SLM's annual tribute to the exceptional
(page 1 of 9)
Mike Shannon’s Steaks & Seafood
Mike Shannon, the baseball Cardinal, wore but one hat; his restaurant, however, wears many. In the off-season, talk trades by the fireplace, toast Tony in the Wine Vault, or whisper rumors in a “snug”; in season, talk trash in The Outfield or on The Terrace, our favorite spot for the, um, postgame show. From dry-aged steaks to burgers and brews, this steakhouse–slash–baseball shrine is a multisensory rush, one we’ll tag with the same Shannonism he once bestowed on Mike Schmidt: “the longtime and soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer.” 620 Market, 314-421-1540, shannonsteak.com
Last summer, they were a big hit at Araka, and we’re glad they’re back: jumbo soft-shell crabs, tempura-fried and plated atop creamy apple-and-fennel coleslaw that’s shot through with hits of cilantro and hot peppers. Think of a creamy, crunchy fish taco—which heretofore has been our second-favorite summertime fish dish. Savor them alfresco, on a night when Araka’s live jazz bounces breezily down the city’s toniest street. 131 Carondelet Plaza, 314-725-6777, araka.com
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
With all due respect to the bovine that died for your gustatory sins, what makes Fleming’s filets so rapturous is that the tenderloins are dry-aged a full four weeks, a near lifetime in our “nuke-it, serve-it” food culture. Here, “petite” means an 8-ounce cut, charred at a Hades-hot 1,600 degrees to a perfectly sealed crisp, leaving the interior pink, soft, and juicy. 1855 S. Lindbergh, 314-567-7610, flemingssteakhouse.com
Bobo Noodle House
Bobo is a daily affirmation of carbohydrates: sesame-fragrant noodles with sliced beef, steamy rice noodles in a curry-whacked pho broth, grilled curry chicken on egg noodles. Bobo riffs on several standard Asian noodle dishes, along with some tasty appetizers. Portions are huge, the space is tiny, lighting’s weird, and hours are odd. But this is the place for Wash. U. students and hip urbanites to carbo-load. 278 N. Skinker, 314-863-7373, bobonoodle.com
SLeeK’s Wild Mushroom Fricassee
This side dish at SLeeK—the most entertaining use of mushrooms that won’t result in another trip to rehab—is fungally fantastic in its simplicity. All that’s between you and the mushrooms are a bit of butter and a sauté pan. Golden chanterelles, meaty oyster mushrooms, fluted trumpets—all sautéed just long enough to soften, deepen the flavors, and release a glistening touch of luscious juices. 999 N. Second, 314-621-9590, hubertkeller.com
Sub Zero’s Bison Burger
It’s a cold, hard fact that CWE’s Sub Zero Vodka Bar serves burgers—really good burgers. This time of year, we’re bullish on the half-pound bison burger topped with cheddar, homemade coleslaw, and just a smidgen of BBQ sauce. Add in some sweet potato fries (or something unusual like tempura-fried veggies or edamame), and you’ll discover why local burger lovers are warming up to Sub Zero. 308 N. Euclid, 314-367-1200, subzerovodkabar.com
Thoroughly upscale, this new St. Charles spot puts the “urban” in suburban. The food—from andouille-studded gumbo to a juicy, pan-roasted pork tenderloin; from a stunningly creative iceberg-lettuce salad to a towering Reuben; from Monday’s fragrant red beans and rice to Sunday’s fried chicken, potatoes, and cream gravy—rides the happy line between sophisticated and deliciously familiar. 11 Meadows Circle, Lake Saint Louis, 636-542-9090, billcardwell.com
Nod to Nostalgia
West End Grill & Pub
If you’re too young to remember Gaslight Square, the best of what it was can be found under one roof: a vibrant bar and café leading directly to “stage left” of the 92-seat Gaslight Theater. Tennessee bourbon, meet Tennessee Williams. The bill of fare runs from classic salads and sandwiches to interpretations of classics (like a veggie Dagwood with hummus), all at prices Scrooge would approve. The house favorite is Sichuan salmon with bashed turnip cakes—for $12.95. The Gaslight’s season resumes in September, but you can run through the dinner act now, seven nights a week until 11 p.m. Break a leg, and bon appétit. 354 N. Boyle, 314-531-4607, westendgandp.com
