• Wow! A five-day-long grand opening party! That is how Cinco de Mayo was celebrated at Beso Mexican Grill and Cantina. Owner RICK ONSTOTT chose Mexican food for his first restaurant simply because it’s his favorite. The classic cantina lunch and dinner menu of enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas, etc. also has some upscale items. How do shrimp Tijuana and Puerco Veracruz sound?. Beso’s Tequila Bar and $3 margaritas will be a welcome addition to the downtown dining scene, and city dwellers are going to love the carryout (1130 Washington Ave.) and delivery options. Suburbanites will love the valet parking!
• Baladas now does brunch! From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, TOM EMMANS will be making waffles, French toast and specialty baked eggs at the cozy corner eatery at 9th and Pine. Downtown resident and Baladas owner JOHN DALTON recommends the ginormous, freshly baked sticky buns and the fresh-squeezed O.J.
• When STEVE WERNER was growing up in U. City, the place to get a bicycle was the Schwinn Bike Center at the corner of Jackson and Pershing avenues. So it was easy for Steve to pick the name of the neighborhood restaurant he is opening in mid-June on the same corner: Bici Mediterranean Cafe and Bar. Bici (pronounced bee-chi) is Italian for bicycle. Steve, the principal owner, has signed on MIKE JOHNSON to develop the menu and be executive chef. Think gourmet flatbread and Italian tapas. The flow from the restaurant to the patio will be fantastic, with bistro doors along Pershing and bistro crank windows on the Jackson side.
• With a new look to his goatee and a devilish gleam in his eye, MIKE JOHNSON rocked the kitchen of Fu Man Chu, his newest restaurant, at its May 2 debut in Maplewood at 7336 Manchester Ave. His spin on Pan Asian fusion cuisine has dozens of appetizers to share, and out back a disco ball spins above the deck. Mike had fun with the decor, especially the 1960’s Kung Fu movies projected continuously on one wall. The fried Nutella wontons are better than beignets!
• Taste of…insert neighborhood name here…season officially begins with the Taste of Maplewood May 22. Monarch, Maya Cafe, Acero, Boogaloo and El Scorcho are just some of the participating restaurants. Beverage purveyors are Schlafly’s for beer (duh!), Saint Louis Cellars for wines, and Cooper Ella for specialty non-alcoholic drinks. The $25 per person entry includes food and drinks. The event is poolside from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Maplewood Community Pool behind City Hall.
• On April 30, chef ROCKY CARAVANTES introduced just some of the hors d’oeuvres that will be on the menus of the two restaurants at Clayton on the Park, a luxury apartment senior living community set to open in September. It was the first of the ‘Taste of Clayton on the Park’ series; next up are soups and salads on May 27, entrees on June 27, and desserts on July 15. The chef will also be doing cooking demonstrations and offering tips, no reservations required. The 2 to 4 p.m. afternoon tastes are free. Just see the concierge in the lobby of 8025 Bonhomme Ave. and enjoy!
• The only way to get to the Wine Room, the swank private dining space at The Ritz-Carlton in Clayton, is through the kitchen. Recently, seven St. Louis food writers were invited to cook and dine there with executive chef MICHAEL MANDATO. We were the very lucky guinea pigs for The Ritz’s team-building cooking classes, which are ‘under development.’ I pounded veal for saltimbocca, Joe Pollack chopped shallots and Catherine Neville stirred risotto. Watching the mini film Last Night, produced with American Express for www.ritzcarlton.com, during dinner was the perfect finale.
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