Food & Drink

  • Best Grocery Store

    Trader Joe's

    Remember when you were little and your parental unit would drag you grocery shopping and even though the place was filled with foods of all kinds all you really saw were the Dove bars, the KitKats, the mondo-size bags of peanut M&M's? Well, you're all grown up now, but Trader Joe's knows there's still a kid deep down in you… More >>
  • Best New Restaurant

    Aya Sofia

    It was a comparatively low-key year for new restaurant openings. Whereas the recent past brought marquee debuts (Larry Forgione's An American Place) or neighborhood-regentrifying sizzle (alas, poor JaBoni's, we knew you well), this year's fresh crop was more discreet. Which is not to say the food wasn't up to snuff. Witness Aya Sofia's bill of fare, an array of authentic… More >>
  • Best Burger

    The Village Bar

    Chicks dig me. Marines crave my meat. Even preppies adore getting their piece. My home—"The Village" to those in the know—is a dive next to a wig shop. There's only one waitress, and a take-his-time dude who mans a griddle I doubt has ever seen a good scouring. But that's to your benefit. They call me "The Better Burger," but… More >>
  • Best Restaurant for a First Date

    The Boathouse

    A first kiss can take your breath away. But that all-over-tingling sensation requires a good first date, and a good first date requires a good venue. Enter the Boathouse in Forest Park. Meet at the Boathouse around 4 p.m.—evening dates are so 2005. And bring the dog: The restaurant provides water bowls for the puppy to stay hydrated, and a… More >>
  • Best Burger (Non-Beef Division)

    The Best Veggie Burger in Town! - CLOSED

    Sweet Lord Almighty, the menu at the Shangri-La Diner can read our mind. We've been enjoying Patrice Mari's excellent veggie burger ever since the Shangri-La opened its groovy doors in 2005. We've tried in vain to find a veggie burger as tasty, as juicy—what the hell, as meaty as the Shangri-La's. Aiming to sample this stellar sandwich just one more… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Fatter

    Busch's Grove

    They call em fat cats for a reason. The hey-big-spenders who traditionally sup at Busch's Grove—and we do mean traditionally, as this bastion of all things gluttonous has been around since the century before last, aside from a three-year dormancy that ended earlier this year—do so with gusto. They gorge themselves on whole fried lobsters (advertised for two or more—pshaw!),… More >>
  • Best Hot Dog

    The guys with the carts

    Here's what you do: Take in a Saturday-night show at the Pageant. Grab a drink or three afterward at the Halo Bar. Tip generously—you're a bon vivant, after all—but make sure to hold back three or four bucks. At about 3 a.m., go outside. Look around. You'll spot a guy selling hot dogs from a cart. Buy one. Don't expect… More >>
  • Best Restaurant When Someone Else Pays

    Monarch

    "Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act which should not be indulged in lightly," proclaims Monarch's Web site. To which we would add, "or with your own money." There are competing theories on milking your patron. The first is to order light, with the hope that you're jumping on a gravy train that'll provide repeated free grub.… More >>
  • Best French Fries

    Sportsman's Park

    Sportsman's Park offers two kinds of fries: curly and steak. Yes, both come out of a bag, but hear us out. On the appetizer menu, there's an item called "Loaded Fries." It's a megaplate of steak-cut spuds drenched relentlessly in melted cheese and ground beef. Here's why you gotta go try the Loaded Fries at Sportsman's Park: Because you've gotta… More >>
  • Best Place to Eat Out Alone

    Moxy

    Even if you're alone at Moxy, you're not really alone. The teensy bar is so close to the open-air kitchen that you can easily carry on a conversation with the chef while he or she is making your meal. What's more, Moxy stays open throughout the afternoon, making it a quite lovely place to catch a mid- to late-afternoon lunch… More >>
  • Best BLT

    City Diner

    Beauty, thy name is Mambo for Cats. Permit us to explain: At City Diner, the sunny South Grand snack stop that manages to be both hip and unpretentious, the walls are covered with film posters and album art. Most of it's seen-it-before décor, but on the south wall is an extraordinary record cover: Mambo for Cats. The titular cats, rendered… More >>
  • Best Place to Eat Out with Grandpa

