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Updates on St Louis?

We will be in the St. Louis area over the weekend, and it seems that all the posts about where to eat are fairly old. Is this because nothing changes in St. Louis and it's all the same or because no one writes about food there? We would be interested in anything that's quality from barbecue and fried chicken to more exotic foods -- if there are any there. Please help with some up to date ideas!

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  1. I had a recent meal at Harvest, which has been around a while. I thought the meal was terrific. It's nothing exotic as it serves a modern american cuisine, but it does so extremely well. Here are some sample dishes, to see if they are what you might like:
    Oysters casino: barely cooked oysters with an oregano breadbrumb topping.
    Scallops over a sqaush risotto with rapini
    A perfect bread pudding for dessert.

    This listing makes the food, which is fairly creative, sound more pedestrian than it is. For a moderately upscale dinner, this place was outstanding.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jjo

      Man, I love that bread pudding. It is the best dessert I have ever had in the entire world. I wish I still lived in St. Louis, just so I could have it!

    2. I have the world's most negative sister-in-law, who loves to find fault with anything/anyone. We gave her a gift certificate to eleven eleven mississippi. Her comment on her dinner at the restaurant: "It was PERFECT".

      1. As for 1111, all I hear lately is that it's been terrible, which doesn't surprise me, because it wasn't that good when it was still getting pretty positive comments. It's a nice space with questionable food. I think it's on a par with the restaurants that are part of the local chain of wannabe fine dining places, e.g., Remy, Blue Water, Big Sky. But, all is not bleak in the StL scene. Two newish restaurants that should impress even most jaded palates are Niche and Terrene - not exotic, but top notch and creative preparations of quality ingredients. For less creative, but generally very, very sound meals, I favor Atlas and Pomme. I like Harvest, too, but I think it's slipped a bit - though I'd certainly return. For something more unique, though not exotic or ethnic, I really like Iron Barley - the combination of down home roadhouse/bar atmosphere with very good food makes for a fun evening, and I don't think it's a scene that's replicated in too many places. For more ethnic offerings, there's a slew of choices - though most have been there a long time - on South Grand, including Bahn Mi So 1, Pho Grand for Vietnamese and Sameem for Afghani.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Wayno

          I generally agree with you on everything except for Iron Barley. I may be the only one in town who thinks it is very overrated. Nevertheless, don't forget King Louie's. It's a hidden gem that doesn't get nearly enough attention.

          1. re: showlett

            Wayno and I are just a lot more particular then most.

            I wouldn't go to Harvest. The chef (Andy White) is leaving as he and some others have bought and are renovating Cafe Balaban's. It should be really exciting once they open that space with him at the helm. He's one of the best chef's in St. Louis.

            Niche has fastracked it's way to my favorite spot in town based upon several conversations I've had with Gerard and Matt. They're both great cooks and have a real love for what they've brought us. He sounds like he's doing some really cool things on the weekday 7 course tasting menus and I can't wait until I have time for that.

            My other oft-mentioned favorite is Atlas. One of the most consitant places I've ever been to. Other then that, I handidly agree with everything Wayno said.

            1. re: bobzemuda

              Andy White is buying Balabans? Damn it, I had to leave right before that. Balabans needs a good sprucing up.

              So, I am curious, after the ballyhoo, what has happened to Monarch and Arthur Clays?

              1. re: Phaedrus

                It's been a while since we've been to Arthur Clay's do to the sticker shock of our last visit. I've no problem dropping large sums of money on food, but we had a tasting menu, and it was, I felt, pretty poorly executed giving us full size portions of menu items. Having dined there 10-15 times at that point and with their definitely knowing who we are, I'd felt that we would get treated a little differently for the price we were paying.

                Also, some of the dishes just weren't clicking like they were when they'd opened. I know how hard it is to come up with a new menu everyday, and without a staff that can assist in the creativity department, it must be quite tough.

                I can't really comment on Monarch. It's always screamed hype to me. The Chef, Brian Hale, is a egomaniac. Just one look at their website gives a pretty clear example of that. The one time I ate there was for a quick lunch, and my soup had a greasy film on top. I felt there was no excuse for that considering the cost, and haven't returned.

                1. re: Phaedrus

                  Branden Marsten from Modesto has bought Balabans, and he's hired Andy White to be the head chef.

