The Best New Restaurants in St. Louis
28 exciting additions to St. Louis’ dining scene
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Here’s a notice to the Chicken Littles who think St. Louis’ restaurant sky is falling: The dining scene here is as robust as ever. By our calculations, in the last three months of 2012 alone, 45 independent restaurants opened in the metro area. That’s one every other day. And while such lofty numbers did complicate the task of compiling SLM’s biennial list of the region’s best new restaurants, the accomplished eaters bylined here have never scoffed at a food challenge. We trust you’ll relish the results.
Down a curving staircase and into a dramatic room, Basso charms the eye. And the food, after early missteps, has hit its stride. There are interesting cocktails and a by-the-glass wine list, plenty of sharing opportunities, and a changing menu, courtesy of James Beard Award-winning chef Patrick Connolly (the only local chef to garner that honor). And while TVs can play havoc with the atmosphere, it’s otherwise quite romantic. The Cheshire, 7036 Clayton Ave., 314-932-7820, basso-stl.com.
“Communal dining” may strike fear in the hearts of some, but we’re guessing St. Louis will quickly find itself smitten with Table, the latest venture from Home Wine Kitchen chef and co-owner Cassy Vires. Starters include a roster of “bites” that could be one of the best dining deals in town. And the menu—featuring animal, vegetable, and offal categories—is designed for sharing and creating conversation among new dining companions. 1821 Cherokee, 314-449-1888, tablestl.com.
Mission Taco Joint
Given the lines trailing out the door at Adam and Jason Tilford’s third Mexican eatery, it’s easy to say the third time is the charm. With Tortillaria and Milagro Modern Mexican successfully under their belts, the St. Louis natives clearly know how to run a Mexican restaurant—or three. Combining fresh corn tortillas and a few dishes from their sister restaurants with a few outstanding new items (like MOFU tofu tacos), Mission is sure to be a hit on the Delmar Loop for years to come. 6235 Delmar, 314-932-5430, missiontacostl.com.
Sugarfire Smoke House
The rib renaissance currently smoking up the Lou has plenty of exciting players, but Sugarfire has cornered the market on creativity. Burgers are a blend of grass-fed beef, brisket, and short-rib meat. The rotation of sides can include sweet-potato salad or cheddar grit cakes. And don’t forget the daily specials (like the flavorful burnt ends) and desserts (like chocolate-chip cookies made with smoked sea salt) from co-owner Carolyn Downs. 9200 Olive, 314-997-2301, sugarfiresmokehouse.com.
St. Louis had been anxiously awaiting the return of chef Josh Galliano’s James Beard Award–nominated cooking, and when acclaimed bartender and sommelier Nick Luedde returned from Chicago to launch The Libertine in Clayton, a kindred alliance was formed. A complete package, The Libertine delivers fare both hearty (coffee-brined pork chops) and whimsical (crispy pig tails), with inventive cocktails and a thoughtful wine list. 7927 Forsyth, 314-862-2999, libertinestl.com.
Elaia and Olio
There’s an elegant graciousness to dining in a garage bay that’s just hard to equal… We kid. Visionary chef Ben Poremba has turned an old gas station and an even older adjoining house into one of the city’s handsomest dining destinations. Olio (the wine bar) and Elaia (the attached restaurant) are both charming and slick. Chargrilled octopus, marinated beets and ricotta, “pies in a jar”… You come here just to see what Poremba has come up with, as well as for a stunningly varied, polished wine list. 1634 Tower Grove, 314-932-1088, elaiastl.com, oliostl.com.
Central West End
At the new Central West End location, it makes a difference that chef and owner Marc Del Pietro and his minions do all of their own butchering (as is the case at the flagship location in Webster Groves). Otherwise, The Block couldn’t offer entrées with prices in the teens, a modern-day rarity. Start with a chef’s charcuterie platter, and laze into a Rensing’s pork chop or fillets of cornmeal-encrusted Missouri trout with roasted cauliflower, both $17. A meal’s best enjoyed on the tiered brick patio, one of our go-to landing spots this fall. 33 N. Sarah, 314-535-5100, theblockrestaurant.com.
Photography by Courtney Zahner
Central West End
Where does one go after serving pizza to President Barack Obama? For Chris Sommers, who opened more of his Pi pizzerias both here and in D.C., the answer was to open a Mexican restaurant. Using many of the same principles that drive Pi’s success—local ingredients, outstanding service, and great-tasting food—Sommers and his crew have successfully crossed cultures. Margaritas are a must, and taco choices (pork belly, tofu, octopus, and grasshoppers, to name a few) are abundant. So bring an appetite—or a group to share. 398 N. Euclid, 314-449-1212, gringo-stl.com.
