Best New Restaurant St. Louis 2003 - JaBoni's
Few restaurants achieve the kind of smash-hit-from-moment-one success that has graced JaBoni's, the little bistro that opened earlier this year. Not only are weekend reservations mandatory, but to accommodate demand management was forced to convert the upstairs space from a low-toned, drinks-only lounge into another dining space. Not only does a devout cadre of regulars willingly drive into downtrodden Forest Park Southeast to happily spend $27 on a lamb chop or $23 on lobster-and-leek salad, they request specific tables and particular servers when doing so. Chef Ramon Cuffie deserves the key to the city for returning to his hometown roots after many years honing his art (yes, dammit, art) on both American coasts and in Europe; so humble is he about food so divine, he just might be the second coming. A sublime experience from beginning to end, dinner at JaBoni's merits a spot on every St. Louisan's "Things to Do Before I Die" list.