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Food & Drink

  • Best Ethnic Grocer

    La Tropicana

    As the region grows, ethnic stores sprout throughout the city. One underappreciated gem of the scene is La Tropicana. Located in South St. Louis, near the intersection of Kingshighway and Chippewa Street, Tropicana is a hidden treasure. Not only does the market provide the fresh produce required for Hispanic and Cuban cuisine -- poblano peppers and cactus -- it serves… More >>
  • Best Working-Class Power Breakfast

    White Castle

    Gone are the days when White Castle shunned advertising and marketing, relying solely on the reputation of its onions, grease and square buns to sell meat. Gone are the days when the all-night meal mecca was limited to a few locations in a handful of Midwestern and Eastern cities. The chain, which doesn't sell franchises, has grown to 30 outlets… More >>
  • Best Culinary Middle Finger to President Bush's War on Obesity

    Slinger, O.T. Hodge Chile Parlor

    Dieting is as American as mom and apple pie. But what continues to puzzle is that none of us seems to remember the first thing we were taught in health class our sophomore year in high school -- that dieting doesn't work. It's all about the exercise, folks. So, provided you can pull your ass off the couch and walk… More >>
  • Best Veggie Sandwich

    Adriana's (on the Hill)

    A restaurant advertising "Fresh Salsicca" in its windows might seem an unlikely place to find a tasty vegetarian lunch, but Adriana's offers much more than just pasta with red sauce. Along with fresh salads, caponata and eggplant Parmesan soup, the café makes two terrific veggie sandwiches: the Charlie Special (featuring mozzarella, provolone, black olives, lettuce and tomatoes) and Sunny's Veggie… More >>
  • Best Vegetarian Deli

    Juhari's

    The vibe is one reason to visit Juhari's, located inside the Golden Grocer in the Central West End, but the restaurant's food is even more compelling. Offering a selection of vegetarian, vegan and raw food, the menu that ranges from Sojourner Scrambled Tofu and Veggie Bacon for breakfast to the Marcus Garvey Burger BLT and the Queen Ann Nzingha Club… More >>
  • Best Waldorf Chicken Salad

    Carolyn's A Matter of Taste

    Tucked under a black-and-white polka-dot canopy, off to the side of a strip mall on the main street of Ladue, sits Carolyn's, the spot for ladies-who-lunch. The smell of fresh pies, cakes and muffins wafts from the back kitchen of this cozy bistro into the dining room; large crocks of homemade soup stand alongside tureens of iced tea; the pastry,… More >>
  • Best Vegetarian Soul Food

    Eternity Deli

    Descending the stairs into this deli's soothing interior, customers are greeted by the ominous "Welcome to Eternity" sign hanging behind the counter. But if Eternity's Barbeque Delite is the last thing you taste before slipping through to the next world, its memory will gently carry you to the other side. Although the full soul menu hasn't quite been instituted, Eternity… More >>
  • Best $1.19 Sandwich

    QuikTrip

    Scoff if you must, but you can get good food at the gas station -- not just any gas station but the refrigerated case at QuikTrip. If you've sampled the chicken-fried-beef-and-spicy-cheese sandwich, you know how unexpectedly good it is -- it's got a hearty ... er ... beefy flavor. The spicy chicken sandwich is truly spicy -- you'd better have… More >>
  • Best Veggie Burrito

    El Burrito Loco

    Up for some serious beanage? Three words: El. Burrito. Loco. It's really huge, it's really cheap and it's really good, which is probably why we always have to wait for a table at this tiny, friendly South Side burrito stand. Although all the other tortilla treats at El Burrito Loco come in more diminutive dimensions, the corpulent vegetarian burrito is,… More >>
  • Best Guacamole

    Ramon's El Dorado

    Raymundo "Ramon" Otero, he of Ramon's El Dorado Restaurant, grew up in El Salto, Mexico, in a rural area where, as a child, he tended sheep and goats on the mountaintop where his family lived. He learned to cook from his mother, who for 25 years operated a restaurant there. After he arrived in Collinsville in August 1967, Otero opened… More >>
  • Best Alternative to Toasted Ravioli

