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4 meals in St. Louis

I will be in St. Louis for 3 days next month and would like to sample the best St. Louis has to offer - "best" meaning, most interesting, most "if you could only eat at 4 places... what would they be?" No dining restrictions, and I have no personal fav cuisines, just interested a memorable dining experience that will do St. Louis proud... that's all ;) Thx!

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  1. Sidney street cafe for dinner

    Carl's Drive in for lunch(flat, stack burgers

    thats two for sure . . . try and get some italian(Tony's, Giovanni's) for a splurge and tratorria marcella seems be very popular but I have not been there.

    3 Replies
    1. re: blackbookali

      blackbookali you date yourself. Al Baker's has been closed for 20 years. Couple of other names--Annie Gunn's (steaks and seafood). Paul manno's. Cafe Napoli.

      Fun trivia on the square pizza slices started by Imo's. Mr. Imo was a tile cutter and he decided to cut his pizza slices like he cut tile--in squares.

        1. re: blackbookali

          sorry it was Nosh just below your post

    2. Tony's for upscale, dress-up, Italian/Continental. The premier fine-dining restaurant in St. Louis for generations. Some table-side preparations. Certainly not cutting edge and far from trendy, but for one of your dinners a definite must. In the ground floor of an office building on Broadway across from Busch Stadium.

      Niche has won some awards lately and it is more trendy and hot. In the same general neighborhood as Sidney Street Cafe, also recommended. Both of these are in the Soulard area south of downtown and fairly close in.

      Washington Blvd. just to the north of the Arch downtown is a regentrified area full of hotels, new lofts, bars and a host of relatively new, hot restaurants. An American Place is in the Renaissance Hotel and has a great pedigree, and offers some of the most expensive tasting menus as well as some very reasonable multi-course price-fixed choices. Lucas Park Grille is in a beautiful restored building. Mosaic has gotten some plugs.

      On the west side of the city are Forest Park (don't miss the zoo during your stay, it is spectacular and admission is free), Washington University, and the business/civic/shopping center of Clayton. Some would put Harvest at the top of St. Louis restaurants over the last few years. Pomme is a fine French restaurant in Clayton, and The Crossing in Clayton has been celebrating its anniversary with an amazing special with entrees at $10 and apps (including a great crabcake), pastas, and desserts at $5 -- call to assure it is still available.

      In the south city along the former Highway 66 are the casual Iron Barley and The Pitted Olive. An excellent reason for choosing either is their proximity to Ted Drewe's, the St. Louis frozen custard institution. Rich, soft-served vanilla custard, with a variety of toppings and mix-ins. Get a concrete, an ultra-thick shake that stays in the cup when upside-down.

      For steaks, some would send you to Citizen Kane's in Kirkwood or Al Baker's, but for my meat cravings I'd go to Kreisz's, on Lindbergh near Highway 40, for thick gorgeous slabs of excellent prime rib. For old-school Italian, many would send you to The Hill, the old-time neighborhood on the south side, and you can find threads comparing places there. But I'd go to Kemoll's, which is just as historic and much more elegant.

      For lunch, I would send you to The Hill for a legendary sandwich from Amighetti's. Another good sandwich place is Blues City Deli, a small and hard to find joint in Benton Park, which is very close to Hodak's, famous for fried chicken. For burgers, some say O'Connell's (and some of them say their roast beef is superior to the burger) but I have to warn you, St. Louis has not completely banned smoking in restaurants and bars and it can be a problem. I'd strongly recommend The Fatted Calf, in Clayton, for a hefty fire-grilled burger with a scoop of soft cheese on top. For lunch or late-night barfood, a classic place near Washington U. is Blueberry Hill, which also often has live music and tons of rock'n'roll memorabilia specializing in Chuck Berry.

      Finally [and let the flames start throwing] you have to try St. Louis pizza and toasted ravioli. My favorite place is Cafe Manhattan, on Hanley in a residential stretch of Clayton near Wydown. Ultrathin pizza, crispy crust, most toppings baked under the cheese, cut into squares, and the cheese is the melty provel. Split a salad, an order of deep-fried toasted ravioli served with the sauce on the side for dipping, and a large pizza -- I crave, love, and miss the stuff, and while you may hate it, at least you'd have experienced it. The local chain for such pizza is Imo's.

