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Best "local" places in St. Louis?

I'm heading to St. Loo for a long weekend, am looking for cool little unique spots to eat. Maybe one place that's pretty nice, but mostly the sort of neighborhood spots that locals go to hang out, or even the name of a neighborhood to hang out in.

I've heard about Iron Barley, Schlafly's, and Imo's pizza. Are these good recommendations? What are some others? Are there any unique local foods besides St. Louis style pizza and the St. Paul sandwich?

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  1. Anyplace that is remotely Italian will have a STL specialty called Toasted Ravioli. Its usually an appetizer. The other local thing to do would be frozen custard at either location of Ted Drewes. Stop here after dinner and eat a "concrete" leaning on your car.

    1. Iron Barley has fabulous food and definitely is a local place. However, they were on vacation last week; so, I would check by phone before heading there.

      A good local place for a drink is the Venice Cafe - they also do cajun food. Their decor will keep your eyeballs busy for hours.

      For a nice place, I suggest Franco (www.eatatfranco.com) - I had a wonderful meal there last month.

      1. Glad you picked up on the St. Paul sandwich, one of the more peculiar food items in town. This sandwich made of egg foo yung, letttuce, tomato, pickle, and mayonnaise sounds completely weird but tastes amazingly good. A lunch of this and a half order of fried rice will keep you filled up for hours. They are available at cheap, neighborhood Chinese carryout places all over town, but never in a "serious" restaurant. Here's Wikipedia's take: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Paul...

        1. DO NOT GO TO IMOS!

          There is FAR better Pizza in St. Louis, bot St. Louis style, and not.

          What area of town are you staying in?


          2 Replies
          1. re: FriendOfTheDevil

            downtown, near the arch. i'd prefer something st. louis style, if you know of any.

            1. re: captainlou

              I am going to have to say Cafe Manhattan in Clayton. You can knock out both your Toasted Ravs and your Pizza , as well as a St. Louis style salad. Lots of people have given good comments about it. Here is a blurb from a local board. This is from poster Nosh who is very porolific on this board about St. Louis stuff-

              <<<When I'm in town, I want St. Louis-style pizza with provel cheese. My favorite is Cafe Manhattan, which also has the cheesy salad and the toasted ravioli, and I've always had friendly service there, though parking can sometimes be tight. Others in my family prefer Uptown Cafe, but after a few tries I still like Cafe Manhattan. Our family used to go to Frank & Helen's all the time, whose default is mozzarella but where provel is a popular option. But unfortunately I think they've gone downhill, and last time in there the smoke was quite bothersome. >>>

              If you search around on this board their have been posts about it as well.


          2. Amighetti's (the one on The Hill). Go for lunch on Saturday, sit in the courtyard, and listen to their jazz band. Be sure to get the Amighetti's Special sandwich. Not a St. Paul sandwich, but the best sub/hoagie/hero you've ever had. This is about as "local" as it gets! I'd recommend a fresh cannoli from the bakery for dessert.
            Where are you coming from? Be aware that St. Louis-style pizza is, at best, an aquired taste! I'd opt for the toasted ravioli instead. Cunnetto's is a "classic" St. Louis choice with good toasted ravioli, although many locals consider it too "touristy" these days.
            There are several fun neighborhood restaurants/bars. We like Lafayette Square. Love the Mexican food at Arcelia's (especially the Chili Colorado and the sour cream enchiladas). Then walk over to Bailey's Chocolate Bar for their chocolate martini!

            6 Replies
            1. re: Anne

              Milo's outdoors is a fun restaurant. They have bocce ball.

              1. re: Anne

                Cunetto's is a big-portion-with-large-quantities-of-red-sauce-Italian place with nothing special to recommend it. Yes, they make decent toasted ravioli, but you can get these elsewhere without waiting in line, as you will at Cunetto's. However, in keeping with your wish for unique St. Louis items, you should definitely consider having toasted ravioli somewhere, not to mention gooey butter cake. You can check earlier threads to find out where to find these things.

                1. re: Anne

                  I second the extraordinarily tastty Amighetti's Special sandwich. Makes me wish I never moved to New York after I graduated from Wash U.

                  1. re: biga290

                    I gotta say, that Amighettis's is not where I would send someone for a sandwich these days. No disrespect, but there are much better players around, no doubt since you have moved.
                    First Choice- Blues City Deli

                    Outrageous stuff.