            2. re: Wayno

              Maybe we lucked out, but our lunch at 1111 Mississippi was very good, as was the service. Our entrees were split without charge, even though we didn't request it. The accomplished server noticed how we were perusing the menu and immediately picked up on our sharing factor. We had a very positive experience there. Much better than anything we've had at Remy's or Blue Water.
              Have to agree with you about Atlas. That was the best meal we had during our long weekend in St. Louis recently. The food was just about perfect as was the service. The best lunch we had was Pho Grand. We had another great dinner at Cafe Natasha Kabob International. I really like to eat in St. Louis. You guys have lots of wonderful places to choose from.

            3. For superb soups, well-plated appetizers, imaginative flavorful salads and sandwiches in an informal setting -- The Pitted Olive on Hampton. Additional plus -- gets you close to Ted Drewe's for dessert.

              1. We ate at 1111 Mississippi two nights ago. We had the Tuscan prix fixe menu, with the paired wine, and our dinner was excellent.

                1. Thanks for all the great suggestions. Since we're with our 11 year-old son (who is quite the chowhound, I might add), I am looking for places that are more casual. The ethnic places sound very interesting, particularly the Vietnamese. Does anyone know how Pho Grand or Bahn Me So would stack up against Vietnamese restaurants in other major metro areas? It seems odd to eat Vietnamese in St Louis when we come from NYC, but you never know about these things! My husband keeps on saying, "Where are the snoot restaurants." Apparently pig snouts are a delicacy? Doesn't appeal to me, but who knows!

                  1. Take the chowkid to Crown Candy.

                    1. Mai Lee at 170 and Delmar in the University City area is by far the best Vietnamese in St. Louis. They just celebrated their 20 year of operation. Usually it is lined out the door. Highly recomended

                      1. I'm originally from NYC, but now live in the MIdwest and visit St. Louis as often as I can. One place we enjoy going to is Arcelia's on Lafayette Square. Very good Mexican food. Our favorites are the Chile Colorado and the white enchilada. It's a very casual restaurant, and although the service is often not stellar, the food more than makes up for it.

                        1. STL actually has excellent Vietnamese food (it was one of the cities that saw a large influx of Vietnamese immigrants in the late 1970s). IMHO, Bahn Mi Soh is better Vietnamese than you will find in many bigger cities (the ingredients are top notch and the husband/wife team who run the joint are superb in the kitchen). The dining room is spare and simple but your taste buds and belly won't care about that once you take in one of their delicate spring rolls. I also give high praise to King Louie's which is one of the great gems of STL. It is worth seeking out.

                          1. If you are looking for exotic foods, try Yemanja Brasil. After tried the fried yucca, your chowkid will never want to go back to french fries again.

                            Also, we have a bunch of Bosnian restaurants here because of a very large immigrant community.

                            Also have a Nepalese restaurant, the Everest Cafe on Washington, and it is casual and very affordable.

                            1. King Louie is superb. I saw it go from a burgers and lite fare joint to what it is today, an excellent wine and cuisine place.

                              Harvest is also very awesome. Very imaginative without being wacked out.

                              Mai Lee's was my neighborhood vietnamese place, its convenient for me to go there, but the best in St. Louis? I don't know. Never been to Banh Mi So but have been to Pho Grand and Pho Grand puts on a good show but the food is just decent.

                              For great Chinese, try Lulu's for dimsum, Wonton King for Hong Kong Style noodles and some dimsum, Wei Hong for seafood, Jade Garden for seafood too. Oh, and don't just take the menu they give you, ask for the chinese menu and have the waiter explain it to you.

                              I think Atlas was mentioned, excellent choice. Niche is another new place, without the hype of Eleven Eleven or An American Place.

                              Kreis steakhouse for prime rib, Citizen Kane for high end steakhouse.

                              Pueblo Solis for Haute mexican, Pueblo Nuevo for traditional mexican. Las Palmas for menudo.

                              Priyaa's for southern Indian.

                              Ted Drewe's for dessert.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Phaedrus

                                I seem to always find myself agreeing when you post!
                                Let's not forget the Loop as a destination for interest and food.
                                I have been known to hop-scotch one course here another there. If that seems too much just go to 609 and have one of the best gin martinis in town and some great food( fusion mid-american style done on a limited menu)- do not skip dessert!

                                1. re: stlSarah

                                  I noticed the same thing from our previous conversations. Great minds think alike!!

                                  And yes, 609 is also quite good. Very interesting space too.

                              2. Roxlet;

                                My inlaws are in Stl, and its fair to say that while things don't move fast there-- the old reliables are where you want to be.

                                St. Louis is a meat & potatoes type town, with a great italian neighborhood.

                                For steaks-- Al's and Tony's.
                                Italian-- at the Hill- Giovanni's / Dominics (a bit formal) but excellent food, Charlie Gitto and Zia's- more casual, also excellent food.

