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St. Louis Adventures

Hi everybody! I'm a NYC hounder and food blogger who will be taking a big road trip in a few weeks. Part of my journey takes me from Louisville, Kentucky to St. Louis, Missouri. I'll be spending two days in St. Louis so am looking for suggestions for authentic and unique food adventures in the area. I'm only in town for two days but plan to fill those days with sightseeing, St. Louis culture, and lots of local food. I eat everything so am open to all suggestions.

I'm also looking for suggestions on that drive between Louisville and St. Louis. I'll be posting on the Great Lakes Board too. But any help is greatly appreciated.

And then after St. Louis, I'm driving south to Memphis. So any thoughts on that route is helpful too. Thanks in advance.


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  1. There are, of course, dozens of prior threads on this topic, so I'd suggest you start with those, both from the current "Great Plains" board as well as the prior "Midwest" board. That said, here are a few:
    Iron Barley, for great pork preparations and a unique setting; Pappy's Smokehouse, for the best barbecued ribs in town; Cafe Manhattan is often mentioned as a good place to get St. Louis style (thin crust) pizza, with or without the much debated Provel "cheese," although I prefer my pizza from Pi; Five, Niche, or Riddles Penultimate for inventive use of local products. I know you'll be hearing from others, either critiquing my suggestions or offering additional ones. One more thought: find a cheap, neighborhood Chinese restaurant and order a St. Paul Sandwich. This concoction of egg foo yung on white bread with lettuce, mayonnaise, pickle, and sometimes tomato, sounds bizarre, tastes great. You won't find it in NYC, or anywhere else as far as I know.

    Iron Barley
    5510 Virginia Ave, Saint Louis, MO 63111

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

    Cafe Manhattan
    511 S Hanley Rd, Saint Louis, MO 63105

    1. Coming from Louisville, if you take the I-70 route through Effingham Il(Google does list it as possible route, but 30 miles longer) you can eat at the Firefly Grill. It is really good, locally sourced food. They serve lunch until 5 pm and then dinner. They are closed for a few days in the next month for private functions so call ahead. If I am anywhere near there, I make the drive.

      Agree with above except have not been to Cafe Manhattan. Some other places for St Louis Pizza-all a little different--Erio's, Nick and Elena's, Serra's, Meglio's. Faraci's. My favorite is Fratelli's in St. Charles-just off of 70 in a shopping center. The Hill is an Italian area but I would hit that up for the groceries. Di Gregorio's Italian Foods, Missouri Baking Co, Volpi on Daggett. There are better Italian restaurants elsewhere. Try Trattoria Marcella, especially for toasted ravioli, another St. Louis specialty. They make their own.

      Depending on the day of the week, you might want to hit up one of the farmer's markets or even Soulard Market, the oldest farmer's market in St. Louis. It does have quite a bit of produce that is not local but still interesting and they have meat and spices and who knows what else.

      Pappy's ribs are great, some of my favorite, but also great is the Shaved Duck. If you can get a BBQ pork steak, that is a true St. Louis thing. Not too many restaurants have them though. Everyone does them at home.

      There is an area along S Grand Blvd that has quite a few Aisan places as well as other ethnic places. I love Banh Mi So 1 for Vietnamese especially the spring roll and meatball banh. St Louis is also home to I think the largest Bosnian settlement, so quite a few restaurants and bakeries. There are also areas with quite a few Mexican and Indian restaurants. I would highly recommend Haveli on Page for Indian.

      For sweets,
      Pie- Sugaree
      candy-the best chocolate-

      Gooey butter cake-originated in St. Louis-McArthurs, there are others too. There is one place that has all kinds of flavors, but I like the original.

      Crown Candy Kitchen-better visited during the day-great shakes and malts and BLT's

      When you go to Memphis, we like to take 61 south of Festus-pretty drive and no traffic. I like Ray's of Kelso south of Cape Girardeau, but it is only open for dinner. Another place I hear recommended is Schindler's Tavern just outside of Benton

      Here are a couple of threads from the Post Dispatch on the road to Memphis.

      Trattoria Marcella
      3600 Watson Rd, Saint Louis, MO 63109

      Schindler's Tavern
      1029 State Highway A, Benton, MO 63736

      Cafe Manhattan
      511 S Hanley Rd, Saint Louis, MO 63105

      Shaved Duck
      2900 Virginia Ave, Saint Louis, MO 63118

      2 Replies
      1. re: wekick

        I was in town this weekend and at the 12th St. Diner downtown saw the toasted ravioli version of, get this - lasagna! didn't try it, but may have to someday...

        OP: start the statins and high fiber diet now and be prepared to kick it back in on return home.

        as far as regional goes the aforementioned Riddles and Niche (among others) pride themselves on identifying sources when reasonable, but what is grabbing my interest but have yet to try is the Garden View Terrace in the recent CityGarden on the Mall (about 9th?), pricey by STL standards, moderate by Coastal ones. deeply cool setting and also tries to source local.

