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Photograph by Steve Adams
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By our count, more than 200 independently owned restaurants have opened in the metro area in the past two years. Some shot straight into the stratosphere like SpaceShipOne, while others never left the runway. Cutesy names, location, provenances—they all mean nothing. A restaurant’s fate lies in the collective opinion. This year, in our biennial roundup of St. Louis’ best new restaurants, we take it one step further: Not only do we tell you our favorite places to go, we also tell you how best to negotiate each, with our picks for the must-get menu item, table, and server. Now go out and enjoy yourselves. We need to rest.
DeMun Oyster Bar
Dish: Shigoku oysters, if available; oyster stew is a must.
Table: We prefer the action at the bar, but the primo table is No. 30, midfray.
Server: Rob Marchant
Alan Richman had to have been thinking lovingly of Paris when he created DeMun Oyster Bar. The curved bar is just part of the retro decor that whisks us away. French oysters are good, but they are no better than these, painstakingly sourced from the Pacific Northwest, briny and sweet, with a champagne relish at hand and a good selection of sparkles at the bar, too. 740 DeMun, 314-725-0322, facebook.com/demunoysterbar.
Dish: Lamb chops crusted with goat cheese and herbes de Provence
Table: No. 8, along the back corner banquette. Sit facing out, and take it all in.
Server: Richard Swope
Set squarely in St. Louis suburbia, this spectacular French restaurant pairs attention to culinary detail with lavish presentations: plump escargots splashed with licorice-spiked Ricard; halibut in fennel broth with black rice; prime rib, sprinkled with lavender salt and pan-seared; and for dessert, profiteroles as light as angel murmurs. 1130 Town & Country Crossing, 636-394-1130, bistro1130.com.
Dish: Farm pear salad with gorgonzola crème brûlée.
Table: See outside and be seen inside at table No. 1, the two- or three-top in the front window.
Server: Kristina Dujmovic
Expectations for a new “wine bar” are necessarily low. This place, though, dodges the cliché. It opts for excellent, innovative food and an outstanding wine list. Polenta “cupcakes” are stuffed with smoked Gouda, mushrooms, and herbs, and pair well with the Qupé Central Coast Syrah. Focaccia pizza topped with chicken goes nicely with a Côtes du Rhône blanc. And black and blonde woods create an interior long on chichi. With full-dress fare at medium prices, this is the midcounty place for food and socializing. And vino. 16 The Boulevard–St. Louis, 314-726-0400, vinonadoz.com.
Photograph by Kevin A. Roberts
Dish: Seared scallop with cedar smoke.
Table: No. 13, a mirrored banquette. Face out or sneak peeks in the mirror.
Server: Sommelier Frank Fox
Who hasn’t driven down Lindell Boulevard and waited for the white-columned house to reopen? Here’s Salt, from Wes Johnson, whose fame goes beyond duck-fat fries. Somehow, he’s managed to block the creeping ho-humness of modern American cuisine and turn it into things we’ve never thought of before. There’s fried chicken, yes, but also a scallop in a Mason jar with a puff of cedar smoke. And the fries might be better than ever. 4356 Lindell, 314-932-5787, enjoysalt.com.
Half & Half
Dish: The fried egg sandwich.
Table: Reel it all in from the counter seats facing the coffee bar.
Server: Barista Cher Denny, an experienced staffer who runs the floor on weekdays
It’s half breakfast, half lunch; Half rich food, half basics like eggs and toast—and completely guilty of attention to every decadent detail. Half & Half beckons diners with dishes like blackberry French toast, a grilled salmon BLT, soft-shell crab eggs Benedict, and citrus-flavored donuts. (Order plain oatmeal if you must, but people might stare.) The coffee menu even has footnotes to explain how an AeroPress will make your microfarmed coffee taste superior. 8135 Maryland, 314-725-0719, halfandhalfstl.com.
Home Wine Kitchen
*Best of 2011*
Dish: The menu changes weekly—if something appeals, order it.
Table: No. 7, where you won’t miss a thing.
