The Post-Dispatch published the
sixth annual edition of the STL 100 on March 8, 2020. Two weeks later, I wondered whether there would be a seventh. It hardly mattered at the time.
Two years later, the STL 100 returns not to celebrate the end of the pandemic but to acknowledge the hard work these restaurants — and so many others — have done since then: to pivot, to police mask mandates, to pivot back, to open for the first time or just to open today.
In that spirit, this year’s STL 100 doesn’t feature a separate ranking of the Top 25 restaurants. Each establishment has been returning at its own pace. Each diner, too, from those already splurging on multiple courses in a packed dining room to those who would rather grab takeout or curbside pickup to bring home to their families.
Whoever you are, whatever your comfort level, welcome back. Here are a few places I think you might like.
Ian Froeb, Post-Dispatch restaurant critic Tasting notes
• The information in this guide is current as of April 2022, and we will make updates as needed. However, restaurant operations can be inconsistent in the best of times. For the most up-to-date information, contact the restaurant directly.
• Restaurants must have opened in some form by Dec. 31, 2021, to be eligible for inclusion. Restaurants returning from 2020 or an earlier edition of the STL 100 have been revisited, most within two months before publication.
• Pricing information is an estimation based on what an average diner would spend given a restaurant’s format:
$ ($20 and under), $$ ($20-$40), $$$ ($40-$60), $$$$ ($60 and up).
• Restaurants are listed alphabetically. To view an index by cuisine,
. click here
Ian Froeb's STL 100: From Acero to Whisk, the best restaurants of 2022
Acero • Italian, Tasting Menu
St. Louis hadn’t seen an Italian restaurant like Acero when it opened in 2007. Fifteen years later, while numerous excellent Italian restaurants have opened in the meantime, Acero still feels unique. Credit chef and owner Jim Fiala, whose vision of consistent excellence distinguishes both Acero and its older Clayton sibling, the Crossing. Sure, the thrilling tableside polenta presentation from Acero’s early days is long gone, but executive chef Andy Hirstein and his team have kept the menu both familiar and fresh, from the signature, now iconic
egg ravioli to a seemingly straightforward mound of spaghetti chitarra Amatriciana that never fails to be revelatory in its simplicity. Another Fiala hallmark: The wine list is deep, and even the by-the-glass selection (or here, to be precise, by-the-quartino) yields unexpected pleasures. Inevitably, the ripple effects of the past two years have increased the cost of Acero’s four-course dinner. Nevertheless, at $58 per person, it is the smartest way to experience this essential restaurant.
📍 Where 7266 Manchester Road, Maplewood • More info 314-644-1790; acero-stl.com • Hours Dinner Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday) • Pricing $$$$
Akar • C ontemporary, Malaysian
I have been writing about Bernie Lee’s cooking for more than a decade now, beginning with his Delmar Loop sushi restaurant and izakaya Hiro, but I suspect I have completed only the opening chapters. Lee followed his original Hiro with the more expansive — and more compelling — Hiro Asian Kitchen in downtown west. The menu there moved with confidence among the cuisines of Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam, China and Thailand, but even that five-time STL 100 honoree was merely a prologue to Akar, which Lee debuted in 2019 in Clayton. Here, on a more intimate scale (reservations are a must), his cooking is more personal and more playful, from the swanky Rangoon “ravioli” with lobster that outshine every other attempt to upscale crab Rangoon or T-ravs to hearty beef short ribs with a sambal demi-glace. New dishes like those on a recent visit — tamarind-glazed pork ribs with mint and Fresno chiles over crisp rice noodles and pork-belly lechon in adobo sauce with garlic rice — will bring me back to write even more about Lee.
📍 Where 7641 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton • More info 314-553-9914; akarstl.com • Hours Dinner Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $$$
Annie Gunn's • Contemporary, Steakhouse
No one category encapsulates the cooking of Lou Rook III at Annie Gunn’s in Chesterfield, though steakhouse isn’t a bad place to start. Over the years, I’ve eaten both a tremendous USDA prime rib-eye and, more recently, a modestly portioned, though no less luxurious lunch preparation of bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin. Of course, on that same recent visit, I also ate wings — fried crisp and with a peppery edge that made a side dish of Buffalo sauce, though welcome, unnecessary. I usually place Annie Gunn’s under the vast umbrella of a “contemporary” restaurant, equally comfortable with burgers and sandwiches as it is with oysters and foie gras, but what really describes Thom and Jane Sehnert’s restaurant is timeless, an ambiance pitched perfectly between neighborhood pub and classic chophouse. As ever, wine director Glenn Bardgett’s list is its own reason to visit, deep and wide in its range of bottles, with a generous by-the-glass and half-bottle selection as well.
📍 Where 16806 Chesterfield Airport Road, Chesterfield • More info 636-532-7684; anniegunns.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $$$-$$$$
Asador Del Sur
Asador Del Sur • Ecuadorian, Seafood, South American, Steakhouse, Uruguayan
Married couple Maria Giamportone and Daniel Gonzalez opened Asador del Sur in August 2020 after moving to St. Louis from Miami, and when their Maplewood restaurant is bustling — cocktail shakers rattling, sizzling steaks whisked through the narrow dining room — it can evoke the heat and buzz of their prior home. Giamportone is originally from Ecuador, while Gonzalez is a native of Uruguay, and Asador del Sur’s menu breezes between these two countries and through South America. Coarse salt is the only seasoning Gonzalez favors when he grills both a whopping bone-in rib-eye and thinly sliced Uruguayan-style beef short ribs (tira de asado), and neither precisely char-marked cut needs anything more than that and a side of the garlicky house chimichurri. The kitchen excels at meats beyond Asador del Sur’s signature steaks (pork carnitas in garlic mojo, lamb sausage on a lemongrass stick) and at seafood as well, from a delicate piece of pan-seared mahi-mahi with salsa criolla to the twice-fried patacones rellenos with shrimp enlivened by bird’s eye chiles.
📍 Where 7322 Manchester Road, Maplewood • More info 314-802-8587; asadordelsur.com • Hours Dinner Monday and Wednesday-Sunday, lunch Wednesday-Sunday, brunch Saturday-Sunday (closed Tuesday) • Pricing $$$-$$$$
Balkan Treat Box
Balkan Treat Box • Balkan, Bosnian, Mediterranean
I can’t think of anything more a reasonable diner could expect from Balkan Treat Box. Loryn and Edo Nalic’s Webster Groves restaurant features acclaimed food, the visual and olfactory pleasures of the open kitchen’s wood-fired hearth, and the convenience and affordability of a counter-service operation. Heck, the couple can even claim a meet-cute story: They met when Loryn worked for a food-service company and paid a sales call to the restaurant where Edo was employed. (She made the sale.) First-time diners should begin with what put Balkan Treat Box’s food truck on the map in 2017: plump cevapi nestled in freshly baked somun and the Turkish flatbread pide. Veterans will debate the finer points of the pide versus the thinner, rolled Turkish flatbread lahmacun. They will celebrate the apricot-pomegranate molasses that kisses the patlidzan (wood-fired eggplant inside somun). They will keep an eye out for specials like the kumru or collaborations with other restaurants. The only thing more you can truly ask of Balkan Treat Box is more Balkan Treat Box.
📍 Where 8103 Big Bend Boulevard, Webster Groves • More info 314-733-5700; balkantreatbox.com • Hours 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (or until sold out) Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday) • Pricing $-$$
The Banh Mi Shop
The Banh Mi Shop • Sandwiches, Vietnamese
The Banh Mi Shop gives the Vietnamese sandwich a St. Louis twist. Owner Jimmy Trinh didn’t want the baguette cradling his banh mi to be so sharply crackling that it wrecked your palate. As he told me in a 2020 interview, he worked with Peter Vitale of Vitale’s Bakery on the Hill to come up with an “Italian-French-Vietnamese-fusion, easier-on-the-roof-of-your-mouth banh mi.” Trinh features a pork-intensive banh mi dac biet — called the Saigon Classic here — with pork-liver pate, pork roll, head cheese and ham, but he can go both lighter and brighter with lemongrass chicken or tofu or heavier with grilled beef. Growing up in the United States after emigrating with his family from Vietnam, Trinh wasn’t a banh mi aficionado. (He just wanted a bologna sandwich.) Visiting Vietnam after high school, he said, “I pretty much ate every street food there was, but I kept going back to the banh mi.” The Banh Mi Shop debuted in the Delmar Loop mere weeks before the pandemic, but his dedication to the sandwich has persevered.
📍 Where 567 Melville Avenue, University City • More info 314-390-2836; thebanhmishopstl.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday, lunch Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $
Beast Craft BBQ Co., Beast Butcher & Block, Beast Southern Kitchen & BBQ
Beast Craft BBQ Co., Beast Butcher & Block, Beast Southern Kitchen & BBQ • Barbecue, Contemporary, Southern
Beast owner and pitmaster David Sandusky has hustled throughout the pandemic. He launched a ghost kitchen that featured some of the best chicken wings I’ve eaten. For a time, he pivoted his Grove location from its usual barbecue menu to sandwiches, including a phenomenal take on Baltimore-style pit beef. He appeared on Food Network’s “BBQ Brawl” competition and, after a stumbling beginning, made it to the finale. That same spirit has animated Beast since Sandusky and his wife, Meggan, opened the original Belleville location in 2014, and it has brought their signature pork steak, beef brisket, and other top-notch meats and sides to the head of St. Louis’ barbecue class, where it remains. Before the pandemic, they introduced an ambitious live-fire cooking program at the Grove Beast — look for its return from pandemic hiatus soon — and in late 2020, they debuted a third Beast in Columbia, Illinois, where you can order boudin balls, excellent fried chicken and more Southern fare alongside your barbecue.
📍 Where Beast Craft BBQ Co., 20 South Belt West, Belleville • More info 618-257-9000; beastcraftbbq.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily • Pricing $-$$ 📍 Where Beast Butcher & Block, 4156 Manchester Avenue • More info 314-944-6003; beastbbqstl.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $-$$
📍 Where Beast Southern Kitchen & BBQ, 1280 Columbia Center, Columbia, Illinois • More info 618-719-2384; beastsouthern.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily • Pricing $-$$
The Bellwether • Brunch, Contemporary
Be Polite Hospitality — partners Brian Schmitz, Jonathan Schoen and Travis Hebrank, with executive chef Thomas Futrell — accelerated the growth of their restaurant group in 2021 with three separate kitchens at the new Food Hall at City Foundry: Sub Division Sandwich Co., which began as a pandemic pivot of their original Lafayette Square restaurant Polite Society; the breakfast-focused Good Day; and the burger spot Intergalactic. Through this flurry of activity, the group’s jewel remains its second restaurant, the Bellwether, which opened in 2019 in the former City Hospital power plant building. Here Futrell has found a groove of modern technique (sous-vide pork steak with compressed red cabbage) and global ingredients (togarashi-seasoned fries, the signature appetizer). He doesn’t neglect the classics, though, like a recent take on coq au vin in a red-wine braise heady with mushroom and bacon over a parsnip puree. These days, the Bellwether is that rare, welcome pleasure: a grown-up, date-night restaurant.
📍 Where 1419 Carroll Street • More info 314-380-3086; thebellwetherstl.com • Hours Dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday • Pricing $$$-$$$$
The Benevolent King
The Benevolent King • Contemporary, Mediterranean, Moroccan
Ben Poremba unveiled the Benevolent King in 2018 with a doubly enticing pitch. The Maplewood restaurant would draw inspiration from the cuisine of his mother’s native Morocco, while Poremba himself — the acclaimed chef-restaurateur of Elaia, Olio and Nixta who in recent years had been more restaurateur than chef — would lead the kitchen. The Benevolent King’s food proved appealing enough, and Poremba’s eye for kitchen talent keen enough, that the restaurant thrived as he stepped back to attend to his other projects as well. Now, the Benevolent King has not only survived a prolonged pandemic hiatus but also has emerged from it reinvigorated under new chef Eliott Harris, who previously earned notice for his work at the sushi restaurants Miso on Meramec and BaiKu Sushi Lounge. Harris features such signature Benevolent King dishes as farmer’s cheese, crisp chicken briouat and lamb meatballs in smoked-tomato sauce, but he has also introduced a fascinating dimension of Japanese ingredients and techniques, like scallops over koshihikari rice in a bracing wakame-herb salad and a subtly spicy harissa butter.
📍 Where 7268 Manchester Road, Maplewood • More info 314-899-0440; bengelina.com/the-benevolent-king • Hours Dinner Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday) • Pricing $$$
Blues City Deli
Blues City Deli • Deli, Sandwiches
Another welcome sight during these two fraught years: the line to order at Blues City Deli once again snaking out the front door, around the corner and down the block. What draws a crowd to Vinnie Valenza’s corner of Benton Park is no mystery — sandwiches, great and big — and Blues City has been a mainstay of this list since its inaugural edition. But given the number and variety of sandwiches I have eaten during the pandemic (many and many, respectively), I did ponder what sets Blues City apart. The restaurant doesn’t boast one signature ingredient a la the hot salami at Gioia’s Deli, and as messy as the sandwiches here can be, Valenza doesn’t favor the sly, can-we-top-ourselves aesthetic of the Gramophone. Instead, Blues City does right by each featured ingredient — roast beef, roast pork and pastrami (smoked in-house), especially — and moves with ease from classic arrangements to its own smart originals (the Knuckle Sandwich: Italian beef with the porky nudge of capicola, sharpened by giardiniera and Blues City’s smoky Delta sauce).
📍 Where 2438 McNair Avenue • More info 314-773-8225; bluescitydeli.com • Hours 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday) • Pricing $
Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions
Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions • Brunch, Burgers, Contemporary, Sandwiches
In May 2021, Chris and Abbie Bolyard moved Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions to much bigger digs a short distance from its original Maplewood home, and if you didn’t already know that the couple’s butcher shop doubled as a sandwich-focused restaurant, now you have no excuse. The new Bolyard’s features more seating and an expanded menu of sandwiches, salads and side dishes. Before founding Bolyard’s in 2014, Chris was the chef de cuisine of Sidney Street Café, and smart touches abound: the fermented Brussels sprouts that spark his take on a Reuben, the duxelles and black-garlic aioli that intensify the umami of the pulled-beef Feisty Italian sandwich. Speaking of umami, with its Umami Burger (raclette, mushroom conserva, “umami aioli”), Bolyard’s stakes a strong contender in the ongoing smashed-burger arms race. Weekend brunch is also a meaty affair: lard biscuits, burnt ends with a fried egg, even a PB&J with beef bacon.