        1. re: wekick

          Great suggestions all. I am certain, however, that you have substantial availability of a lot of ethnic foods in greater variety in NYC than here. Consequently, you can probably skip S. Grand and focus more on the items that are unique to this area: toasted ravioli, thin crust pizza, gooey butter cake, St. Paul sandwich, pork steak (although, as mentioned above, good luck finding it in a restaurant--it's strictly backyard fare). You might also add Ted Drewes frozen custard to your list. You pull up to the place convinced that you'll be standing in line forever, then you make friends in line, and you're shocked to discover how quickly you're facing one of the ever-friendly teenagers at the window ready to fill your order. And don't forget to report back.

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

          Riddle's Penultimate Cafe
          6307 Delmar Blvd, Saint Louis, MO 63130

          6144 Delmar Blvd, Saint Louis, MO

          Ted Drewes Frozen Custard
          6726 Chippewa St, St Louis, MO

        2. Here's a great spot between Louisville and StL:http://www.hallsontheriver.com/
          Slightly off the beaten path but the road in/out is lined w/ hand constructed stone fences...quite a piece of Americana. Food is very good. Recs would include the Hot Brown, Fried banana peppers, lamb fries and about anything else on the menu. (OOps...forgot the beer cheese for which they are famous
          )Jays Chicken in Sikeston between StL and Memphis (best most tender gizzarsd ever..ask for the dipping sauce)
          Dixie Pig in Blytheville, AR

          1 Reply
          1. re: DetectDave

            Gotta agree with DetectDave, Blytheville is about the only thing worth stopping at on the drive down I55. In Blytheville, there are about four different bbq places worth hitting. They are all off of the same exit. Just don't try to make the drive on a Sunday, as they are all closed.

            In Louisville, I hope you start the trip with a stop at Proof on Main. Awesome food.

          2. When you say "adventure", I immediately think of Iron Barley, next I think of Crown Candy Kitchen, both mentioned above.

            A New York friend of mine visited St. Louis and order a slinger for breakfast. He is still talking about that adventure.

            Adventuresome decor: Venice Cafe. Adventuresome enterprise: Ferrara's - making New Jersey pizza in the middle of the Midwest. Adventuresome combination: Tower Tacos on Cherokee Street: choose between the food on the Mexican side of the menu and the food on the Romanian side of the menu.

            And The Wine Press serves a very nice gooey butter cake dessert.

            While in town, be sure to visit the City Museum, the only museum I know of open until 1:00 AM.

            Iron Barley
            5510 Virginia Ave, Saint Louis, MO 63111

            Crown Candy Kitchen
            1401 Saint Louis Ave, Saint Louis, MO 63106

            3 Replies
            1. re: Doug

              Aahh!! A slinger! There's a St. Louis specialty. You can get a great one at Goody Goody Diner on Natural Bridge. Or, you can take a look at this guy's blog to learn more about the local slinger options: http://battra13.blogspot.com/

              Goody Goody Diner
              5900 Natural Bridge Ave, Saint Louis, MO 63120

              1. re: alan

                Ok, you all got me started on adventuresome food/locations in St. Louis and I'll stick to just sandwiches. As mentioned the St Paul Sandwich although I think it is mostly North City/County cheap Chinese takeouts that make it. Also mentoned was the Slinger ( I know it's not a sandwich but it reminds me of an open face chili burger) although the Eat Rite Diner on Broadway is my location of choice. Then there is the little known Mammer Jammer at the restaurant of the same name. A finely chopped beef sandwich more like a Sloppy Joe that goes any where from mildly spicey to death by peppers. Located at Kingshighway and Natural Bridge. And finally there is the Mexican torta. Certianly not unique to St Louis but La Vallesana on Cherokee makes it an adventure (Spanish is the native and almost exclusive language of this diner). Since all of these are sandwiches and more appropriate for lunch and these are all located in somewhat dicey neighborhoods lunch time is probably the best time to go but it you want to make it a real adventure then go later in the evening. It is a good time to test your urban survival skills. Anyone of these would fit with Guy's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives but I'm pretty sure his 67 Camaro would be gone by the time he came out.

                La Vallesana
                2801 Cherokee St, Saint Louis, MO 63118

                Eat Rite Diner
                622 Chouteau Ave, Saint Louis, MO 63102

                1. re: STLLifer

                  oh those areas aren't THAT dicey...but then I started going to them when they were under full on crack tyranny so now they look positively gentrified by comparison.

                  Eat-Rite is best around 2 in the afternoon when they're not busy and the counter staff is bickering about who cleaned the grease traps last or something.

                  Vallesana gets high marks all over the place. (and cool junk stores in the area too)

            2. As a former St. Louisan, there are several indigenous foods that you will only get in St. Louis and (probably) nowhere else, Nearly all of them listed already, but I wanted to put my 2 cents in..

              Toasted Ravioli: any St. Louis Italian restaurant has it - though my favorite Italian place is Trattoria Marcella. Excellent Lobster risotto.

              Gooey Buttercake: this is more of a coffee cake than anything else. You can find it any grocery store. The NYT had an article about it about six months ago (just google NYT gooey buttercake for the story).

              St. Louis style pizza: It's nothing like Chicago style. Super thin crust. The classic is Imo's. Most non-St. Louisan's don't care for it (it's an acquired taste) but it has to be listed.