Server: Jessica Paddock, who easily guides diners through the continually changing menu
The high-top kicks the servers wear aren’t ironically retro-hip—they just look out of place. But that’s the only thing we don’t like about Home Wine Kitchen. Located in the middle of Maplewood, the convivial atmosphere hits the right note of formality, with comfy seating and butcher paper over linen tabletops. And the menu is elegantly simple, but frequently changes. There’s a lemony, garlicky gremolata, brushed on a veal chop as thick as a Tom Clancy novel and meltingly tender; a luxuriously buttery black-cod fillet; potatoes sautéed in duck fat; and a piquant sage–and–white wine gravy ladled over a meltingly tender pork chop fried country style. And whoever’s in the kitchen turning out the desserts, like the blueberry cobbler that gave us Smurf lips, knows their business. Pricing every wine at $30 is also a fantastic idea, and we appreciate the prix-fixe No Menu Mondays—clever and a bargain. Just lose the high-tops. 7322 Manchester, 314-802-7676, homewinekitchen.com.
Photograph by Jennifer Silverberg
Dave & Tony’s Premium Burger Joint
Dish: Pick your favorite toppings, but get the pretzel bun.
Table: It’s quick-serve—land anywhere you can.
Server: Not applicable
Have it your way, indeed. Cheese and tomatoes atop your burger? Please. How about fried wonton skins or pineapple? Can do. Burgers go way upscale here—and become considerably complex as you dictate a smorgasbord of toppings. None of it gets in the way of seriously good beef and fresh, homemade burger buns. This joint lives up to its lofty name. 12766 Olive, 314-439-5100, daveandtonys.com.
Dish: The pork burger with bacon.
Table No. 60: It’s upstairs, quiet, and civilized. For groups of two to four, try tables No. 17 and 18, located in the restaurant’s coziest nook.
Server: Bartender Shannon Ponche. (She can bang out a killer cocktail, too.)
It’s almost a speak-easy, so dark and intimate is Taste. There’s lots of porky goodness from start to finish, but the insider’s secret is the fries, the ones you dip in a glorious aioli. Despite that handicap, vegetarians can manage. The cocktail menu is huge and fascinating. Still, if there’s some obscure drink that you remember Uncle Brewster talking about, mixologist Ted Kilgore and friends will be happy to re-create it—or, just as likely, reinvent it. And for dessert, succumb to the pigwich. 4584 Laclede, 314-361-1200, tastebarstl.com.
*Best New Space*
Dish: House-smoked salmon chips.
Table: No. 100, glass-partitioned with a fire pit and facing the Arch. Table No. 50, on the southeast corner outside, faces the river.
Server: Catherine Stanford, who goes by “Mississippi.”
We call dibs on the stool at the southwest corner of the patio, 25 stories up, looking down into Busch Stadium. Only Gussie, now in heaven, has a better view of the game. The Mississippi River stretches grandly nearby, and sunsets from this vantage point are breathtaking. Three Sixty is setting the standard for upscale-casual dining. Inside, it’s sleek, contemporary. Outside are open-air patios with cozy booths, flickering fire pits, and a beautiful bar. There’s pizza, lightly charred, with smoky wild mushrooms; barbecue lamb ribs; crabmeat sliders; a smoked pork-belly BLT; and phenomenal wines and cocktails, all reasonably priced. Go. Soon. 1 S. Broadway, 314-241-8439, 360-stl.com.
Photograph by Katherine Bish
Dish: A simple margherita pizza is done right here.
Table: Communal table No. 100 for large parties or No. 18, a corner banquette. The best bet, though, is anywhere on the quiet patio.
Server: Mixologist Jenn Dormuth
On one of downtown Clayton’s quietest corners, the voluble Vito Racanelli Jr., has given us cucina della nonna, his grandmothers’ food. The don’t-miss dish may be the macaroni with pork-rib ragu, rich and creamy. It’s anything but the stock, red-sauce Italian menu, with cocktails Nonna never even dreamed of. The restaurant is casual in dress and decor, with a large “you dine, we donate” communal table located right in the front window. 8000 Carondelet, 314-932-5733, madtomatostl.com.
Dish: The Santo pizza (chimichurri sauce, chicken, arugula, red onion, peperoncini, feta).
Table: No. 21: You get a booth and a window.
