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Consider that soups and sandwiches go way back in history—and in our own history. As youngsters, they were our first exposure to comfort food: PB&J, grilled cheese, Campbell’s chicken noodle or tomato (made with milk, please). Later in our youth, they became the highlight of our day (no doubt due to the Thermos bottle and those cool, colorful curve-top lunchboxes). For adults, they’ve become the inexpensive, fast-and-filling food that’s now synonymous with “lunch.” So we recommend you graze the following pages, oh, about 11 a.m.
Best Veggie Sandwich
Think globally, eat locally. Order the Morganford Mediterranean and daydream yourself away to the coast of Capri, where you’ll indulge in a bounty of roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, cucumbers, onions, feta cheese, balsamic dressing, and—the topper, literally and figuratively—Ah!Zeefa, a hummus-like lentil spread made right back in good old St. Louis by Berhanu Organic. Enjoy your trip. 3137 Morgan Ford, 314-772-8815.
“Hot Italian Beef” sounds more than a tad naughty, doesn’t it? It sure does make us perspire: a superspicy giardiniera, plus green peppers and banana peppers, makes up the feisty fixings of this sliced beef-and-provolone behemoth. Still not titillated enough? There’s a spicy au jus on the side that takes melt-in-your-mouthiness to a whole new level. It’s a sandwich that makes us blush. 3108 Olive, 314-371-1706.
Thomas Truong, Owner, Banh Mi So #1–Saigon Gourmet
Quite frankly, at Banh Mi So #1, the freshness speaks for itself, but every time we go, we can’t help smiling when its prideful owner reminds us once again that everything in his restaurant is made to order—unlike those other guys “down the street.” And the banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) are topped with the city’s best nuoc cham (a topping/dipping condiment)… Truong claims other restaurants have been plotting to steal it for years. 4071 S. Grand, 314-353-0545.
Best BIG Sandwich
Lunch—or dinner for four? The size of sandwiches at Adriana’s makes it a tossup. From Nana at the register, who calls you “Hon,” to the original pressed-tin ceiling, Adriana’s is a classic St. Louis Italian-American experience. Recommended: Charlie’s Special, toasted bread dripping with a vinegar–olive oil dressing, heaped with lettuce, black olives, and melted Provel that’s a day’s worth of sloppy, delicious calories—with plenty left over to wear on your shirt. 5101 Shaw, 314-773-3833.
Most Efficient Sandwich Crew
After 20 years in the grocery industry, Steve Lauck and his wife, Mary Kay, turned their attention to the sandwich business and were instantly rewarded with a steady stream of regulars. Part of the reason is Boar’s Head meat and cheese cut to order, and part of it is watching the assemblage: When the line wraps out the door of their tiny shop, the team—which includes two of their sons—will dazzle you with its assembly line of sandwich precision. 1911 Schuetz, 314-995-3900.
When a cioppino is great, it’s almost too much of a good thing: whitefish, clams, shrimp, scallops, mussels… Cardwell’s “seafood stew” outdoes this already-great thing with oodles of fresh vegetables like leeks, peas, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms—and lobster. It also eschews the traditional wine sauce for a more straightforward fish broth, which is perfectly fine with us, as we prefer our wine “on the side.” 94 Plaza Frontenac, 314-997-8885.
Best Excuse for Egg on Your Face
Croque-Monsieur at Vin de Set
An American in Paris might call it grilled cheese with fried egg on top, but a croque-monsieur has a certain je ne sais quoi that surpasses that quotidian definition. At Vin de Set, fixings like fried tomato, grilled chicken, sirloin, or smoked ham are sandwiched alongside Gruyère, brie, or Roquefort cheeses, then the whole thing is deep (but lightly) fried. An extra buck procures that fried-egg pièce de résistance. Buck up. 2017 Chouteau, 314-241-8989.
Egg-Salad Sandwich Prescription
It’s just like the ’30s—without wide ties or FDR. Jennifer’s Pharmacy, also a cute gift shop, features a vintage drugstore soda fountain that makes the best egg-salad sandwich in town. The yolky, sun-yellow salad, smooth with mayo, flecked with onion nibbles, and dusted with pepper, is a thick schmear on (what else) white bread. Add a side of kettle chips to fill the prescription for a perfect lunch. 30 N. Central, 314-862-7400.
Best Reuben—Quelle Surprise!