      Report back. And by the way, did I mention Ted Drewe's?!

      1 Reply
      1. re: nosh


        I like both the Kreis and Citizen Kane, but I go to Kreis for the prime rib, as you had said, but for steaks and strictly steaks, I still prefer Citizen Kanes.

      2. Nosh....let me just jump in and make supportive noises. Flamers be d*****, if you want to try St. Louis food, you must try St. Louis pizza. Imo's probably defines the stuff, but I like the version served at Guido's on Shaw. (Also on "The Hill). Go for lunch, order a small...if you hate it you can always go the three-four blocks to the aformentioned Amighetti's, which is also on the Hill, although you will find other good choices at Guido's...I am a dyed-in-the-wool native, and when I live outside of the area I dream of an Imo's special...love it or hate it, do try it. Better yet...eat your meals at the restaurants recommended, but when you get back to the hotel some night and feel a bit peckish, call Imo's and order in....its okay, it doesn't count as gluttony if you're out of town.
        The only thing I would add to Nosh's excellent ideas would be Everest...Nepali cuisine, in the friendliest atmosphere...the lunchtime buffet is a tremendously good value, and the food is so fresh and high-quality that you won't leave with that weighed-down feeling that lunch buffets can sometimes give you (even if you eat four plates full...and kheer...)


        Sidney Street Cafe is a perennial favorite of ours...very meat heavy,big portions, terrific food, and a very romantic/clubby atmosphere. I went to Niche for the first time last month (which is just down the street from Sidney Street Cafe) and was absolutely blown away. Very 'new' food...smallish portions, big emphasis on presentation, lots of locally sourced ingredients...and everything was PERFECT. If you have food elitists, Niche is the way to go, if you have trenchermen, think Sidney Street. Both are great recommendations. Also Iron Barley, for a real taste of South City and some very, very tasty food. And if the redhead is behind the bar, her name is Jackie, and she's awesome. If you do go to Iron Barley, consider the Ballistic Elvis sandwich for dessert, its weird, but it works.

        1. If the weather is good at lunchtime, go to Gus' Pretzels and order a bratzel - take your lunch to Aboussie Park, the smallest park in the United States.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Doug

            If I were going to St. Louis today I would head to Pho Grand or Banh Mi So for lunch. Dinner would be Gian-Tony's on the Hill.

            The next day I would pick up some pastries for breakfast at the newer place in Clayton that has some of the Lake Forest Pastry items, like date kuchen. I can't remember the name of the place, Lake Forest Confectionier, maybe?

            For lunch I go to Iron Barley, then Ted Drewes for dessert. I'd finish with a very nice dinner at Atlas on Pershing near Forest Park.

            Wait, that's more than 4! When in St. Louis I usually hit at least 4 places a day! If even for just a bite. Have fun, St. Louis is one of my favorite food towns.

            1. re: zataar

              Thx everyone for the replies - that's an impressive list - I regret that I have but only 4 days to give to my country... :)

              @blackbookali - "flat stack burgers" sounds intriguing... thx for the tip!

              @nosh - Thx for the wealth of city and restaurant knowledge. I'm not a traditionalist by any stretch - is Tony's still a good choice? From your list Niche and An American Place sounds interesting as well as a "legendary sandwich" (someone needs to put those words on a menu for sure) at Amighetti's.
              And if you and and tonifi are both ready to withstand flames for recommending St. Louis Pizza then that sounds like a must - seems like Imo's is the fav, so Imo's it is.
              And a report will be my pleasure.

              @tonifi - thx for your list. I saw something else about Everest somewhere, also intriguing. And another vote for Niche - solid #2.

              @Doug - having a bratzel in the smallest park in the US just seems like something everyone should do at least once - thx!

              @zataar - more votes for The Hill so I'm leaning that way for at least one meal, Tony's of the 2 most pop mentions. And more votes for Ted Dewes, seems like another must.

              Can't wait - thx again all!