    Toasted Cannelloni at the Uptown Café

    Head to one of the restaurants in the Café Manhattan family -- we're partial to the Uptown Café, a hole-in-the-wall in downtown Clayton -- and taste the appetizer that toasted ravioli longs to be. Though we risk blaspheming a St. Louis staple, toasted cannelloni gives you a lighter pocket for the meat, with no hard, gummy corners. Still, the fried… More >>
  • Best Dumplings

    Café Lavash

    You may not know it, but the former Soviet republic of Georgia is famous for its cuisine, and Café Lavash should be famous for its version of dumplings. Chef/owner Edward Kiknadze's plump offerings are flat-out terrific. Each is a blast of flavor, stuffed plump and tight, seams pinched prettily together and covered with plenty of fresh parsley. Kiknadze has a… More >>
  • Best Pizza

    Racanelli's

    Perhaps no food is the subject of more sizzling debates than pizza. You seldom hear expressions of warm feeling or heated opinion on the subject of, say, tuna salad, but pizza -- believed by some to have evolved from Middle Eastern flatbread -- seems to pluck at some particularly primal string in the human culinary consciousness. Between the orgiastic Chicago… More >>
  • Best Links

    G&W Meat & Bavarian Style Sausage Company

    The best links don't come at the end of a Web article. They dangle from the rafters of G&W Meat in long, loopy ropes of all-beef Landjager sausage. Family-run for 35 years, G&W has passed from two brothers to their sons, Gerhard Wanninger and his cousin Bob Wanninger. They continue the tradition of hausmacher (housemade) liverwurst, a creamy pâté that… More >>
  • Best Pineapple-and-Ham Pizza

    Cicero's

    There are two kinds of people in this world: those who like pineapple-and-ham pizza and those who are pitied by the first group. Granted, the idea of eating pizza with pineapple on it sounds a little funky -- until you try it. Once you do, the gates of understanding open and the pizza-delivery vehicle drives straight through to the brain's… More >>
  • Best Vegetarian Restaurant

    Hungry Buddha

    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that Blake Brokaw is some sort of genius, if only for the heavenly Hungry Buddha, which cranks out stir-fry weekdays on Washington Avenue. And you don't have to be a genius to not look like an idiot here, either: The concept's basic -- as most brilliant ideas are: Provide some stir-fry fixins… More >>
  • Best Chinese Restaurant

    Lee's Restaurant

    Located in a shopping plaza in Olivette, the unassuming Lee's Chinese Restaurant is one of St. Louis' best-kept secrets. The cozy restaurant has been there for years and was a favorite of Jack Carney, departed KMOX-AM personality. The food is just as good, if not better, than it was a quarter-century ago. The place features a variety of specialties but… More >>
  • Best Hot-and-Sour Soup

    In Soo

    Erica Jong has compared hot-and-sour soup to the heat of an adulterous love. She is undeniably correct, but we prefer to leave the sex metaphors to the poets and just eat it; our lyrically challenged mind can't hope to do justice to its thick, glossy, fungus-y, peppery, eggy, tofu-ey, vinegary splendor. This soup is so good it should be bad… More >>
  • Best East Side Restaurant

    Neruda

    It had to happen. Someone had to yank some big-city swank over to the other side of the river. When you're tired of standard fare on the East Side, look for Neruda, named for the Chilean poet Pablo (portrayed in the classic film Il Postino). Enjoy smoked-chicken potstickers in a shiitake-mushroom/tomato relish. Savor the roasted honey-lime-chipotle chicken with wild mushrooms… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Fresh Seafood

    Bob's Seafood

    It's no tale, ha-ha-ha, that Bob's is a great place to find the best fish and seafood in this area. Bob's, which has been in business 24 years at the Market in the Loop, deals fish and seafood to about 100 area restaurants, including the Blue Water Grill. You can find the following underwater creatures at owner Bob Mepham's itsy… More >>
  • Best Open-Air Market

    Soulard Farmers Market

    Often imitated, never duplicated, Soulard Farmers Market, a St. Louis fixture since 1838, is today the lone survivor of what once were numerous public markets in the city. Although other open-air markets pepper the metropolitan area -- Clayton and University City have them, for instance, and a fantastic little gem has sprung up in Edwardsville -- Soulard's is the best… More >>
  • Best Bar/Nightclub

