The culinary scene in St. Louis continues to flourish, and 2013 was an especially exciting year for diners and drinkers and those who serve them. Here are just a few of the notable events in the past 12 months:
Back on the Scene. Several well-known figures in the culinary scene returned to the spotlight with new projects this year. Chef JOSH GALLIANO made his return at The Libertine in Clayton; chef ERIC BRENNER assumed the role of executive chef and general manager of Alumni St. Louis downtown; KATIE LEE opened her new venture, Katie's Pizza & Pasta, in Rock Hill; pastry chef SIMONE FAURE debuted her long-awaited boutique bakery, La Patisserie Chouquette; chef BRIAN HARDESTY introduced Element; and mixologist extraordinaire TED KILGORE's Planter's House finally started pouring fine drinks in Lafayette Square.
Openings and Closings. Plenty of other new places opened for business this year, as well, including: Mission Taco Joint opened in the Delmar Loop; neighborhood burger joint The Dam opened in South City; Mike Shannon's Grill bowed in Edwardsville, Ill.; green eatery Prasino kicked off in St. Charles; Table from chef CASSY VIRES and husband/partner JOSH RENBARGER is now serving in Benton Park ; and Tripel is now dishing out traditional Belgian fare in Lafayette Square. New bakeries made some waves on the scene, including Piccione Pastry in the Delmar Loop and Strange Donuts in Maplewood. The CWE was an especially fertile place for new eating and drinking establishments this year. The second location of The Block Restaurant & Butcher Shop debuted there, as did Gringo, the latest venture from the folks who brought us Pi Pizzeria. Central Table Food Hall opened its doors, along with Gamlin Whiskey House from brothers LUCAS and DEREK GAMLIN. And Chef JOHN PERKINS launched Southern-inspired Juniper.
Sadly, some favorites fell by the wayside in 2013. One of the most prominent of these was Duff's in the CWE, which closed after a 41-year run. Mojo Tapas in South City shut down, as did Growler's Pub in Sunset Hills, Salt in the CWE, Garavelli's in South City, Frontenac Grill, The Fatted Calf , Green Bean and Rue Lafayette.
Beer. St. Louis's craft beer scene continued its expansion. The latest brewery to enter the fray is Heavy Riff Brewing Company, which opened in Dogtown in the fall. Urban Chestnut Brewing Company took over the former Renard Paper Company building in The Grove and transformed the 70,000-square-foot space into a new production and tasting room facility. 4 Hands Brewing Company expanded its production capabilities, as well, and began offering its core portfolio of brews in 12-ounce four packs instead of 22-ounce bottles. Perennial Artisan Ales' Abraxas seasonal, brewed with ancho chilies, cacao nibs, vanilla beans and cinnamon, got a much-coveted 100-Point designation from Beer Advocate co-founder JASON ALSTROM.
Awards and Recognitions. The local culinary scene got plenty of kudos in 2013. Bon Appetit magazine released its list of 50 Best New Restaurants in America, which included Niche and Elaia and Olio. Brasserie By Niche was recognized by Travel+Leisure as one of the best French restaurants in the country. Downtown fine dining icon Tony's was once again honored with a AAA Four Diamond Award (only 2.6 percent of the 29,000 AAA-rated restaurants earned the Four Diamond Award in 2013). Former Sanctuaria bar manager MATT SEITER's book, The Dive Bar of Cocktail Bars, was one of 10 semi-finalists for Best New Book at the 2013 Tales of The Cocktail in New Orleans. ANDREY IVANOV, beverage director and GM at Elaia & Olio, won the title of Midwest Regional Winner in the 2013 Best Young Sommelier awards. And Balaban's Wine Cellar & Tapas Bar, Truffles, Gerard's Restaurant and Annie Gunn's all took home the 2013 Best Of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. Chefs GERARD CRAFT and KEVIN NASHAN were both semi-finalists for the James Beard Award Foundation's Best Chef-Midwest honor. CRAFT made it to the final round, eventually losing out to fellow Missouri chef CORY GARRELTS of Bluestem in Kansas City.