When St. Louis native Erica Willert and husband, Bryan, returned to the States after five years living in Shanghai, they chose University City for their new home because of its diversity and multicultural character. Bryan is executive VP of Willert Home Products and president of the company's Shanghai operations, while Erica is an agent with Dielmann Sotheby’s International Realty. Sons Grant and Luke are members of the So iLL Rock Climbing team, avid snow-skiers and are keeping up on their Mandarin at St. Louis Modern Chinese School on the weekends. We asked Erica about what her family enjoys most in the neighborhood.
Seoul Taco has been one of the top food trucks in the St. Louis area for a while now. Last year, the owners opened a brick-and-mortar location in the Delmar Loop, which has proven to be every bit as popular.
Great Harvest Bread Company, which recently moved from Olivette, and La Cosecha Coffee Roasters have teamed up to provide customers with top-notch coffee and bread at 7360 Manchester Road in Maplewood. "We're sort of roommates" jokes La Cosecha co-owner JAMIE JESCHKE, since the two businesses are sharing the space and each one is operating as a separate entity. The idea, according to Jeschke, is for each company to do what it does best and complement the other. In addition to its coffee bar operation, La Cosecha also is roasting its coffee onsite.
The Crystal Cajun Cook-Off, one of the premier events leading up to the city's Mardi Gras celebration, was held Jan. 26, in the City Hall rotunda downtown. The contest featured 10 amateur and 10 professional chefs slugging it out in the kitchen for the title of best Cajun/Creole Dish. When the dust settled, Lumiere Place/River City executive chef and LN Cooks columnist JOHN JOHNSON top honors in the pro category, while chef GEORGE MACDONALD came out on top in the amateur division. Congrats to both chefs!
The past year has been a busy one for the St. Louis culinary scene. Here are a few of the highlights from 2012:
The new location of chef GERARD CRAFT's flagship restaurant, Niche, officially opened its doors to the public earlier this month. The restaurant is in the Centene Plaza Building in Clayton, next door to Craft's newest concept, Pastaria, which opened in September. Niche's former home on Sidney Street in Benton Park will now serve as Craft's test kitchen for culinary research and development.
Chef STEVE GONTRAM'S long-awaited burger restaurant, 5 Star Burgers, is now open for business at 8125 Maryland Ave. in Clayton. In addition to beefy burgers, the menu includes some veg-centric sandwiches like the Veggie Burger and The Portabella Stack, plus a bevy of shakes and floats. We've received some reports from the field that the Sweet Potato Fries with Salted Maple Cream are not to be missed.
Yet another food truck is opening a permanent location. We’ve been told Seoul Taco has signed a lease for a space at 571 Mehlville Ave. in the U. City Loop, the former home of Gyros In The Loop. While some truck operations are speeding up, others are pulling over and parking. Pi Pizzeria has announced it will no longer be operating its food trucks in St. Louis and Washington, D.C. The mobile eateries still will be making limited appearances at events and still will be part of Pi’s catering operations. According to a statement, the restaurant wants to focus on its brick-and-mortar operations.
◆ New microbrewery 4 Hands Brewing Company has started brewing its beers on a commercial scale, and will be opening its tasting room to the public in December. Instead of running a kitchen on-site, food will come courtesy of a rotating roster of local food trucks. Co-owner KEVIN LEMP says so far, he’s been talking with the Cha Cha Chow, Pi, Guerilla Street Food and Seoul Taco trucks about bringing their wares to the tasting room. On the brewing side, look for the company’s four core beers—Cast Iron Oatmeal Brown, Divided Sky Rye IPA, Reprise Centennial Red and Single Speed Session—to be available in kegs initially for restaurant and bar use, and 22- ounce bottles shortly thereafter.