📍 Where 2733 Sutton Boulevard, Maplewood • More info 314-647-2567; bolyardsmeat.com • Hours 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday (regular menu daily, brunch also available Saturday-Sunday) • Pricing $
Brasserie by Niche
Brasserie by Niche • Brunch, French
The veteran of Gerard Craft’s restaurant group, Brasserie by Niche garnered renewed attention in February when executive chef Evy Swoboda and longtime pastry chef Elise Mensing were named James Beard Award semifinalists for “Best Chef: Midwest” and “Outstanding Pastry Chef” nationwide, respectively. The restaurant also recently undertook a sort of expansion. After closing the adjacent Taste in October 2021, Craft converted the space into Brass Bar, a spot for an aperitif or a digestif and Mensing’s signature floating island or another of her desserts. You can also order from the full Brasserie menu, as I did on a recent visit, my first since Swoboda took over the kitchen in early 2021. She previously had been chef de cuisine of Craft’s Pastaria, and in the 2020 edition of this list I celebrated her work leading the Last Kitchen, the restaurant inside the Last Hotel downtown. Unsurprisingly, the timeless appeal of Brasserie’s onion soup, cassoulet and other classic French dishes hasn’t wavered under her guidance.
📍 Where Brasserie by Niche, 4580 Laclede Avenue • More info 314-454-0600; brasseriebyniche.com • Hours Dinner daily, brunch Sunday • Pricing $$$
📍 Where Brass Bar, 4584 Laclede Avenue • More info 314-361-1200; brasseriebyniche.com/brassbar • Hours Dinner Thursday-Monday (closed Tuesday-Wednesday) • Pricing $$$
Bulrush • Contemporary, Ozark, Tasting Menu
At Bulrush late this winter, Rob Connoley served a venison meatball on fermented-carrot rye bread, a clever and delicious riff on the slider that also showcased the restaurant’s mission — or one of its many missions. A landowner with whom Bulrush has formed a partnership had a deer problem on his property. That landowner’s neighbor had grown some wheat for soil-regeneration purposes but didn’t want the wheat. “So the wheat came to us, as did the deer that were eating the wheat,” Connoley said in the YouTube video explaining the dish. (As a COVID precaution, videos accessed by diners via QR code have replaced a direct explanation from the chef.) Connoley debuted Bulrush in 2019 with the ambitious project to explore historical Ozark cuisine through a modern lens using locally sourced and foraged ingredients. Bulrush has evolved since then to include a suite of interrelated efforts: growing ingredients from long-lost heritage seeds, building a wine list around French vineyards that planted Missouri rootstock after the phylloxera epidemic, researching the role of enslaved and indigenous peoples in Ozark foodways. Studying the Hopewell culture led Connoley to the importance of hazelnuts, which featured in the Ozark-style chili crisp atop gorgeous roasted carrots. Research into cattle-raising in the Ozarks means beef is now on the menu: beef cheek at my dinner, with cheese grits in a pawpaw mole. The seven-course tasting menu is playful, inspired and educational — often all at once. Bulrush is not just a great restaurant but a necessary one.
📍 Where 3307 Washington Boulevard • More info 314-449-1208; bulrushstl.com • Hours Dinner Thursday-Sunday • Pricing $$$$
Cate Zone Chinese Cafe
Cate Zone Chinese Cafe • Chinese
It says something about the breadth and overall appeal of the menu at Cate Zone Chinese Cafe that only now, some five years after Daniel Ma and Quincy Lin debuted this University City restaurant, am I recommending one of its most popular dishes: hot crisp fish. The pieces of fried fish — crisp as promised, tender-flaky and portioned to feed at least two very hungry diners — are smothered in chiles, with a generous tingling dose of Sichuan peppercorns to boot. It’s one more winner for Cate Zone, which first attracted notice for its focus on the cuisine of China’s northeast, including another crisp (though not spicy) dish, the sweet-and-sour pork that is as much and maybe more the latter than the former. Cate Zone’s menu traverses multiple regional cuisines, making the restaurant not only a part of St. Louis’ growth of regional Chinese restaurants, but also emblematic of it.
📍 Where 8148 Olive Boulevard, University City • More info 314-738-9923 • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $-$$
Chao Baan • Thai
Sue and Suchin Prapaisilp and their adult son, Shayn, opened Chao Baan three years ago in the Grove to bring together the regional cuisines of Thailand’s northeast and south, from where Sue and Suchin respectively hail. Over the pandemic’s course, the menu has expanded somewhat to include dishes more in the vein of the Prapaisilps’ beloved the King and I in Tower Grove South, including that restaurant’s specialty the Four Kings of Thailand and red, panang and massaman curries. But at Chao Baan you can still find much of the fare that made this restaurant one of 2019’s standout debuts: sai grog (sausage) snappy with lemongrass and lime; citrusy, spicy beef nam tok; the smoky and chile-pungent ground-beef dish kua kling. Chao Baan has also emerged a vital civic force, with Shayn leading efforts over the past two years to benefit the Siteman Cancer Center and, more recently, to support the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in the wake of racist incidents and hate crimes.
📍 Where 4087 Chouteau Avenue • More info 314-925-8250; chaobaanstl.com • Hours Dinner daily • Pricing $-$$
Chez Ali • Afro-Caribbean, Caribbean, Ivorian, Senegalese
Chez Ali debuted along with the Food Hall at City Foundry in August 2021, and Alioun “Ali” Thiam’s restaurant is one of the main reasons the long-anticipated midtown project has exceeded my expectations. A self-taught chef — though he credits his late mother with passing down the cooking “gene” to him — Thiam serves dishes from his native Senegal and the Ivory Coast as well as from the Afro-Caribbean tradition. The cafeteria-style buffet almost always features jerk chicken and curry chicken, both the smoky jerk and the warmly spiced, citrus-splashed curry turbocharged by Scotch bonnet chiles. (You can usually order a combination platter with both dishes.) Among the dishes less regularly available here, keep an eye out for the Senegalese yassa chicken, electric with Dijon mustard, vinegar and lemon. When available, Thiam’s oxtails are the best in town, smoked and then cooked down to nearly scoopable tenderness. The generous platters include cabbage and rice or rice and beans, and you should probably order a couple of the small, fiery Kenyan-style samosas, too.
📍 Where Food Hall at City Foundry, 3730 Foundry Way • More info cityfoundrystl.com/directory/chez-ali • Hours Lunch and dinner daily (closed Tuesday) • Pricing $-$$
Chiang Mai • Thai
Sometimes, the term “new restaurant,” though accurate, hardly does its subject justice. Such is the case at Chiang Mai, the northern Thai restaurant that chef Su Hill unveiled in October 2020 in Webster Groves. I named Chiang Mai “restaurant of the year(s)” in my list of the best new restaurants of 2020-21, but this is really the capstone of a life’s work to date for Hill, who learned to cook from her mother in the northern Thailand city that gives the restaurant its name. After immigrating to the United States to attend college, Hill has built a lengthy career in hospitality; since the mid-1990s she has operated Bistro Saffron in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. At Chiang Mai, she guides diners through some of northern Thailand’s most revered dishes — crackling sai oua (grilled sausages); sweet-savory hung lay curry; the curry-noodle soup khao soi with its vital pickled-mustard garnish — all punctuated by exceptionally vibrant flavors. When most chefs are fortunate to have upgraded to 4K resolution, Hill cooks in 8K.
📍 Where 8158 Big Bend Boulevard, Webster Groves • More info 314-961-8889; chiangmaistl.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday) • Pricing $$
Chicken Scratch • Contemporary, Rotisserie Chicken, Sandwiches
As executive chef of the late, great Niche in its final years, Nate Hereford led as ambitious and challenging a kitchen as St. Louis has seen. After leaving Niche to take a research-and-development job with a food company in the Bay Area, Hereford grew fascinated with the “complex simplicity” of the rotisserie-chicken restaurants he and his wife, Christine, were visiting in California. Now the Herefords have brought their own brand of complex simplicity to the Food Hall at City Foundry with Chicken Scratch. Here the birds are cured overnight with salt and sugar and dry-rubbed before their spin in the Rotisol rotisserie oven. The chicken is crisp-skinned and juicy by itself, and the pulled meat also makes for excellent sandwiches whether as traditional chicken salad or warmed up in jus with kale, provolone and horseradish mustard. (There is also, of course, a superlative fried-chicken sandwich.) Hereford’s kitchen chops also reveal themselves in meticulously prepared but unfussy sides like the fried jojo potatoes or Brussels sprouts in a pesto-like salsa verde.
📍 Where Food Hall at City Foundry, 3730 Foundry Way • More info chxscratchstl.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily (closed Tuesday) • Pricing $-$$
ChiliSpot • Chinese
Before the pandemic, I was already late to try the Sichuan fare at the University City restaurant then called Sze Chuan Cuisine, though after a brow-dampening, mouth-numbing meal of Chongqing-style fried chicken and a less intense but delicious plate of cumin lamb, I was eager to dig into the menu for a longer write-up. A few things have happened since then. During the pandemic, the restaurant changed its name to ChiliSpot. The menu remains Sichuan-focused, the chile- and Sichuan peppercorn-laden Chongqing chicken included. I still need to work through most of ChiliSpot’s menu, but the vibrancy of the dishes I have tried so far — from a snapping, spicy salad of fresh cucumbers to tender Sichuan twice-cooked pork with a sophisticated sweetness to match its heat — have made this another winner among the area’s regional-Chinese restaurants. Be sure to try the deep-fried, homemade tofu. The crisp exterior gives way to a luscious texture that reminded me of nothing so much as fresh burrata.
📍 Where 7930 Olive Boulevard, University City • More info 314-925-8711; bestspicy.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily (closed Wednesday) • Pricing $-$$
Cinder House • Brazilian, Breakfast, Contemporary, South American, Steakhouse
The partnership between Gerard Craft and the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis was a no-brainer: a James Beard Award-winning chef and a top-of-the-line hotel boasting a dining room with spectacular downtown views. In its particulars, though, Cinder House was a welcome surprise when it debuted in 2018. Rather than provide his gloss on generic luxury, Craft fashioned an ambitious menu inspired in part by the Brazilian cooking of his late childhood nanny, Cecelia “Dia” Assuncao, with feijoada and moqueca as well as wood-fired steaks and chops. The next year, Craft introduced Dia’s Room, a tasting-menu experience within Cinder House that delved more deeply into Brazilian cuisine and featured the most inspired cooking from Craft and his team since Niche closed in 2016. Dia’s Room remains on pandemic hiatus — look for a possible return this summer — but under executive chef Peter Slay, Cinder House still intrigues with its mixture of steakhouse and Brazilian and South American fare, often on one plate, like the steak tartare garnished with chimichurri and pickled banana peppers.
📍 Where Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, 999 North Second Street • More info 314-881-5759; cinderhousestl.com • Hours Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily • Pricing $$$$
Clara B’s Kitchen Table
Clara B’s Kitchen Table • Breakfast, Cajun/Creole, Food Truck, Sandwiches, Southern
Jodie Ferguson realized her dream for Clara B’s Kitchen Table when she opened a brick-and-mortar location of her food truck this February in Belleville. I look forward to visiting, but Clara B’s has earned its place on the STL 100 for what Ferguson has already accomplished on her truck. Since launching Clara B’s in late 2020, Ferguson has distinguished herself among St. Louis’ many mobile chefs with her deeply personal cooking, which looks to both her late, Louisiana-born grandmother, Clara Bloodworth (the Clara B. of Clara B’s), and her own central Texas upbringing. Her core menu argues convincingly for breakfast at any hour — her breakfast burrito (egg, chorizo, double-smoked bacon, potato and avocado) is the best version of that dish in the metro area — but Ferguson also might persuade you to start your day with her signature wood-fired shrimp with andouille in tomato gravy over ethereal cheese grits. Is Belleville outside your usual orbit? Clara B’s truck remains in service, including on Affton food-truck park 9 Mile Garden’s 2022 roster.
📍 Where 106 East Main Street, Belleville • More info 618-416-1812; clarabs.com • Hours Breakfast and lunch Thursday-Sunday (closed Monday-Wednesday); truck hours and location vary • Pricing $
Cleveland-Heath • Brunch, Contemporary
Evan and Gina Buchholz took over as the owners of Cleveland-Heath in late 2021, making them the third couple to run this acclaimed restaurant in downtown Edwardsville since Jenny Cleveland and Eric “Ed” Heath opened it in 2011. Ownership changes aren’t rare in the restaurant industry, but diners shouldn’t take for granted how Cleveland-Heath has navigated the progression from its founders to successors Kari and Keith McGinness to the Buchholzes while maintaining both the high standards of its upscale but unfussy comfort food and its neighborhood-hangout vibe. The Buchholzes did come to Cleveland-Heath with an advantage: A few months before they became the owners, Evan began his second go-around as the restaurant’s executive chef. He can execute such signature dishes as the whopping pork chop topped with a sunny-side-up egg and served alongside luscious jalapeño-cheddar cornbread and also keep things fresh but familiar with a gratin of crab, shrimp and cod.
📍 Where 106 North Main Street, Edwardsville • More info 618-307-4830; clevelandheath.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday, brunch Saturday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $$-$$$
Cocina Latina • Colombian, Peruvian, South American
Elsewhere in this year’s STL 100, I mention that restaurant-caliber rotisserie chicken is having a moment in St. Louis. Cocina Latina doesn’t focus on the golden-brown roasted bird to the extent that the new Chicken Scratch and Golden Chicken do, but this Central West End restaurant serves crisp, juicy, garlicky pollo a la brasa worth attacking with fork, knife and fingers. Chef and owner Maritza Rios waited some 20 years after moving to St. Louis to open a restaurant featuring the food of her native Peru. Cocina Latina surveys a broad range of Peruvian dishes (and some Colombian and Cuban fare as well), from sunny, chile-charged ceviche to the stir-fried, vinegar-splashed steak of lomo saltado. On a recent visit, I paired an order of pollo a la brasa with an appetizer far less common in St. Louis than rotisserie chicken but no less compelling or liable to have you digging into it with fingers and teeth: anticuchos de corazon, skewers of grilled beef heart with a fiery dipping sauce.
📍 Where 508 North Euclid Avenue • More info 314-696-2294; cocinalatinastl.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $-$$
The Crooked Boot
The Crooked Boot • Cajun/Creole, Food Truck, Southern
Monroe, Louisiana, native Coria Griggs left corporate office work in St. Louis to pursue a culinary career. She also became “obsessed” with food trucks, she told me in a 2020 interview — though when she bought a truck of her own, “I had it (parked) for, like, six months because I was scared.” Griggs needn’t have worried. The Crooked Boot, which launched in 2016 with a Creole-inspired menu, is one of the most appealing food trucks I have encountered recently, and in February, Griggs added a takeout-focused storefront in St. Charles. Griggs puts her own spin on fried catfish and shrimp po’boys and a soft-shell crab sandwich with her Voodoo Sauce (a tangy, remoulade-ish concoction), and she also builds her own creations, like tender, peppery jerk chicken with with both Voodoo and barbecue sauces as well as cabbage and pickled onions (“Yah Mon” Jerk Sammie) or cheese fries smothered with her jerk chicken or her seafood gumbo with chicken-andouille sausage. Lately, inspired by several trips to Haiti, she has offered a few dishes from that country.