Triumph Grill’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Maybe it’s the free-range potatoes, allowed to frolic in their native environment until harvesting. Or the roasted (and fair trade!) garlic tumbled in. It probably has something to do with what tastes like a wheelbarrow’s worth of butter added to the mix. Whatever it is, the spuds here aren’t mashed so much as lovingly coaxed into giving up all of their creamy, carbohydratey goodness. Plopped beside beef tenderloin medallions with a mushroom demi-glace, they are potatoes perfected. 3419 Olive, 314-446-1801, triumphgrill.com
Ryce Oriental Buffet
Chinese buffets are like satellite TV: too many choices—and too many poor ones among them. This exception combines Americanized favorites like cashew chicken and Mongolian barbecue with more authentic offerings like pork-stuffed buns, braised tripe, and ginger-fragrant steamed shrimp (especially on weekends). The buffet sprawls, and yes, there’s an ice-cream machine. Seating accommodates couples or crowds. The number of Chinese-speaking diners is a hint: It’s a worthwhile destination for a long lunch or a longer dinner. 12710 Dorsett, 314-878-8288
Burger Bar’s Chocolate Sweet Burger
Over the years, the hamburger has undergone more metamorphoses than Elton John. Now there’s a “burger” that’s as colorful and outrageous as Captain Fantastic himself: the chocolate burger from Burger Bar’s line of Sweet Burgers. It’s a whimsical, Alice in Wonderland creation, where the bun is a warm homemade doughnut, the beef is chocolate ganache, and the cheese is a slice of passion fruit gelée. Is a “dessert” burger the ultimate decadence? Only when it’s preceded by “lunch” at Ted Drewes. 999 N. Second, 314-621-9593, hubertkeller.com
The day ~scape added upholstered chairs and couches to its streetscape, the restaurant drew patrons like a magnet draws filings. Cruise the Central West End all you want, but your conclusion will be the same as ours: This outdoor spot is the place to be. 48 Maryland Plaza, 314-361-7227, scapestl.com
Moe’s Pasta Bowl
When we say “delicious Italian cuisine,” you might not think “St. Peters strip mall.” But you should. Travertine tile walls, a bright kitchen, and a comfortable setting elevate this friendly, locally popular place far above the average neighborhood trattoria. Remarkably competent, imaginative items grace an affordable menu—dishes like chicken-stuffed cannelloni; penne baked with grilled chicken, salami, and Parmesan; and spinach-filled tortellini smothered in rich cream sauce; along with sandwiches, hand-tossed pizzas, and calzones. It’s Mangia, Mid Rivers Mall–area style. 318-D Mid Rivers Mall Drive, 636-278-8646, pastabowlonline.com
Franco’s Braised Lamb Shank
What you see: a lamb shank as big as a youth-league softball, with meat that flakes, rather than falls, off the bone. What you don’t see: It’s been braised for 18 hours in wine and herbs, with some of the braising liquid reserved and added to each subsequent batch, resulting in a stock so luscious you realize why it’s always served in a bowl—and always with a large spoon alongside. 1535 S. Eighth, 314-436-2500, eatatfranco.com
The Crossing’s Bleu Cheese Soufflé
What is better than bread and butter, is more luscious than lavash, and, dare we say, just might make Grandpa quit reminiscing about those silly crocks of Kaukauna Klub? Jim Fiala’s mini soufflés are so silky good that you won’t believe they come gratis. “I give the first one away,” he confesses. “Any more and no one would order dinner.” Additional soufflés are $3, to which we’ll add the momily “Don’t spoil your supper.” 7823 Forsyth, 314-721-7375, thecrossingstl.com
Sacrilegious Toasted Ravioli
Katie’s Pizzeria Cafe
A t-rav with no meat, no marinara, and a provenance that’s nowhere near The Hill? Say it ain’t so, DiGregorio. We hereby salute the next-generation ravioli: larger, crisper, and better proportioned than its doughy predecessors. Although pairing artichokes with Gorgonzola may be the hook, it was the fragile, wafer-thin breading that sealed the deal for us. Pillow makers on The Hill, take note. 6611 Clayton, 314-727-8585
Let your locavore flag fly with a catered lunch from the place that’s “changing the way St. Louis eats.” Local Harvest Café & Catering boasts “local” and means it, with more than 50 percent of its products grown locally. Good for you, good for the environment. The Mediterranean sandwich gets our nod: homemade focaccia filled with lentil dip, feta, onions, roasted peppers, cucumbers, kalamata olives, balsamic vinegar, and tomatoes—in season, of course. 3137 Morgan Ford, 314-772-8815, localharvestcafe.com
The Dining Dream Team: Four of the Best in the Biz