Server: Garrett Strong, a young veteran of the biz
It’s the mischievous younger brother in Paul and Wendy Hamilton’s family of restaurants. Pizza is simple here: There’s only one size (12 inches) and one thickness (medium-thin). The twice-risen, yeasty crust is elegantly simple; the toppings, like fennel sausage and meatballs, are simply house-made. The wine store next door? Simply brilliant. Located in a turn-of-the-century St. Louis brewery, craft beers are apropos here, too. 2017 Chouteau, 314-241-7799, pwpizza.com.
Dish: Believe it or not, the smoked pastrami.
Table: Feel privileged to snag any seat at any table.
Server: Not applicable, but the entire staff may be the friendliest in town
Bogart’s pit master Skip Steele is a former winner of Memphis in May’s World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, and we’re happy as a pig in mud that the Memphis native hung his shingle in Soulard. Baby back ribs are finished with a light apricot sauce, then blowtorched to a shiny glaze; the beans, cooked in the smoker under the beef brisket, may be the best you’ll ever eat. Smoked hot pastrami and free meat samples for customers in line just gild the lily. 1627 S. Ninth, 314-621-3107, bogartssmokehouse.com.
Photograph by Jennifer Silverberg
Dish: A generous-with-the-crustacean lobster BLT pizza.
Table: The most quiet: No. 22 in the rear corner. The most action: high-top table No. 31, midscrum.
Server: Cory Bishop
Maybe it’s not fair that Frank Schmitz owns both BARcelona and Bocci Bar, the two hottest places on the block. Spend a minute with the affable operator, though, and you’ll realize the genesis of this area’s infectious energy. Bocci’s personality, vibe, and alluring aromas are exposed the minute Schmitz ratchets open the street-facing window wall. 16 N. Central, 314-932-1040, boccibar.com.
One 19 North
Dish: Pan-seared tenderloin with pine-nut spinach is a steal at $10.99.
Table: With no reservations, sit at the bar. In advance, request table No. 4, in the window.
Server: Josh McCaulla, equally well-versed in food and wine
Frankly, we thought the emergence of another “tapas and wine bar” would be welcomed like another song from Rebecca Black. We were wrong, as the continually packed house at One 19 North is our witness. When you’re tucked under a stone archway, a Tempranillo and a wedge of Manchego will conjure memories of that little wine grotto in La Mancha. Fair warning: Whether you visit on a Friday or any other day, reservations are a must. 119 N. Kirkwood, 314-821-4119, one19north.com.
Dish: Something unexpected—a cornmeal-encrusted Missouri trout.
Table: The L-shaped end of a banquette, table No. 23.
Server: Steve Fairbanks
Here, the slogan “We Bust Chops” is taken literally, as chef/owner Marc Del Pietro butchers all meats in-house. Sidle up to a 10-ounce local pork chop with potato-and-bacon hash in a comfy, barn-wood setting. Or take something home from the meat case up front. No need to sift through The Block’s packages of bacon, though; they’re all as perfect as what you’d get from your uncle, the butcher. 146 W. Lockwood, 314-918-7900, theblockrestaurant.com.
Photograph by Jennifer Silverberg
SLM's 2011 Restaurant of the Year: The Tavern Kitchen and Bar
By Dave Lowry
Dish: The Tavern burger with bacon jam.
Table: The chef's counter
Server: Wade Taylor
It’s often how good restaurants become Best Restaurants. Taking chances, like opening in the wilds of West County, miles from the supposed epicenter of dining chic. Or like dropping the kitchen right in the middle of things, where the action, smooth or clumsy, is plainly visible. (Note: The house’s best seats are literally stoveside.) Taking chances doesn’t mean going all gastronomía molecular with the food. It’s more a matter of understanding and mastering the value of basics, knowing when and how to unleash the creative culinary imps, tweaking, monkeying with combinations, concocting variations that sound tantalizing and taste even better—much better. In short, Best Restaurants get to be that way by taking the approach of The Tavern.