📍 Where 2012 Campus Drive, St. Charles • More info 636-757-3305; facebook.com/thecrookedboot; instagram.com/thecrookedboot • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday); truck hours and location vary • Pricing $
The Crossing • Contemporary, Tasting Menu
Any restaurant can serve you a plate of thinly sliced Iberico ham. Few besides the Crossing would instead make that ham the centerpiece of a salad with arugula, fennel and Pecorino Romano cheese, enhancing the meat’s luxury through bracing juxtaposition. Few also would forgo the easy comfort of braised short ribs for a more refined preparation of braised veal cheek that collapsed into its own heady juices. A special on my long-awaited return to the Crossing in March, the veal cheek was yet another example of the precisely considered pleasures that have distinguished Jim Fiala’s Clayton restaurant for nearly a quarter of a century. Fiala and executive chef Thu Rein Oo continue to offer diners multiple options, from the traditional a la carte (including such Crossing signatures as the blue-crab cake and the foie gras) to an extended, seasonal grand tasting menu. At $65 per person, the four-course prix-fixe dinner is a reasonably priced survey of the Crossing at its best.
📍 Where 7823 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton • More info 314-721-7375; thecrossing-stl.com • Hours Dinner Monday-Saturday, lunch Monday-Friday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $$$$
Crown Candy Kitchen
Crown Candy Kitchen • Bakery & Desserts, Diner, Sandwiches
I have experienced any number of emotions since returning to restaurant dining rooms last year, from relief to excitement, from fear I had come back too soon to guilt that I had stayed home too long. Nothing, though, can compare to the joy I saw — and felt — when I finally (finally!) took my young daughter to Crown Candy Kitchen for the first time and watched her try her first chocolate malt. Wide-eyed, she took in the slow slide of shake from metal cup to her glass, the old-school menu and soda ads on the walls, and the head jerk himself, Andy Karandzieff, mixing a steady stream of shakes during a Friday lunch. At Crown Candy Kitchen, Karandzieff continues his family’s now-109-year-old legacy, one that I might have taken for granted before the pandemic. Karandzieff was public about the restaurant’s own struggles over the past two years, including in an appearance on the Discovery+ series “Restaurant Recovery.” If my daughter left Crown Candy Kitchen that day thrilled to have “discovered” a new favorite, I was simply grateful to be back.
📍 Where 1401 St. Louis Avenue • More info 314-621-9650; crowncandykitchen.net • Hours 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $
The Curry Club
The Curry Club • Indian
One of the best of St. Louis’ homegrown counter-service operations — and one of its most appealing Indian restaurants regardless of format — the Curry Club presents diners with two or even three menus in one. At the counter itself is a small cafeteria-style lineup of the day’s offerings: the signature Curry Club Chicken or another chicken curry, a vegetable curry and a dal dish, all packed with pull-no-punches flavor. (The mango dal I ate on a recent visit balanced an almost citrusy brightness with an intense chile heat.) You can order half or full portions, and there are usually appetizers (e.g., chicken 65, pakora) and a few other dishes available. Yet you might be tempted away from this selection by the cook making dosas to order behind the counter — or by the menu board that lists the Hyderabadi chicken biryani or another of the Curry Club’s biryanis or weekend specials.
📍 Where 1635 Clarkson Road, Chesterfield • More info 636-778-7777; stlcurryclub.com • Hours Dinner Tuesday-Sunday, lunch Friday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $-$$
DD Mau Vietnamese Eatery
DD Mau Vietnamese Eatery • Vietnamese
Julie Truong expanded her fast-casual restaurant DD Mau Vietnamese Eatery to Webster Groves in 2021, and the new location both replicates the appeal of the Maryland Heights original and showcases how the concept is continuing to evolve. Truong grew up in her parents’ Chinese restaurant in the city, but she opened the first DD Mau in 2018 only after leaving St. Louis for a few years for a career in the fashion and retail industry. At DD Mau, she has brought together excellent Vietnamese dishes — rice bowls, crackling banh mi, hearty pho — and counter-service convenience. I have especially come to admire Truong’s soups over the past four years, not just her beef pho and the nearly as rich chicken (pho ga), but also her vegan lemongrass soup, an inspired riff on bun bo Hue. Don’t overlook DD Mau’s smaller plates: spring rolls with grilled shrimp, fried vegan “shrimp” and excellent Thai chile chicken wings with lime ranch dressing.
📍 Where 20 Allen Avenue, Webster Groves • More info 314-926-0900; ddmaustl.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $
📍 Where 11982 Dorsett Road, Maryland Heights • More info 314-942-2300; ddmaustl.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $
Dixon’s BBQ • Barbecue, Soul Food
At Dixon’s BBQ in Overland, owner and pitmaster Joe Dixon continues his own barbecue tradition and his family’s. His mother, Charlene Runnels, was expected to bring her ribs, rib tips and peach cobbler to family reunions, he told me in a 2021 interview. She always barbecued, he said, and he was “the person who was just always there beside her.” Runnels would go on to open her barbecue restaurant in Berkeley, and Dixon followed in her stead with his first restaurant, Dixon Smoke Co., in midtown in 2015. He closed that restaurant in 2018 after his mother’s death the previous year. After a period of grief, he returned with Dixon’s BBQ in late 2020. Fittingly, ribs and rib tips, simply seasoned and smoked with oak and cherry wood, are the standout dishes here, though Dixon of course still features the chicken “tips” (thigh-meat morsels), burnt ends, corn on the cob with barbecue aioli and other dishes that won him a deserved following at Dixon Smoke Co. Don’t forget the peach cobbler.
📍 Where 2549 Woodson Road, Overland • More info 314-395-2855; instagram.com/dixons_bbq • Hours 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday (closed Monday-Wednesday) • Pricing $-$$
El Toluco Taqueria & Grocery
El Toluco Taqueria & Grocery • Mexican, Tacos
A 20-year veteran of St. Louis kitchens, Fausto Pizarro had always wanted a restaurant of his own. His wife, Maggie, had always wanted her own shop. The couple realized their dreams together when they opened El Toluco Taqueria & Grocery in 2016 (store first, restaurant a few months later) in a shared space set back from the busy Manchester Road-Highway 141 interchange in Manchester. If no longer a “hidden” gem — among El Toluco’s plaudits, it’s now a four-time STL 100 honoree — the restaurant can still stagger even regular customers with the sheer size of its tortas, not to mention the vibrant flavors. (Each tops your choice of meat with both ham and queso de puerco and both queso fresco and Oaxaca cheese along with all the usual garnishes.) For the tortas and tacos alike, Pizarro and kitchen assistants Marcelo and Cruz Salazar dazzle with their takes on al pastor pork, lengua, lamb barbacoa and more.
📍 Where 14234 Manchester Road, Manchester • More info 636-686-5444; eltolucotaqueria.com • Hours 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday (restaurant closed Sunday-Monday; grocery store open Monday-Saturday) • Pricing $
Elaia • Contemporary, Tasting Menu
A decade old this year, Ben Poremba’s flagship Elaia is one of the vanishingly few St. Louis restaurants still committed to a vision of fine dining both rarified and progressive — a place suited for special occasions and caviar service where you also might eat a dish unlike anything you have encountered before. Elaia offers two options: the full-blown tasting menu ($150 per person) or a four-course dinner ($95 per person). The latter doesn’t slouch in extravagance or invention. In March, it began with a delicate first course of poached apple with fennel, celery leaf and horseradish that hinted at the budding of spring and then staggered me with a “shabu shabu” of cured salmon and preserved mushrooms in a summer-bright tomato dashi with seemingly bottomless umami. Though more formal in its presentations than such comparably ambitious restaurants as Vicia or the Lucky Accomplice, Elaia can still cut loose, as with the a-la-carte snack I added to my dinner: chicken-fried sweetbreads with a smoked-paprika dipping sauce, the popcorn chicken of the gods.
📍 Where 1634 Tower Grove Avenue • More info 314-932-1088; bengelina.com/elaia • Hours Dinner Thursday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Wednesday) • Pricing $$$$
Elmwood, Pizza Champ
Elmwood, Pizza Champ • Contemporary, Pizza, Sandwiches, Wings
Pizza Champ, which as a standalone restaurant opened only in January, technically doesn’t qualify for this year’s STL 100. Pizza Champ as a concept, however, launched in summer 2020, when Adam Altnether and Chris Kelling introduced it as the pandemic pivot of their Maplewood restaurant Elmwood, one of 2019’s standout newcomers. I tried the pizza that August and could have guessed the duo had big plans for their pies. Altnether crafts a New York-style pizza with the ideal crust ratio of crispy to airy to chewy, with tang (the dough ferments for 48 hours) and blistered char. Pizza Champ rounds out its menu with chicken sandwiches, salads and wings, the hot Buffalo version of which is serious business. Meanwhile, Elmwood is on hiatus as of early April while Altnether and Kelling focus on Pizza Champ’s debut. As a pizza incubator, Elmwood is emblematic of how restaurateurs have navigated the pandemic. As a showcase for Altnether’s cooking and Kelling’s front-of-house acumen, Elmwood is a restaurant to anticipate anew. Note: The opening month of Pizza Champ has been corrected.
📍 Where Elmwood, 2704 Sutton Boulevard, Maplewood • More info 314-261-4708; elmwoodstl.com • Hours On hiatus
📍 Where Pizza Champ, 2657 Lyle Avenue, Maplewood • More info pizzachampstl.com • Hours 2-8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, noon-8 p.m. Saturday-Sunday (closed Monday-Tuesday) • Pricing $-$$
Farmhaus • Contemporary
I have been writing about Kevin Willmann’s cooking for 15 years now, back to his work at the late Erato on Main in Edwardsville, where he turned diners’ heads from a walk-in closet (if that) of a kitchen, to Farmhaus, the Lindenwood Park restaurant he opened in 2010. It has been a remarkable journey to follow. Willmann has been a Food & Wine “Best New Chef,” a James Beard Award nominee and a mainstay of this list’s pre-pandemic Top 25. Before the pandemic, though, I might have been a little too ready to assign Farmhaus to the well-deserved comfort of restaurant middle-age. I returned this spring to find a fresh coat of paint on the walls — dried but not yet redecorated — and vibrant flavors on the plates. Willmann and his ace sous chef Dillon Witte served seafood, of course: shrimp in a peri peri sauce that lived up to that chile’s reputation. And, yes, there was pork, a handsome Duroc chop properly pinkish in the center, with honey-bacon turnips and a sweet-potato puree. After two years, I was both glad to be back and eager to return.
📍 Where 3257 Ivanhoe Avenue • More info 314-647-3800; farmhausrestaurant.com • Hours Dinner Wednesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Tuesday) • Pricing $$$-$$$$
The Fattened Caf
The Fattened Caf • Filipino, Pop-Up
Soon, maybe, pork steak will conjure dreams of tender, charry-sweet meat as likely to be sloshed with the Fattened Caf’s Filipino BBQ Marinade as with Maull’s. Or so I hope after a Fattened Caf lunch this March. Charlene and Darren Young launched their Filipino barbecue pop-up in 2020 with almost no restaurant experience between them. (Charlene did work at a Coldstone Creamery when she was 15.) Instead, they built their concept from her love of sharing her Filipino culture and his fascination with grilling and smoking, from nights with friends to regular pop-ups at Earthbound Beer on Cherokee Street. The Fattened Caf grills its meats over hot charcoal and wood: longanisa (sausage), chicken quarters, rib tips and pork steaks. The pop-up might feature plates with meat, garlic rice, atchara and tomato ensalata — or there might be a kamayan box, a feast of meats (mine featured the peanut-based stew kare kare with smoked brisket) and sides to share. Rather than the obvious pivot to a brick-and-mortar restaurant, the Youngs have placed their packaged longanisa in Schnucks and a few other grocery stores, and the couple recently launched a line of bottled marinades and dipping sauces. You should really let them cook for you first, though.
📍 Where Pop-up events, often at Earthbound Beer, 2724 Cherokee Street • More info thefattenedcaf.com • Hours Check website or instagram.com/thefattenedcaf for details of upcoming events • Pricing $-$$
Fire Chicken • Korean
Over the past three years, St. Louis has welcomed multiple appealing options for Korean-style fried chicken, from the local, independent Chicken Seven in Carondelet to the small but growing local chain Kimchi Guys (Laclede’s Landing and Skinker-DeBaliviere, with Edwardsville under development) to a location of the Seoul-based international chain BB.Q Chicken in O’Fallon, Illinois. I recommend all three restaurants, but the most exciting option right now is a slightly different Korean fried-chicken dish: the chicken gangjeong at Fire Chicken, the tiny, takeout-only restaurant that Michelle and Sungmin Baik opened in the summer of 2020 in Overland. Your order of crisp, bite-sized pieces of fried chicken comes with your choice of Fire Chicken’s sauces, which range from mild teriyaki to the hot, gochujang-based Red and the even hotter but also sweet Buldak. The best entry point might be the Fire sauce, which balances its complex sweetness with a jalapeño-led heat not quite as hot as the Red or Buldak.
📍 Where 10200 Page Avenue, Overland • More info 314-551-2123; facebook.com/firechickenstl • Hours Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $
Five Star Burgers
Five Star Burgers • Burgers
The past two years have undermined many of my assumptions about restaurants. Not all for the worse, though. Consider the burger — specifically, consider the plumper example of the species, the kind best enjoyed when you nod and smile at the USDA but order it medium-rare anyway. I figured this style at that temperature wouldn’t hold up to takeout, but several places have proved me wrong, none more often or more deliciously than Steve Gontram’s Five Star Burgers. The former fine-dining chef behind the beloved Harvest, Gontram has been slinging his signature Dad’s Green Chile Cheeseburger and other burgers for a decade now, and the combination of primal beef, hatch chile heat and fried chile crunch has been a balm during the pandemic. But Five Star also upended my expectations with the new-to-me Patty Melts My Heart, which sort of fuses a patty melt with the green chile burger. It both rivals Dad’s Green Chile Cheeseburger for hatch chile power and shows Five Star taking on the smashed-burger set — and winning.
📍 Where 8125 Maryland Avenue, Clayton • More info 314-720-4350; 5starburgersstl.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily • Pricing $-$$
Gioia's Deli • Deli, Italian, Sandwiches
At the beginning of the pandemic, Gioia’s Deli sold frozen pizzas featuring the iconic Hill restaurant’s signature hot salami as a topping. Owner Alex Donley called them his “payroll pizzas” for the lifeline they provided in those fraught early weeks. By June 2021, Gioia’s frozen pizzas were available for purchase at Schnucks supermarkets, and Donley had opened a commissary kitchen in Maryland Heights to meet the demand. (In an interview then, Donley said he had bought 15,000 label stickers for the pizza’s February 2021 retail launch: “I was like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna have these stickers for the next 15 years.’ And we just reordered more stickers.”) The pizzas are just the latest example of how Gioia’s has managed ever-changing dining trends — and, in the pandemic, an unprecedented crisis — while staying true to the identity that has won it lifelong fans for more than a century. Meanwhile, those of us who needed a classic hot salami sandwich as a momentary lifeline during the pandemic’s peak could turn to the Hill location’s walk-up window.
