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Esquire names Indo, Balkan Treat Box among country's best new restaurants

Esquire names Indo, Balkan Treat Box among country's best new restaurants

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nick bognar indo

Indo chef-owner Nick Bognar finishes a dish at the restaurant's sushi counter during a September 2019 dinner service. Photo by Ian Froeb, ifroeb@post-dispatch.com

Esquire magazine has named Indo and Balkan Treat Box among its best new restaurants in the country for 2020.

Indo, which Nick Bognar opened in Botanical Heights in June 2019, is ranked No. 6 of 23 restaurants on the list overseen by Esquire food and drinks editor Jeff Gordinier, who visited St. Louis before the pandemic.

“You wonder, as you sit at the counter at Indo and watch chef Nick Bognar at work: Can this guy do anything?” Gordinier writes. “Indo is not a sushi restaurant per se, yet electrifying bites of nigiri land in front of you during the course of a meal like random emoji lightning bolts of flavor.”

Bognar tells Off the Menu Gordinier sat at Indo’s sushi counter, and they had a “wonderful” conversation.

“But it was such a long time (ago) that I kind of forgot about it,” he says. “And I wasn't really sure if they were even going to do (a list) because of all the pandemic stuff.”

Bognar says the honor feels especially good now that Indo is back to offering it ambitious regular menu for outdoor and limited dine-in service.

Despite all their concerns about the world outside, he says, the staff has been able to say, "hey, let's put our minds to the food and being creative like we used to be. That's been really exciting for us.”

The honor completes a trifecta of national praise for Indo and Bognar. In May, GQ declared Indo one of the country’s best new restaurants, and Food & Wine named Bognar one of its Best New Chefs.

Balkan Treat Box

Edo and Loryn Nalic, owners of Balkan Treat Box,  photographed Feb 11, 2019, at their restaurant in Webster Groves. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com 

The brick-and-mortar version of Balkan Treat Box, which Loryn and Edo Nalic opened in Webster Groves in February 2019, lands at No. 16 on Esquire’s list.

Gordinier singles out Balkan Treat Box’s pide for praise: “At first we didn’t understand why there was a line down the block at 11:00 in the morning. Then we took a bite. Let’s just say you’d better watch your back, pizza.”

“I woke up to (the news),” Edo Nalic says. “It was exhilarating.”

Balkan Treat Box's staff knew Gordinier had been to the restaurant. The day he visited he was first in line — and waited about half an hour for the restaurant to open.

“He was really good to talk to,” Nalic says. “It was a great experience having him here.”

Balkan also received an honorable mention on GQ’s list of best new restaurants.

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