It’s got brick walls, polished concrete floors, tables spaced closely enough to consider filching a bite off a neighbor’s plate when he isn’t looking. A board over the kitchen is chalked with the day’s specials (inevitably featuring some terrific, continually changing fresh seafood). Add some big-screen TVs with this week’s game on: The place looks more like its namesake than a high-end eatery. The menu will set you straight. It’s short. Even so, the challenge is finding an offering that doesn’t tempt.
Consider the possibilities over a warm, pull-apart chunk of what tastes like rosemary-spiked brioche that arrives as you’re seated. How about a sea-fragrant cioppino, overloaded with mussels, clams, shrimp, and a slab of fish in a peppery, tomatoey broth, along with—just to make it interesting—thick slices of spicy-hot andouille? Yeah, I could go for that. Or game hen, the delicate pink flesh roasted and lightly grilled, juicy-sweet, resting on a tumble of emerald English peas? I could definitely go for that. Meatloaf, maybe, swaddled in bacon and slathered with a meaty, caramel-dark mushroom gravy? A burger of ground chuck, sirloin, and brisket, blanketed with Irish cheddar and—this should tickle your palate’s imagination—bacon jam? You get the drift. Little here is entirely unfamiliar. Even less is what you’d expect of such familiarity.
It ain’t over just because you’ve settled on a main course. Sides—typically a dining afterthought—play a beautifully delicious counterpoint here. The cheese mac—ruinously rich, buttery, the cheese mild, with a crusty breadcrumb top—is delectably crunchy. A tater-tot casserole redeems school lunch ladies everywhere. Then there are the starters: baby back ribs in an apricot-hoisin glaze; blackened mahi-mahi tacos; baked artichoke ravioli.
Dinner’s helped along nicely with a wine list that’s quirky, bouncing from California chardonnays to Argentinian Malbecs, but always staying in the ranges of affordable and interesting. A rotation of craft beers doesn’t hurt, either.
Here’s one other signature of a Best Restaurant: the reluctance to rest on past successes. Less than a year ago, we were mildly obsessed with the Tavern’s sous-vide egg, brioche toast, and pork-belly extravaganza, as well as the lobster-stuffed toasted ravioli. Both were exquisite. Both are gone—at least for now. Now it’s the ham-and-egg asparagus and a pork tenderloin basted with jalapeño and honey mustard that The Tavern’s cognoscenti are raving over.
Finally, a hallmark of a Best Restaurant is that it tends to turn trendy on its head. Ignoring the precious and pretentious, a Best Restaurant begins with an original vision and proceeds, undistracted by fads or temporary fashions. The Tavern proves a great restaurant does not have to be flashy or grand or in just the right neighborhood. It does need a chef like Justin Haifley, one who has that vision and takes chances. That’s a big reason it’s the Best Restaurant in St. Louis this year.
2961 Dougherty Ferry, Ste. 101, 636-825-0600, tavernstl.com.
Photograph by Katherine Bish
They’re not the newest of the new, but the following have survived their crucial first year, an accomplishment that’s worthy of a salute—and another visit.
Peppe’s Apt. 2
Taking Hill-style Italian food to Kirkwood was a smart move. Peppe Profeta’s sunny, Franco-Italian decor hits the mark for loyal clientele, and the menu does, too, especially with offerings of small and large portions of pasta and most entrées. Profeta’s carbonara may be the best around. 800 S. Geyer, 314-909-1375, peppesapt2.com.
When Food & Wine magazine proclaimed Farmhaus’ Kevin Willmann among the nation’s Best New Chefs, it didn’t surprise his fans, who enjoy finding new flavors in dishes that often appear to come from a glorious moment of spontaneity. A blue-plate special—one per day—constitutes lunch, and many rejoice at a policy of no reservations for parties larger than four, which can be a blessing in such a small space. 3257 Ivanhoe, 314-647-3800, farmhausrestaurant.com.
A room with a view of Forest Park with well-conceived locavore food has brought success to the Missouri History Museum’s second floor. Sunday brunch is extremely popular, with its house-smoked salmon, mimosas, and flavorful sausages from G&W Bavarian Style Sausage Company. But Bixby’s is also a superior location for a business lunch. 5700 Lindell, 314-361-7313, bixbys-mohistory.com.