Chad George, Eclipse Restaurant
A good general manager is familiar with the wine list. A really good one writes it. Certified sommelier Chad George pairs wines with the same alacrity with which he pairs a chatty couple with a schmoozy server. 6177 Delmar, 314-721-1111, moonrisehotel.com
Gerard Craft, Niche
Fiercely dedicated and a meticulous technician, Craft rises above his temperamental peers in this motivational paradox: How can a guy demand perfection and be so darned easygoing and humble at the same time? 1831 Sidney, 314-773-7755, nichestlouis.com
Jenna Mueller, Harvest
When a server is so immediately likable, plus has total command of the menu, you don’t know whether to give her your order or ask her to sit down and join you. And this master of Midwestern professionalism just received her master’s in counseling. Half-jesting, she notes, “If you think about it, it’s a lateral move.” 1059 S. Big Bend, 314-645-3522, harveststlouis.com
Jose Martinez, Terrene
How he gets from Point A to Point B as fast as he does, laden with his tray (sometimes two) of busser equipage, is a feat worthy of YouTube. Until someone rolls tape, enjoy the live version at Terrene. 33 N. Sarah, 314-535-5100, terrene-stlouis.com
The Ideal Day: Inside a Dining Editor’s Diary
Before Café Osage (4605 Olive, 314-454-6868, bowoodfarms.com), “memorable local breakfast” was an oxymoron. You won’t soon forget the corned beef hash or specialties like cheddar-and-chive biscuits with chicken, mushroom, and leek gravy.
One must resist second helpings of Café Provencal’s (427 S. Kirkwood, 314-822-5440, cafeprovencal.com) pull-apart epi bread or risk missing the last bites of a tuna pain bagna with pommes frites (the best in town).
For the kids, a chocolate-chip cookie, no nuts, at Whole Foods Market (1601 S. Brentwood, 314-968-7744, wholefoods.com). For you, their aptly named “everything” cookie. Hot outside? A round of gelatos, please.
At Pi (6144 Delmar, 314-727-6633, restaurantpi.com), if you don’t enjoy the thick-crusted Bucktown pizza and the Bada Bing salad, we’re guessing your last name is Imo.
Sink into an oversized swivel chair on Cielo’s (Four Seasons, 999 N. Second, 314-881-5800, fourseasons.com/stlouis/dining) terrace, and order the cucumber-, Magellan gin–, and lime-based T.K. Cooler—the most refreshing summer cocktail since the G&T. And if one leads to several, then order a room downstairs.
Dinner In: Planning the Perfect At-Home Meal
Your first purchase should be sustenance from Claverach Farm (claverach.com), growers of the area’s finest, most esoteric goods. Only at Maplewood Farmer’s Market can you embrace Claverach’s full bounty, every Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. at Schlafly Bottleworks.
Unless you’re looking for something ultra-exotic, like vadouvan, Penzeys Spices (7338 Manchester, 314-781-7177, penzeys.com) is the place. And if it’s really vadouvan you desire, they stock everything you need to mix it yourself.
Our favorite place to go for truly fresh fish: Bob’s Seafood (8660 Olive, 314-993-4844). It’s not the cheapest, but with fresh stock flown in daily, rest assured you bought the best. For other meaty proteins, seek out products from New Florence’s Prairie Grass Farms (fairshares.org/content/prairie-grass-farms), which can be purchased at Local Harvest Grocery in the Morgan Ford area. Whether it’s grass-finished beef, lamb, or even goat, PGF is the source for truly “happy” meat.
With temperature-controlled cases, top-quality cheeses cut to order, and informative cheesemongers, The Wine Merchant (20 S. Hanley, 314-863-6282, winemerchantltd.com) will send you off with a new find. Or for extra punch, pair your cheese with artisanal charcuterie from locally owned Salume Beddu (salumebeddu.com), available at the Tower Grove and Maplewood farmer’s markets.
For service, selection, price, convenience (four locations)—not to mention the full line of Riedel glasses and carafes—The Wine and Cheese Place gets the top rating on our point scale. Four locations, wineandcheeseplace.com
You’re tired—and we’re tired—so here’s your second out: Turn to the pros at Sugaree Baking Company (1242 Tamm, 314-645-5496, sugareebaking.com). Along with truly outstanding cakes, 6-inch mini pies are available every Friday and Saturday. Grab an assortment and have fun pairing them with ice creams from Serendipity (8130 Big Bend, 314-962-2700, serendipity-icecream.com).