Five Star Burgers
While other chef-driven burger restaurants employ a chef to make burgers, the spirit of Five Star is that a great chef opens a joint to churn out upscale burgers. By that standard, chef Steve Gontram, formerly of Harvest, is the first to give St. Louis a true take on this concept. Everything at Five Star is outstanding, right down to cane sugar-based Maine Root Sodas and Five Star Floats. And the burgers are always cooked to perfection. 8125 Maryland, 314-720-4350, 5starburgersstl.com.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY jennifer silverberg
Marcella’s Mia Sorella
West County rejoiced when Jamie and Steve Komorek brought their beloved take on rustic Italian cuisine from Trattoria Marcella to Ballwin. The two restaurants share a handful of dishes, but Mia Sorella is no rehash of its successful sibling. Instead, the brothers branch out from the Tratt’s well-known standards to explore house-made pastas, handspun pizzas of imported 00 flour, and our favorite of all: a decadently juicy, charred burger topped with pancetta and red-onion jam. 14426 Clayton, 636-333-1015, miasorellastl.com.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Kevin a. Roberts
Bar Les Frères
It’s not Montparnasse; it’s Clayton. But there’s terrace dining, a wall of elegant framed paintings, and lobster bisque to the standards of Carême. The French-inspired restaurant is cozy in the winter, to be sure, but when it’s nice, the terraced patio is most civilized. (The only catch: a no-reservations policy.) And while the menu isn’t entirely classic bistro (grapefruit-endive salad, anyone?), it tends to be in that vein. With I Fratellini and Bobo Noodle House both already smashing successes, this time owner Zoe Robinson muscled up and hit a long home run. 7637 Wydown, 314-725-8880.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY kevin a. roberts
It doesn’t take long to appreciate the attention to detail at prasino (pronounced prahs-uh-no, which is Greek for “green”). The restaurant is a bold, eco-minded addition to St. Charles’ growing food scene. Spacious and elegant, the interior design allows for intimate dates and large groups alike to partake of a seasonal menu with diverse options. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch, chef Jared Case’s kitchen casts a wide net, from burgers, sushi, and charred peppers to his signature black cod. 1520 S. Fifth, St. Charles, 636-277-0202, prasino.com.
Mike Shannon’s Grill
Chockablock with sports memorabilia (baseball, horse-racing, Blues hockey), Mike Shannon’s Grill is said to resemble Big Mike’s basement. It’s also a shrine to some pretty good food: an array of half-pound burgers, fried chicken livers, sweet-potato fries with candied jalapeños—and a smoky, house-made ketchup that’s as perfect as a called third strike “right down central” to win a Redbirds game. 871 S. Arbor Vitae, Edwardsville, Ill., 618-655-9911,
PHOTOGRAPHY BY COURTNEY ZAHNER
Whereas most St. Louis diners are reserved for consumption of slingers during the wee hours, Southwest Diner is a refreshing alternative to the neighborhood diners of yore, serving only breakfast and lunch in an airy space that’s both Southwest cowboy and hipster. And the diner does it with friendly service, where a cup of coffee at the counter comes with a smile and some pleasant conversation. Flo and Mel would be proud. 6803 Southwest, 314-260-7244, southwestdinerstl.com.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY kevin a. roberts
Central Table Food Hall
Central West End
Restaurants that try to be everything to everyone are a networking challenge best suited to chefs named Zuckerberg. With that in mind, we’ve been consistently impressed with Central Table Food Hall, which manages to thread the needle between fast casual and fine dining—not to mention contemporary American, Asian, and European cuisine. Kaldi’s coffee, Companion baked goods, and traditional deli sandwiches are quickly packaged for on-the-go orders. A raw bar and sushi station bookend a sleek bar, while the dining room is divided into comfortable nooks that offer seclusion from the bustle of the expansive, airy space. Flames dance across an open hearth that anchors the room, a backdrop for pizzaiolos who make Neapolitan pizzas to perfection. From other cooking stations come warm and cold tapas, platters of local charcuterie, and modern spins on rustic French and Italian fare. And if desired, all of it can magically appear on your table at once. It’s like the iPad: We’re thankful that it works, but we’re not sure how it does. 23 S. Euclid, 314-932-5595, centraltablestl.com.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY kevin a. roberts
A celebration of pizza and pasta defines Pastaria. Glorious ribbons of pappardelle, golden squares of ravioli, and tender bucatini tubes are all churned out in one corner of the restaurant. The preparations are stunningly simple. A beefy Bolognese decorates fat nubbins of strozzapreti. Ravioli are stuffed with pistachios and mint, then bathed in warm brown butter. The cacio e pepe is exquisite—nothing but pasta, cracked pepper, butter, and loads of freshly grated pecorino and Grana Padano cheese. Sides (like a shaved kale salad spiked with creamy anchovy dressing) and a few main courses (like roasted chicken and braised beef) are delicious distractions. But the pasta is premier at Gerard Craft’s airy, family-friendly eatery, which is simply unparalleled in the region. And oh yeah—did we mention the gelato? Also house-made? With flavors like orange pistachio nougat and goat cheese with raspberry? Oh. Yeah. 7734 Forsyth Blvd., 314-862-6603, pastariastl.com.