Brasserie by Niche
Forget the pseudobrasseries, the ersatz bistros: This is the real thing. Thoroughly French fare, dishes are lyrical: shellfish-studded bouillabaisse; the iconic steak, with shallot butter; lovely little touches like airy cheese gougères and cod brandade. It’s noisy, friendly, invariably crowded—and one of the best eateries in town. 4580 Laclede, 314-454-0600, brasseriebyniche.com.
Balaban’s Wine Cellar & Tapas Bar
It’s no easy feat, living up to a legendary name—not to mention doing it in Chesterfield, far from the original. Sure, the beef Wellington and morel pasta are still there. But innovative fare like beef empanadas and flatbread pizza make this a worthy re-invention, one that conveniently doubles as a top-notch wine shop. 1772 Clarkson, 636-449-6700, balabanswine.com.
The tapas and cocktail menus at Sanctuaria might be in a high-stakes battle to determine the ultimate victor. At present, they have reached a truly delicious détente. Consider the sweet, creamy Cabrales cigars: Spanish blue cheese and leek fondue rolled into phyllo dough, pan-seared, then topped with sherry-raisin sauce. The highly original drink menu has been internationally recognized for its creativity. Add a hoppin’ patio, a wildly decorated interior, and a bar staff who can match cocktails with quinoa, and see why Sanctuaria may be approaching culinary sainthood. 4198 Manchester, 314-535-9700, sanctuariastl.com.
Fozzie’s Sandwich Emporium
This ain’t no sandwich shop; it’s an emporium, for God’s sake, and that means relentless originality. From the Black N Blue grilled steak sandwich with spinach, blue cheese, and tiger sauce to homemade soups spiced with herbs from Fozzie’s garden, not to mention the Foz-O-Licious milkshake, made with goat cheese, roasted apples, and caramels, Fozzie’s quirky creativity guarantees many return visits. 1170 S. Big Bend, 314-932-5414, foodatfozzies.com.
It’s a feat to create a spot that attracts beer and food snobs both, but veteran restaurateur Dave Bailey has done just that at Bridge, where the bar boasts a murderers’ row of colorful handles for the 55 craft beers on tap (plus a couple hundred more in bottles), along with four-ounce sample pours to help you decide. The seasonally focused menu might boast oven-roasted tomatoes in herbed spaetzle, or a roasted pork–and–ruby grapefruit salad with blood-orange vinaigrette. A Bridge too far? Hardly. 1004 Locust, 314-241-8141, thebridgestl.com.
Peel Wood Fired Pizza
Devotees from Wentzville to Greenville, Ill., say it’s the best pizza around. We hesitate to disagree. A 90-second bake in a 900-degree, wood-fired Italian oven produces the ideal crust, char, and chew, and equal attention is paid to salads and craft brews. Peel’s an outstanding example of all things a pizza parlor can be. Look for the Missouri license plates. 921 S. Arbor Vitae, Edwardsville, Ill., 618-659-8561, peelpizza.com.
Milagro Modern Mexican
One look at the menu will tell you why Milagro’s made such a splash so quickly: duck carnitas in blood orange–habanero sauce; roasted squash and grilled corn with cilantro-pepita pesto; and standard fare, too, served in a space that’s sleek, modern, and neon- and sombrero-free. By creatively using fresh and house-made ingredients, owners and brothers Jason and Adam Tilford have given Mexican cuisine the respect it deserves, and diners have responded in droves. 20 Allen, 314-962-4300, milagromodernmexican.com.
Lee Redel and John Rice are back in business, this time with a pickup-only joint no bigger than their previous restaurant’s coatroom. If escargot pizza’s not your thing, opt for the spicy marinated shrimp; should none of the other 16 specialty pies appeal, choose from 35 toppings and go crazy building your own. Just promise us you’ll try that escargot pie…sometime. 9783 Clayton, 314-997-7070, redlpizza.com.
Photographs by Ashley Gieseking and Jennifer Silverberg
Best New Reinvention: Truffles
How often does a restaurant owner realize the moment when his pride and joy becomes stale and stagnant, when a dwindling number of customers sink a bit too far into dated chairs, desiring nothing more than what they ate last week? How frequently do restaurateurs recognize that the light fixtures look “vintage” unintentionally, or that the place just needs a fresh coat of paint on the walls—the spatial equivalent of a hot shower and a change of clothes?