📍 Where 1934 Macklind Avenue • More info 314-776-9410; gioiasdeli.com • Hours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $
📍 Where 623 North New Ballas Road, Creve Coeur • More info 314-776-9410; gioiasdeli.com • Hours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $
Golden Chicken • Mediterranean, Rotisserie Chicken
Is it time for rotisserie chicken to take the spotlight — to move beyond Costco loss-leader and supermarket staple? One of the standout vendors in the Food Hall at City Foundry is Nate Hereford’s rotisserie-chicken restaurant Chicken Scratch, and rotisserie chicken alone is a reason to visit Golden Chicken, which Amjed Abdeljabbar and his uncle Mahmoud Abualizz opened in late 2020 in St. Peters. The chicken is indeed golden, or a dark golden-brown, and a marinade with citrus and herbs renders the meat flavorful and tender. If you want a whole bird, plan ahead to let the restaurant cook your chicken to order, about an hour. The basic rotisserie order includes pita and the house garlic sauce; for a few dollars more, you can get the whole chicken plate, which adds rice, pickles and the restaurant’s excellent jalapeño-zapped hummus. Golden Chicken knows how to cook on the spit and the grill, turning out fine kebabs and shawarma in addition to its rotisserie chicken.
📍 Where 632 Jungermann Road, St. Peters • More info 636-244-3031; goldenchickenstpeters.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily • Pricing $
Grace Meat + Three
Grace Meat + Three • Brunch, Contemporary, Fried Chicken, Southern
Rick Lewis wins the unintentional-foresight award for the COVID dining era. In 2019, the chef and owner of Grace Meat + Three installed a walk-up window in his acclaimed Grove restaurant. Originally intended as a late-night destination for fried chicken and fish (a smart pre-pandemic bet on this bustling corridor of Forest Park Southeast), the window was and still is a vital link for diners not yet comfortable going inside restaurants. More than a few times over the past two years, I have returned to this window for Grace’s fried chicken and fried, cornmeal-crusted catfish — both among the very best examples of the two dishes in town — for the inimitable fried-bologna sandwich with a runny egg, and the dry-aged burger tangy with pickles and Comeback Sauce. Meanwhile, Grace has also become a destination for a brunch the kitchen takes seriously rather than as an obligation, with fried chicken and waffles and the Egg Rick Muffin, a dynamite breakfast sandwich with smoked sausage and an over-easy egg.
📍 Where 4270 Manchester Avenue • More info 314-533-2700; stlgrace.com • Hours 11 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $-$$
The Gramophone • Sandwiches
A year or so ago, I was about to tweet that I had found a new favorite among the many excellent sandwiches at the Gramophone, the Walk This Way: turkey, pepperoni and bacon on ciabatta with perfect accents of sweet (apple butter) and spicy (pepper jack cheese and jalapeño). Fortunately, I double-checked before I hit send. I had eaten and written about the Walk This Way in 2018. I will spin this memory lapse to the Gramophone’s advantage. The Walk This Way is so smartly constructed it seems newly brilliant each time, and this former Grove concert venue turned restaurant and bar serves so many great sandwiches a professional eater can’t keep track. My short list would range from the classic Mississippi Night’s Club and Italian cold-cut Delcortivo to the brilliant Lion’s Choice riff the Tiger’s Decision. Truly new to me recently was the When Pigs Fly, a typically over-the-top and delicious arrangement of Buffalo-seasoned pulled pork and bacon with pepper jack cheese and Cajun ranch on Texas toast.
📍 Where 4243 Manchester Avenue • More info 314-531-5700; gramophonestl.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $
Guerrilla Street Food
Guerrilla Street Food • Contemporary, Filipino, Food Truck
On a cold January day during the pandemic’s omicron surge, I ordered takeout from Guerrilla Street Food’s brick-and-mortar restaurant in Webster Groves and ate it in my parked car. My order of sisig was delicious: crisp-tender pork (slow-roasted, then seared) over rice with a tart top note of calamansi, the luxurious creaminess of a one-hour egg, and the twin punch of tiny, mighty Thai chiles and the restaurant’s own chile crisp. Savoring it in my car took me back a decade to when Joel Crespo and Brian Hardesty’s modern Filipino-American cooking was the most exciting addition yet to St. Louis’ then-new food-truck scene. Guerrilla Street Food has struggled recently. After a relatively rapid expansion to four storefronts in addition to the truck, Crespo and Hardesty closed two locations just before the pandemic and a third during it. While Guerrilla Street Food might be now reduced in scope, the team’s rededication to the core menu is apparent, and it remains both a unique and vital St. Louis restaurant. Update: Crespo and Hardesty announced in April that Guerrilla Street Food is for sale and will close indefinitely April 30 until there is a new owner.
📍 Where 43 South Old Orchard Avenue, Webster Groves • More info 314-274-2528; gsf-online-ordering.square.site • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday); truck hours and location vary • Pricing $
Havana’s Cuisine • Caribbean, Cuban, Sandwiches
St. Louis’ rising prominence in the chess world brought Tamara Landeiro and her family here from Cuba. Her teenage daughter is a prodigy who already holds the International Chess Federation rank of Woman Grandmaster. Sandwiches will bring you to Landeiro’s downtown restaurant Havana’s Cuisine. After introducing her cooking through catering, a stall at Soulard Farmers Market and a food truck (no longer in operation), Landeiro debuted the counter-service operation in September 2021. Of course, she presents a superior version of the classic Cuban sandwich: roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles on bread from the famed La Segunda Central Bakery in Tampa, Florida. She serves variations that add salami (the Tampa Cuban) or croquettes or that place the Cuban’s fillings on softer medianoche bread. More broadly, Landeiro uses sandwiches as a gateway to introduce her broader repertoire of Cuban fare, including ropa vieja and her signature mojo-roasted pork. Not in the mood for a sandwich? Havana’s Cuisine also serves empanadas and plates with a main dish and sides.
📍 Where 1131 Washington Avenue • More info 314-449-6771; havanascuisine.com • Hours 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $
Indo • Contemporary, Japanese, Seafood, Sushi, Thai
Indo could barely reflect on its sensational 2019 before the pandemic struck. My pick for the best new restaurant of that year, it debuted at No. 3 on the 2020 edition of this list and was named one of the best new restaurants in the country by GQ and Esquire magazines, while Food & Wine tapped owner Nick Bognar as one of its coveted “Best New Chefs” of 2020. Two years later, Bognar’s unique style — drawing on sushi tradition, his Thai heritage and Southeast Asian cuisine more broadly (the lamb larb, based on his grandmother’s recipe) and a playful, flavor-first streak (such signature dishes as the shrimp toast and Isaan hamachi in coconut naam pla) — keeps Indo among the best and most exciting restaurants I’ve experienced over the past two decades in St. Louis. From the beginning, Indo has sought the vibe of a joyous dinner party rather than rarified fine-dining, but my recent visit found an even looser, more welcoming vibe. The sushi counter, once the center for lengthy omakase dinners, is now first-come, first-served seating, as are some tables on the expanded patio. (Reservations for dine-in service are essential.) Indo thrills, from newer dishes like crisp fried tofu in fermented black bean sauce to precisely seasoned misu, shima aji and other nigiri, each revealing its own rich, sweet depth of the ocean.
📍 Where 1641D Tower Grove Avenue • More info 314-899-9333; indo-stl.com • Hours Dinner Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $$$-$$$$
J. Devoti Trattoria
J. Devoti Trattoria • Contemporary, Italian, Pizza, Tasting Menu
I hesitate to recommend a specific dish at J. Devoti Trattoria. Anthony Devoti, the chef and owner, actually follows the farm-to-table mission and from-scratch ethos others love to discuss. His menus change often, even daily, and when I have honored his original restaurant, Five Bistro, and now its successor, J. Devoti, on this list, I have taken snapshots: empanadas with lamb confit one year, prawns with housemade kimchi another, lamb chops with braised white beans and chanterelles in 2020. But in this pizza-mad town, we don’t talk enough about Devoti’s pies. For Devoti, the crust is the most important part. Drawing on his experience in baking (excellent) bread, he ferments the dough for at least 24 hours and then bakes it in a stone oven. The pizza isn’t Neapolitan, but it is comparable in its balance of airiness, chew and tang. Devoti keeps the pies simple: an uncooked sauce of local tomatoes in season (San Marzano when not), cheese and toppings in typical J. Devoti style, like the restaurant’s own salumi or mushrooms from local purveyor Mushrooms Naturally.
📍 Where 5100 Daggett Avenue • More info 314-773-5553; jdevoti.com • Hours Dinner Thursday-Sunday (closed Monday-Wednesday) • Pricing $$$-$$$$
J’s Pitaria • Bosnian, Mediterranean
Originally based a falafel’s throw from the historic Bevo Mill, J’s Pitaria now calls the Concord Plaza shopping center along the bustling South Lindbergh Boulevard corridor home. If Zamir Jahic set up the spit on which he roasts the beef for the best doner kebab in St. Louis (by far) on the shoulder of Interstate 44, I would follow him there, too. The appeal of the Bosnian and more broadly Mediterranean restaurant operated by Jahic and his wife, Josi, has only expanded over the past five years. You can, of course, order J’s Sarajevo-style cevapi cradled in freshly baked somun, but you might also try maslenica, a flatbread stuffed with the beef sausages, smoked mozzarella and kajmak and smothered in yogurt sauce. From the beginning, J’s signature dish has been pita, hand-stretched phyllo dough stuffed with meat, cheese, spinach and cheese or potato. The pies are now also available frozen, so you could send J’s almost anywhere.
📍 Where 91 Concord Plaza Shopping Center, south St. Louis County • More info 314-270-8005; jspitaria.us • Hours Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Sunday (closed Monday-Tuesday) • Pricing $
Juniper • Contemporary, Fried Chicken, Southern
Shortly before the pandemic hit, John Perkins named Matthew Daughaday Juniper’s executive chef. The pairing seemed ideal. Daughaday had won wide acclaim for his work at Gerard Craft’s Taste and his own restaurant, Reeds American Table, which had closed in 2019. Now, two years later, I can report that Perkins, Daughaday and their team have elevated Juniper to an even higher level — high praise for a concept that since 2013 has already evolved from limited-engagement pop-up to full-fledged restaurant and relocated from its original home to its current, sleeker digs. Here, you can spend time just with the oyster selection: on the half-shell, with a clever trio of lemon, horseradish and Tabasco ices replacing traditional mignonettes; smoked and served with fried saltines; or as a brilliant composed raw dish with blood orange and a fennel mignonette, a fennel foam and a wild-fennel togarashi. Alongside Juniper’s fried chicken, burger and other favorites, you might find new standouts like grilled hen-of-the-woods mushrooms as meaty as a steak with popped sorghum over Jimmy Red corn grits.
📍 Where 4101 Laclede Avenue • More info 314-329-7696; junipereats.com • Hours Dinner Wednesday-Sunday, brunch Saturday-Sunday (lunch available for takeout, closed Monday-Tuesday) • Pricing $$-$$$
Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria
Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria • Brunch, Italian, Pizza
Last spring, as I was just beginning to resume regular, non-takeout dining, I sat on the recently and impressively expanded patio of Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria in Rock Hill for what would be my best meal yet at Katie Collier’s restaurant. The menu that May evening featured an honest-to-goodness fresh take on crudo (halibut with Aleppo pepper and tart kumquat), fried squash blossoms with a gooey, creamy heart of stracciatella and ricotta and, of course, wood-fired pizza, an elegant seasonal pairing of morels and ramps. Over the first year or so of the pandemic, I had reported on the ambitious and wildly successful pivot Collier and her husband, Ted, had made into frozen pizza. What a joy that night to see the fruits of that pivot: a bustling restaurant and a kitchen, overseen by Katie’s longtime executive chef, Jake Sanderson, allowed once again to thrive.
📍 Where 9568 Manchester Road, Rock Hill • More info 314-942-6555; katiespizzaandpasta.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday • Pricing $$$
📍Where 14171 Clayton Road, Town and Country • More info 636-220-3238; katiespizzaandpasta.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday • Pricing $$$
Khanna’s Desi Vibes
Khanna’s Desi Vibes • Indian
Unsure what to order from the expansive menu at Khanna’s Desi Vibes in Chesterfield? Look for the smoke. Owner Pravin Khanna showcases the restaurant’s malai chicken tikka — juicy skewered chicken redolent of both tandoori char and fenugreek’s elegant sweetness — in a replica tabletop tandoor that smolders as you eat. Khanna’s, which opened in October 2020, is its eponymous owner’s first restaurant after an international career as an electrical engineer. (You can see the influence of Khanna’s travels in such fusion dishes as chicken tikka tacos and butter chicken pasta.) The menu features northern Indian cuisine, including two standout offerings drawn from Khanna’s mother’s recipes: dal makhani, black lentils in a creamy tomato sauce with bracing pops of black cardamom; and the tomato-chickpea dish Amritsari chole. The menu also impresses when it ventures into some of India’s many other regional cuisines, from crisp-juicy Indo-Chinese chicken lollipops with neon-red schezwan sauce to a Goan curry sweet with coconut and just sour enough with mangosteen.
📍 Where 13724 Olive Boulevard, Chesterfield • More info 314-392-9348; desivibesstl.com • Hours Dinner Tuesday-Saturday, lunch Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $-$$
La Patisserie Chouquette
La Patisserie Chouquette • Bakery & Desserts
On La Patisserie Chouquette’s annual macaron day in March, white bags filled with pre-orders filled the windows of Simone Faure’s Botanical Heights patisserie. A few days earlier, La Patisserie Chouquette had posted the list of this year’s flavors (among them, salted caramel, Vietnamese coffee, mango passion, cotton candy, the tease of a collaboration with Melanie Meyer of the Korean restaurant Tiny Chef) and a stern warning: “Please keep in mind that there will be more people online purchasing macarons than you can imagine. It must be treated as if you’re trying to get concert tickets.” Pleasure is a serious business at La Patisserie Chouquette. Thankfully, now that the bakery’s storefront is once again open to the public, you can also browse the everyday wonders of Faure’s creations, from the rainbow display of macarons to the quiet elegance of the canelé, from a breakfast savory and a touch sweet (bacon-cheddar corn muffins) to intensely chocolatey (the Darkness croissant) to the just-right flaky pastry cradling sweet cream cheese and caramelized apples.
📍 Where 1626 Tower Grove Avenue • More info 314-932-7935; simonefaure.com • Hours 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday (closed Sunday-Tuesday) • Pricing $
La Tejana Taqueria
La Tejana Taqueria • Mexican
I have welcomed the recent popularity of birria tacos with beef, but the trend brought a bittersweet note. I have known only two area restaurants to serve the stew birria with goat — one of which closed during the pandemic, Pueblo Nuevo in Hazelwood. (The other is Tienda el Ranchito in Fairmont City.) Thankfully, the best goat soup in STL is still available. It isn’t birria: the consome de borrego at La Tejana Taqueria, a golden elixir of the meat’s rich, grassy, slightly funky flavor, garnished as you like with cilantro, onion, jalapeño and lime. It wasn’t soup weather when I finally made it back to Brenda and Rich Garcia’s Bridgeton gem. I didn’t care, and I also ordered tacos from La Tejana’s many appealing options (e.g., al pastor, cabeza). The Garcias have made their restaurant and related businesses into a community hub. They have also built a family legacy. Their son runs Locoz Tacos in Tower Grove South, where you’ll find the best carne asada tacos in town.