    Venice Café

    A blow-up doll, floating from the ceiling. Multicolored tiles and lights everywhere. And Missouri vanity license plates that read "TRIPE." You could spend a year inside the Venice and still not notice everything on the cram-packed walls and ceilings decorated with just about anything the mind can imagine. The beer garden is a real garden, with trees providing canopy and large… More >>
  • Best Wine Bar

    Remy's Kitchen & Wine Bar

    There are wine bars, and then there are wine bars; some austere, some brash, others outright dull. Want some fun? Remy's, a free spirit of the species, debunks the theory that serving the nectar of the gods is an inherently haughty business. Remy's offers more than 40 different wines by the glass and an impressive array of bottles from around… More >>
  • Best Dive Bar

    Maple Leaf Inn

    From the outside, the Maple Leaf Inn looks grim, even forbidding: just a dirty Budweiser sign and a flimsy door covered with metal mesh. Inside, the walls are covered with snapshots of patrons, some with their dogs, some with fresh hunting kills. The scuffed wooden bar is lined with pickle jars and karaoke books. A happy-hour draft costs 85 cents.… More >>
  • Best Coffeehouse

    Meshuggah

    The name of this U. City coffeehouse is Yiddish for "crazy," and you'd be very, very meshuggah to miss its brewed-to-order joe. Patrick Liberto, who has owned the place for almost six years, offers his devotees a casual, humble room in the Delmar Loop. Students hang there, as do locals and area "journalists." Meshuggah's met with some stiff competition in… More >>
  • Best Martini

    Nik's Wine Bar & Hookah Lounge

    This neighborhood joint draws an eclectic crowd from all over the St. Louis area because of many offerings, but the martinis are the best. Nik's, which will celebrate its five-year anniversary in December, features a smashing assortment of 37 house martinis, from the Classic Martini to the Purple Haze, a combination of Stoli, Blue Curacao and cranberry juice. There's also… More >>
  • Best Bartender

    John Berg, Dressel's Pub

    We have little regard for those friendly "how's it goin', Joe, what can I do for ya?" sorts of bartenders. Give us someone enigmatic to mix our drinks, keep us guessing and make us feel even a little bit unsure. Someone who reminds us that if we're looking for solace in a bar, we should be giving our lives some… More >>
  • Best Beer Selection

    Corral Liquors

    No one has liver or time enough to drink all the beers offered at Corral Liquors in Granite City, but many a native of this brew town would like to die trying. Corral sells more than 400 brands of microbrewery and imported beers at its Granite City store, which is next door to Gitcho's Gas and Cars. The other Corral… More >>
  • Best Orange Soda

    Vess Whistle Orange

    If you simply have to know, all the ingredients of soft drinks are right there on the label. Sometimes knowing can be unsettling. The third most prevalent ingredient in Mountain Dew, both the dreary regular flavor and the fantastic Code Red variety, is orange juice from concentrate. Even if you try real hard when you take a sip, chances are,… More >>
  • Best Barbecue

    Smoki O's

    Back in the day, when we boomed around on a motorcycle, an old flame accused us of being able to spot the curling smoke of a barbecue pit through the side of our helmet, resulting in sudden, sliding 180-degree reversals and mad dashes in hot pursuit. In the Lou, the benchmarks of good 'cue are ribs, links and snoots, whereas… More >>
  • Best Name for a Bar

    Straight Home

    Ask the steelworkers at Granite City Steel where they're going after work, and they'll tell you, "Straight home." That could be home to the spouse and kids, or it could mean across the street to Straight Home, the bar with the mendacious moniker. Straight Home has been in operation since 1987, run by Janet, who refuses to give her last… More >>
  • Best College-Town Bar

    Stagger Inn... Again

    Along with its nightly beer specials, free popcorn, substantial menu (the kitchen closes by 9, however), music seven nights a week (including entertaining open-mics on Wednesday and Sunday), ample seating and one of the area's best bartenders in Charmaine, the Stagger Inn ... Again exudes a friendly, unpretentious warmth that no amount of Jägermeister (and the shots do flow at… More >>
  • Best Missouri Winery

