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Food snob claims no decent restaurants in St. Louis

An acquaintance of mine is coming to St. Louis. He claims there are no decent restaurants in St. Louis. He says we live on tuna casseroles and Spam. What restaurants can I recommend to refute his claim? Thanks!

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  1. He probably wouldn't be impressed with anything you recommend (or admit he was impressed by it!)

    Where is he staying? What type of food does he like?

    1. He will be staying downtown. Not sure which hotel yet. He has traveled all over the world and his wife is from France. He seems to enjoy all sorts of food. I know he's big on seafood.

      1 Reply
      1. re: marymac

        now look...even though air freight is to the point that we can get day boat seafood in St. Louis, it's kind of like saying the best sushi you've ever had was in St. Louis. It's just not something that's going to happen without an ocean around. If that's his mark of quality, then he's mostly screwed.

        That said...if he's traveled that much, he may have a point in that there aren't many restaurants in St. Louis that could survive in a more competitive market. I've been fortunate enough to dine in places like
        Craft, WD-50, momofuku, Degustation (NYC)
        Blackbird, Tru, Avec (Chicago)
        Boulevard, One Market, Chez Panisse, Bouchon, Tra Vigne (San Fran/Berkley/Napa)

        and a whole host of others without getting into the nitty gritty, and I can tell you that each meal I had at the above was better then anything I've ever had in St. Louis.

        I mean, in San Francisco there was even this little sausage stand the Rosamunde Sausage Grill that gave you that feeling that you were eating something truly extraordinary.

        So, for instance, I've never had a TRUE cappuccino in St. Louis. I consistently had them in NYC last November, however. In St. Louis you get the meringue like fluff of a Seattle style capp again and again, and that's just not what it's supposed to be. So, it's always sad in a way when we return to St. Louis and we just can't get that type of feeling here. It always takes us several weeks to calm ourselves back down into what it is that we have.

        Things are definitely getting better here, but we're still not taken as seriously as even Kansas City in the world of food. Kansas City has Blue Stem for instance.

        That said. We have one thing in St. Louis that I'd pit against anything else in the country and that is 222 Artisan Bakery in Edwardsville, IL. It is, without question, one of the finest bakeries I've ever been to.

        There are only two restaurants that give us that warm fuzzy feeling in St. Louis now that Arthur Clay's is closed and they are Niche and Atlas. Period. Those are the only two restaurants that we think would make it in another city. Everything else, in my opinion, is only good when you throw St. Louis into the sentence. As in..."this is good for St. Louis."

        i.e. Harvest, Balaban's and perhaps a few others.

        I consider An American Place to be in a weird limbo. I've had one meal there that was truly world class, but it was for an arranged 12 course dinner with chefs and cooks. Subsequent visits were more in the great for St. Louis realm of things.

        So anyway...if you've only ever really dined in St. Louis, then you're going to be pleased with a lot of what we have to offer. If you've traveled much, however, and the idea of spending several hundred dollars per head on dinner doesn't bother you, then you'll more then likely have experienced something that just can't be repeated in St. Louis. The reason being, that St. Louis can't sustain a restaurant like that, and those chefs who are that good, move to the cities that can.

      2. I don't know what his benchmarks for "decent" restaurants are. That said, send him to Goody Goody's for breakfast, Crown Candy for lunch, O'Connell's Pub for dinner, and Ted Drewes for a late-night dessert. Classic St. Louis chowhounding.

        1. Tuna casseroles are wonderful!

          OTOH I'd ask your "acquaintance" why he feels there no "decent" restaurants, lack of ingredients? Lack of skill? Lack of market?
          I really doubt this person "enjoys all sorts of food" more likely he enjoys fussily prepared meals that others have praised...

          I have relatives in StL and get down about 4 times a year. I don't go expecting some phenomenal food experience. It is a very different kind of city than NYC or SanFran or even Chicago. While I agree with bobzemuda, the reasons that StL doesn't have places that would thrive in a bigger market is because is is NOT a bigger market -- the shear number of people that would be needed to support the more intensive / expensive kind of place are just not there.

          I've been to some of the places that steveb recommends, and there is no way that a food snob would enjoy any of 'em.

          Perhaps you should suggest that this food snob try and prepare you something???

          Even better -- drive him out to the Pear Tree -- if he doesn't think it is one of the best steak houses any where YOU CAN LEAVE HIM THERE ARE LET HIM FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET HOME:


          2 Replies
          1. re: renov8r

            I don't agree completely. Kansas City is a better food town then St. Louis and we are a larger metropolitan area as far as I know.

            Another thing St. Louis is better at then most places is the greasy spoon. Not sure what that says about us.

            Honestly, another simple thing that I really like in St. Louis is the Smokehouse Market.

            Where does the pear tree joint get their meat? Why do you think it is so great?