    Mike Shannon's Steaks and Seafood

    Poor Grandpa. By the time you pick him up from the Retirement Castle or drag him off the golf course, you and the rest of your family have argued your appetites away deciding where to take him for dinner. Of course, he'll accept whatever you pick, but he always mutters about the Place Located Along the Interstate, and the time… More >>
  • Best Roast Beef Sandwich

    Amighetti's Special

    Calling an Amighetti's Special a roast beef sandwich is kind of like calling Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather a story about Italians. Piled high with roast beef, ham and salami, an Amighetti's Special makes its mark with the addition of lettuce, tomato, cheese, pickles, onions, pepperoncini and, of course, "special dressing." A bit sweet, a tad spicy, the Special contains none… More >>
  • Best Power Lunch

    The Cedars at St. Raymond's Maronite Cathedral

    One high-ranking city official who asked not to be named in print describes the Cedars at St. Raymond's during its weekly lunch (which it has been offering for 39 years) like this: "It's definitely the place to be seen on Wednesdays if you're in political circles. I don't go over there much anymore, because when I do everyone wants to… More >>
  • Best Fast Food

    Chuck-A-Burger

    There's nothing fast about yelling into a scratched-up speaker box from your car window, repeatedly asking, "I'm sorry, say that again? What? Did you get all that?" What then comes forth from the pick-up window minutes later really doesn't resemble food; sometimes it's so borderline palatable it makes you wish you'd decided to fast instead. Which is why we love… More >>
  • Best Wine List in a Restaurant

    Riddles Penultimate Café & Wine Bar - CLOSED

    There are other restaurants that make impressive showings with their wine lists —Tony's, Eleven Eleven Mississippi, Sidney Street Café—but none with the underdog panache of Riddles. Because a place like Riddles just isn't supposed to have such a mind-blowing wine list. It's a juke joint, a place where live blues and bluegrass come at you from a cramped storefront window,… More >>
  • Best Panini

    Panino con Pollo e Pesto - CLOSED

    The panini has become as ubiquitous as Law & Order on cable. There are fast-food versions, frozen varieties (bizarre), and it's probably just a matter of time before a dessert panini arrives. And it is through the dirty lens of popularity that society seems to be losing sight of how fabulous this sandwich ought to be. Il Vicino remembers. The… More >>
  • Best Wine Bargain

    Charlie Gitto's

    The biggest deal about going to Charlie Gitto's is that it isn't. On a Sunday in July, a person can escape the humidity and sunshine and enter a low-lit enclave that's romantic and classy. You're greeted at the door by a suit who looks genuinely happy to see you. He mentions that on Sundays, bottles of wine are half off.… More >>
  • Best Fish Sandwich

    The Ike & Tina Tuna

    Albacore tuna sandwich? Yum. Albacore tuna sandwich named after (in)famous local couple? Great. Albacore tuna sandwich named after (in)famous local couple that incorporates snicker-worthy wordplay? Heh. Among the many delights on Kopperman's excellent lunch menu, the Ike & Tina Tuna is perhaps the most delightful. The foundation: tuna chunks held together with only the slightest amount of mayo, plus lettuce… More >>
  • Best Wine Bar

    Copia Urban Winery

    We, uh, spent a good deal of time mulling over this category. Our ruminations were extensive, our comments varied. "Hmph," we said, then "ernf" and "thppt." Not expressions of dissatisfaction, mind you, but of inner turmoil. This city is blessed with wonderful wine bars; to pick just one seems a fool's errand. Erato, the lovely smoke-free space on South Grand,… More >>
  • Best Fried Chicken

    Hodak's

    Just so you know, there are about eleventy billion other things you can order at Hodak's besides fried chicken: an eight-ounce charbroiled rib-eye, frog's legs, fried oysters, a rib sandwich, a quarter-pound frankfurter, a turkey club. But notice how none of those other menu items have found their way onto these pages. No offense, other forms of protein proffered at… More >>
  • Best Cheese Plate

    Sasha's Wine Bar and Market

    When we learned recently of a friend's lactose intolerance, we responded with an amount of sympathy usually reserved for dengue fever, elephantiasis or an allergic reaction to sunshine. "No milk?" we asked incredulously. "No ice cream?" And then, gripping the table with dread, we whispered: "No...cheese?" Nope, no cheese. Our stomach sank as we connected the dots: That means no… More >>
  • Best Whole Roast Chicken