    Stone Hill Winery

    Nearly a century ago, Stone Hill Winery was the nation's second-largest winery and the mothership of a thriving Missouri winemaking industry. Many of Missouri's wineries were founded by immigrants -- mostly Germans -- who settled small communities such as Hermann and Dutzow along the Missouri River. Hermann emerged as the center of the winemaking industry and home to more than… More >>
  • Best Sommelier

    I Fratellini Caffe and Rosticceria

    "I've always looked for the different, the out-of-the-way, never the easy, sure thing," explains Rich Zellich when we ask him how he came to be the sommelier at I Fratellini. St. Louis has many wine enthusiasts, but except for the francophiles, few are smitten with the wine of a single country. Zellich is so rapturous about Italian wine that he… More >>
  • Best Italian Restaurant

    Trattoria Marcella

    Variety may be the spice of life, but let's face it: We head like lemmings for the nearest Starbucks even as we denounce the corporation's McDonald's-style global tyranny and capitalist greed (hey, someone's keeping them in business). Instead, why not patronize that cute café, diner or deli down the street? Our favorite is a little trattoria on the corner of… More >>
  • Best Bakery

    McArthur's Bakery

    Rationalize it with a sandwich first -- on French bread -- then sink into the tiramisu or the famous strawberry whipped-cream cake or the blanc et noire chocolate mousse or, best of all, the layered chocolate, raspberry marmalade and ganache of the treasure truffle torte. McArthur's may have Scottish blood in its distant past, but the head baker trained under… More >>
  • Best Server

    Stephanie Dotson, Tangerine

    Think Thora Birch in Ghost World: self-possessed and surly, yet ... well ... darling. That's Stephanie Dotson, who waits tables and bartends at Tangerine and, to our thinking, is St. Louis' best waitress. Her demeanor is all don't-fuck-with-me, yet she works a busy Friday-night floor with finesse and can be relied upon to tell the truth about menu specials. If… More >>
  • Best Waitstaff

    Tony's

    Before Tony's moved to its current Broadway location, server Herb Cray (now retired) found he had a knack for showing restaurant guests to their tables while ascending a flight of stairs -- backward. Owner Vince Bommarito's philosophy, which also applied to Cray, both figuratively and literally, is that "you never turn your back on a guest." Tony's has employees who… More >>
  • Best Sushi

    Sansui West

    There was a time, not long ago, when the phrase "raw fish" made most St. Louisans blanch. But our palates are changing; we no longer gag at rawness, and sushi joints are popping up all over the place. Everyone's got his or her fave, but we say Sansui West is the best. Occupying the former location of another sushi restaurant,… More >>
  • Best BLT Roll

    Nobu's

    Purists and dilettantes cringe when we sing odes to the BLT roll at Nobu's. They don't know what they're missing. Revered by many as the city's premier temple of sushi, Nobu's has previously pioneered such breakthroughs as slicing the nigiri sushi in half. That one was good, but it's got nothing on the BLT roll. This extraordinary nosh is just… More >>
  • Best Bollywood-and-Vindaloo Vendor

    Seema Enterprises

    Got ghee? Sure, it's easier to feed your Indian cravings by ordering your palak paneer and chicken vindaloo takeout, but if you're itching to experiment, cooking curry at home, you'll need ingredients that are perhaps a bit too exotic for the big generalist groceries. Do you really expect to find moong dal, sooji rice flour or a slab of tamarind… More >>
  • Best Restaurant Ambience

    Woofie's

    Whereas some folks prefer linen tablecloths and four different-size forks, others go for a linoleum counter and a squeeze bottle of mustard. For the latter, let-it-all-hang-out crowd, Woofie's has an unusual charm. The Fotomat-size hotdog stand must be recognized for its superlative collection of signed photos of local media personalities on the wall who have either retired or died or… More >>
  • Best Place to Time-Travel

    Al's Steak House

    As you might've guessed, the alluring opportunity for time travel will cost you -- in this case, exactly the price of a fancy dinner. Stepping into Al's, located on a long-forgotten patch on downtown's First Street, is like walking into a posh New York restaurant in the early '60s. Completely expect to turn around and see Audrey Hepburn at the… More >>
  • Best Seafood Appetizer