A great Reuben at a French bistro? Before we’re marched to the guillotine, hear us out: corned beef sliced so thin the sandwich could be cut with a fork; melted Gruyère (bien sûr!), not Swiss; a few shards of carrot in with the kraut; and a fistful of the tastiest pommes frites in town on the side. Even the garnish is well-executed: a spoonful of mango salsa, a hefty pickle spear, and a serving mince of romaine salad. You just might kiss your favorite deli man goodbye…on both cheeks, of course. 427 S. Kirkwood, 314-822-5440.
Sizzling Rice Soup at Royal Chinese BBQ
Dinner with a show: a toasty, dry rice cake dumped into a fragrant broth explodes as furiously as Glenn Beck at an ACORN rally. A Sichuan specialty, guo pa is made correctly here, its aromatic broth studded with shrimp and other seafood. Once the fireworks are over, the nutty flavor of the rice combines with the heady broth and delicate shrimp for a superb—and happily authentic—soup. 8406 Olive, 314-991-1888.
Putting Our Best Pho Phoward
Pho fans traditionally don’t talk while eating this savory soup—it wastes breath better spent inhaling the incredible aroma. Drop some of the green garnish into the steamy, silky, beefy broth, swimming with meat and those wonderful noodles. Don’t linger. Pho in places like this great spot is best eaten while hot. Tips: Saigon cinnamon’s the flavor you can’t quite place, and ask for the off-the-menu beef-tendon pho. Incredible. 8613 Olive, 314-997-1218.
Best Po’ Boy
We’re just up the river: Louisiana’s greatest contribution to civilization should be as common here as ponytails on lib-arts professors. Truth is, you have to go to Dardenne Prairie to the wonderful Louisiana Café for a great po’ boy. Soft bread, shredded lettuce, crunchy fried oysters or shrimp, a dollop of mayo, and a spritz of hot sauce, and you’re a bite away from the ultimate in sandwich happiness. 2698 Technology Drive, 636-561-8878.
Best Soup and Sandwich Combo
Owner Patrick Judd likes to say, “We do everything the hard way.” For the café’s mushroom brie soup, available seasonally till year’s end, that means sautéeing cremini, shiitake, and portobello mushrooms, simmering onions, adding real cream and sherry, and topping it all off with gooey-good brie. For a sandwich that can stand up to all that richness, we recommend the spinach-and-artichoke turkey flatbread. Not only is the meat carved from a bird (instead of sliced from a roll), the bread isn’t baked until your order is placed. 11719 Manchester, 314-909-0010.
The classic BLT wasn’t broke, but Café Osage decided to fix it anyway. Luscious brie isn’t the only newfangled part of this old-school sandwich. Lettuce is swapped out for the earthier taste of arugula; tomato slices step aside in favor of the more intense flavors of a tomato marmalade; and instead of pedestrian toast, this sammy’s plated atop whole-wheat crostini. It’s so much more than your average sandwich and a welcome upgrade to the base model. 4605 Olive, 314-454-6868.
Best Soups for Those Who Can’t Make Up Their Minds
Life’s too short to commit to one. (Your spouse may differ on this.) At Canyon Café, you gotta try two soups. The tortilla soup (foreground) is a splendidly rich, chickeny broth, loaded with vegetables and strips of chewy, toasted corn tortillas. The poblano chicken chowder (background) is creamy and thick, fragrant with poblano chilis and roasted chicken chunks. Try ’em both, because fortunately, when two soups diverge, you can go both ways. 1707 S. Lindbergh, 314-872-3443.
Best Vegetarian Soups (That Don’t Seem Vegetarian)
Whether it’s a roasted butternut-squash soup on a brisk winter’s eve or a chilled sweet corn purée countering the sweltering heat on a summer night, Atlas serves a veritable potpourri of vegetable soups, each with a silken, “creamy” texture. Each visit, we find ourselves asking: “How can this possibly be vegetarian?” 5513 Pershing, 314-367-6800.
Best Needs-a-Napkin Sandwich
Herb-Crusted Roast Beef at The Smokehouse Market
As the Durkee’s-like dijonnaise and French brie of the herb-crusted roast beef mix with the sandwich’s deeply caramelized onions, each successive bite of the blood-red beef will take you one notch closer to true sandwich serenity. The sauce drizzles down your chin and coats your fingers with deliciousness. Kindly request additional napkins, as wearing a napkin bib is now a misdemeanor in Chesterfield. 16806 Chesterfield Airport Road, 636-532-3314.
Best Fast-Food Sandwich
Chicken Salad Sandwich at Penn Station East Coast Subs
Next visit to the Station, pass on the cheesesteak and opt instead for something we doubt you’d have otherwise ordered: the chicken salad. Extra tangy, it’s heaped onto still-warm hearth-baked bread and topped with gooey provolone (tantamount to double blasphemy at the local bridge club), but when paired with an order of those tasty, hand-cut fries, it trumps many sandwiches around. 21 area locations.