Not often enough, we say.
Some restaurateurs are too myopic to see it. Others can well see but can’t afford the makeover, never realizing they can’t afford not to change it up.
Six months ago, the owners of Truffles found themselves on a precipice and decided to leap, rather than loaf. John Griffiths, a noted chef and experienced menu consultant, came on board with an Italian-inspired menu (posted online daily) that changes with the bounty of the market: Today, there’s a scatter of sweet Nardello peppers, blistered and roasted; house-made Burrata cheese, an ultracreamy and rare indulgence; a Venetian risotto, intensely aromatic and laden with frutti di mare.
Next to arrive was Aleks Jovanovic, an approachable GM and plain-talk sommelier whose mantra is “fun dining, not fine dining,” nudging patrons to try a wine varietal they’ve never heard of but will remember. Every week, one wine (determined by popular vote the previous week) is sold by the glass (a slick, 6-ounce mini carafe), half bottle, and full bottle at wholesale cost. You will recall it was Truffles where you snagged that bottle of Marisco pinot gris for $10 and took home a second bottle for not much more. That Wine Spectator award–winning wine list Truffles was long known for…is still improving. And servers now pour wines at a communal, kitcheny wood-block table, as if they were doing so at home.
A perfect example of this personable, affordable, and interactive experience is “Shared Plates,” larger entrées (like a whole flounder) and side dishes designed for groups of two or three. The chairs, tabletops (sans cloths), and fixtures are similarly casual and comfortable.
If we could clone all of this fresh air and disperse it liberally around town, indeed we would. In the meantime, let us pay homage to the torchbearer.
9202 Clayton, 314-567-9100, todayattruffles.com.
Photograph by Ashley Gieseking
Best New Idea: Prime 1000's Dry-Aging Room
As more meat eaters understand the dry-aging process, more seek it out. Steaks are either aged “wet,” with natural juices and enzymes in Cryovac bags, or “dry,” in climate-controlled coolers, slowly losing moisture during a prolonged aging process. Devotees claim such steaks are more flavorful, or just “beefier.” Local steakhouses that offer dry-aged meats buy them this way.
All except one.
Prime 1000 not only dry-ages its meats in-house for a full 30 days, but does so in a small room in public view, further demystifying the process and answering yet another question about how our foodstuffs arrive at the table. The marbled pink tiles lining the perimeter of the aging room may look like granite samples, but they are, in fact, slabs of 600 million–year–old Himalayan salt, the preferred medium for achieving the gentle, indirect desiccation that’s so integral to dry-aging. Other factors to consider are a steer’s breed, feed, climate, and growth conditions—but that part of the story, we’ll leave for the staff at Prime 1000 to tell.
Half-Day Dining Trips
New restaurants worth the not-so-far journey
Sometimes you just gotta get away from the city’s bustle—get in that car and drive. Ah, but then hunger sets in. Satisfy both compulsions with a visit to the following new restaurants, some near and some far.
Shady Grove Grill & Chill
Tucked into an unassuming strip mall on State Route 94, this place is one you’ll have to hunt for amid the maze of St. Charles byways. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with an excellent burger, house-made chips, sandwiches, and other bar-type tasties. Do what we do: Start with the pretzel appetizer, and follow with a liberally stuffed blue-cheese burger. 1267 Jungermann, St. Charles, 636-922-1080.
Ballyhoo Restaurant & Bar
Local (loud) bands rock this joint, which also has become a spot for some excellent meals. A mozzarella-robed chicken caprese over angel-hair, steak sandwiches, wings—the food’s more eclectic than the entertainment. And with varied frosty beverages, Ballyhoo’s may have single-handedly restored the joy of happy hour in St. Charles. 1048 Wolfrum, Weldon Spring, 636-244-6900, letseat.at/BallyhooSTL.
A surprising exception to the mediocrity of sushi joints in St. Charles, this restaurant has a chef who knows his business. Other Japanese fare—tempura and teriyaki—is fine. But the sushi is outstanding. The preparation is expert, with attention from the rice to the fish. And don’t miss a classic Kanto-style preparation of miso soup. 161 Civic Center, Lake Saint Louis, 636-561-4449, facebook.com/SushiSen.
