St. Louis may not be considered a food mecca, but its culinary recognition is moving beyond just toasted ravioli and gooey butter cake. We asked local foodies for their dining tips, and the variety of answers showcases all that St. Louis has to offer.
Laura George of Frontenac
When Laura George chooses a restaurant, ambiance is an important factor in the decision. “A good restaurant is a place where I feel like I’m the only one there,” says George, director of special events for Today and Tomorrow Educational Foundation. She grew up cooking with her father, an experience that has translated into a love of food and preparing meals for her husband and children. George expects the same dedication from the restaurants she frequents. “They should have 100 percent of their soul, mind and body into what they are going to cook for me, because that’s how I cook for my family and friends.”
Lunch with girlfriends
• Bixby’s—Chef Lough uses fresh, local produce, and you can tell. The Grilled Amish Chicken dish with tomatoes and tomatillos is delicious.
• Cardwell’s at the Plaza—It has by far the best calamari and Mediterranean sampler for hors d’oeuvres that I could possibly want.
Saturday night dinner
• Acero—It’s my newest favorite. I usually start with the Gnocco Fritto, which is like a beignet with prosciutto, then move to the roasted cauliflower ravioli and the escolar. The atmosphere just makes you feel like you’re in Italy—a little slice of heaven.
• Stellina—They have the yummiest fresh pasta.
• Vin de Set—It has that beautiful outdoor space, and the ambiance is great.
Andrew Veety of Manchester
Andrew Veety may spend his days as an enterprise architect for a large insurance company, but his true passion lies in food blogging, where he gets to explore the culinary world. “I enjoy the communal aspect of eating, slowing down and spending some time around a table with people.” Whether Veety is out for a meal with family, or reviewing a new restaurant for his website (andrewmarkveety.com), he enjoys finding places where chefs hone their craft. “I look for simple foods done well, where restaurants are taking fresh, local ingredients and celebrating those flavors.”
• The Good Pie—It’s a place where I’m not afraid to bring my son. With their wood oven from Italy, they are staying true to the Neapolitan standards of pizza-making, and you can’t go wrong with the salami pizza.
Couple’s night out
• Monarch—I think Chef Galliano is one of the best chefs in St. Louis. Not many other restaurants approach his attention to detail in the dishes.
• Modesto—Important moments for my wife and I have happened here, so there’s an emotional connection. Also, it features Spanish tapas in one of its purest forms that you can find in St. Louis.
• Salume Beddu—The Beast in the Box is essentially sausage and peppers, but everything is handmade and it is just killer.
• Five—The burger here is probably the best in the city. It’s a multi-day process to create, from grinding the meat, to baking the bread, to making the pickles and ketchup.
• The Tavern Kitchen & Bar—It’s a beautiful space and they are doing charcuterie, sous vide and other interesting, new things.
• Milagro Modern Mexican—Chef Tilford is trying hard to present authentic Mexican food. The Chori Huevo Torta has a really nice mix of flavors with chorizo, a soft-fried egg and pickled jalapeños.
Earl Bañez of St. Louis
Earl Bañez grew up with the standard American fare of burgers and fries, and it wasn’t until he started working at Washington University that he was exposed to the variety of food St. Louis has to offer. “There are students from all over the world here at the university, and they brought me into new realms of food that I would have never been introduced to otherwise.” Bañez estimates that he dines out 90 percent of the time, so he is always looking for something new. “I have an adventurous palate, so I will at least try something once.”
• Sekisui—I’m a really big sushi fan and I love going here. My favorite dish is the Ocean Pyramid, which is an open-face roll layered with tuna, salmon, yellowtail and masago. It looks beautiful and is delicious.
• Ichiban—I can order the Ichiban roll—a California roll topped with scallops and eel—and that will fill me up. I enjoy the clean flavors.
• U-City Grill—The spices and flavors of the Korean food are great and I enjoy the bulgoki beef.
• Blue Elephant—It has great Thai food and an excellent three-course lunch special.
• Grbic—Although my Bosnian friends say the best Bosnian food is at home, Grbic is a close second.
• Blues City Deli—It has become one of my favorite sandwich places. The food is great, but the atmosphere makes it even better. Don’t miss the Italian Beef.
• The Boathouse in Forest Park—It’s a great place to sit outside, and you can walk around the park.
• Bar Louie in the CWE—It’s a good place to watch people walk by and hear music drifting from the other restaurants.
• Pappy’s Smokehouse—I’ve tried other places, but Pappy’s always brings me back. It’s one of the places I take international students to have the full St. Louis experience. LN