                    1. re: FriendOfTheDevil

                      I have to agree. Amighetti's has gone down hill on the Hill. Last time we were there the courtyard was dirty, the service inattentive at best and the sandwich tasted like it was made the day before.

                      1. re: steveb

                        Really? We were to Amighetti's on the Hill less than 2 weeks ago, and it was as wonderful as ever.
                        While I'm sure there are "better" sandwiches to be had in St. Louis, the Amighetti's Special is uniquely St. Louis. When I lived in New Jersey 30 years ago, I worked in an independent sub shop. We had all the makings of a great sandwich---freshly baked bread, high quality meats & cheeses, fresh tomatoes, lettuce, etc. But even my memories of those subs don't compare with the Amighetti Special!

                2. Syberg's on south Gravois fits the bill as local sports bar "where everybody knows your name." Great wings also and pizza is above average. Best burger in Midwest has to be O'Connells on south Kingshighway. Irish bar may be turn of century. Worth a visit just to gaze at the array of top of line Scotches. Killer roast beef sandwich also. Don't miss Blueberry Hill in University City either. Great bar food. Wins all local awards yearly for almost every thing. Best music, beers, pub grub, ambience, etc. In fact if I had only one area to choose to hang for a weekend I would put U City Loop at the top of the heap. It's all right there. Well, enjoy it all and post a blog to old Papawheelie about your time in the Lou.

                  1. When are you coming to St. Louis? Where are you staying? If you haven't been yet, I would say there have been some delicious recommendations. Skip the St. Paul however, because in its purity its unique, but in most cases it's execution is inedible. Amighettis is fine, though I would say Blues City Deli in Benton Park has one of the finer sub and other sandwiches in town and they have live music on the weekend.... If you want something out-of-this-world, go to Babalu's Snack Shack in Kirkwood for the 3 Little Piggy. It's got ham, topped with a bacon and cheese omelet and topped with pulled pork on a toasted hoagie bun. That's good eatin'...Check out Crown Candy for a slice of ice cream nostalgia and great egg salad sandwiches....O'Connels still cranks out a great, hand carved roast beef sandwich. Few amenities but good food....Five just opened a location on the Hill. That is a fine choice for a nice restaurant....Robust in Webster is a cute little wine bar with some excellent charcuterie and sandwiches. As mentioned, Franco is another excellent choice.

                    As far as other St. Louis favorites, beware. Toasted ravs are virtually all the same. The restaurants buy frozen ones from the same suppliers and serve them with their own sauce. So they all taste the same. Some restaurants actually make them and these are hit or miss....Thin crust pizza can be good, though I don't care for it overall. Most places buy frozen crusts with canned sauce, hence they all taste the same. ...Forget crab rangoon, they're not worth it....And well gooey butter cake. There are a lot of versions of this that haven't got a drop of butter. Try a Gooey Louie to take home.

                    1. I agree with others that Iron Barley is a very good place, unique to STL with excellent food.

                      I would also recommend The Black Thorn Pub and the Bleeding Deacon. These are both solid regular folk pubs with some excellent food. Black Thorn is known for outstanding pizza; it's located in Tower Grove South just of South Grand (corner of Spring and Wyoming). Bleeding Deacon is just a great classic South City bar/pub with a great beer selection and surprisingly tasty food. It's on Gravois, a bit further south of Tower Grove South.

                      Another great place is Pappy's Smokehouse. Some of the best barbecue you will ever have and I argue the best pulled pork sandwich in the state. It's on Olive near downtown. Note however, go early, because the owner does not believe in leftover barbecue, so they sell til they run out.

                      Blueberry Hill in University City on Delmar is a must see as well. Lots of fun rock and roll memoribilia and more. Great beer selection and a good burger.

                      Blues City Deli is great for a weekday or Saturday lunch. Awesome sandwiches (muffeleta is to die for), cheap prices for big delicious food. Saturdays they have a live band for lunch and you can sit outside. It's located in Benton Park neighborhood near Hodak's, an overrated chicken place in town.

                      STL foods that are on my short list: Ted Drewes frozen custard, toasted ravioli (I don't love them but they are the quintessential STL food), pork steaks (you'll probably have to get a native to make these for you). If you want to try Imo's, first get a rec for a good one from a native and sub mozarella for provel and you will be ok. Good barbecue and you're set.
                      ETA: Gooey butter cake is another STL classic to check out as well.