Taytro’s Bar & Bistro
New Orleans–style fare in Festus? You can never drive too far for good gumbo. This one’s spicy and smoky. What about a roast-beef poor-boy or some of those buttery, tangy barbecue shrimp? Or smothered fried catfish? Obviously, this is more than a one-trip pony. 343 N. Creek, Festus, 636-931-1880, taytros.com.
What’s New on Central Avenue
A handful of new eateries are rockin’ this Clayton block.
When devotees brush off a July heat wave just to claim a coveted sidewalk table—the ones that stretch so far that they trespass—it’s clear that BARcelona has something its competitors don’t. And for those who prefer a large order of AC with their albóndigas, the restaurant’s expanded its inside seating—again. 34 N. Central, 314-863-9909, barcelonatapas.com.
Tucci & Fresta’s Trattoria & Bar
It wasn’t yet open at press time, and all eyes were on The Pasta House founders to see just how different this trattoria would be. The only Pasta House carry-over will be the 12-layer lasagna al forno, but even that will get amped up. No pasta con broccoli? Say it isn’t so, Kim and Joe. 15 N. Central, 314-725-6588, tucciandfrestas.com.
This vibrant, new hot spot has it all…well, everything except bocce. 16 N. Central, 314-932-1040, boccibar.com.
Coastal Bistro & Bar
Diners lamenting the lack of seafood restaurants now have one less reason to carp. Last month, the Schmitzes transformed Mosaic Bistro Market into a small plates–leaning seafood bar boasting bivalves from all coasts. Coastal’s pedigree is solid: When 10 friends of ours dined at the Bistro Market’s rustic wooden table before the switch, the score was a perfect 10. 14 N. Central, 314-932-7377, coastalbistro.com.
Every time we walk by, a little voice says, “Psst, spicy Southwest chicken griller.” Occasionally, we succumb. 4 N. Central, 314-338-2800, mcalistersdeli.com.
We loved ’em. We’ll miss ’em. We reluctantly move on.
By George Mahe
41 N. Central, Clayton
Last Meal Served: September 26, 2010
Why We’ll Miss It: It was a reasonably priced and well-executed example of a quick-service restaurant with excellent salads and wood-oven pizzas.
Why (We Think) It Closed: A fire on September 27 caused irreparable damage.
Where to Go Now: Individual pizzas served in a quick-service atmosphere are an anomaly here; both Katie’s Pizzeria Café and Dewey’s Pizza are nearby, but the experience will cost you more.
Riddles Penultimate Café
6307 Delmar, University City
Final Meal Served: October 16, 2010
Why We’ll Miss It: Owner Andy Ayers was a “locavore” long before the term was even coined. Perusing his ever-changing menu over a quartino of wine was both entertaining and educational.
Why (We Think) It Closed: Riddles was in need of some freshening when Ayers’ daughter Kate took over. Restaurant groupies were pumped, but the fresh air never came.
Where to Go Now: For the locally sourced plus bohemian component, Local Harvest Café gets close; for the music component, go ahead and hum something bluesy.
An American Place
822 Washington, Downtown
Final Meal Served: November 1, 2010
Why We’ll Miss It: To land a restaurant owned by a nationally acclaimed chef (in this case, Larry Forgione) gives a city braggin’ rights. Plus, it remains perhaps the most stunning dining room in the city.
Why (We Think) It Closed: First was the loss of chef de cuisine Josh Galliano; later, AAP seemed to take on more private events, a frustration to regular customers.
Where to Go Now: Go where chef Josh Galliano is, of course: to Monarch, where the choices range from an AAP-type tasting menu to traditional Southern fare, courtesy of the Louisiana-born chef.
Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse
777 River City Casino, Fenton
Final Meal Served: November 19, 2010
Why We’ll Miss It: The quality, the cuts, the meat rubs…Ruby’s was the finest steakhouse never to be experienced by most local carnivores.
Why (We Think) It Closed: Casino patrons never warmed up to the high-ticket steaks; high-ticket patrons never warmed up to the casino setting.