📍 Where 3149 North Lindbergh Boulevard, Bridgeton • More info 314-291-8500; latejanastl.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily • Pricing $
Little Fox • Contemporary, Italian
Little Fox is a deceptively modest name for the restaurant Mowgli and Craig Rivard have built in the city’s Fox Park neighborhood. Over the past 2½ years, in addition to copious local praise, Little Fox has received national attention from the New York Times (one of the 50 restaurants nationwide the paper was “most excited” about in 2021) and the James Beard Awards (Craig was a 2022 semifinalist for “Best Chef: Midwest”). But Little Fox doesn’t loom over you with the enormity of its buzz and accolades. This is still a neighborhood restaurant at heart, a place where you are equally thrilled to stop by the bar for a cocktail and ’nduja croquetas or to gather at the table for a multicourse feast of Ozark mushrooms, thinly sliced beef ribs goosed with Calabrian chiles, housemade cavatelli and the signature grilled half-chicken. Craig’s cooking is seasonal and broadly Italian, but the spirit of food and hospitality alike is sunny in every season. Little Fox’s name, if modest, is apt. This restaurant sneaks into your heart.
📍 Where 2800 Shenandoah Avenue • More info 314-553-9456; littlefoxstl.com • Hours Dinner Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday) • Pricing $$$
Lona's Lil Eats
Lona's Lil Eats • Chinese, Contemporary, Thai
Lona’s Lil Eats is a restaurant without peer in St. Louis, praise I don’t bestow lightly even on a list such as this. It begins with the fiercely personal cooking of chef and owner Lona Luo, who introduced her dumplings at a Soulard Farmers Market stall and since 2014 has overseen a restaurant menu that ranges from those mushroom or steak-and-mushroom dumplings to rice-paper wraps plump with exceptional smoked brisket or turkey in a lemongrass pesto as verdant as it is spicy. As specific as its cuisine is, Lona’s also aims to be broadly appealing, not only in its affordable counter-service model but also in how the menu carefully notes which items and individual ingredients are vegan, which contain gluten, and which those with peanut, sesame or shellfish allergies should avoid. The model of a great restaurant was already changing before the pandemic, but the past two years and their knock-on effect on labor and food costs have humbled the industry. Lona’s doesn’t show the only way forward, but a restaurant couldn’t do much better.
📍 Where 2199 California Avenue • More info 314-925-8938; lonaslileats.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday) • Pricing $
Louie • Contemporary, Italian
Even a great restaurant is fortunate to create one dish so immutable in its design and so beloved by regulars that it becomes known by the most generic term possible. The Chicken, say. Or the Pork Chop. At Louie, you can order the Chicken (roasted, with jus and rapini) and the Pork Chop (grilled, with shishito chiles and chermoula). You should probably order the Hummus for the table and — why not? — the Gnocco, too. I can’t think of another restaurant that has better embodied exactly what it wanted to be in style, service and substance from the beginning than Louie. Owner Matt McGuire, chef Sean Turner and their team have built a timeless restaurant, Italian in the particulars but universal in its appeal. Which is not to say the menu hasn’t evolved. A relatively new addition features grilled octopus over crispy potatoes and chickpeas, all of it sharpened by soppressata and Calabrian chiles. Or, as I imagine the dish will soon be known, the Octopus.
📍 Where 706 DeMun Avenue, Clayton • More info 314-300-8188; louiedemun.com • Hours Dinner Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $$$
Love at First Bite
Love at First Bite • Barbecue, Burgers, Sandwiches, Seafood, Vegan, Wings
When Jason Lamont, the chef, and his niece Monica Hedges opened Love at First Bite in September 2020, the takeout-only St. Ann restaurant didn’t have a commercial smoker. Lamont prepared the menu’s barbecue in a makeshift pit. Very soon, customer demand compelled the duo to add that smoker. When I most recently went to place an order here, the main barbecue menu was on hiatus for the winter. Without much thought, I ordered something else. Those two anecdotes encapsulate the Love at First Bite experience. No one dish defines Lamont’s cooking, but anything he cooks is liable to be delicious, from his signature Spinning Chicken sandwich (with Provel and spinach-artichoke-jalapeño dip) to St. Louis-style fried rice gussied up with lobster. Love at First Bite is notably vegan-friendly — not simply burgers made with Impossible-brand faux meat but fried cauliflower tossed in the restaurant’s wing sauces, vegan fried rice and even a vegan St. Paul sandwich.
📍 Where 10479 St. Charles Road, St. Ann • More info 314-695-5440; loveatfirstbitestl.com • Hours 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday) • Pricing $-$$
The Lucky Accomplice
The Lucky Accomplice • Brunch, Contemporary
Many chefs and owners pivoted their restaurants during the pandemic. Logan Ely pivoted to another restaurant altogether. This is all the more remarkable since the restaurant he pivoted away from — and which as of April 2022 remains on indefinite hiatus — is Shift (née Savage), easily one of St. Louis’ best new restaurants of the past decade. At the Lucky Accomplice, which Ely opened in September 2020 with Shift co-owner Brian Schuman and managing partner Sarah Cymber, the vibe is more casual than the tasting-menu-focused Shift, but the cooking is no less brilliant. When I visited in fall 2021, Ely was dazzling diners with a “carpaccio” of Turkish orange eggplant and mafalda with black trumpet mushrooms in a thick, saucelike Parmesan foam. Ely’s cooking is still rigorously seasonal, local and vegetable-focused, but here he will sometimes let meat be the star, with succulent roasted pork collar a go-to dish. Shift fans can take some solace: Ely occasionally hosts ticketed dinners at the Lucky Accomplice featuring a menu in the vein of his original restaurant.
📍 Where 2501 South Jefferson Avenue • More info 314-354-6100; theluckyaccomplice.com • Hours Dinner Wednesday-Sunday, brunch Sunday (closed Monday-Tuesday) • Pricing $$$
Mai Lee • Chinese, Vietnamese
I didn’t understand the enormity of what would happen to the restaurant industry until I took my family to lunch at Mai Lee one Saturday in March 2020. We were seated immediately in the beloved, usually packed restaurant. A few days later, when I interviewed Qui Tran, the son of Mai Lee founder and chef Lee Tran and himself now one of St. Louis’ most high-profile restaurateurs, I heard uncharacteristic fear in his voice: “I’m really (expletive) scared.” When I stopped by for takeout two years later — a favorite: No. 174, truu xao xa ot, stir-fried lamb with chiles and lemongrass, hot and verdant; a classic bun bowl; chicken fried rice from the Chinese menu for the kids — Mai Lee was bustling once again. That the area’s first, foremost Vietnamese restaurant made it through these two harrowing years won’t surprise anyone who has followed the Tran family’s journey from Vietnam to St. Louis and from their original University City restaurant to today. As Tran told me in a follow-up interview this March: “I’ve always hustled. But man, for that (first) year-and-a-half, there wasn’t anything I would not do.”
📍 Where 8396 Musick Memorial Drive, Brentwood • More info 314-645-2835; maileestl.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $$
Malinche Mexican Culinary Experience
Malinche Mexican Culinary Experience • Mexican
When Angel Jimenez-Gutiérrez and his mother, María Gutiérrez Molina, opened Malinche Mexican Culinary Experience in 2019 in Ellisville, they veered away from the format that defines most Mexican restaurants in St. Louis — even their own prior effort, the very good Señor Pique. Instead, they presented a selection of small plates, one of which might follow a question (what is the chimichanga, exactly?), another a family ritual (a stop at a subway tamale vendor on a trip out of Mexico City), all of them to irresistible ends. When I returned this year, Jimenez-Gutiérrez and Gutiérrez Molina had reinvigorated the menu with many newer dishes, each distinguished by vibrant flavors seamlessly brought together on the plate: molito verde, pieces of tender pork loin in a complex mole verde garnished with pepitas; campechanos, the restaurant’s signature beef arrachera (formerly served with bone marrow) with longaniza in a taco with both an inner corn-tortilla and outer griddled-cheese shell. Within its narrow shopping-plaza storefront, Malinche remains St. Louis’ most compelling Mexican restaurant.
📍 Where 15939 Manchester Road, Ellisville • More info 636-220-8514; malinchestl.com • Hours Dinner Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $$
Mayo Ketchup • Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican
I don’t usually need to amend my rave reviews, but my write-up of Mayo Ketchup, one of 2019’s best new restaurants, neglected to mention the Buffalo tostones. As these twice-fried green plantains tossed in piquant, spicy Buffalo sauce (with celery sticks and ranch on the side, naturally) are one of the tastiest dishes at Mandy Estrella’s Lafayette Square restaurant, I had better lead with them this year. Estrella first made her name as Plantain Girl, and you could make a satisfying meal at her Puerto Rican, Dominican and Cuban restaurant focusing on her favorite ingredient: the Buffalo tostones or the tostones con aguacate topped with smashed avocado, pickled onion and lime juice to start; the jibarito, which uses planks of twice-fried green plantain as the “bread” for a pork, steak, vegetarian or vegan sandwich; and maduros, fried sweet plantains, on the side. Aside from plantains, the fast-casual menu features sandwiches — the Cuban is a standout — and bowls with braised chicken and pernil (roasted pork), both garnished with tostones.
📍 Where 2001 Park Avenue • More info 314-696-2699; plantaingirl.com • Hours Dinner Tuesday-Saturday, lunch Wednesday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $
Medina Mediterranean Grill
Medina Mediterranean Grill • Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Palestinian, Sandwiches
I don’t intend the STL 100 to be a case study of business successes. Go skim some previous editions of this list, and count how many terrific spots have since closed before their time. That said, Medina Mediterranean Grill, a fast-casual restaurant that has been a mainstay of this list since 2016, provides useful general pointers for would-be operators. For one, Medina focuses on two main dishes that lend themselves naturally to the fast-casual format, beef and chicken shawarma, and builds out its menu by distributing them among sandwiches, bowls and salads. Second, Medina invests its concept with personality, specifically with founder Ibrahim Ead’s Palestinian and American heritage. You can order your shawarma in a pita with garlic-tahini sauce and Arabic pickles (the Original Palestine) or as a shawarma cheesesteak with chipotle-tahini sauce (the Summer in Dubai). Finally, cultivate an audience. As other downtown and downtown west restaurants have come and gone, Medina has remained on its original corner since 2015 — and expanded to the Central West End for good measure.
📍 Where 1327 Washington Avenue • More info 314-241-1356; medinagrill.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday • Pricing $
📍 Where 5 Maryland Plaza • More info 314-240-5301; medinagrill.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday • Pricing $
Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant
Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant • Ethiopian
Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant turns 15 this year, and the restaurant Atsede Wondem and Henok Gerbi founded is now as synonymous with dining along the vibrant South Grand corridor as such St. Louis icons as Pho Grand and the King and I. I have done my best to work through Meskerem’s menu over the past decade and a half — a daunting task, given the variety of both meat and vegetarian options available — but when I returned after the past two years, I couldn’t resist the comfort of the Meskerem Combo, the round of spongy injera topped with such signature, precisely spiced dishes as tibs wat (beef), doro wat (chicken) and miser wat, the brilliant, berbere-seasoned dish that will hip the most vocal carnivore to the charms of the lentil. If you are new to Meskerem specifically or Ethiopian cuisine generally, the Meskerem or the Vegetarian Combo is a smart place to begin. Also, if this is your first visit, the more of you at the table, the merrier.
📍 Where 3210 South Grand Boulevard • More info 314-772-4442; meskeremstl.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily (closed Tuesday) • Pricing $-$$
Nathaniel Reid Bakery
Nathaniel Reid Bakery • Bakery & Desserts, Sandwiches
Simply put, Nathaniel Reid Bakery is unfair: a world-class patisserie, a coffee-and-croissant bakery and a sandwich shop that share the same storefront — the same display counter — when a typical shopping strip like its Kirkwood home would likely be happy to land just one of those three concepts. The eponymous Nathaniel Reid is a two-time James Beard Award semifinalist for “Outstanding Baker” nationwide, among numerous other plaudits over the years. Your eye will gravitate to the rainbow array of macarons to one side of the counter or the miniature cakes at its center. The latter is where my attention inevitably lands, with gems like the Ruby (a sophisticated blend of sweet and just tart enough: chocolate cake, raspberry compote and chocolate-raspberry tea mousse) or the chocolate triple-threat of the Guyana (chocolate cake, mousse and creme brulee) atop a caramelized puffed rice-hazelnut croquant. If you don’t already think of Nathaniel Reid Bakery as a sandwich shop too, smoked turkey with coleslaw and chipotle mayo on springy Parmesan-red onion focaccia will be a treat before your treats. (Disclosure: Nathaniel Reid Bakery, which makes this list for the fifth consecutive time, contracted with my wife’s PR firm in 2021.)
📍 Where 11243 Manchester Road, Kirkwood • More info 314-858-1019; nrbakery.com • Hours 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday) • Pricing $-$$
Nippon Tei, Ramen Tei
Nippon Tei, Ramen Tei • Japanese, Ramen, Seafood, Sushi
Ann Bognar opened Nippon Tei in 2001, and this shopping-plaza storefront between Des Peres and Ballwin has been a St. Louis jewel ever since. Bognar herself moves between Nippon Tei’s kitchen and dining room, overseeing the restaurant’s elegantly efficient operation, including the menu her son and executive chef, Nick Bognar, reimagined a few years back. Nigiri sushi is this menu’s heart, ordered by the piece — or, better still, as the omakase selection of the day’s five best pieces. For $28 on my visit, it yielded bites of perfect momentary pleasure: snow-white flounder with a tiny but staggering chile charge; sweet Hokkaido scallop with a pop of lychee; benitoro (seared salmon belly) as luxurious as an exquisitely marbled rib-eye. Pair this with a smartly constructed roll (the Tiger Cry, with yellowtail and spicy crab), light, sweet tempura prawns or the wagyu burger steam bun, which evokes both bao and a late-night slider. In April, the Bognars announced Nippon Tei would relocate this fall to the Hill and become a new sushi concept called Sado.
