a really good deal for us and our customers,” said Steve. “We have that all the time.”
41 Years the owners have known each other
150 People can be seated inside, another 50 on patio
Tom and Steve moved to St. Louis when they were 20. Steve worked various restaurant and other jobs.
“When I was 34, I had enough money to start a restaurant.”
Why a restaurant?
“I always liked throwing parties and having the right amount of food and drinks, putting a smile on everybody’s face,” said Steve. “Everybody had a good time. That’s the reason I got into the business ... We felt like if you do it right, and you can find your niche, you can succeed.”
They chose the Dogtown location because Steve was familiar with the neighborhood. They kept the name Felix’s, the first name of the former owner’s father.
They were located across the street for 11 years, then moved a year ago into larger quarters that seat 150, with an additional 50 seats when they open the patio.
The best part of moving to a new location is that it opened it up to families. There’s a fireplace, highchairs. We have birthday parties, wedding showers, rehearsals, office parties. It’s for everyone. It’s a nice atmosphere.
Steve VanderKolb on why Felix’s moved
“The best part of moving to a new location is that it opened it up to families,” said Steve. “There’s a fireplace, highchairs. We have birthday parties, wedding showers, rehearsals, office parties. It’s for everyone. It’s a nice atmosphere.”
Big screen TVs are tuned to sports. Eclectic art fills the walls. A wall mural depicts neighborhood places. Bicycles hang from walls. Bike wheels hanging from ceilings.
“A lot of our friends bike,” said Steve. “I bike. I rode a thousand miles from Colorado to St. Louis for Make-A-Wish. Forest Park is near here. A neat thing to do after work is to haul off and ride, then come in here and have some pizza.
“We get a lot of Zoo people, a lot of Muny people and Shakespeare in the Park. A lot of midtown traffic, people going to Blues games, Cardinals games.”
Alexandra and Norman Davis, of St. Louis, shared a slice of pizza, Thai wings and toasted ravioli for lunch.
“I heard about Felix’s through my car insurance company,” said Alexandra, 28, who works in the health care field. “For signing up with them, they gave me a gift card for here. That was the first time I came here. I loved the food, then came back.”
Friends Isabel Acevedo and Nikki Brewer sat at a corner table with their children, Ana Acevedo, 2, and Chloe Brewer, 10 months.
Felix was the name of the former owner’s father.
“We live in neighborhood and come here a lot,” said Isabel. “The pizza is the best in St. Louis. We like the pint and the slice. You can’t beat the price.”
“And they don’t mind cleaning up Cheerios,” said Nikki, who ordered waffle fries with queso dip.
“Felix’s is very supportive of the community, of the the neighborhood association,” said Isabel. “They do fundraisers for people. I feel good coming here knowing they will give back.”
Co-owner Steve has another reason to be happy about his restaurant.
“I married Crystal Vanderford last fall,” he said. “I met her here. She moved four doors up the street.”
He changed his name for her.
“We were sitting around one night. I came up with VanderKolb,” said Steve. “She loved it. She started bugging me about it. I officially changed my name. I got her that as a wedding present. We’re the VanderKolbs. We are the only ones we know of in the world.”
If you go:
- What: Felix Pizza and Pub
- Where: 6401 Clayton Ave., in the Dogtown neighborhood of St. Louis, just a few blocks south of Forest Park
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; noon to 1:30 a.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to midnight Sundays
- Wheelchair accessible: Yes
- Contact: 314-645-6565 or email@example.com
On the menu
- Felix’s Trashed Wings — Twice fried and crispy, smothered in buffalo sauce, drizzled with jalapeno ranch or sweet and spicy Thai Chili. One pound, $7.95; 3 pounds, $20.95.
- Cheesy Caprese — Fresh mozzarella and tomato slices atop roasted garlic bread, drizzled with balsamic glaze and fresh basil, $7.95
- Art Hill Pizza — Sliced meatballs, basil, green pepper, ricotta cheese. $15.95 for 12-inch; $22.95 for 18-inch
- Mr. Aleman Pizza — Hamburger, pepper bacon, red onion, jalapeno peppers. $15.95 for 12-inch; $22.95 for 18-inch
- Lil Madre sandwich — Italian beef with pepperoncini, crushed red pepper, provel cheese, and au jus. Served with curry coleslaw or seasoned waffle fries.
- Garden salad — Romaine with tomatoes, red onions, mozzarella and toast points, $4.95
- Tacos — $3.50 each or choose three for $8.95. Choices are Chicken Tacos with red curry coconut cream with lettuce, tomato, feta, green onion, jalapeno sauce; Botanical, with sautéed spinach, Kalamata olives, bell peppers, artichokes, red onions, mushrooms, tomato, feta cheese on a baguette drizzled with red wine vinaigrette; Fish, battered and fried whitefish with zesty slaw and green onions; or Carnitas, braised pork with fresh cilantro and chipotle crème.