Where to Go Now: As with a deceased artist, only when Ruby’s died did the public take notice. Besides having some lower-cost alternatives, its reincarnation (1904 Steak House) is unchanged in decor, menu, and concept.
999 N. Second, Downtown
Final Meal Served: January 31, 2011
Why We’ll Miss It: Hubert Keller’s cooking skills, his infectious personality, and his prowess as a DJ in SLeeK’s slick Ultra Lounge were always enticing draws.
Why (We Think) It Closed: A casino steakhouse is a tough sell in St. Louis, even if the creator is an internationally known master chef.
Where to Go Now: Prime 1000 pairs dry-aged steaks (see p. 86) with modern sculpture and does so in a spectacular historical building in downtown St. Louis, only blocks from where SLeeK used to reside.
2700 Olive, Downtown
Final Meal Served: May 27, 2011
Why We’ll Miss It: It had no signage, no outdoor lights, and no posted prices. Every day promised fresh-roasted meats—and fresher gossip.
Why (We Think) It Closed: After 113 years in business, third-generation owner Mike Beffa retired. Along with him went the name and an institution.
Where to Go Now: We’re not sure such a combination will (or could) ever be duplicated. Regulars convene every Friday at Triumph Grill to keep the fire burning.
33 N. Sarah, Central West End
Final Meal Served: June 28, 2011
Why We’ll Miss It: We remember those long, lingering nights on the patio, nibbling on…chicken thighs. It’s true: They were the best in town.
Why (We Think) It Closed: In dining circles, a revolving door of chefs and menus equates to a flashing yellow light.
Where to Go Now: First-class dining on a CWE patio? Our vote goes to Bar Italia or the hidden back patio at Scape.
Five spots that have us licking our chops for opening day
By Katie O'Connor
A lively dining scene is one that’s continually in flux: Some doors open, others close—and new spots are announced all the time. At press time, these five spots weren’t quite open yet, but you can bet you’ll find us at each of them on opening day.
Pastaria by Niche
Gerard Craft’s fourth restaurant promises the best of both worlds: renowned cutting-edge creativity applied to a beloved comfort food in an approachable setting. An open kitchen and wood-fired oven should keep things modern, while a rotating selection of house-made pastas should make it a favorite of foodies and families alike. Watch for a November opening. Location TBA.
Look for Michael Del Pietro’s sixth restaurant to push Italian fare to a new level when it debuts in December. The East Loop spot promises a decidedly modern—and welcome—twist: a strong vegetarian bent with dishes featuring local, organic produce and herbs, some of them grown in a suspended herb garden. Never fear, carnivores: There’ll be plenty for meat eaters, too. 6118 Delmar, mdprestaurants.com.
Blood & Sand
A selection of 75 classic and inventive cocktails from bartenders (and owners) TJ Vytlacil and Adam Frager and a menu from chef Chris Bork is enough to pique interest in Blood & Sand, slated at press time to open in September. Its members-only concept and new-to-STL digital approach to service—in which servers take orders using the iPod Touch, integrated with several iPad stations, to build a “digital palette” for each customer, complete with recommendations—have us downright intrigued. 1500 St. Charles, 314-241-7263, bloodandsandstl.com.
Kelly English Steakhouse
We’re eager to see what happens when a chef who specializes in French-Creole and Southern fare opens a steakhouse. We’ll get our chance when acclaimed chef Kelly English opens his second restaurant in Harrah’s Casino in November. That the Memphis-based English will raise
St. Louis’ number of Food & Wine Best New Chefs (2009) and James Beard Foundation Award semifinalists (2010) is just icing on the cake. Harrah’s St. Louis, 777 Casino Center, harrahsstlouis.com.
Who says “artisanal” only applies to high-end cuisines? Dave Bailey’s fourth restaurant will bring the local, sustainable approach to burgers and shakes. Everything at Baileys’ Range, from the bun to the burger to the pickle that tops it, will be made in-house from local ingredients. Antique windows and colored milk cans, suspended overhead, recall a simpler time. 920 Olive, 314-241-8121, baileysrange.com.
By Byron Kerman, Dave Lowry, George Mahe, Katie O'Connor, and Joe and Ann Pollack