Kudos to chef STEPHEN GONTRAM and the crew at 5 Star Burgers. The Clayton burger joint recently made eater.com's list of The 25 Hottest Hamburgers in America Right Now.

Chef ERIC BRENNER is back in town after a brief stint in NYC, and he's going to be assuming the role of executive chef and GM of a new restaurant, Alumni St. Louis. The eatery will be located in the Park Pacific building downtown, and has been designed and developed by The Lawrence Group. Look for Alumni to open in late March with a menu that Brenner says will celebrate some St. Louis favorites, including a riff on toasted ravioli and some creative uses of provel cheese. And, as if he's not busy enough, Brenner tells us he'll still be involved with his other project, Bold Organics, which produces organic frozen pizzas that are currently available in 1,500 stores across the country.

Changes are afoot at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis. The landmark hotel's The Lobby Lounge and Bar just began undergoing a $1-million renovation, which is being overseen by international design firm BAMO. The redesign is centered around a theme of ‘Rhythm and Martinis,’ which aims to combine traditional elegance with a modern club vibe. The lounge will be open during renovation. The project is part of a larger $3-million renovation that will eventually include The Restaurant and the hotel’s ballroom.

Congrats to the folks at Local Harvest Cafe. They got the nod to provide dinner to AL GORE and his staff when the former VP was in town recently to promote the St. Louis County Library’s Buzz Westfall Favorite Author Series. The vegan spread--cooked without nuts or oil, mind you--included roasted carrot bisque with radish kimchi, smoked butternut squash puttanesca over lemon-scented Missouri wild rice and quinoa-stuffed dolmas with raisin and mint.

LAYLA LINEHAN of DeMun Oyster Bar has left the Clayton favorite to take over the bar program at Brasserie by Niche in the CWE. Linehan will be replacing TED CHARAK, who is partnering with fellow mixologist TED KILGORE to open Planter's House later this spring near Lafayette Square.

Rue Lafayette recently announced via Facebook that it has closed, at least temporarily. We'll keep you updated on the situation as it develops. Also shuttered is Hooked Seafood Bar at 8613 Olive Blvd. in U. City. According to a sign on the window, look for an Indian eatery to be opening there soon.

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