                                The only less traditional restaurant I would recommend is Sidney Street.

                                And, do go to Ted Drewe's for a "Concrete"

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: hallrs

                                  Well, my major metropolitan area credentials are having lived almost my entire adult life in San Francisco before moving here 5 years ago. I doubt that Mai Lee would survive, or at least be well regarded there. Bahn Mi So 1, however, would have a huge following and deservedly so.
                                  For the casual good food experience, the chowkid would probably like Iron Barley. Check out their website. I spend a lot of time in Manhattan and think it would represent a more unique experience for you. Some of the barley dishes are just okay - i still greatly prefer my risotto with arborio or canaroli rice rather than barley, which is too bland and heavy for the dish - but the smoked prime rib is usually great, as are a number of the apps. I also hear the sandwiches are great.
                                  Forget Italian food here. Coming from NYC, you'd be wasting your time on even the best here, none of which is great.
                                  For lunch I do recommend the cuban sandwiches and some Mexican food at La Tropicana, a little mercado with a food counter in the back. I also recommend Modesto for Tapas and, unlike BARcelona, it would stand up to big-city competition.
                                  For more high end dining, Niche definitely would hold its own just about anywhere.

                                  1. re: Wayno

                                    Another place to consider if you are in downtown is the Tap Room on Locust. It is a local brewery which actually has several menu items that are very good. In particular, the french fries are some the best around (the green peppercorn dipping sauce is delightful), the fish and chips are usually excellent, and if your arteries aren't screaming for mercy you can wash it all down with a Cream Stout and a piece of Sticky Toffee Bread Pudding (seriously tasty). I know they can be hit or miss but typically they come through. The atmosphere is also casual and comfortable. The 11 year old and the adults will love it! It's not high cuisine but it shows spunk.

                                2. Most of the menu items are pretty banal at The tap Room. The beers are excellent. The fish and chips are pretty good. And the sticky toffee bread is awesome. That is about it. I think Bottleworks is better, but not by much.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Phaedrus

                                    What is good at the bottleworks( the taproom's cousin in Maplewood)? I liked a brunch but nothing edible makes me want to come back- yet I want to like it since I love the Taproom(fish and chips and sticky toffee pudding) and I appreciate the people who run both and their focus on local/non-chain businesses.

                                    1. re: stlSarah

                                      I always end up ordering the fish and chips. The sticky toffee bread pudding is great every once in a while.

                                      I like the beer bread and the venison chili at the bottleworks. The ribs are good as are the meatloaf, just something different from the everyday.

                                      1. re: Phaedrus

                                        Agreed. As I said in my original post the Tap Room is hardly a place for innovative food but several items are usually well above average--even quite good (i.e. fish & chips, sticky toffee bread pudding, beer). You could so MUCH worse in STL than the Tap Room.

                                  2. I grew up in St Louis, and visit very often. So while I'm not always up to date on the new trendy places, I can offer opinions on some long-standing faves. I'm in Boston now, after a long time moving around the country. I've been chowing a long time, and thogh StL is no Chicago in terms of choices, the food scene shouldn't be discounted. There's a lot of good stuff.

                                    Frazer's Brown Bag - great seafood, hidden gem.
                                    Pho Grand and Bahn Mi So 1 and the other vietnamese places listed: thumbs up, bigtime.
                                    Mai Lee - I have a soft place in my heart for it, and it *is* good, but I wouldn't call it the best in St. Louis.
                                    Zoe's Pan Asian -- wonderful Central West End dining choice, lots of flavor, good atmosphere.
                                    Dressels vs Llewelyns -- More CWE choices, both Welsh pubs, both have very good, mostly traditional Welsh pub food. Opinion pretty evenly splits over which is better.
                                    Arcelia's - absolutely! Great *freshly made* chile rellanos. Also great because it's in Lafayette park, which puts you right next to...
                                    -- The Chocolate Bar - a little trendy, but awesome desserts, and ...
                                    -- 33's Wine Bar - the BEST wine bar I've been to. Really. I've been to a lot. (Ok, maybe this place in Sonoma was better, but not by much). Jake, who runs the place, is SUPER smart about wine and not even remotely snobby. The place has a great vibe, and great prices and range. There's no real food to speak of except for cheese and sausage plates.

                                    Schalfly's main reastaurant and their Tap Room offer food that's totally passable (not outstanding at all), but it's the beer there that really stands out. I make a point whenever I'm in town to stop by for early evening or late afternoon beers and munchies.

                                    The Hill is famous for Italian, and it can be good (I like Cunetto's best), but beware that a lot of the restaurants there do St Louis Style Italian, which can translate into a lot of sugar in the tomato sauces and salad dressings.