    Brio Tuscan Grille

    It's a bird, it's a plane—it's an Ohio-based chain! And boy does it roast a helluva bird. She's stuffed with a whole lemon and drenched in a lemon-pepper marinade before going down for a long siesta in the restaurant's wood-burning (oak) oven. The bird, a.k.a. "Whole Oak Roasted Chicken," emerges honey-colored alongside your choice of vegetables. She positively oozes with… More >>
  • Best Steak House

    Citizen Kane's Steak House

    Oooooh, they have a rib-eye. Forgot they had a rib-eye. That sounds good. No, wait—what about the New York strip? Hmm. A filet might be nice. But I had a filet at home the other night. I should have come here; they give me bloody when I ask for bloody and rare when I ask for rare. What about—oh, wait,… More >>
  • Best Chicken Wings

    Brandt's Cafe - CLOSED

    A hotly contested issue, these chicken wings. Some say it's all in the sauce, and that nothing shy of scathing will do. While there's no denying the appeal of huddling around the electric campfire at a sports bar with a plateful of tongue-numbing wings at the ready, gastronomically speaking this approach obliterates any understated flavor notes that might be cowering… More >>
  • Best Seafood Restaurant

    St. Louis Fish Market

    Start with some oysters and/or sushi, then chill awhile over a cup of chilled shrimp cocktail before venturing into the hot apps: steamed Prince Edward Island mussels, Maryland-style crab cakes with roasted-corn salsa, lobster bisque shot through with a splash of brandy. A half-dozen chicken and chops entrées are available, but who the heck comes to a seafood restaurant to… More >>
  • Best Takeout Counter (Gourmet Division)

    The Pitted Olive

    Business has proved so booming at the Pitted Olive, it's not just for carry-out anymore; sit-down table service has been offered since the summer. But the Pitted Olive's original raison d'etre was to offer top-shelf take-away meals at reasonable prices, and at this the Pitted Olive excels above all others. A sandwich ain't just a sandwich when it's a classically… More >>
  • Best Vegetarian Restaurant

    Shangri-La Diner - CLOSED

    We're gonna live forever; we shall feast like kings. For the rest of our many, many days, we shall indulge in beans, tofu, salmon, whole grains, broccoli, fruit and little else save the occasional baseball-size iced cupcake made with real butter and sugar. Our mortal shells shall reap the benefits of all these nutrients and proteins, these healthy fats and… More >>
  • Best Takeout Counter (Grocery Division)

    Dierbergs

    St. Louisans who live in the central corridor have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to delicious grocery takeout. You've got your Whole Foods, your Wild Oats and your Straub's, all within a shopping-cart's reach, so to speak. But not everyone can live in such proximity. Should the less fortunate be forced to suffer through a subpar takeout experience… More >>
  • Best Soul Food

    Sweetie Pie's

    Great as it is, the original Sweetie Pie's has always suffered from three things: location, location and location. The trip out to the original shop on West Florissant Avenue in Dellwood can take longer than the meal itself. Owner Robbie Montgomery's collard greens are worth the trip, but what's a city kid to do when she's got a hankering for… More >>
  • Best Barbecue

    Red the Bar-B-Que Man

    Suckers for St. Louis barbecue could make a sport of tooling around the metro area tracking down their favorite sidewalk vendors. A good sense of smell would be the paramount prerequisite—you can never be sure which corner your top smoker will appear on, let alone the hour. For many years this was true of Redman Harris, as he carted his… More >>
  • Best Service in a Restaurant

    Eleven Eleven Mississippi

    It was New Year's Eve 2003. Four friends with no plans for ringing in 04, other than to do it together, to do it casual, but to do it right. One pipes up about this new place, Eleven Eleven Mississippi, in Lafayette Square. She manages to snag a late reservation. The foursome converges upon Eleven Eleven with good cheer and… More >>
  • Best Beer

    Schlafly Scotch Ale

    Astrological. Mayan. Chinese. Jewish. Roman. Whatever calendar you follow, tear it up and embrace Schlafly's calendar of seasonal beers. The highest of this calendar's High Holy Days falls in late January, when we devotees shake off our wind-chilled stupor and, as greedy as kids beneath the Christmas tree, rush to purchase the year's first Scotch Ale—then, quickly, the year's second… More >>
  • Best Décor