              1. re: Maxfood

                I suggest GoodyGoodys for breakfast, Crown Candy for lunch, Ted Drewes for afternoon snack and Ami's on Manchester for St. Louis style pizza, toasted ravioli, homemade rolls and St. Louis style salad (lots of iceburg lettuce with sweet gloppy dressing)

          2. I would agree with most of these but I think there are a lot of places I would rather eat than Tony's. I just had a great meal (again) at Monarch in Maplewood. As for sandwiches on the Hill, I think Adrianna's is better than Amighettis. I work right between them.

            As for nosh's post, I think Nosh meant Al's, not Al Baker's, as that closed in the early 90's. Al's is very old school and very good. For steaks I would also suggest Annie Gunn's. It is a bit of a drive but awesome.

            1. Just to chime in -- Niche on Pestalozzi is a must in St. Louis. The chef, Gerard Kraft, was just named one of the top new chef's in the country by Food and Wine -- deservedly so. Go and enjoy -- and order dessert, the chocolate lava cakes are devine. Trattoria Marcella is a wonderful Italian restaurant. Lorenzo's on The Hill (St. Louis's Italian neighborhood) is very nice. If you go Italian, don't forget to order toasted ravioli as an appetizer, a St. Louis original. Go to O'connell's for the best burgers and roast beef sandwiches in St. Louis -- neat pub atmosphere. Happy eating.

              8 Replies
              1. re: jnf

                Niche is on Sidney Street and Lemp. Not Pestalozzi. Gerard Craft is the owner. But there is a new spot on Pestalozzi and Virginia called the Shaved Duck and it's a really fun bar/restaurant with an AMAZING beer selection.

                1. re: CheesemongersWife

                  @steveb - thx for the breakfast tip, just realizing that I hadn't accounted for that yet!

                  @greggold - thx, I think I would like to try a less traditional place, so perhaps Monarch on Maple, and thx too for the thoughts on sammies on the Hill, maybe one from each to do a side-by-side.

                  @jnf - definitely going to Niche, and looking forward to it greatly. Toasted Ravioli and St. Louis Pizza - at some point it will happen!

                  @cheesemongerswife - thx, my wife saw something good about the Shaved Duck as well... lessee, looks like we'll be eating 7 times each day... no problem!

                  Thx again to all posters - Dave

                  1. re: Maxfood

                    Former St. Louis girl now living in California, Max. How was St. Louis?

                    I must say that I truly crave Ted Drewes sometimes. But I never, in my long time in St. Louis, thought the pizza (with that horrid Provel cheese and the pizza itself cut into squares) or toasted ravioli was anything more than lackluster. But Ted Drewes -- oh my, Fireman, save my child!

                    I also Love Amighetti's subs, O'Connell's burgers, Fatted Calf...I've eaten all over the world now, and still consider all these to be wonderful. Whenever I go back, I have to get my fix.

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      Fatted calf is gone Maria. I second the Ted's. And O'Connell's burgers have lost something for me. If you like Amighetti's you'd love the subs from Adriana's.

                      1. re: CheesemongersWife

                        Thanks for update. Where are your favorite burgers now?

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          I really like the burgers at Tucker's. Newstead Tower Pub. Blueberry Hill. Moxy (although some might not call it a burger b/c it's served on toast). Carl's Drive In.

                        2. re: CheesemongersWife

                          Is Fatted Calf really gone? Even the last location in Clayton? Gosh I will miss them. That chargrilled cheddarburger with the soft scoop of cheese... I'm glad I got there the last couple of times I was in town. Did you know they were cofounded by the owner of Tony's?

                          I just can't enjoy O'Connell's. My uncle and aunt think their roast beef sandwiches outshine their noted burgers. But the location isn't convenient for me, I get turned off by their attitude, and most important I can't deal with the smoke. I do enjoy the burger and the whole scene at Blueberry Hill.

                          1. re: nosh

                            The Fatted Calf was just sold according to a story in last Thursday's Post-Dispatch. Presumably it will still be around for some time to come.