📍 Where 14025 Manchester Road, Ballwin • More info 636-386-8999; nippon.teistl.com • Hours Dinner Wednesday-Sunday (closed Monday-Tuesday) • Pricing $$-$$$
Nixta • Mexican
Ben Poremba’s Nixta has followed a fascinating, if not exactly linear, path from its late-2016 debut to today. Celebrated for its initial approach under Poremba and chef Tello Carreon — alongside effusive local praise, the Mexican restaurant was one of Bon Appétit’s 10 best restaurants in the country in 2017 — Nixta then took a detour to the Yucatán with chef Alex Henry before eventually winding back to something like its original form. Under Poremba and chef Juana Caballero, the kitchen sends out such signature dishes as chicken in mole negro, the octopus with salsa macha and spit-roasted tacos al pastor with pineapple folded confidently into single tortillas. On a recent visit, the highlight was a tostada with the gentle sweetness of fresh avocado and the initial bright pop and lingering oceanic sting of smoked trout roe. One consistent Nixta strength I haven’t given enough attention is the beverage program, which can even fashion a refreshing but elegant daiquiri from tequila.
📍 Where 1621 Tower Grove Avenue • More info 314-899-9000; bengelina.com/nixta • Hours Dinner Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday) • Pricing $$$
Nomad • Burgers, Sandwiches
Nomad opened in February 2020, mere weeks before the pandemic arrived. The experience was “terrifying,” Nomad’s chef-owner Tommy Andrew told me in late March of that year. Observant diners might have known Andrew from his work at Mike Randolph’s late Randolfi’s Italian Kitchen and other area restaurants, but Nomad was only beginning to build name recognition — a process complicated by the fact that it had succeeded the popular burger restaurant Mac’s Local Eats as the food venue for Tamm Avenue Bar in Dogtown. Andrew didn’t want Nomad to be another burger joint. He focused instead on pastrami and is now producing St. Louis’ best version of that dish: beef brisket brined for 10 to 14 days, seasoned generously with black pepper and coriander and smoked for 12 to 14 hours. Nomad’s signature sandwich piles this pastrami between slices of marble rye bread and accents it with Swiss cheese and the house special sauce. As it happens, Nomad also serves an excellent smashed burger. Pile the patties as high as the pastrami, if you dare.
📍 Where Tamm Avenue Bar, 1221 Tamm Avenue • More info 314-696-2360; nomadstl.square.site • Hours Lunch and dinner Wednesday-Sunday (closed Monday-Tuesday) • Pricing $
Noto Italian Restaurant
Noto Italian Restaurant • Italian, Pizza
Plan dinner weeks ahead, beg friends with reservations to let you tag along, squeeze yourself into the one open seat at the bar — seize any opportunity to visit Noto Italian Restaurant. Since opening in January 2020, and against pandemic headwinds, Kendele and Wayne Sieve’s St. Peters restaurant has become one of the metro area’s toughest tables and its prime destination for Neapolitan pizza. Blitzed in Noto’s 1,000-degree, wood-fired oven, Wayne’s 32-hour-fermented dough transforms into an airy, gorgeously charred crust you should (and in some cases must) order uncut. Get here however you can, but the smart play is to dine with a group and pair a couple of Wayne’s pies with a few of executive chef Josh Poletti’s pastas, from simple, perfect tortellini en brodo to luxurious lobster ravioli. Leave room for cannoli or another of Kendele’s desserts. Her father previously operated J. Noto’s Bakery at this address, which makes Noto both one of the best restaurants to open in this young decade and the next chapter of a family legacy.
📍 Where 5105 Westwood Drive, St. Peters • More info 636-317–1143; notopizza.com • Hours Dinner Wednesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Tuesday) • Pricing $$-$$$
Beyond the Kitchen: Noto Italian Restaurant draws on longtime family legacy
Nudo House • Japanese, Ramen, Vietnamese
Nudo House is a counter-service restaurant built for convenience but steeped in patience. Co-owners Marie-Anne Velasco and Qui Tran planned their ramen restaurant for several years and took lessons from Japanese ramen master Shigetoshi Nakamura before opening the original Nudo House in 2017 in Creve Coeur. The tonkotsu broth ladled quickly into your bowl is based on pork bones boiled for 20-plus hours and features slices of chashu pork belly that have marinated for a day. Velasco and Tran named their chicken paitan ramen the Hebrew Hammer for all the schmaltz that rises while its broth bubbles away. The time required here will not be news to anyone who knows ramen or pho, Nudo House’s other specialty — or anyone who has made halfway decent stock at home, for that matter. Still, when I brought home Nudo House ramen during the pandemic, I poured the broth slowly from its container into the bowl with the noodles, partly not to splash, partly to savor the journey from there to here.
📍 Where 11423 Olive Boulevard, Creve Coeur • More info 314-274-8046; nudohousestl.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $
📍 Where 6105-A Delmar Boulevard • More info 314-370-6970; nudohousestl.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $
O! Wing Plus
O! Wing Plus • Korean, Wings
You don’t need to sign a waiver to eat any of the wings at O! Wing Plus in Overland, though its hottest flavor, Beast Mode, surely earns its name. You will find a fine version of classic Buffalo sauce here, but if I were to rank O! Wing’s flavors, I would place it no higher than fifth. For a little more than a decade now, Steven and Heidy Song have served wings their way, and theirs are the best wings in town. I first celebrated them in another publication in 2010 and have returned many times since, which spares me only a bit of the embarrassment for not having included O! Wing Plus on this list sooner. The Songs have mastered the balance of hot and sweet, from the red chile-brown sugar combination of the O’s Original sauce to the citrus-kissed Thai chile lime to the honey-tempered blaze of their Hot Mama! flavor, just a skosh less incendiary than Beast Mode. A side of cooling ranch or bleu cheese dressing is probably a good idea.
📍 Where 10094 Page Avenue, Overland • More info 314-395-0180; owingplus.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $
O+O Pizza • Italian, Pizza
O+O Pizza doesn’t reimagine the pizzeria or the neighborhood Italian restaurant, but the latest venture from the owners of Webster Groves sensation Olive + Oak and its cafe spinoff the Clover and the Bee approaches this well-traveled terrain with refreshing vigor. Chef Mike Risk certainly knows the cuisine. Beginning as a teenager, he spent 12 formative years cooking at Trattoria Marcella. More recently, before the pandemic, he introduced his take on veal Parmesan and other classic Italian dishes to the Clover and the Bee dinner menu. At O+O Pizza, which opened in September 2020 in the original Olive + Oak space, Risk both refines and expands his approach. He stuffs handmade toasted ravioli with beef, pancetta tesa and fontina; bathes a strip steak in herb butter and colatura vinaigrette; marks corzetti with a custom-made octopus stamp and serves the coin-shaped pasta with grilled octopus in bone-marrow butter. Even the pizza finds its own niche, thin and crisp with a bit of a chew — not quite New York, not quite tavern-style.
📍 Where 102 West Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves • More info 314-721-5422; oandopizza.oohosp.com • Hours Dinner daily • Pricing $$-$$$
Olio • Contemporary, Israeli, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern
Tear off a piece of warm, puffy pita bread and swirl it around Olio’s best-in-class King of Kings hummus. Drag your Jerusalem bagel through tart pomegranate molasses. Sip a cocktail and snack on Moroccan olives bright with coriander and citrus. Too often in previous editions of this list I’ve called Olio the “more casual” counterpart to Ben Poremba’s fine-dining flagship Elaia. This is true, of course, but most restaurants are more casual than Elaia, and a decade after the duo debuted in the city’s Botanical Heights neighborhood, the description doesn’t capture Olio’s essence. This is a place, if you’re comfortable again, to linger with friends over good food and good drink — or to treat yourself to a restorative solo meal of a grain salad with tomato, cucumber and feta or a compact gyro with snappy pickles and a surprising heat.
📍 Where 1634 Tower Grove Avenue • More info 314-932-1088; bengelina.com/olio • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $$-$$$
Olive + Oak
Olive + Oak • Contemporary
“How could Olive + Oak be substantially more impressive?” was never a question I asked. The Webster Groves blockbuster seemed fully formed when it opened in 2016 thanks to the exuberant cooking of executive chef Jesse Mendica and the warm hospitality fostered by co-owner Mark Hinkle. Mendica certainly hasn’t stood still since then. Over the years, the multiple-time James Beard Award “Best Chef: Midwest” semifinalist Mendica has balanced Olive + Oak’s instant classics (the blue-crab gratin, cheese curds and cowboy steak for two) with such fascinating dishes as a rabbit mole, a sort of octopus al pastor and, on my most recent visit, a thick lamb chop in a prickly, Dr Pepper-inspired sauce. In 2020, though, Olive + Oak relocated a short distance to a larger and even more beautiful new space that has retained the restaurant’s heart. Olive + Oak has also increased its presence in the community: Perennial on Lockwood, an appealing brewpub collaboration with Perennial Artisan Ales, is adjacent to its new location, and its original home is now the terrific Italian restaurant O+O Pizza.
📍 Where 216 West Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves • More info 314-736-1370; oliveandoak.oohosp.com • Hours Dinner daily • Pricing $$$-$$$$
Pappy’s Smokehouse, Bogart’s Smokehouse
Pappy’s Smokehouse, Bogart’s Smokehouse • Barbecue
The twin pillars of St. Louis’ decade-plus boom of new barbecue restaurants, the beloved model student and its spunkier younger sibling, Pappy’s Smokehouse in midtown (and now also St. Peters) and Bogart’s Smokehouse in Soulard have both settled into their iconic status. You could look no further than the two restaurants’ ribs to understand their relationship, Pappy’s old-school Memphis-style dry rub vs. Bogart’s playful apricot-brulee finish, each approach perfect in its own way. Beyond their ribs, I tend to favor Pappy’s for pulled pork and burnt ends, Bogart’s for its pastrami and tri-tip, Pappy’s for the variety of sides, Bogart’s for the inimitable beans. Both restaurants impress far more often than not across their entire menus. Few of the barbecue restaurants that have followed in their wake can claim as much.
📍 Where Pappy’s Smokehouse, 3106 Olive Street • More info 314-535-4340; pappyssmokehouse.com • Hours 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday (or until sold out; closed Monday-Tuesday) • Pricing $-$$ 📍 Where Pappy’s Smokehouse, 5246 North Service Road, St. Peters • More info 636-244-5400; pappyssmokehouse.com • Hours 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday (or until sold out; closed Monday-Tuesday) • Pricing $-$$
📍 Where Bogart’s Smokehouse, 1627 South Ninth Street • More info 314-621-3107; bogartssmokehouse.com • Hours 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday (or until sold out; closed Sunday-Monday) • Pricing $-$$
Pastaria, Pastaria Deli & Wine
Pastaria, Pastaria Deli & Wine • Italian, Pizza, Sandwiches
Since opening 10 years ago, Pastaria has been the most broadly appealing of Gerard Craft’s restaurants, a place where a lively evening with friends can share the dining room with a romantic date at the table to the left and a family dinner at the table to the right. During the pandemic, Pastaria’s spirit grew even more capacious when Craft turned the adjacent storefront (previously his other Italian restaurant, Sardella) into Pastaria Deli & Wine, offering a selection of sandwiches alongside retail wine and other provisions. The sandwiches follow the template set by Pastaria’s pastas and wood-fired pizzas, familiar, even classic, but not hemmed in by tradition: tuna salad, roasted turkey with Calabrian-chile mayonnaise, Volpi Heritage prosciutto with giardiniera and lemon agrumato. Meanwhile, at Pastaria itself, where Craft and his team had the menu dialed in more or less from the beginning, the cooking has retained the careful technique and vibrant flavors of a new kitchen seeking to impress.
📍 Where Pastaria, 7734 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton • More info 314-862-6603; eatpastaria.com/stlouis • Hours Dinner daily (closed Tuesday) • Pricing $$-$$$
📍 Where Pastaria Deli & Wine, 7734 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton • More info 314-773-7755; pastariadeliwine.com • Hours Lunch Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday) • Pricing $
Pizza-a-Go-Go • Italian, Pizza
A former boss turned me onto Pizza-a-Go-Go not quite two decades ago. The no-frills pizzeria has been around since 1967, but when you’re a transplant here, as I was circa 2003, you need someone to point you in the right direction — specifically to the squat Lindenwood Park building where hand-tossed dough is topped with tomato sauce, cheese and nothing fancier than Canadian bacon. A deck oven yields a thin crust with that trifecta of crisp, chew and golden-brown shade only a deck oven can produce. Frank LaFata founded Pizza-a-Go-Go on South Grand, moved the pizzeria to another spot on the same street in 1980 and relocated it to its current home in the late 1990s. His son, Paul, worked with him, and when I first started visiting, Paul would be tending to the kitchen while his father greeted diners from his seat in the dining room. Pizza-a-Go-Go fell out of my regular rotation for a while. No reason — just the way things go sometimes. Frank LaFata died in November 2020 at age 90. His son is still making Pizza-a-Go-Go’s perfect pizzas and still taking only cash or checks. If you know, you know. If you don’t, tell him I sent you.
📍 Where 6703 Scanlan Avenue • More info 314-781-1234; pizzaagogostl.wixsite.com/pizzaagogostl • Hours Dinner daily (closed Wednesday) • Pricing $
Pizzeria da Gloria
Pizzeria da Gloria • Italian, Pizza
Pizzeria da Gloria owner and pizzaiolo Joe Kurowski named the Bonci pizza at his Hill restaurant after the renowned Italian pizzaiolo Gabriele Bonci. Last decade, Kurowski took a master class with Bonci, “a big, bombastic personality,” he said in a 2021 interview, whose pizza is “like magic almost.” I know Bonci the pizzaiolo only by reputation, so I can’t say how Kurowski’s pies stack up against his, but I can say that Kurowski’s Bonci pizza casts its own spell. The very thin slices of roasted eggplant fanned across this vegan wood-fired pie convey such a depth of savory, smoky and ever so slightly sweet pleasure that you don’t miss or even think about cheese and meat. If you do miss cheese and meat, Pizzeria da Gloria also serves terrific pepperoni, housemade sausage and sausage-broccoli rabe pizzas. More than any one pie, what sets this restaurant apart is the crust, which Kurowski fires for three to four minutes between 650 and 700 degrees: naturally tangy, airy, lightly chewy, magic.
📍 Where 2024 Marconi Avenue • More info 314-833-3734; pizzeriadagloria.com • Hours Dinner Tuesday-Saturday, lunch Saturday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $$
Planter’s House • Contemporary
Seating at the bar had just resumed when I returned to Planter’s House this March. Once again you can watch closely as Ted Kilgore’s team members stir and shake timeless classics and the expansive, often-changing repertoire of Planter’s House originals. You might mumble or strategically elide the names of a cocktail like Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, but your glass holds a bold yet sophisticated concoction of blanco tequila, spiced hibiscus liqueur and a blood-orange puree. Or maybe it’s the simply, aptly named Reverie, which brings together bourbon and brandy (among others) with a seamless, can’t-do-this-at-home elegance I desperately missed during the pandemic’s height. Planter’s House has featured St. Louis’ best cocktails since Kilgore opened it with his wife, Jamie, and business partner Ted Charak in 2013. The food has continued to rise in my esteem, with chef Sam Boettler turning out hearty bistro fare, fun snacks (gochujang-seasoned Chex Mix) and a terrific burger (two 4-ounce patties with manchego cheese, a chorizo spread and a fiery pickled-serrano relish) served with even better fries.