    Busch's Grove

    Entering the newly refurbished Busch's Grove is like walking through a wardrobe and into Narnia. In the Grove's case, the two-story colonial looks like a farmhouse from Clayton Road, but as you turn into the parking lot, a $10 million heaven is revealed. Holy moly. It's like they transformed a Buick into a golden chariot. Touch the $15,000 handles (or… More >>
  • Best Pizza (Thick Crust)

    Pizzeria della Piazza

    There's thick-crust pizza, and then there's Pizzeria della Piazza, which is thick everything: thick crust, thick cheeses, thick sauces, thick toppings, and a thick to-go box to carry it home in. Thick ain't quick; Pizzeria della Piazza's deep-dish stuffed Chicago-style pies take about an hour to make. Regulars who aren't thick-headed have learned to call in their orders ahead of… More >>
  • Best Outdoor Dining

    Terrene - CLOSED

    Like so many of us, Terrene lost a few tree branches to the Storms of the Century in July. Thankfully, outdoor dining here remains topnotch. What with the lovely brick pathways and the enticing aroma of the wood stove busily smoking bacon, this shady, secluded space—thanks to a still-lush canopy, storms be damned—makes it easy to get in the mood… More >>
  • Best Pizza (Thin Crust)

    A'mis

    The only category more controversial in St. Louis would be "Best High School." In this town, thin-crust pizza is cosa nostra—"our thing"—and the contentiousness can reach fistfight-provoking levels. A local chain even advertised with the slogan "out-of-towners just don't get it"—a tad defensive perhaps, but what are you going to do when you're land-locked within a nation that refuses to… More >>
  • Best Place for Late-Night Dining

    Roxane

    Ordering a midnight meal typically goes like this: "Yeah, can I have the number-three with a Sierra Mist? And, uh, a large fry, and a bacon-jalapeño cheeseburger combo?" At Roxane it sounds like this: "We'll start with the Yukon gold potato-leek soup, the salad niçoise, and the quiche of the day. Then we'll have the flammekuche pizzetta—no, scratch that, let's… More >>
  • Best Pizza (Non-Traditional)

    Kaldi's Coffeehouse

    No one needs an excuse to eat pizza. Are you hungry? Broke? Drunk? Did you tie your own shoes this morning; does the day end in "y"? All perfectly good reasons to sink yer teeth into a cheesy, greasy pie. But if you're craving something a bit different—still round, yes, still no-fork-required—head to Kaldi's Kirkwood outpost and order up a… More >>
  • Best Breakfast with a Hangover

    Pat's Bar & Grill

    Figuring out a way to get over a hangover is like trying to figure out how the great pyramids were built: Everybody's got a theory. Maybe back in the day, after some wine-soaked feast for Ra, ancient Egyptians cheered each other on saying, "I swear to Osiris! Just get your ass lifting some 10,000-pound limestone blocks and you'll feel so… More >>
  • Best Bakery

    Missouri Baking Company

    Yes, it's a bakery, and yes, it's located in Missouri, but the goods in those glass cases are international in scope—the Missouri Baking Company offers everything from baklava to stollen to something called a Louisiana pound cake. As befits a bakery on the Hill, what the Missouri Baking Company does best is Italian. We come for the biscotti and panettone,… More >>
  • Best Sunday Brunch

    La Dolce Via - CLOSED

    Dunno why, but every time we eat Sunday brunch at La Dolce Via (which is more than a few times a year), we act out the same sequence of events in the same order, á la Groundhog Day. First we drive around looking for a parking spot, marveling at how it's become harder and harder to find one, idiotically refusing… More >>
  • Best Bread

    222 Artisan Bakery

    On execution day, in addition to the Cap'n Crunch, buttered artichokes, lobster tail, fried Twinkies, Georgia peaches, a couple shots of Patrón Silver and another couple fried Twinkies, we'll have a entire loaf of 222 Artisan Bakery's whole wheat raisin pecan bread. Sloshed with butter—no, make that cream cheese—the bread is moist, cinnamony and good for you. The bakery, located… More >>
  • Best Breakfast

    Chris' Pancakes and Dining

    Mexican places give you a basket of tortilla chips. Family-friendly restaurants appease screeching tots with tin pails of popcorn. Bread—that's everywhere. But at Chris' Pancakes and Dining, at any time of the day, you get cookies. Warm, half dollar-size, macadamia-white-chocolate-chunk cookies! Any place that gives us permission to eat dessert first deserves a spot in our annual laudfest, but Chris'… More >>
  • Best Bialy

