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Los Angeles hound seeks St. Louis/Columbia guidance!

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Hello from LA!

Looking for great, local STL eats. Maybe some BBQ? Hill Italian? It's your city... you tell me what's best!

I'll be in STL *very* briefly, for dinner on Saturday night around 8:30, and back again for dinner on Tuesday, spending the intervening time in Columbia. We're primarily looking for a great dinner of local specialities in STL that won't break the bank.

Since we're from LA, we are not looking for Mexican, Chinese, Korean or any other Asian. Anything uniquely St. Louis (and that fits in a lower end budget... think $40 max for 2 people) would be greatly appreciated. Decor is unimportant. All we care about is great, local specialities for a good price.

Also, any Columbia suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks!

Mr Taster

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  1. My favorite casual restaurant when visiting back home in St. Louis is Manhattan Cafe, on Hanley near Wydown in Clayton south of the business/civic center. There you can experience St. Louis-style pizza -- ultrathin crispy crust, melty provel cheese, most of the toppings under the cheese layer, and cut into squares rather than wedges. Start with an order of toasted ravioli -- deep-fried beef ravioli served crispy with the sauce on the side for dipping. Then share their version of an Italian salad. All of this, including soft drinks, tax and tip, will fit comfortably under your budget. Clayton is an upscale business/office/government center just west of St. Louis City proper, just west of Forest Park and Washington University. From the airport, you'd get 170 (the Inner Belt) and exit heading east on Forest Park Expressway.

    You will definitely want to experience Ted Drewe's, the landmark frozen custard stand with long but fast-moving lines, on the old Highway 66 in the south city. The custard is a rich, softserve vanilla, with a multitude of toppings or mix-ins. I always get a "concrete," which is a milkshake so thick you can hold the cup upside down. Nearby are two casual, good restaurants, Iron Barley and The Pitted Olive. It also isn't too far from "the Hill," the Italian neighborhood.

    Since you'll fly in and be on L.A. time, you may consider heading to Blueberry Hill late on Saturday night. Near Wash. U, it is a busy bar that features live music most weekend nights, has extensive rock'n'roll momentos featuring Chuck Berry, and serves up good burgers and bar food.

    1. Columbia:
      Breakfast- Ernies, Uprise Bakery, Berlin Cafe
      Lunch or Dinner- Sycamore, Shakespeares Pizza, Murry's, Subshop, Booches

      1. Columbia
        Breakfast: Ernie's (diner food, cheap) or Cafe Berlin (lots of locally produced meats/cheeses/food, healthier non-diner options). Cafe Berlin also serves lunch and has recently started serving dinner, but only until about 8 p.m., I think. No word on how their dinner is and they don't serve alcohol, just to warn you. Uprise Bakery is also excellent if you're looking for bakery items.

        Lunch/Dinner: Addison's and Jazz are both good for a budget. Sycamore is fairly easy on the budget for lunch but pricier at dinner. Sycamore also emphasizes locally produced food. Uprise Bakery has wonderful soups, salads and sandwiches.

        3 Replies
        1. re: rweater

          I keep reading good things about Sycamore for lunch... what are some standout lunch items?

          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster

            Their menu is very seasonal and tends to change, and I haven't been there for lunch in a while, but they often have a great grilled tuna salad sandwich. It's not a gloppy tuna salad. Very light and flavorful. I also love their beet salad and their blue cheese salad.

            I should also mention that there's a little takeaway place that just opened in the bottom of the Tiger Hotel called Bleu Market. They have some good sandwiches and salads and all the dressings are house-made as far as I know. Their sandwiches are definitely big enough to share. They're opening an adjoining restaurant this summer, but I don't know what the menu or price points will be like.

            1. re: Mr Taster

              oops...somehow posted twice.

          2. Mr Taster,

            Dunno where exactly you'll be in STL, but the one time I was there I had some good Italian subs at P'Sghetti's and toasted ravioli at Cunetto House (which I understand to be a STL fave). I also think the fried chicken and chicken fried steak at Hodak's is worth checking out.

            Just 0.02 from a fellow LA 'hound. I'll leave the real recs to STL locals ...

            5 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              We're not staying in STL... just in from the flight and looking for dinner. Then on the way out, we'll be looking for another dinner. I may have to check out the Italian scene as well as those frozen concrete custards... they sound divine.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                The airport in St. Louis is to the N/W of the city and close suburbs, and Columbia is over an hour west on the interstate. We have driven to or from the airport to Ted Drewe's in slightly less than a half-hour during nonrush times. If you want to try St. Louis pizza quick and conveniently, the local chain is called Imo's, and they do a pretty good rendition (specify the provel cheese). Note that if you are flying Southwest you will be at the new terminal, which is small and easy to navigate, but separate from the old terminal with American and most of the other national carriers.

                1. re: Mr Taster

                  If you are not staying in St. Louis and are heading west when you arrive, I suggest you stay out of St. Louis completely and go to St. Charles for dinner. The old Main St. has a number of offerings and is quaint. They have done a lovely job with their riverfront park despite the fact that there is a monstrously ugly casino at the south end of Main.

                  1. re: steveb

                    Where in St. Charles do you recommend?

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      I'm with you, MrT... I haven't seen much to recommend St Chaz, foodwise. I agree that the site is charming, but .. the food???

              2. Hi,
                If you haven't already made your trip to Columbia, I just wanted to add that a lot of locals would steer you toward Booche's for cheap eats and burgers. The best burgers (IMO) can actually be had at Billiards on Broadway (on Broadway between fifth and sixth). Not only do they have great burgers, but their fries are made from fresh potatoes. They're also budget friendly.

                I'd also like to send another plug for Cafe Berlin. If you want local, this is the place. Coffee is from a local roaster, their breads are either made in-house or from a local baker and much of their meat and produce is also local. It's a little pricier than the average breakfast, but everything is very fresh and filling. For breakfast, I like the southern breakfast, the veggie/egg scramble, and their omelettes.