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Cheap eats/hole in the wall in St. Louis?

Hi there - coming to St. Louis this weekend for the half marathon. We'll have a car, but are staying downtown, and I'm not sure that we want to spend a lot of time cruising around looking for/paying for parking, so recommendations within walking or MetroLink distance of the Savvis Center are ideal, although there doesn't seem to be a lot around. I am not looking for touristy places, even "famous" holes in the wall like Crown Candy or Ted Drewes or Pi but more for local favorites ethnic/cheap eats (i.e., taquerias, Asian of any sort, soul food, Cajun). I hear there are some good Bosnian and Greek places? For instance, Sweetie Pie's sounds like a must hit, as well as a number of places on South Grand (Mekong, Pho Grand, Bahn Mi So). Niche sounds very nice but is out of my price range. In those parameters, where would you eat? Thanks for the help!

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  1. For Mexican, we really like Arcelia's on Lafayette Square. Very reasonable prices. Service varies, but the food is always wonderful. Our favorites are the Chili Colorado and the Sour Cream (or White) Enchiladas. We now live three hours away, but Arcelia's is always our first stop when visiting St. Louis! You'll have to drive there, but there is usually ample street parking, and it's a pleasant area for a before- or after-dinner stroll.

    1. I would def. go to 10th Street Italian...it's on 10th and Washington. Great food. I would also do the Irish Breakfast at Tigin. They serve a good fry-up and have football on the TV (most the time). I would eat the fry up AFTER you run. I would also go to Ricardo's in Lafayette Square for Italian food...nothing fancy...just a nice family owned and operated St. Louis spot. I would disagree with the Arcelia's rec tho...I prefer my La Vallensana on Cherokee Street. My fav. Mexican spot at home...best tortas. Pappy's for BBQ. I know it's a hot ticket right now but honestly...it's the first place we go when we come home for a visit. (so glad to be home in STL on a perm. basis this summer! Thank God.) My fav. Vietnamese joint is in U. City Mai Lee...totally out of your way...but worth it in my book. Pho Grand is good...and closer...but folks seem to love Bahn Mi So...I just can't handle the wait.

      You MUST check out the Vine on S. Grand. Very unassuming Mid-East grocer...GREAT FOOD!!!!

      have fun and enjoy the race!

      I grew up downtown so there are lots of dive bars I would recommend...none that serve decent food tho....

      2 Replies
      1. re: CheesemongersWife

        One more...9th Street deli...BEST Cheesesteak in St. Louis and really good soup..located in Soulard. Just down the street on 9th and Victor is Tip Top..it's a bar but has good Serbian food...but warning...it's SMOKEY!

        1. re: CheesemongersWife

          I absolutely concur on La Vallesana on Cherokee St. Almost no seating inside but terrific food. It's in a rundown neighborhood with a few other Mexican places. Also agree about Pappy's. Best ribs I've ever had in town.

          -----
          La Vallesana
          2801 Cherokee St, Saint Louis, MO 63118

          Pappy's Smokehouse
          3106 Olive St, St Louis, MO

        2. OKay, here you go "itsbubbles". Most parking in St Louis is free or metered. Don't worry so much about finding parking like in a bigger city. Where're you from? Therefore, forget downtown. You can find your way anywhere pretty easy. Ask the concierge, get a map or GPS. however there are some difficult neighborhoods so avoid anything north of olive.
          Sweetie Pie's is a monster feast and not bad. Bit its soul food, so its big and filling and not necessarily culturally fulfilling. If you are looking for Mexican, well St. Louis is not the best place to find hidden gems. Arcelia is ok for St. Louis, but if you come from a city with a large assimilation of Mexican culture, forget it. Cheesemongerswife is right about Cherokee street, but its off the beaten path and how bad do you want to eat?
          Pappy's isn't too far. Stick to the ribs. They rock. I can't respond to Cheesemongerswife about Italian she mentioned. I don't eat Italian in St Louis. As far as I've experienced, it is abysmal at best.
          Haven't tried an Bosnian but that areaof the world doesn't rock me. I assume it is more of the same Eastern European I grew up with in far better places than here.
          All said and done, why not go to the loop, park it and walk for blocks. there is some good and bad, but it will be easy to do, little driving and you can relax. There is fine Vietnamese, eclectic, burger bar (Blueberry Hill) a must, and the view is worth the price of admission. Lots of freaks and its fun. Also Lebanese, pizza, seafood, Ethiopian (is Saleem''s still open?) and so on. Stroll across Skinker for bowling and skip Pi's less than presidential pie. Yeesh!!!!!!!! Don't miss BoBo's Noodle House also on Skinker. Good Luck...

          3 Replies
          1. re: grillergorilla

            Saleems is gone but just across the street is the BEST falafel in town....Al Tarboush Market. Great tabouli as well.

            Italian is bad in STL...but i like Ricardo's...they don't pretend to be something they are not...you get a nice plate of pasta, salad and the wine list is good...and reasonable. It's the typical red sauce...but thiers actually has flavor. It really is "St. Louis Style" italian!

            1. re: CheesemongersWife

              CHMW-That's great to hear about Ricardo's . I've seen it for so long and figured it was a dump. You know, candidate for best toasted ravioli. I will try it. And yes, I'm glad about Saleem's and I failed to mention Al Tarboush. SEE, go the the LOOP? Maybe even catch a movie at the Tivoli.

              1. re: grillergorilla

                I like their vinaigrette..it's heavy on the vinegar...they put provel on the cheese garlic bread (i like that) and they have a nice t-rav platter with a flavorful marinara (compared to most)......and it is just a great neighborhood joint. the owners are wonderful and they love St. Louis and are proud of their neighborhood. Mark and Michelle have been dedicated to Ricardo's and they have done a great job.

          2. Bosna Gold on 4640 Gravois St. Louis, MO, is a great, very inexpensive hole-in-the wall Bosnian bar and grill. The owner is very friendly and talkative; however, they don't have much of a waitstaff so if you go at a busy time be prepared for a bit of a wait (I have yet to predict when the "busy times" are, and I go a couple times a month). Hope you like meat!

            An even better Eastern European restaurant in South City is Grbic's on 4071 Keokuk St. Doesn't look like much from the outside, but the interior is gorgeous Old World decor and rather upscale service for their fairly humble but well-executed German/Yugo cuisine. They have a decent selection of rakia and the palacinke (filled crepes) are better than my Baba's. Bit more expensive but still under $20/plate, and EXTREMELY charming owners and staff. South City may be a bit far for your weekend trip, though.

            One of my favorite "holes-in-the wall" might be somewhat well-known, but not particularly touristy, is the Eat-Rite diner on Chouteau. It's really close to downtown, and is a great old-fashioned greasy spoon. They're open 24 hours and it's great for people-watching. Do try the slinger!

            1. amighetti's bakery and cafe in the hill neighborhood has very good specialty sandwiches/subs.