St. Louis--Downtown Convention Center/Union Station Area
NJ hound here who will be traveling to St. Louis next week for a few days on business. I'm looking for some good places for quick breakfasts and lunches, nice happy hour deals, and dinners. I'm planning to take the Metro/light rail to get around, and I won't have a car. I used to live in TX, so I'm excited to try some MO-style BBQ as well as some southern cooking if it's available. I go to NYC often, so I have access to a wide variety of cuisines, but I'd like to know about what St. Louis does best. Please help me out with some recs. I'm staying at the Union Station Drury Inn, and I'll be taking the Metro up to the Convention Center. Suggestions around the vicinity of 8th St. and 20th St. and Market and Washington would be most welcome. TIA.
re: hill food
Although I didn't get much of a response to my query, I thought I'd post a quick report, hoping that it may be useful to others. I was pretty much restricted to what was in walking distance of 9th St. and Washington Ave., and here are the places that I sampled. Sadly, I didn't get to try any St. Louis-style BBQ outside of a catered event sponsored by the convention, and that BBQ was way too sweet for my tastes (I prefer the more vinegary and spicy Texas style as I used to live in Central Texas).
Rooster: I went here for both a breakfast/lunch and a brunch. It seemed to be a lot of convention-goers favorite as it was convenient and overall quite good. The breakfast I ordered (black bean scramble) earlier in the week was better than the brunch I ordered on Sunday, because for the brunch I ordered the breakfast burrito crepe. The crepe was way too thick and eggy and was short on filling. My dining companion for the brunch felt the same way. We also felt that the pico de gallo (advertised as salsa) was kind of nasty as it was made with anemic winter tomatoes. It's so much better to make a winter-time salsa with either high-quality fire-roasted canned tomatoes or fire-roasted Romas and coal blistered peppers than with substandard winter produce. In the winter, the onions and garlic also get a huge flavor boost from being roasted rather than just chopped up raw. In any case, both meals I had here were pretty good, and I can see why Rooster is a local favorite, as it blew the breakfast I had to choke down at the Holiday Inn Convention Center out of the water. The waiters were also very charming.
A friend wanted to try dinner at Niche, and I was excited about that, but another companion nixed that because of the price. So we ended up at another Rooster-owned establishment, Bailey's Range. It was OK. I wasn't too adventurous and just got the basic burger, but my partner really liked the lamb burger, and we liked the fries that came with it, although I wouldn't recommend the wasabi ketchup that I ordered--it was too hot, and I love spicy food. This restaurant was really noisy and not very relaxing, which leads me to my next topic.
We also went to the Bridge Tap House and Wine Bar, which has a somewhat interesting menu. At that point, I realized we had been eating at the restaurants of a St. Louis impresario, who was apparently mining a similar concept all over the revitalizing downtown. I had an overly salty ham and gruyere sandwich with some stale homemade chips, and while I thought the space was quite pretty, I was overall unimpressed, though I liked it better than Bailey's Range. I don't want to sound too negative--I think all of these restaurants have great potential, and I am all for breathing life into struggling Midwestern downtown areas.
Some friends and I did have a quite good meal at Mango just off of Washington Ave. The crackberry cocktail was super-good, and my chicken sandwich with an excellent aiolli and sweet maduros and a toothsome bread was great. The tilapia with sauteed veggies a friend had and the lomo salatado were also very good. I was sad that Mango was out of the papa relleno when I went.
BTW, I was lucky enough to see the city museum of St. Louis. What an absolutely fantabulous place! I've never seen anything like it--it is so super cool!
It seems to me that downtown St. Louis has a vibrant and growing food scene, and every time I visit, I would love to support what you have. Feel free to message me about the scene in NNJ, NYC, or the Jersey Shore. I'll try to help you out.
I'm sorry you got a sort of passive response to your query...there are a number of good, sometimes very good choices in the downtown St. Louis. Mango is one of them. Too bad you didn't get to Niche, which is not too far away, but in the Lafayette Square neighborhood. City Museum is indeed a gem. And you are correct, St. Louis' food scene is improving.
Other places near the America's Center: Prime 1000 (though they closed before their posted lunch hours ended both times I have tried to go lately), Copia, Mosaic, Lucas Park Grill. The best place, imho is Farmhaus, which is quite a cab ride out to the I-44 and Arsenal neighborhood in Lindenwood Park.
I'm feeling sad that you didn't get much of a reply, either...I am not often downtown for restaurants, so I didn't feel qualified. I am, however, delighted that you got to see City Museum...it really is quite something, isn't it? Thank you so much for the review...I had been wondering about Bailey's Range.