                2. I will actually be in St. Louis next week, but am in a little different situation. I will actually be staying at the Crowne Plaza by the Arch and won't have a car. I will be attending a conference for 4 days, so no saying how may meals I can get in, but I would appreciate places that are walking distance either from the convention center or the hotel.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: smile1017

                    Probably a good idea to start your own thread, and certainly do a search for St. Louis restos near the Arch.

                    1. re: smile1017

                      Dinner only?

                      You are near Washington Ave and can visit those places (An American Place, Kitchen K, etc.)

                      If you get a chance for breakfast/brunch, I enjoyed Roosters. There are quite a few nice restaurants downtown but we don't have the nightlife that other downtown areas have- you may want to catch a cab back to the hotel....

                      Lumiere Place Casino is close also and they have a Hubert Keller Burger Bar inside. For a mere $60 you can get a Kobe beef burger with shaved truffle and foie gras.... ;o)

                      1. re: lrstl

                        Roosters is a great recommendation. Service can be slow but the food is first-rate.

                        1104 Locust St, St Louis, MO 63101

                      2. re: smile1017

                        For a great meal downtown close to the arch. take a very short cab ride to AL's on 1st and Biddle. It's an old school italian steakhouse that is a true throwback. Many speak of Tony's on this board but rarely is Al's mentioned. I'm sure some disagree but for my money, Al's is the winner. There is no menu. Your waiter will bring out a silver tray with a mulitude of meats and seafoood and begin to tell you the various ways each can be prepared. I suggest the new york strip with peppercorn congac sauce. And check out the complimentary blue cheese ball they bring out to start your meal. I got the recipe from Al himself before he passed away. Hope you try it

                      3. Hello all - just back from our trip, report coming soon. Thx again to all the suggestions! Until I get things sorted let me just say 2 things about St. Louis: Ted Drewes. I was so ready to be unimpressed by another (presumably overpriced) ice cream joint. We have them in Columbus (overpriced ice cream joints that is), why would Ted Drewes be any different? And the constant praise seemed more like a lot of people just wanting to be part of the party than any kind of critical analysis. Now I say "critical schmitical." The stuff defies analysis - why try and breakdown something as wonderful as this? It's a No. #1 must have for anyone traveling through St. Louis, and I will be thinking of it fondly until I can come up with an excuse to drive the 7 hours and get it again!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Maxfood

                          OK- what did you get? My favorite has to be the terramizzou sundae... It'll do in a concrete too but there is something about the salty crunchy pistachios and that yummy chocolate sauce that is the perfect topping for the custard.

                          I'll also admit that another favorite from childhood is a marischino cherry concrete. YUM. If I want to splurge, I'll add choc chips to it- the best part of the choc chips in concretes at Ted Drewes is that it's just the busted up shell for dip cones! I think I may have to get some Ted Drewes next week when I'm visiting grandma!

                        2. Columbus > St. Louis, 4th of July weekend Report:

                          On the way to St. Louis we stopped in Effingham, IL for a dinner at Firefly Grill. Effingham is a very small city that largely came into being by servicing the travelers on interstate 70, and as such is crowded with the country's most popular and basic franchise food fare (Olive Garden, Friday's, etc). In that context Firefly Grill stands out considerably. It's just off the main drag but feels miles away. Sitting on it's own large pond with a fountain and sheltered by some woods, the look is big, modern BBQ party barn in the country. The menu has the same ring to it: modern, slightly upscale, but causal. Everything we had had the finish of being prepared by someone who had experience in fine dining but didn't like the fuss.
                          It was very unique and a very welcome surprise - I would definitely make plans to stop for lunch or dinner there if I were ever traveling by Effingham again.

                          In the St. Louis area we ate at:

                          17th Street Barbeque - Very good, but not the best BBQ we had in MO. I enjoyed the ribs and a side of beans and rice, but it seemed like everything had rub on it. Just a bit too much for me.

                          Ted Drewes - remarkable. Had the Caramel apple pie ala mode thingy. Apple pie on the bottom with their custard on top and then thick caramel. So very good. I'm usually pretty good at resisting temptation but if I lived near one of these I would need life support.

