Fall is traditionally the prime season for new restaurant openings. Grab the attention of diners primed for a new favorite spot after a summer spent on vacation or grilling out instead of eating out. Work the kink outs before the holiday crush.
Does history bear out that more restaurants open from late summer through early December than during any other time of year? I’ll, uh, get back to you on that.
In the meantime, this fall in St. Louis certainly promises some of the biggest restaurant debuts of 2014, including new spots from several of the area’s most acclaimed chefs.
Here are the restaurants that diners will be buzzing about well after the leaves have turned and the Christmas ads have started airing on TV.
The Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co.
Where 1831 Sidney Street • More info 314-772-8858; peacemakerstl.com
Kevin Nashan has won acclaim both local and national for his decade running Sidney Street Cafe. Last year, he became only the second St. Louis chef, after Gerard Craft of Niche, to be named a finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Midwest award.
In other words, a new restaurant from Nashan is a Very Big Deal.
Nashan has transformed the original Niche space just down the block from Sidney Street Cafe into the Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. It’s a far more casual restaurant than the special-occasion Sidney Street, and as its name makes clear, seafood is the focus.
The menu features shrimp, crab and lobster boils, steamed Maryland blue crabs, and po’boy sandwiches, including the fried-oyster variety that gives the restaurant its name.
“I went to Maine and Maryland to hang out,” Nashan told me of his preparations for the Peacemaker. “I am able to get the best product coming into town. You can’t do it any other way. This is the only respectful way.”
The Dining District at United Provisions
Where 6241 Delmar Boulevard, University City • More info 314-833-5699; unitedprovisions.com
United Provisions, the international grocery in Washington University’s $69 million retail-residential development, brought in Ben Poremba to oversee its carryout and dine-in dining. The chef behind the acclaimed restaurant-wine bar duo Elaia and Olio delivered the Dining District.
The stations — think a more concentrated, upscale food court, somewhat in the manner of Mario Batali’s Eataly franchise — include a raw bar, a sushi bar and a grill.
Dishes such as yogurt-marinated lamb kebabs feature Poremba’s distinctive Mediterranean touch, while other fare draws on Korean (kalbi-esque short ribs) or good ol’ American (a burger with pickles, tomato and Duke’s Mayo) influences.
The sushi chef is Naomi Hamamura, who local sushi aficionados will remember from his time at Sansui in the Central West End and Sansui West in Warson Woods.
BaiKu Sushi Lounge
Where 3407 Olive Street
Cafe Pintxos, the original restaurant inside the boutique Hotel Ignacio in midtown, never quite clicked. Enter Brad Beracha, the restaurateur behind the late Clayton restaurants Miso on Meramec and Araka. Beracha is transforming the space into BaiKu Sushi Lounge.
Yes, St. Louis is lousy with sushi restaurants, but Beracha knows the cuisine. Not only was Miso a sushi restaurant, for a brief time a few years ago, under chef Eliott Harris (now of the food truck Chop Shop), it was the best sushi restaurant in town.
BaiKu’s executive sushi chef will be Soung Min Lee, who previously oversaw the (excellent) sushi at Central Table Food Hall in the Central West End.
Where 7710 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton
Centene Plaza welcomes an out-of-town upscale chain to its roster of local restaurants (Niche, Pastaria, Kakao Chocolate and, soon, the relocated Tani Sushi Bistro). The Dallas-based restaurant, which already boasts Missouri locations in Branson and Springfield, features higher-end — in price and description, at least — versions of enchiladas, tacos and other classic dishes. Carnitas, for example, both as an entree and in tacos, is served in a red-wine-chipotle sauce.
Where 5400 Nottingham Avenue
Ben Anderson delivered one of my favorite new restaurants of 2013 in Gist Bistro, a small, unassuming storefront in a West County shopping plaza that served unfussy but delicious fare. Gist’s run was unfortunately brief, but when Anderson closed it in October, he was working toward Grapeseed, which will open in the Southampton neighborhood.
Leading Grapeseed’s kitchen will be Jonathan Olson, the talented chef who was the executive chef at Erato on Main in Edwardsville and the Market Grill in Soulard (both now closed) before working with Anderson at Gist.
Where 1621 Tower Grove Avenue
Poremba is building an empire at the intersection of Tower Grove and McRee avenues in the Botanical Heights neighborhood. Already he’s opened the fantastic high-end restaurant Elaia and its adjacent and also fantastic (though more casual) wine bar Olio; he’s also partnered with Elaia pastry chef Simone Faure on La Patisserie Chouquette.
To this Poremba will add Old Standard, a fried chicken restaurant — a salute to what the chef told me last year was one of his favorite comfort foods. To run the kitchen, Poremba has brought on board Chris DiMercurio, who was part of Brian Hardesty’s team of chefs at Element and, before that, the executive chef at Vino Nadoz.
Peacock Loop Diner
Where 6261 Delmar Boulevard, University City
Delmar Loop impresario Joe Edwards adds another feather to his cap. The Peacock Loop Diner, which joins United Provisions in Washington University’s new development, will bring the booming Loop dining scene one of the few things it doesn’t yet have: a 24-hour restaurant.
Expect diner classics and lots and lots of peacock-related decor. This is a Joe Edwards restaurant, after all.
Where 6679 Delmar Boulevard, University City
Even as restless restaurateur Mike Randolph was relocating his Neapolitan pizzeria the Good Pie to the Delmar Loop earlier this year, he was plotting his next move: Público, a Mexican restaurant to be located two storefronts west of the Good Pie.
Público won’t be a carbon copy of Randolph’s previous upscale Mexican concept, MEDIAnoche. Instead, the menu will feature a mix of smaller plates (crudo, arepas) and larger dishes (a rib-eye steak, a whole roasted fish), all of it cooked in a wood-fired oven.
Randolph is also aiming for a pub-like feel for the space, which will feature bourbon, tequila and mezcal.
Where 9200 Olive Boulevard, Olivette
The growth of the Sugarfire Smoke House franchise has been dramatic. Mike Johnson opened the barbecue joint not even two years ago to rave reviews. Already this year he’s opened locations in St. Charles and O’Fallon, Mo.
Now, two doors down from the original Olivette location, he plans to open Sugarfire Pie. As the name suggests, the new spot will be showcase for his business partner and Sugarfire pastry chef Carolyn Downs, whose pies have been available at Sugarfire since it opened and who is also responsible for the desserts at Cyrano’s in Webster Groves.