📍 Where 1000 Mississippi Avenue • More info 314-696-2603; plantershousestl.com • Hours Dinner Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $$-$$$
Rice Thai Bistro
Rice Thai Bistro • Thai
Since 2014, Bryan and Nina Prapaisilpa have operated Rice Thai Bistro from a Winchester storefront that might violate the laws of time and space if it were any smaller. Both husband and wife are members of larger restaurant families — one of his uncles is the founder of both the King and I and the international grocery store Global Foods Market, while each of her three sisters runs her own establishment (Chiang Mai, Nippon Tei and Sushi Koi) — but here the couple has built their own legacy. The menu might rekindle your love for a straightforward green curry, rounded out here with Thai eggplant, or ignite a new obsession for two of Rice Thai Bistro’s signature appetizers, moo ping pork with its hot-and-sour tamarind dipping sauce and pan-fried chive dumplings. I usually admire the personal touch of dining in Rice’s tiny space, but even when brought home as takeout, the food’s flavor popped. This could have been no one else’s cooking but the Prapaisilpas’.
📍 Where 14536 Manchester Road, Winchester • More info 636-220-1777; ricethaibistrostl.com • Hours Dinner Wednesday-Sunday (closed Monday-Tuesday) • Pricing $-$$
Root Food + Wine
Root Food + Wine • Contemporary, Tasting Menu
Developer David Hoffmann has undertaken a $100 million project to turn tiny Augusta into the Napa Valley of the Midwest. Chef Philip Day has placed a more modest bet on this Missouri wine country town of about 300, but his investment is already yielding dividends for diners seeking a destination restaurant with the vibe of a beloved neighborhood spot. At Root Food + Wine, which opened in April 2021 inside an approximately century-old house, Day draws on local, seasonal ingredients and a global array of techniques. Dinners in the late fall of last year featured cold-smoked and roasted quail stuffed with a tender mousseline of quail and chicken, steamed beef dumplings in a broth silky with miso butter, and a beguilingly rich mushroom soup built from smoked mushroom stems and tamari. For the full destination-dining experience, Day’s seven-course tasting menu presents a given day’s entire selection of two starters, three main courses and two desserts, but his five- and three-course dinners are equally compelling reasons to visit Root.
📍 Where 5525 Walnut Street, Augusta • More info 636-544-1009; rootfoodwine.com • Hours Dinner Wednesday-Saturday, lunch Saturday (closed Monday-Tuesday) • Pricing $$$-$$$$
Salt + Smoke
Salt + Smoke • Barbecue, Burgers
If I could bring back any restaurant that has closed over the past two decades, it would be Franco, the French bistro Tom Schmidt operated in Soulard from 2006 to 2016. I should probably check with Schmidt first, though. He is a little busy these days with Salt + Smoke, the smash-hit barbecue restaurant he launched in 2014. There are now five Salt + Smoke locations, including the sleek Ballpark Village outpost with a rooftop deck that debuted in 2021. From the beginning, the restaurant has drawn from the wellspring of respect for tradition and inspired hospitality that made Franco both timeless and thoroughly modern. Schmidt and co-owner and pitmaster Haley Riley do right by Texas-style brisket (get the fatty cut) as well as pork ribs, pulled pork and chicken, but they also know barbecue should be fun. They stuff burnt ends into T-ravs, smoke and fry their jalapeño-cheddar bologna, and toss their signature cheddar popover onto platters already crowded with hearty fare.
📍 Where 6525 Delmar Boulevard, University City • More info 314-727-0200; saltandsmokebbq.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily • Pricing $-$$ 📍 Where 5625 Hampton Avenue • More info 314-727-0200; saltandsmokebbq.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily • Pricing $-$$ 📍 Where 392 North Euclid Avenue • More info 314-727-0200; saltandsmokebbq.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily • Pricing $-$$ 📍 Where 501 South Main Street, St. Charles • More info 314-727-0200; saltandsmokebbq.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily • Pricing $-$$
📍 Where 501 Clark Street • More info 314-727-0200; saltandsmokebbq.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily • Pricing $-$$
Sameem Afghan Restaurant
Sameem Afghan Restaurant • Afghan
Since Qayum and Fahime Mohammad opened the original Tower Grove South location of Sameem Afghan Restaurant in 2005, the brothers and Qayum’s wife, Sitara, have introduced countless St. Louis diners to the cuisine of Afghanistan. Not quite two decades later, and now a mainstay of the thriving dining scene in the Grove, Sameem remains a singular experience. I usually recommend beginning with an order of sambosas, which are both excellent themselves and a dipping vehicle for the restaurant’s extraordinary green chutney. But you will be equally happy starting your meal with a heartening cup of aash or crisp assorted pakowra. Among the main courses, I tend to favor spicy, tomato-bright chicken or lamb karahi or the whopping, fork-tender braised lamb shank with biryani rice. Chicken and lamb impress throughout the menu — both grilled and the chicken in the house or tikka masala curry sauces — but the kitchen also knows how to enliven roasted eggplant with garlic, ginger and tangy (and also garlicky) yogurt for the eggplant boorani appetizer.
📍 Where 4341 Manchester Avenue • More info 314-534-9500; sameems.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $-$$
Sides of Seoul
Sides of Seoul • Korean
Sides of Seoul has embraced a few different identities in its first four years. The original owner of this slender Overland storefront specialized in prepackaged banchan (hence the name), though a few Korean meals were available for takeout. The Lee family — Terry, who previously owned a restaurant in Columbia, Missouri; his mother, Mimi, whose cooking had won over family, friends and her church; and his sister and brother-in-law Youni and James Cho — took over Sides of Seoul in late 2018 and, while keeping some banchan, converted the space into a counter-service restaurant. The menu is a winning selection of kimbap; bulgogi, spicy pork and other rice bowls and meal boxes; and especially soups and stews, from the soulful, patiently developed ox-bone broth (seolleongtang) to bubbling, brilliant kimchi jjigae. During the pandemic, and continuing as of April 2022, Sides of Seoul has shifted its menu to takeout-only and expanded its selection of prepackaged kimchi (both the restaurant’s signature cabbage and numerous other varieties) and marinated and pickled vegetables, seafood and other banchan.
📍 Where 10084 Page Avenue, Overland • More info 314-942-8940; sos-sides-of-seoul-korean-take-out.business.site • Hours Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $
Sidney Street Cafe
Sidney Street Cafe • Contemporary
Dining at Sidney Street Cafe for the first time in two years, I found the menu of Kevin Nashan’s acclaimed, beloved Benton Park restaurant reassuringly familiar and surprisingly, appealingly looser than usual. There were classic dishes (lobster turnovers in crackling phyllo with a tomato-brandy reduction) and expected modern fare (hamachi crudo, though here unexpectedly paired with popcorn). But beyond the signature selection of appetizers presented on a tabletop chalkboard, there were both artfully plated main courses and an assortment of a-la-carte options. A friend and I ended up packing our table with both an elegant beef-cheek dish and a straightforward jerk quail that I broke apart with teeth and fingers (I did the same with another standout starter, gochujang ribs), a little dish of polenta and a staggeringly good spaetzle with sweet Dungeness crab. Two years ago, I wrote in the STL 100 that the James Beard Award-winning Nashan had nothing left to prove. I was wrong. Faced with the pandemic’s unprecedented challenge, he has let Sidney Street adapt and move forward.
📍 Where 2000 Sidney Street • More info 314-771-5777; sidneystreetcafestl.com • Hours Dinner Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday) • Pricing $$$$
Sister Cities Cajun
Sister Cities Cajun • Cajun/Creole
On this side of the pandemic, Pamela Melton and Travis Parfait’s Sister Cities Cajun operates both a table-service and counter-service model, depending on the day, but the restaurant’s core menu of Cajun fare is unchanged and its appeal undiminished, from the signature dry-rubbed and smoked wings to crunchy-to-tender fried catfish smothered in crawfish étouffée to the other signature, seafood gumbo, a spicy dark roux loaded with shrimp, crawfish, scallops, clams and fish. “Terrebonne Parish’s Best!” the menu boasts of the gumbo, and I wouldn’t argue with Dulac, Louisiana, native Parfait. (As always, you can order the gumbo by itself or poured over smoked chicken, the Dirty Chick.) Melton and Parfait’s perseverance is unsurprising. The couple opened the original Sister Cities Cajun in 2013 in Dutchtown, and the restaurant survived its building being hit by two different cars within four months before relocating to its current, much more spacious location along South Broadway in Marine Villa.
📍 Where 3550 South Broadway • More info 314-405-0447; sistercitiescajun.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Thursday-Sunday • Pricing $-$$
Songbird • Breakfast, Contemporary, Sandwiches
Songbird is both a newcomer to the STL 100 — it opened in late 2020 in Forest Park Southeast — and a mainstay of this list. The breakfast-focused cafe is the most recent venture from business partners Chris Meyer and Mike Miller, the duo I have previously honored for the pop-up Kitchen Kulture and the small, takeout-only restaurant Kounter Kulture. Songbird continues their knack for building vibrant destinations out of compact spaces. Here a kitchen too small to accommodate boiling bagels led the team to bake crusty sesame-seed bialys to pair with house-cured salmon. In another restaurant, this and the breakfast tamale with cotija and stewed black beans would be the signature dishes, but Songbird has also become the permanent home for Meyer and Miller’s most beloved creation, the Combo breakfast sandwich (white cheddar, smoked bacon, a fried egg, sea salt and honey) that made their name at the Tower Grove Farmers Market. At Songbird, Meyer and Miller have pulled off a rare feat, coming full circle while still moving forward.
📍 Where 4476 Chouteau Avenue • More info 314-781-4344; songbirdstl.com • Hours Breakfast and lunch Monday and Thursday-Sunday (closed Tuesday-Wednesday) • Pricing $
Soup Dumplings STL, Private Kitchen
Soup Dumplings STL, Private Kitchen • Chinese
Xiao long bao — soup dumplings, plump steamed purses of meat or seafood in broth — were one of the dishes that put Lawrence and Emily Chen’s tiny University City restaurant Private Kitchen on local diners’ radar when it opened in 2015. Two years later, the Chens gave their soup dumplings their own storefront in the same shopping strip as Private Kitchen. The dumplings did and still do deserve the spotlight, the crab-pork combination especially. The rich, sweet-and-savory broth would draw me here if it were served by itself in a bowl. In previous years, I have led this joint entry with Private Kitchen instead, where you must make a reservation and order ahead of time from Lawrence’s menu, which focuses on the cuisine of Shanghai. Right now, Lawrence told me, that menu is available only for takeout. Given the beauty of his platings, I am willing to wait and let Soup Dumplings STL take center stage this year instead.
📍 Where Soup Dumplings STL, 8110 Olive Boulevard, University City • More info 314-445-4605; facebook.com/soupdumplingstl • Hours Lunch and dinner daily (closed Tuesday) • Pricing $
📍 Where Private Kitchen, 8106 Olive Boulevard, University City • More info 314-445-4605; facebook.com/privatekitchenstl • Hours Contact via text for hours and availability • Pricing $$-$$$$
Sultan Mediterranean Restaurant
Sultan Mediterranean Restaurant • Mediterranean, Middle Eastern
At Sultan Mediterranean Restaurant in the Grove, chef and owner Jenar Mohammed has built a menu from both family recipes — she and her husband came to the United States in the 1980s from the Kurdistan region of Iraq — and dishes she has learned from YouTube cooking videos. You would never guess which items she has been cooking for years and which she has taught herself more recently. You could begin with the dish that shares the restaurant’s name, Sultan pilau: Also known as pardu pilau, it delivers both lamb and rice cooked in lamb stock with raisins, carrots and nuts under a crisp, delicate phyllo shell. You could also point to the menu at random, from fragrant, garlicky chicken biryani to plump muntoo (steamed dumplings) in tangy yogurt sauce to the Palestinian flatbread with chicken musakhan. A cup of Sultan’s excellent curried lentil soup is complimentary when you order a main course at lunch. In any other circumstance, you must purchase it instead — and you must.
📍 Where 4200 Manchester Avenue • More info 314-390-2020; sultan-stl.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday (closed Monday) • Pricing $-$$
Sureste • Mexican
Alex Henry first drew attention as the second executive chef of Ben Poremba’s Nixta. A native of Mérida, Mexico, Henry brought the cuisine of the Yucatán to that Mexican restaurant’s already acclaimed menu. Later, I noticed some Yucatecan touches during his time as executive chef of Cleveland-Heath, though he mainly kept that Edwardsville restaurant on its upscale-comfort-food track. In October 2021, Henry opened his debut restaurant inside the Food Hall at City Foundry: Sureste, a marvel of Yucatecan food and, as often as possible, locally sourced ingredients. Henry serves citrusy cochinita pibil, turkey in a smoky, earthy burnt-chile sauce, and other vibrantly flavored dishes in bowls with freshly made corn tortillas on the side (tacos guisado), or stuffed with the toasted baby lima bean and ground pepita dish toksel in a crispy Mayan-style fried roll (pibihua) or atop bean-filled tostadas (panuchos). Sureste also impresses with its seafood, especially ceviche and shrimp in a lime juice-based green aguachile as refreshing in its tartness as it is searing in its chile heat.
📍 Where Food Hall at City Foundry, 3730 Foundry Way • More info cityfoundrystl.com/directory/sur-este • Hours Lunch and dinner daily (closed Tuesday) • Pricing $
SweetArt • Bakery & Desserts, Breakfast, Sandwiches, Vegan, Vegetarian
SweetArt chef and owner Reine Keis recently launched a line of plant-based baking mixes called Love + Magic, which would also be a fitting name for her Shaw cafe if SweetArt wasn’t already synonymous with terrific and entirely vegan baked goods and breakfast and lunch fare. SweetArt didn’t shift from curbside pickup to takeout until late 2021, and the dining room didn’t open until early this year, so it’s still a new relief to be able to peruse the bakery’s display counter once again and pick out a simple and not overly frosted caramel cupcake, a decadent peanut-butter brownie, a gooey cinnamon roll you can’t help but pull apart with your fingers. Keis also slings vegan biscuit sandwiches and breakfast tacos and one of the original and best St. Louis vegan burgers. It doesn’t try to imitate meat. You’ll love it anyway.
📍 Where 2203 South 39th Street • More info 314-771-4278; sweetartstl.com • Hours 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Wednesday) • Pricing $
Taberu • Catering & Delivery, Japanese, Seafood, Sushi
Taberu, by the chef Heidi Hamamura, is neither a traditional restaurant nor a pop-up, but an autonomous operation that can deliver a sushi platter for two to your front door or cater a wedding for 200. However you want to categorize it, Taberu is one of the most exciting developments in St. Louis sushi in recent years. If you don’t know Hamamura herself — her experience has included Elaia and the St. Louis Club — you might recognize her last name. Her father, Naomi, is an iconic St. Louis sushi chef (and ice sculptor). With Taberu, Hamamaru is charting her own course, packing her platters with exceptional nigiri, flavorful (but not overwrought) maki, and a surprise or two. The first time I ordered one of her platters, the surprise was a piece of nigiri that looked like duck breast and tasted both meaty and smoky; it was, in fact, smoked duck breast. I can’t guarantee you will land that particular piece, but Hamamura says customers often ask about her smoked octopus, spicy torched scallops and white tuna. A platter for two begins at $125, and Hamamura takes orders through Taberu’s Instagram account, where the photos will sell you on her sushi if I haven’t already.