            1. re: bobzemuda

              I think the secret to the Pear Tree is :

              a) they are 90 minutes from ANYWHERE, so by the time you get there you are really hungry

              b) they do a great job with their steaks. I dunno where they get 'em, but they are all nearly perfect with regard to marbeling and fat trim

              c) they keep the whole thing SIMPLE -- no fancy appetizers, no complex preparations, no giant wine cellar.

              BTW, The Pear Tree is much closer to Hannibal MO, which is where some of my family lives and where we'll usually head out from maybe not worth a drive from STL...

              Don't discount the "cosmopolitian" nature of Kansas City -- a whole lot more folks (percentage wise) are associated with a whole lot more "city" places. Sprint is just not as 'working class' as Budwiser. ( among the largest employers in KC & STL, respectively)

          2. So, not even "there isn't a world-classs restaurant" or even "there isn't an excellent restaurant." He doesn't even think there's a DECENT restaurant?


            1. If all he likes is 5-star dining, the closest he'll get is at Tony's; four stars and five diamonds. OTOH, I had a *great* meal at Fausts in the Adams Mark hotel. Only been there that once so I don't know if it was a fluke.

              As with what a previous poster said, there are plenty of *decent* restaurants. For example: I've been to scores of sushi bars around the US (I apprenticed to a Japanese chef) and I'd hold Yoshi's (way out in Chesterfield) up with the best of them -- the only caveat being that this is not a coastal city; i.e., Yoshi can't go down to the docks every day. His rice, however-- the basis of sushi -- is wonderful. Is it hip and edgy? Nope. Will he get stuff he's never had before? Unlikely; in fact if it's not good he won't carry it. He worked at Morimoto's place in Philly. If you ask, and he has the ingredients, he'll make it. If you go,tell him I sent you. (Richard, the guy in the electric scooter.)

              2 Replies
              1. re: Richard 16

                I should add, however, that he might be like my nine year old -- he's already made up his mind not to like it.

                1. re: Richard 16

                  He won't like anything in St. Louis. If it takes you 2 days to drive to the coast, it's not the place for fine seafood dining. Can you get decent seafood? Sure. Will this guy be impressed by it? Unlikely.

                  Honestly, I wouldn't waste your breath with recommendations. Tell him to get a table at Tony's and if he's not impressed by that, he can take it up with the travel guides to get them to reduce the stars/diamonds.

              2. Sydney Street Cafe & Trattoria Marcella

                1 Reply
                1. re: iaacf23

                  Trattoria Marcella is a restaurant that puts food cost before flavor, and while that makes it a very profitable business, it does not make it a top notch restaurant.

                2. And I guess he has eaten in all of our restaurants in order to make that judgement. I wouldn't put too much effort in this because as other posters said he has his mind with its very limited perspective already made up. You can't win. To say we eat tuna casserole and spam reveals a level of ignorance that probably cannot be turned around quickly. We may not have a huge number of "world class" restaurants but that is not the same thing as "no decent restaurants" I think you are truly dealing with a food snob(a person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field), as opposed to a food connoisseur(A person of informed and discriminating taste). I hope you don't have to entertain this person. I believe you can find truly GREAT food in very unexpected places but you would have to have the curiosity and be willing to try what might be out of your area of familiarity. If you are truly interested in food there is nothing better than coming across that piece of pie with a delicious, freshly made crust that is made by a local cook and and fresh local fruit or to go in a rural restaurant and have some of the best home made pasta with great sauce(with a bone in it). Unfortunately great food is often transient even in the best "gourmet" places.

                  1. I was all ready to protest about St Louis restaurants and try to defend one or two of them, but then I read this string, and I have to agree. If he's already made his mind up, I don't think you can feed him anything that will make him happy. Take him to an Applebees or an Olive Garden. That's obviously what he expects. Anything else, and I think you're setting yourself up for a world of trouble. Or, make some grilled cheese and Campbell's tomato soup at home and forget about the restaurant scene altogether. Even better... fried Spamburgers (the recipe's on the side of the can) and buttered noodles. Meet expectations.

                    1. I am orignally from St Louis...and am in town often enough to say Niche should be able to stand up to your foodie friend. The food was impressive (for St Louis), decor has a NYC feel and service with the midwestern charm. The wine list was also impressive for St Louis. Tony's is old school....very heavy but worth the experience if you're on a expense account.

                      1. I will second Crown. I had no problem finding good food in St.Louis when I was there. Albeit, it was mostly bbq but it was delicious bbq as well as fried chicken and all kinds of steaks. Unfortunately I never recorded the names of the restaurants when I was there.

                        1. Thanks everyone! I really think he said this tongue in cheek but I would like to be able to show off my town to him.

                          1. How about a BBQ joint. Couldn't you make the arguement that the best St Louis style ribs can only be found in St Louis?