    Seasoned Deep-Fried Lobster Tail, Kirk's American Bistro & Restaurant

    The ultimate appetizer, by St. Louis standards, should be deep-fried. How about a seasoned deep-fried lobster tail? The chef at Kirk's is attuned to his customers' palates, changing the menu on a regular basis to add, subtract, cook to order and basically do what it takes to create unique appetizers. Check out Kirk's perfect spicy egg rolls and brilliantly imagined… More >>
  • Best Culinary Dominatrix

    In Soo Jung, In Soo

    In Soo Jung doesn't lightly suffer fools, the kind of fools who have the nerve to taint her heavenly potstickers with sweet-and-sour sauce ("No! You use soy sauce and vinegar on potstickers!"), the kind who want soy sauce for their egg rolls ("No! You use sweet-and-sour sauce on egg rolls!"). Yeah, yeah, on the surface the treatment recalls Seinfeld's Soup… More >>
  • Best Weird Beverage

    St. Louis Bubble Tea

    Fill a plastic cup with green tea and flavored syrup, throw in a handful of slimy brown tapioca pods and hermetically seal it in a special machine with cartoon-printed plastic wrap, and you have bubble tea. The latest in the ever-evolving genre of trendy youth-culture beverages, it's more fun than a chai latte and has the added advantage of not… More >>
  • Best Menu

    Bella Città Mediterranean

    To be truly ravishing, a menu must use ingredients in seductive ways, coax us to try new dishes and make it nearly impossible to decide what to order. The menu at Bella Città Mediterranean is alluring by any measure. When the restaurant opened last spring, its menu was crafted by owner Chris Heisler and executive chef Paul Hayes. They cast… More >>
  • Best Diner

    South City Diner

    We know a thing or two about diners and the difference between the real deal and those retro ripoffs that have all of the chrome and none of the rib-sticking fare. You learn to look for the diner essentials: coffee done in the American style -- clear, strong and never left too long on the burner; sunny-side-up eggs with crisp… More >>
  • Best Place for a Chocolate Fix

    Chocolate Bar

    Quality, quantity, variety: They're all to be found at the newish Chocolate Bar in Lafayette Square, a chocolate junkie's dream. Everything from fruit to fortune cookies has been dipped in white, milk or dark chocolate. There are cakes and truffles, all injected with chocolate -- or, if you prefer, you can get your chocolate uncut, by the pound. Because everything… More >>
  • Best Dinner Rolls

    Sidney Street Café

    St. Louis is home to a number of good breadmakers: Companion, Black Bear and, of course, the ubiquitous St. Louis Bread Company. But Sidney Street Café, which bakes its own, has dipped back into St. Louis' French history with the beignet. A favorite in the coffee shops of New Orleans, beignets are lumps of deep-fried dough, typically dusted with powdered… More >>
  • Best New Restaurant

    Luciano's Trattoria

    Luciano's is not only the best new restaurant in town, it's also the most improved new restaurant. Opening the place was a mammoth undertaking -- it has 7,000 square feet of space and seats 235 diners. But when the restaurant debuted in June 2002, after just three months of construction, we were awed by the spare, harmonious food that emerged… More >>
  • Best Burgers

    O'Connell's Pub

    Lots of places brag about their burgers. O'Connell's doesn't have to. It's got the reputation and backs it up with every medium-rare it produces. Hamburgers here are moist, seasoned just right and bursting with that heavenly cooked-ground-beef flavor. They're served on the requisite toasted sesame-seed bun, along with the obligatory onion slice and pickle wedge. Ask to have the onions… More >>
  • Best Late-Night Munchies

    Chris' Pancake and Dining

    If you've got 4 a.m. munchies, you're going to have to hit one of the city's standards -- Courtesy, Uncle Bill's, South City Diner. And at 4 a.m. you're really just looking for grease and salt, and maybe a little syrup (mmm, syrup). OK, maybe a side of bacon, too. But we're the type of after-hours freaks who prefer slipping… More >>
  • Best Frozen Dinner

    Allen Foods Inc.