📍 Where Catering and delivery service • More info instagram.com/taberu_stl • Pricing $$$$
Tacos La Jefa
Tacos La Jefa • Mexican, Tacos
A portrait of Heriberta Amescua now overlooks the cramped back corner Tacos La Jefa occupies inside Urban Eats. Since September 2020, diners have thronged the Dutchtown food incubator for the weekend pop-ups featuring Amescua’s beef birria. They order it as a platter in takeout clamshells wobbly with the heft of meat, rice and beans. They order it especially as quesabirria, birria and cheese folded into a tortilla tinged the dusky sunset red of the consommé in which the beef is cooked. During the birria boom of recent years, the consommé served alongside the tacos is how you can separate keepers from pretenders, and Tacos La Jefa’s is the best in town, prickly with chiles and spices, so rich that it is somehow simultaneously velvety and sticky. Opening the pop-up was the next step toward Amescua’s dream of a restaurant. The native of Guadalajara, Mexico, had already cultivated a fanbase for her cooking at area Hispanic festivals and pop-up events in her own backyard. She died in April 2021, but under her portrait and in her spirit, her family works to continue her legacy.
📍 Where Urban Eats, 3301 Meramec Street • More info facebook.com/tacoslajefastl • Hours Lunch Saturday; check Facebook or instagram.com/tacoslajefastl for additional/changed services • Pricing $
Tai Ke Shabu Shabu
Tai Ke Shabu Shabu • Taiwanese
The Taiwanese restaurant Tai Ke closed its original location in late 2020 ahead of the long-delayed, Costco-anchored commercial development that had targeted its University City building (and several others) for demolition. When it reopened in January 2021 in Olivette, it did so with a slightly different name for its new digs: Tai Ke Shabu Shabu. The dining room features a central counter where diners sit in front of individual pots of bubbling broth to which they add their choice of main ingredient and any number of add-ons. The hot-pot option is enjoyable, and I look forward to exploring it further in the coming year. Fans of Tai Ke should also know, however, that the new Olivette location includes standard dining tables as well, and chef-owner Calvin Koong continues to offer the Taiwanese dishes — popcorn chicken, three cup chicken, gua bao and other street snacks, among them – that has made this restaurant a mainstay of the STL 100.
📍 Where 9626 Olive Boulevard, Olivette • More info 314-801-8411; taikeshabushabu.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily (closed Tuesday) • Pricing $$
Taqueria Durango • Mexican, Tacos
When a fire gutted Taqueria Durango in early March 2020, St. Louis restaurants rallied around the Overland mainstay. Brian Hardesty of Guerrilla Street Food organized a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $14,000 for owners Miguel and Isadora Lopez. The arrival of COVID-19 scuttled plans for a follow-up fundraising event, but only months later, it was the Lopez family helping those in need, distributing donations outside their shuttered restaurant during the first pandemic summer. Both stories say more about Taqueria Durango’s importance to the community than anything a restaurant critic can offer. For what it’s worth, though, Taqueria Durango’s reopening in June 2021 inspired me to eat inside a restaurant for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. The menu has added the lately inescapable duo of quesabirria and consommé to such signature dishes as the wide variety of tacos, the chori pollo and the torta ahogada. The birria is welcome, but Taqueria Durango doesn’t need to follow trends to thrive. This is a restaurant built — and rebuilt — to last.
📍 Where 10238 Page Avenue, Overland • More info 314-429-1113; facebook.com/taqueriadurangosaintlouis • Hours Lunch and dinner daily • Pricing $-$$
Beyond the Kitchen: Taqueria Durango perseveres through hardship
Tempus • Contemporary
Ben Grupe’s exceptional 2016-18 run as executive chef of Elaia tagged his first restaurant, Tempus, as one of St. Louis’ most exciting debuts of recent years. His atypical path through country-club kitchens and prestigious culinary competitions to James Beard Award semifinalist suggested he would meet those lofty expectations on his own terms. At Tempus, which began dine-in service in November 2021 after a takeout-only first year, Grupe and his team showcase dazzling techniques: bread scraps repurposed as the sourdough miso that undergirds the house butter; a chicken breast layered with a sausage of the bird’s own dark meat and a coating of its dehydrated and seasoned skin for perfect crunchy-tender bites; cooked apples for dessert rendered nearly as crisp as the fresh fruit via nixtamalization. Yet Tempus folds these dishes into a crisply paced three-course format that sweats the service details and treats the diner’s pleasure as coequal to the chef’s vision. This is fine dining fit for both a special occasion and your regular restaurant rotation.
📍 Where 4370 Manchester Avenue • More info 314-349-2878; tempusstl.com • Hours Dinner Wednesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Tuesday) • Pricing $$$$
Terror Tacos • Mexican, Tacos, Tex-Mex, Vegan, Vegetarian
A mural inside Terror Tacos features what I described in my 2021 review as “the Grinch crossed with a jalapeño rising out of a taco that is also a nightmare sun.” I repeat myself here in part because words fail otherwise, in part because this mural kind of conveys the experience of eating at this Tower Grove South vegan Tex-Mex restaurant inspired by death metal, skateboarding and horror movies. Owner Brian Roash painted the mural. His brother and co-owner, Bradley Roach, is the chef. (They spell their last names differently.) The menu’s fourth-meal approach can be outrageous. Witness the Behemoth: a hard-shell taco wrapped in a bean- and (vegan) cheese-loaded soft tortilla, which is in turn wrapped in a pita with guacamole, sour cream and jalapeños. The food rocks without exception, Behemoth included, from housemade seitan that can play the role of birria, carne asada (the Carnage Asada burrito) or chorizo (the Citrus Mistress taco) to nachos smothered in chipotle “cheese,” a marvel made from pulverized oats.
📍 Where 3191 South Grand Boulevard • More info 314-290-9996; terrortacos.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday) • Pricing $
Tiny Chef • Korean
Melanie Meyer operates her Korean restaurant, Tiny Chef, from a kitchen in the back of the Bevo Mill pinball bar the Silver Ballroom. You can see her cooking when you order at the window, raising your voice to be heard over the bar’s clamor: bibimbap; street tacos filled with char siu pork or tofu, beef or chicken bulgogi; a special like the soulful Chicken Soup for the Seoul, loaded at Meyer’s recommendation with rice, cheese and a single egg. Any given evening’s menu might be small, but Meyer makes sure to include vegetarian and vegan options. (Her signature napa cabbage kimchi is entirely vegan.) Once a month or so, Meyer offers her special nonpareil: the Korean Crab Boil, snow crab and shrimp in glistening gochugaru butter with potato, bok choy, boiled egg and cheesy corn. Meyer has worked in restaurants for some two decades, but not until recent years has she explored Korean fare. As an adoptee from Korea, she told me in an interview, “it felt like I was almost burying that part of myself for quite some time to try and, you know, fit in, (so) I started researching my culture.” More recently she found and connected with her biological mother and two younger brothers in South Korea. She will visit them this summer. Tiny Chef has a big future, but Meyer says, “before I expand or do anything of that nature, I have to hug my mom.”
📍 Where The Silver Ballroom, 4701 Morganford Road • More info 314-832-9223; facebook.com/tinychefstl; instagram.com/tinychefstl • Hours Dinner Friday-Sunday (closed Monday-Thursday) • Pricing $
Beyond the Kitchen: Melanie Meyer of Tiny Chef connects with her culture through Korean street food
Tony’s • Classic Fine Dining, Italian
Speculation that Tony’s might leave downtown had been swirling off and on for years when owner James Bommarito made it official in April 2020: The fine-dining institution was leaving Market Street for the new Centene Plaza C Tower in Clayton. Tony’s new location, which debuted in March 2021, is a stunning, split-level space with the more casual Anthony’s Bar upstairs and the formal dining room on the ground floor. (An enclosed patio is also now available.) The address has changed, and the décor has been refreshed, but maître d’ Ken Bollwerk still greets you inside the entrance, and longtime Tony’s diners will recognize many familiar faces among the captains and the rest of the front-of-house staff. The menu, too, is essentially unchanged under executive chefs Pete Fagan and Gerald Germain and pastry chef Helen Fletcher, the dishes both old-school and timeless (beef tenderloin tartare; the classic ravioli and other pastas; steaks, chops and grilled seafood)that wait for each next generation to catch back up again.
📍 Where 105 Carondelet Plaza, Clayton • More info 314-231-7007; tonysstlouis.com • Hours Dinner Tuesday-Saturday, lunch in Anthony’s Bar Monday-Friday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $$$$
Union Loafers • Bakery & Desserts, Contemporary, Pizza, Sandwiches
You don’t need more evidence why Union Loafers has become St. Louis’ premier bread bakery. But consider that when Pastaria — a restaurant that knows a little something about dough — opened sandwich spinoff Pastaria Deli & Wine in 2020, it chose Union Loafers hoagie rolls for the bread. Those rolls make for a fine sandwich bread at Ted Wilson and Sean Netzer’s Union Loafers itself, supporting a rosy pile of rare roast beef with havarti, pickled peppers and the spicy-sharp house Bistro Sauce (the Bistro Beef). Or maybe you would prefer something sleeker, like the Toscano: salami and pecorino Toscano with the Bianca bread, the same base as the restaurant’s pizza rossa. Meanwhile, not only does Union Loafers serve some of the very best pizza in town, but its New York-ish pies are also well suited to takeout. If you want to eat the slices straight out of the box, I won’t tell. It’s been a helluva two years.
📍 Where 1629 Tower Grove Avenue • More info 314-833-6111; unionloafers.com • Hours Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday) • Pricing $-$$
Veritas • Brunch, Contemporary
When I returned to the Ellisville restaurant, wine shop and specialty market Veritas this March, its understandable COVID-mitigation efforts had altered one of St. Louis’ best dining perches, a seat at the counter along its open kitchen. The individual bar seats were gone, and plexiglass now separated chef Mathis Stitt and his team from diners. The staff had only recently placed a couple of high-top tables by the counter, where I happily sat. Veritas isn’t the only open kitchen in town, of course. But watching Stitt and staff cook and plate his complex fare efficiently and precisely in the narrow space remains as thrilling and inevitable as watching Adam Wainwright set up a hitter for the curveball. Stitt’s dishes always push one or two elements past what most chefs would include — mussels, shrimp, scallops and housemade lamb sausage with tomato, fennel and bok choy not simply in seafood broth, but in lobster bisque — but the parts never fail to click together.
📍 Where 15860 Fountain Plaza, Ellisville • More info 636-227-6800; veritasgateway.com • Hours Dinner Wednesday-Saturday, brunch Sunday (closed Monday-Tuesday; store hours vary) • Pricing $$-$$$
Vicia • Contemporary
Though this year’s STL 100 doesn’t rank the Top 25 restaurants, I can assure you that Tara and Michael Gallina’s Vicia remains among the very best of St. Louis’ very best. Before the pandemic, Michael and then-executive chef Aaron Martinez hit upon a smart replacement for the traditional tasting menu: the Farmer’s Feast, a three-course, family-style meal showcasing the kitchen’s current bounty of ingredients and inspiration. Now, aside from snacks at the bar, the Farmer’s Feast is the only way to dine at Vicia. Which is good, because I couldn’t have chosen just two or three options from the flurry of plates at my dinner in March. These ranged from the small bite of a caramelized-onion financier hiding a bright heart of thyme oil to delicate poached white asparagus in an electrifying lemongrass broth to the stunning celery-root schnitzel that carried the same satisfying heft as the strip steak with smoked beef fat served in the same course, but that also sparkled with lemon and caper. Vicia has emerged from the past two years with big plans for the future. The Gallinas have elevated Martinez to be a partner in their restaurant group, and he will soon launch a taqueria in Vicia’s new outdoor space. Meanwhile, longtime Vicia cook Jane Chatham is now the executive chef who will lead this vital, forward-looking restaurant further into the future.
📍 Where 4260 Forest Park Avenue • More info 314-553-9239; viciarestaurant.com • Hours Dinner Tuesday-Saturday • Pricing $$$$
The Vine Mediterranean Cafe
The Vine Mediterranean Cafe • Lebanese, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern
The Vine Mediterranean Cafe opened in 2009 in Tower Grove South, and with Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant, which debuted two years earlier across the street, this Lebanese restaurant represents the “new” generation of anchors for the essential but never static South Grand corridor. The hallmark of chef Ali Mohsen’s cooking here is freshness and patience — the warm, puffy pita baked each day and the beef and chicken shawarma that showcase both spit-roasted char and the juiciness and through-and-through flavor of a long marinade. The Vine can do grilled meats (kebabs as well as the aforementioned shawarma) and fierce chile heat when it’s warranted (the jalapeño-charged shatta sauce of the charbroiled chicken shatta), but don’t overlook such subtler pleasures as the lentil soup. For this year’s STL 100, I ordered takeout from the Vine, and while I missed being able to order more fresh pita for the restaurant’s creamy hummus, the vibrancy of the shawarma’s flavors wrapped and pressed into sandwiches still shone through.
📍 Where 3171 South Grand Boulevard • More info 314-776-0991; thevinestl.com • Hours Lunch and dinner daily • Pricing $-$$
Whisk: A Sustainable Bakeshop, Poptimism
Whisk: A Sustainable Bakeshop, Poptimism • Bakery & Desserts
Kaylen Wissinger sold her cupcakes at area farmers markets before she opened Whisk in 2012 in Benton Park. For nearly as long, she has been selling the ice pops that have since gained their own Poptimism brand, food truck and, since August 2021, one of the stands inside the new Food Hall at City Foundry. Whisk’s full name is Whisk: A Sustainable Bakeshop. Its growth was organic. Wissinger founded it with nothing more than crowdsourced funds and a small inheritance from her late grandmother. Remodeled in early 2020 to increase production space, Whisk puts Wissinger’s baked goods on display at the counter: cupcakes, of course, not too big or over-iced; large, soft chocolate-chip cookies; pop tartlets nearly as flaky and buttery as a croissant. For Poptimism’s ice pops, Wissinger might take inspiration from seasonal bounty (peach and basil, plum and ginger) or other treats (cotton candy, Pharaoh’s Donuts). Famously, she serves a Provel-flavored ice pop. If that does the trick for you, keep an eye out for her crab Rangoon pop.
📍 Where Whisk, 2201 Cherokee Street • More info 314-932-5166; whiskstl.com • Hours 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (or until sold out) Thursday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (or until sold out) Sunday (closed Monday-Wednesday) • Pricing $
📍 Where Poptimism, Food Hall at City Foundry, 3730 Foundry Way • More info poptimismstl.com • Hours Open daily (closed Tuesday) • Pricing $