                          Imo's Pizza - I enjoyed the thin crust a lot - my kind of crust. Not a huge fan though of the cheese, seemed kind of gluey - it was ok, I kept eating regardless :) Toasted ravioli were ok too, glad I tried them.

                          A'Mis Pizza - The fine local food magazine, Sauce, gave them a great review, but they weren't exactly in winning form when we went. They burned our first pizza and undercooked our second. I'd try them again, and this time I'd go closer to a regular dining hour so the full staff is on hand.

                          Luciano's - We went on a Sunday and the A Team was definitely not there. Beautiful place, I hope they make it. They are iin a tough spot competing with Araka just across the street. Araka gets high marks from most local press - couldn't wait to eat there from all we'd read.

                          Araka - Well, we tried to eat here. Their menu said they were open on Sunday, our hotel said they were open on Sunday (and really good), and their valets were even outside waiting to park cars on Sunday, but no one else was there. Dark and not getting better. Not even a sign on the door. The valets seemed a bit miffed. Happens, sorry we didn't get to see what all the talk was about.

                          Niche - Awesome place, definitely on the contemporary, modern food scale of dining. I had an appetizer, "summer vegetable medley" with a red wine vinaigrette that was a real eye opener. A perfect balance of fresh veg flavors, light but intense at the same time. Service was great, knowledgeable, a foodie hot spot. Dress nice/fun, open collars and heels.

                          Shaved Duck - Cool, gastro pub-ish place. Kind of upscale bar hangout with very interesting Euro, Duck inspired menu. Had a great salad of smoked duck, greens and figs that was very special. Great service. Diners wore flip flops and t-shirts to dressy.

                          Blue Hog - Best BBQ we had of the 2 we tried. They were set up at the Clayton farmer's market next to Straubs's market. My guess is that the brisket and ribs we tried (for breakfast!) were from the fourth of July festivities the day before and reheated in foil in the smoker, but it didn't matter. I never took brisket as seriously as I do now (we don't see a lot in these parts, not our fault). Just... smoky and beefy and with their slightly hot bbq sauce over the top... wow. My new favorite breakfast.

                          Companion Baking - Across from Straub's (a very nice gourmet market - looking forward to trying their prepared foods one day). Had the baked eggs with potato and cheese and herbs - excellent for me, my wife was not so much. We will try their bread the next time.

                          Thx again for all of the ideas Chowhounders - loved our stay in St. Louis. Just too brief!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Maxfood

                            If you get to Araka or Clayton again, and you're an EVOO fan, just a few doors to the left of Araka is Extra Virgin, an Olive Ovation. Not a restaurant, it's a small store. They always have 20-25 EVOO samples, and usually have fancy vinegars for tasting as well. (I just got an amazing 25 year old sherry vinegar...)

                            The owner is very nice, not at all pushy, and has an obvious passion for her stuff. She's an MIT grad, so ask her about "Smoots".

                          2. If the weather is nice, check out the Boat House in Forest Park. They serve outdoors on the boatdock. Moderately priced. Tasty.

                            1. Chez Leon in the Central West End on Laclede and Euclid. Excellent French Bistro.
                              Everything is fantastic. The ambiance is upscale, but comfy. The sauces will kill you, and you will die happy. Choucroute Garnie, Duck Confit, and the Hanger Steak Frite (order bernaise to go with) are all my favorite winter dishes there. I could go on but I am starting to drool on my keyboard.

                              1. my son is a sophomore at washu so i've been to st. louis quite a bit; while there are many restaurants i haven't been too, here's 3 that i'd heartily recommend : niche, eleven eleven mississippi, busch's grove; harvest is a fave a most people but i was disappointed by it; haven't been to but heard good things about iron barley and citizen kanes ; i suggest you check www.the dailysauce.com; it 's the bible for all things for food and events in st. louis; it's put out by the people who do a st .louis magazine called "sauce"; let us know where you go and if there's anything we should try. enjoy!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Alanatty

                                  Bearing in mind that the OP was coming into St. Louis in July so he is doubtless no longer interested in reply posts, I just want to let Alanatty know that Busch's Grove has closed. The space is being remade as a gourmet grocery.