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Mar 24, 2009 05:42 AM

1st Time In St. Louis - Need a dinner recommendation

I will be in St. Louis for the 1st time next week, for 1 night on business. Staying in the River Front area and need a recommendation for the best St. Louis has to offer for dinner.

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  1. You might take a look at a recent thread called "STL Help me narrow my choices... " I think the consensus for a cutting edge dinner would be Niche, but you may want to peruse that thread as well as other recent ones to get different opinions.

    Niche Restaurant
    1831 Sidney Street, St. Louis, MO 63104

    2 Replies
    1. re: alan

      Niche is the best S. Louis can offer based on local opinions as it has won numerous awards from Sauce Magazine and the Riverfront Times ( local food/culture magazines) and it has received national attention in the form of both the pastry chef, Mathew Rice, and executive chef, Gerard Craft, being recognized in Food and Wine. Also, Gerard was recently named a finalist for a James Beard award for Best Chef in the Midwest. Others may prefer different places, which is understandable, but when one asks for the best St. Louis has to offer it is becoming easier to know that the answer is Niche without much competition.

      I can also attest to this personally based on numerous meals at Niche. The creativity of the cuisine, the quality of the cooking and the service and atmosphere make it the best overall. I've always had a great experience at Niche and there is always some interesting and new to try on the menu. I think if you went anywhere else you'd be missing out.

      1. re: michaelstl

        Agreed. If you're interested in modern rather than classic food, make your reservation now, take a cab, and pay particular attention to what he does with pork.

    2. Agree with the responses thus far -- if food is the priority, and you want a more contemporary menu and atmosphere with perhaps a tasting menu option, Niche is the place. Sidney Street Cafe a strong second. Both are in the Benton Park area, a bit toward the south side of downtown, a short cab ride from the riverfront. If you are looking for a more traditional, dress-up, formal-service place, the top expense-account restaurant in town for generations and decades is Tony's, caddy-corner from the new ballpark on Broadway. Top-notch Italian/Continental with a lot of tableside prep. Another strong choice is Kemoll's, more traditionally Italian now in new digs on top of a major downtown highrise with great views. To the north of the Arch near the riverfront is the rebuilt and regentrified Washington Blvd., with An American Place, the Lucas Park Grille, Mosaic, a sushi place, and lots of other bars and restaurants. More informal, but sharing ownership and a kitchen with Tony's, is the adjacent Anthony's Bar. There are a lot of touristy places actually along the riverfront and in the casinos and boats -- beware, many of these are mostly for drinking and can be very smoky.

      If it is nice out and you can catch a ride or make friends with someone with a car, take the time and make the effort to head out the old Route 66 and hit Ted Drewe's, the frozen custard stand. A St. Louis landmark and favorite, they serve a great rich soft frozen custard that is mixed with add-ins to form a "concrete," a shake so thick it can be turned upside-down. And while you may need to be a native to appreciate and love it, do try some St. Louis-style pizza -- ultrathin crust, cut into squares rather than wedges, and topped with the melty processed provel cheese. Start with some toasted ravioli, breaded and deepfried then dipped in the tomato sauce. The big local chain is Imo's, with several locations all over downtown and the metro area.

      2 Replies
      1. re: nosh

        I'm okay with everything said by nosh until he got to Imo's. Particularly if you are only here for one day, DON'T, DON'T, DON'T waste one precious calorie on this local abomination. Coming from NYC (I assume), you have access to world class food in every category, including pizza. If you eat any Imo's and then report back to your fellow NYers, you will set back tourism in this town by years.

        1. re: alan

          alan, please understand that my recommendation to at least try some St. Louis-style pizza was prefaced with a disclaimer that you may need to be a native, like me, to really love it. That said, my first and last stop when visiting town is usually for some provel-topped pizza and toasted ravs, and before 9/11 I pretty much perfected a technique for freezing the squares front-to-front (the sausage lumps keep the cheese sides from sticking together) and packaging them in little foil-wrapped squares to transport home. I will readily acknowledge that Imo's is not my favorite representative -- I greatly prefer Cafe Manhattan or Uptown -- but they are ubiquitous and many deliver. I firmly believe that a traveler should try to sample some of what makes the local culture and cuisine unique, and love it or hate it St. Louis-style provel topped pizza and toasted ravioli are an integral and historical part of our heritage. My goodness, Anheiser Busch got bought out by a multinational in the past year.

      2. You've got one night for dinner in St. Louis. Ever been here before? From here? Any family here? Okay, with all that aside, I will agree with the recommendation for Niche. Lots of press for a "new" hometown boy. As well, your homie Larry Forgione opened "An American Place" in a hotel downtown. However, skip it and go to Monarch in Maplewood (central corridor) who previously ran AP and is a gifted chef. Other good choices are Harvest and Herbie's (same owners as Monarch).
        Do not eat any St. Louis classics. Aside from a St. Paul sandwich with a belly-full of tequila, our hometown favorites are pure garbage. Inedible nuggets of crap. Leave knowing NY pizza, as I just enjoyed it on my recent trip, is the best (sorry Chi-town). If you had more time, I could tell about some wonderful eating spots. For now however, I'll just leave you to find a good dinner.

        5 Replies
        1. re: grillergorilla

          I'd like to here more from you. I'm tired of the same old stuff. I love Niche, but the menu doesn't change as much as I'd like, so I need some other chow to throw in the mix. What do you think about Tony's/Anthony's? It keeps coming up on this site, but the people I know in the Lou are nonplused. I've had over-priced crappy meals @Monarch and that place comes up alot as well. Is it better w/the new chef? Also, what's up w/this Herbie's joynt?

          1. re: inbiz

            So far I think my best options are An American Place or Niche? They both look like great places.

              1. re: inbiz

                First, Eschew "The Lou"!! We don't live in a toilet!!
                Tony's is a classic, but, I have to tell you, I'd rather spend my money at Harvest or Niche. Tony's has great service and excellent food but you pay a lot of money. There's nothing particularly innovative here. If you're coming from a city with great restaurants there's no reason to go to Tony's.

                I've yet to go to Herbie's but am very hopeful. It's location housed Balaban's, originally opened by Herbie Balaban Carp, which was a Central West End stalwart for many, many years. It failed under its last ownership and the latest incarnation sounds like a noble attempt to resurrect Balaban's old standing. I hope it works.

            1. I thought St. Louis was known for their ribs??? Any thoughts???

              1 Reply
              1. re: CityFoodNY

                St. Louis ribs is a type of cut or butchering, not a dish. It refers to a type of sparerib, as opposed to a babyback. St. Louis is a great city for family grilling on the BBQ outdoors, hence its status as the top-selling per capita for BBQ sauce in the country. But despite your common misperception, it has not been a great city for BBQ joints. The best one in town started smoking only a year or so ago, Pappy's on Olive (where it turns back from Lindell) near St. Louis University. Go for lunch -- they sometimes run out of some meats and close early for dinner. Get the babyback ribs, the pulled pork (order it untrimmed, with the "bark") and I liked the brisket more than my mom did. Better than average sides, and very nice, hardworking owners and staff.