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Restaurant Remains Open to Provide Free Meals to Health Care Workers

Restauranteurs Phil and Tracy Czarnec have been serving food for two decades to loyal customers in the St. Louis Central West End neighborhood, home to the Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine campus. Although the COVID-19 stay at home order pushed them into temporarily closing their 25-year-old Wild Flower Restaurant, they decided to keep their second eatery, BBQ Saloon, open for curbside delivery.

While the takeout demand hasn’t really been sufficient to keep the restaurant open, Phil Czarnec says he found a more compelling reason to keep going:  the hospital’s health care workers just across the street. But Czarnec, a world champion powerlifter, believes the heroes in the coronavirus battle deserve free meals. So, he’s not charging any of them.

“The people at the hospital are taking care of the public. If they have to go to work and be brave, then I will die on my feet to feed them,” he says. “It’s just how I’m wired.”

BBQ Saloon, which will celebrate its fifth anniversary on May 15, specializes in unusual barbeque dishes, exotic meats and more than 500 different whiskeys. The restauranteurs’ website says that despite all the awards and accolades bestowed on Czarnec, “it’s more important to him that ‘you’ have been cared for as if you were the only one in the dining room. His philosophy is a fundamental one, it derives from the French verb restaurer, meaning to restore.”

And restore is what he aims to do, preparing anywhere from 25 to 75 meals a day, carrying them to the bridge that connects a hospital garage to the Center for Advanced Medicine, where he is met by health care workers from different departments with rolling carts.

The meals can cost as much as a $1,000 a day, so Czarnec has been asking organizations and friends to donate. Among them is the Park Central Development Corporation, which works to strengthen and attract investment that creates and maintains vibrant neighborhoods and commercial districts in the City of St. Louis.

“I’ve been trying to find benefactors to cover the cost of the food,” he says. “These hospital people have been working seven days a week for the last seven or eight weeks. This is the least I can do.”

If you would like to help the BBQ Saloon continue its great work contact Phil Czarnec at 314-833-6666.  You can also support our frontline care givers and COVID-19 research by donating to The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital at





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