    You've got your gourmet on-the-run storefronts and your ethnic takeouts. Yet another key element in the American diet mix is distinctly frozen. But why buy Swanson's and Stouffer's when you can get the same food that some restaurants buy and reheat? What started out in the 1890s as a family business with a horse-drawn cart has emerged as one of… More >>
  • Best Dessert Menu

    King Louie's

    The most accomplished King Louie's diners -- and there are a lot of them -- understand the idea of pacing and have realized the necessity of restraint, even when they're popping pommes frites, shoveling in salad and biting into delicate baby ribs. First, don't eat the bread -- or, if you must, avoid eating more than one slice. It's a… More >>
  • Best Sandwich

    Salvato's Café

    The sign outside reads, "World's Best Sandwich." That may be a stretch -- we've heard tell of a cozy bistro on the Champs Elysée that's pretty hot. But as far as St. Louis goes, Salvato's Café has, by far, the best of all possible sandwiches. Corned beef. Pastrami. Chicken salad. Salmon, either fillet or lox. You name it, Salvato's has got… More >>
  • Best Place for a Kid's Birthday Party

    Magic House

    Anyone who's ever arranged and hosted a kiddie birthday party knows that keeping the little urchins together in one location is about as easy as corralling cats. Hopped up on cake and Kool-Aid, the kids quickly break ranks and head out of sight in about ten different directions. If you've got a group of five-year-olds, it's unnerving -- which is… More >>
  • Best Chef

    David Guempel, Zinnia

    Many a home cook daydreams of trading in coat and tie for clogs and toque. But when it comes down to brass tacks, few are willing to tolerate the fatigue, the late nights, the heat, the urgency and the imperative of unflagging creativity. Add to that the demands of running a business, and you've got a built-in winnowing process. Of… More >>
  • Best Falafel

    Kabob International

    Unless you count manna -- which is sort of in short supply these days --falafel is possibly civilization's oldest food. The durability of the friendly Middle Eastern chickpea croquette is no accident; if there is a sensation more satisfying than biting into a hot, crispy ball of falafel, e-mail us. Meanwhile, we'll continue to scour the city searching for more… More >>
  • Best Health-Food Store

    Natural Way

    St. Louis has been inundated by "lifestyle" stores, those big boxes where you can take a class on bleu cheese, purchase yoga accessories, sip wine and listen to live music. What the hell ever happened to the crunchy health-food store, the place you went to buy organic tofu, bulk local honey and megadose vitamins? Sure, you can buy these things… More >>
  • Best Family-Friendly Restaurant

    Romano's Macaroni Grill

    For child-free couples, picking a restaurant can be difficult because there are just so many choices: Should you go for ethnic, exotic, trendy? For families, though, the field is pretty narrow: Will this restaurant satisfy tender young taste buds that don't yet appreciate tangy, spicy or interesting flavors? Is it loud enough that if a kid pitches a fit, other… More >>
  • Best Mexican

    El Vaquero

    Although St. Louis has a modest Mexican population and a number of popular restaurants of that ethnic persuasion, this is a tough town in which to find truly great renditions of all your Mexican favorites under one roof. To satisfy a refried craving, you have to hunt and peck -- this place for pollo en mole, that place for killer… More >>
  • Best Place to Conjure Your Spirit Animal

    Kaldi's Coffee House & Market Bakery

    The night is cold. You sweep into Kaldi's and close the door behind you, sealing out the frigid winter. Breathlessly, you order it: the white-chocolate cocoa. You wait several minutes, pacing, looking around at nothing, needing the fix. It is ready. You take the hot glass. You make your way past the students and trendoids to your corner. You take… More >>
  • Best Weekend Brunch

    MoKaBe's

    Brunch -- the mysterious meal between the breakfast dessert and the lunch appetizer, the bridge that connects the morning's gluttony with the noon's regret and invites the afternoon's foreboding. And yet, for all its glory, the eternal St. Louis unanswerable: Why the hell is it so hard to get a decent goddamn brunch here? Yeah, there are OK places, but… More >>
  • Best Ethnic Grocer

    La Tropicana

    As the region grows, ethnic stores sprout throughout the city. One underappreciated gem of the scene is La Tropicana. Located in South St. Louis, near the intersection of Kingshighway and Chippewa Street, Tropicana is a hidden treasure. Not only does the market provide the fresh produce required for Hispanic and Cuban cuisine -- poblano peppers and cactus -- it serves… More >>
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