Ordinarily, we don’t like to see the word “smothered” on a menu. We like our food, well, breathing. But the term is justified when describing the venerable “Just Like Philly” cheesesteak at Soulard’s 9th Street Deli and keeps us from calling it “the freakishly greasy one that’s lashed with onions and peppers, then sensually slathered with deliciously unnatural Cheez Whiz.” 900 Shenandoah, 314-664-3354.
Best Breakfast Sandwich
B.E.L.T. at Rooster
Everybody loves bacon. So when you take a few slices of local Hinkebein Hills bacon, a little romaine, a fresh slice of tomato or two, and sandwich it all between mayonnaise-slathered slices of Companion bread, not much could be better. Unless, that is, you’re dining at Rooster, which has outdone itself by adding a ready-to-drip fried egg to the classic, thus encouraging you to have a B.E.L.T. before noon. 1104 Locust, 314-241-8118.
Best New Sandwich
Roasted Leg of Lamb at Saint Louis Brewery and Tap Room
We knew good things were in store when a St. Louis favorite chef, Andy White, took the helm at the Tap Room. And we also know you’ll rejoice when you feast on his new tender, roasted leg-of-lamb sandwich with baby spinach and rosemary aioli, hoisting it with a pint of your favorite brew. This is the type of original creation that is raising the bar for local bar food. 2100 Locust, 314-241-2337.
Best Chicken Noodle Soup
What’s as gentle as a yellow Lab, more calming than a visit from the family doctor (when doctors made house calls), and more soothing than Chopin on a Sunday morning? It’s gotta be homemade chicken noodle soup, preferably Mom’s…or Blueberry Hill’s. The stock is hearty, extracted, rich in color, and even a bit cloudy (not Yellow Dye No. Whatever), with substantial light meat, dark meat, vegetables, pepper, herbs—substantial everything—yet the noodles are close to what you’d find in that red-and-white can. And that’s comforting as well. It’s Campbell’s chicken noodle, folks, all grown up. 6504 Delmar, 314-727-4444.
Best Bisque That’s Not Lobster It’s a Tie!
Most tomato bisques try too hard… They’re too grainy, with too many herbs, too much salty stock, and end up tasting like, well, something other than tomatoes. Jimmy’s rendition of the dish marries simple to rich and balances its creaminess with random crunches of celery and onion. How good is the stuff? It should be sold only by the bowl…or the quart. 706 DeMun, 314-725-8585.
Trust us, at Nordstrom, neither garb nor grub comes hastily constructed, and that includes the crab bisque, with a depth of flavor and texture that can only be achieved from homemade seafood stock and spendthrift amounts of crab. And that little Parmesan crostino? Downstairs, they’d call that “fine detailing.” 47 West County Center, 314-255-2000.
Copia Urban Winery
It was a humid summer day in 2006 the first time we sampled Copia’s gumbo, a day when condensation dripped from the exposed vents overhead. The gumbo, though, was glorious—hearty, substantial, filé-based stock, with little nubbins of seafood and bite-size gobbets of andouille. And the spicing—a tingling, lingering heat—tempted us to duck back under the condensate for relief. Copia—and its rich, wonderfully spicy gumbo—is scheduled to return early in January 2010 after being closed for two years. 1122 Washington.
Best Grilled Cheese/ Tomato Soup Combo
A vegetarian diner should have a great grilled cheese. When you’ve sworn off meat, cheese often becomes the vice of choice. The turophilic Shangri-La packs a gobsmacking smorgasbord of six cheeses between hunky, crusty, whole wheat bread. The side cup o’ soup is herbal, vermillion, and organic (natch). 2201 Cherokee, 314-772-8308.
Just like Mom used to make—if Mom brought home Texas toast, took the time to layer on slices of American, cheddar, Swiss, and provolone, and eschewed plain, canned soup for a rich, chunky tomato bisque. (Or did she just get it to-go from Tin Can?) Two locations.
What takes moxie is tossing that whole soup-on-the-side meme topsy-turvy, thrusting the soup (at Moxy, it’s a bisque) to the center of the plate, then surrounding it with neat, unfussy cheese toast points. 4584 Laclede, 314-361-
The sandwich’s four cheeses—all white—look embarrassingly benign and bland, until you realize that one is the herby, garlicky boursin, the perfect counterpoint to a bisque that’s simple, supple, and velvety. We love when a good food pairing gets better. 315 Chestnut, 314-259-3244.
Bill Burge, Dave Lowry, George Mahe, and Rose Martelli