              Ted Drewes Frozen custard concretes. Go to the stand and get them fresh (you can get them at grocery stores too, but they aren't as good). The line may seem long, but it goes fast.

              and, though it isn't a St. Louis speciality per se, I definitely recommend going to the Central West End, where there are cute shops. Left Banks Books is an excellent independent bookstore (that sells new and used books), stop in a few art galleries and antique shops, get some Bavarian chips with Welsh Rarebit at Dressel's Pub and stop by Karl Bissinger's for some chocolates.

              For more information about restaurants in the St. Louis area, check out the website http://www.urbanspoon.com

              Trattoria Marcella
              3600 Watson Rd, Saint Louis, MO 63109

              1 Reply
              1. re: jackhonky

                Yes, Bissingers! A St. Louis chocolate shop founded by Napolean's chocolatier. That would make it adventuresome.

              2. I grew up in New York City, and still visit once a year. I also lived briefly in St. Louis, and still visit there often. Having said that, I suggest you spend some time on The Hill. Yes, it's an Italian neighborhood, but COMPLETELY different from what you'll find in NYC. To get the real old-time feel for St. Louis, visit Cunetto's and Amighetti's.
                I can hear the locals sneering already!
                Both places have been on The Hill FOREVER, and are not the favorite of the younger crowd. While other Italian restaurants may be "better" by St. Louis standards, none will be as good as what you can get at home. Get the toasted ravioli at Cunetto's---then leave! Go to Amighetti's and get the Amighetti's Special sandwich. Yes, you've had better subs in NYC, but these are unique. If nothing else, it will introduce you to provel cheese.
                Now, about St. Louis-style pizza. If you LOVE NY-style, you're going to HATE this stuff! It's just---strange. But yes, I think you need to try it. I'll let the others suggest the best place for that.
                While NYC has an amazing array of ethnic restaurants, we've found St. Louis does a better job of at least two cuisines: Mexican and Indian. For real homestyle Mexican, try Pueblo Nuevo or Arcelia's. At Arcelia's get the Chili Colorado and a side of the Enchilada de creme (or white enchilada). Have dessert down the street at Bailey's Chocolate bar. By the way, you'll love that neighborhood (Lafayette Square).

                1 Reply
                1. re: Anne

                  For Indian, we like India Palace, the place overlooking the airport runway. Hard to pick a favorite here. Several of the Indians my husband works with make regular trips here----from Peoria, IL----a 3-hour drive away!
                  Another good "Indian" restaurant is Everest Cafe. The chef/owner is actually from Nepal, and you'll also find some dishes from his wife's native Korea. The owner is a doctor who wanted to open a restaurant serving heart-healthy, but delicious food from these areas. We were to the lunch buffet just this weekend. The vegetable Korma was outstanding!

                  1. re: wekick

                    I'm intrigued, the article doesn't say where on Olive it is...

                    I'm gonna have to try this someday

                    1. re: hill food

                      So here is the info on this place.
                      CHAOZHOU CUISINE
                      8233 Olive Blvd.
                      St. Louis, MO 63132
                      Tel: 314-567-0199

                      And now my comments. I saw the 'RFT article when it came out and went about a month later. Keep in mind this was 3 years ago so things may have changed. I did not have anyone with me who speaks chinese and it was a fairly frustrating and uncomfortable experience. It was also uncomfortable enough that we got the food to go and ate in a park nearby. I am very adventurious with both food and people but it seemed pretty obvious to us that we were being tolerated at best. I really think that they would prefer to deal with people within their own community. After struggling with ordering a few items, I remember we got roasted duck prepared a couple of ways and a few other things, we really felt like it was better to be on our way. The food was excellent and seemed authentic when compared to some of the places I've been in Vancouver. Having never been to China I can't compare it to truely original cusine.

                      I really wish that the many chinese people that have come to St. Louis would try offering authentic food rather than the americanized crap that shows up at every corner. In Vancouver you can get a huge variety of supposedly authentic cuisine and still feel comfortable interacting with the owners.

                      1. re: STLLifer

                        so it's by Lulu's? (which BTW while not the best dim sum I've ever had, pretty darn good anyway)

                        yeah I feel kinda the same way, sadly it's the dumbed down crap that's the easy sell and it's not just places like STL. but hell I don't care if they just tolerate me, maybe I'll learn enough Cantonese to say I'd like the real non round-eye food if I have to.

                        what's really sad (and for another board) are all the "Chinese" restaurants that for years were run by Vietnamese who didn't think anyone would go to a VN place and so they served that glop. thank god Pho Grand changed that path for others to follow (I might be wrong, but weren't they the first VN place in STL?).

                        1. re: hill food

                          I believe Mai Lee was the first. And they have some stellar new dishes at their new location just off Hanley and #40 on Meridian (?) . We had the tamarind tofu last week - - wow.
                          Enjoy- p.j.

                          1. re: p.j.

                            Mai Lee is def. on my list (living out North of Rolla right now - but I definitely have some must-trys and return-tos when this yokel goes into the big bad city once or twice a month) and I owe some friends lunch who also love VN fare.