                                    And yes, DO NOT bypass Ted Drewes. The Cardinal Sin Sundae is to die for.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: litchick

                                      "but beware that a lot of the restaurants there do St Louis Style Italian, which can translate into a lot of sugar in the tomato sauces and salad dressings."

                                      Like Cunneto's. I still stand firmly on the ground that we have no good Italian in St. Louis. Cunneto's is a shining candidate in the "what's wrong with St. Louis taste buds?" polling.

                                    2. I think bobzemuda stands firmly in a world of his own. In my experience, St. Louis has better Italian restaurants than most American cities. True, popularity as measured in customer "best of St. Louis" lists would be a poor way to find them, but there is quality Italian here. The kitchens at restaurants like Dominic's, Giovanni's, and Tony's not only know how to prepare classic Italian dishes, but also create innovative new ones which are neither over-sugared nor contain any trace of Provel cheese.
                                      I do not frequent Cunetto's (although I can spell it) because there are so many better options on the Hill and elsewhere. Restaurants like Gian-Tony's or Lorenzo's are also nearby and serve higher quality Italian food at prices comparable to Cunetto's.
                                      Current data show that St. Louis ranks number 18 among US metropolitan areas in population. Our top Italian restaurants, if transported to larger American cities, would with five or six exceptions, be the best Italian in town.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: appetite4life

                                        Agreed. St. Louis restaurants are provide a lot of good options at very reasonable prices. Personally, my experience has been that on the Hill, the less popular places tend to have better food than those you generally see advertised.

                                        Having said that, I do not understand the popularity of certain restaurants that some of my St. Louis friends really like - places like Hodak's or Cunetto's. However, I have always found that if I pick up the check, we don't generally end up at those places. (g)

                                        1. re: appetite4life

                                          The reality is that I think many cities lack truly good italian food. With the exception of some gnocchi that I had once via Vince Bommarito Jr. at a chefs night out dinner I just feel that we miss the mark horribly on the comfort style of italian food that is true Italian. I was pretty underwhelmed with my dining experience at Tony's, and don't feel that it's as much an indicator of quality Italian food as it is an extremly upscale, white tablecloth type spot.

                                          I've not been to Dominic's, but looking at their menu, they too seem as though they'd probably fall into that realm. Especially if the menu is currently accurate and they are serving asparagus in November.

                                          What I want to know is...
                                          Where is the quality house made (not Volpi) salumi and antipasti?
                                          Where are the specialties like arancinis?
                                          Where are the properly cooked fresh pastas?

                                          Point me to them, and I'd happily be proven wrong. I have been underwhelmed with most all of the Italian food that I have eaten in St. Louis up to this point, but it is not for lack of trying on my part.

                                          ...sorry about my spelling error on Cunetto. As it turns out, not only did I spell it wrong, but we both tacked on the 's and it's actually Cunetto House of Pasta.

                                          1. re: bobzemuda

                                            I have had arancinis as an app. at Trattoria Marcella. Don't know if it's available there all the time or not. Also, have to put in a plug for LoRusso's. Don't they make their own pasta? If not, it's still demm good.

                                            1. re: Christine

                                              I went to Trattoria Marcella for the first time in 1997 before they expanded into the hair salon next door and added onto the back. I had an excellent meal that evening and two standouts were in fact an arancini and I believe a veal ravioli.

                                              Since that time, however, the size of their restaurant has grown 3-4 fold, but the size of the kitchen has not grown in relation. I still continue to go once or twice a year in hopes that the original glory will be reclaimed for me, but I'm afraid that it's usually a disapointment. I find the food to be poorly seasoned and the freshness of certain proteins to be, at times, questionable.

                                              One sort of silly thing that's always annoyed me on their menu is the following:

                                              Roasted Wild Mushrooms - served over polenta fries with carmelized sweet marsala wine and gorgonzola sauce

                                              it's an easy delicious dish, and I love it to death. My issue is that the mushrooms are pretty standard culivated varieties these days, and just one look at the plate and you plainly see that the polenta fries are the main component and not the roasted mushrooms that the menu states.

                                              The menu should more accurately read:
                                              Polenta Fries - topped with roasted mushrooms and a carmelized sweet marsala wine and gorgonzola sauce

                                              I realize for most this is a minor squibble, but it's no different then a restaurant claiming parmigiano reggiano when really it's not.

                                              One other note...They have a server, Joe, who to my knowledge has worked there since day one. He's one of the best servers in St. Louis, and if you get him, take care of him, because he most certainly will have done an excellent job taking care of you.