    Pumpernickles Delicatessen

    Kevin will always be the lesser-known Dillon brother, Matt the star. Even as Kevin makes a name for himself in HBO's Entourage, he remains fated to play the less-famous brother (Johnny "Drama" to Adrian Grenier's Vincent Chase). Think of the bialy as the food version of poor Kevin. It has just as much to offer the taste buds as the… More >>
  • Best Coffeehouse

    Coffee Cartel

    Ten years in, Coffee Cartel's still so picturesque, so inviting, it looks like something out of a sitcom. The outside patio is airy; the inside seating is spacious. The entertainment offerings are endless—wireless Internet, computer consoles, a pool table, Magic Touch—and don't even get us started on the jaw-dropping array of eats-and-drinks options. Some coffeehouses cater to students or to… More >>
  • Best Bagel

    Pratzel's Bakery - CLOSED

    Ronnie Praztel's grandfather started making bagels in 1913. He passed the recipe on to the next generation, and so on...you know the story. Ronnie Pratzel, who's now in his sixties, makes bagels with that same recipe today. His grandfather, he says, referred to his dough as "concrete dough." It's that stiff dough that forms the backbone of the Pratzel's bagel.… More >>
  • Best Barista

    Beth Soeder at Starbucks

    It's easy to tell a lot about a barista if you know where she's from; each coffeemaster has a distinctive flavor particular to her land of origin. Beth Soeder's winning personality was grown and processed in the metro area, but she has a particularly rich cultivation of flavors, having worked at Starbucks in St. Louis, Las Vegas, Portland, Annapolis and… More >>
  • Best Meat Counter

    LeGrand's St. Louis Hills Tom Boy Market

    A homey little market housed in the shell of an old Tom Boy (remember them?) just off Chippewa in St. Louis Hills, LeGrand's strikes the first-time visitor as amazingly wholesome. Owner Joe LeGrand seems the kind of guy who says "okely-dokely-doo" without a hint of sarcasm. All the basics are available here, but we're here for the meat, which announces… More >>
  • Best Diner

    The Buttery

    For so long, we've had so many questions about the Buttery. What kind of a diner name is that? Does anybody actually go in there? And most important, why haven't we gone in there? So we did, and we weren't disappointed. The Buttery boasts one of the best cheap breakfasts in town (served anytime, 24/7). The vibe is mellow (and… More >>
  • Best Fresh Seafood Counter

    Bob's Seafood

    Good thing Bob's Seafood up and moved since last year's "Best of St. Louis" issue—at least we have something new to say about the place. A perennial leader in this category, Bob's no longer lives in the Market in the Loop. The defection was tragic for those of us who used to walk over there from the office, order a… More >>
  • Best Lunch Counter

    Jennifer's Pharmacy & Soda Shoppe

    What is it about lunch counters that's so dang inspiring? More than any old diner, truck-stop café or other greasy spoon, an old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness lunch counter can make the spirit hum with all of mankind's dizzying benevolence. Passing a paper napkin to the stranger seated next to you, asking for a little extra mayo, smiling kindly when the bill is… More >>
  • Best Cheese Counter

    The Wine & Cheese Place

    You've been instructed to bring a cheese plate to the potluck this year, and you're way out in the weeds (although you're pretty sure Velveeta ain't gonna cut it). Thank goodness for the Wine & Cheese Place! These guys love cheese more than you love your mother. But they're not going to steer you into some goat's-milk concoction that was… More >>
  • Best Bosnian Restaurant

    Taft Street Restaurant and Bar

    It's Friday night, a few hours past most Midwesterners' suppertime, and Sadik Kukic's cozy Taft Street Restaurant is just beginning to fill with people. Read the posted hours and the diners' presence seems rude—this place is set to close in twenty minutes. But here the posted hours don't mean anything. Kukic grabs a bottle of wine and joins the late-arriving… More >>
  • Best Honey

    Stinger's Honey & Beeswax

    Don't ask beekeeper Joy Stinger what makes her honey taste better than country honey. "I don't know what it is," she insists. "It's city honey! It's better!" Maybe it's her yard's sprawling bundles of mint, its linden tree, or Stinger's twenty years of experience. Or maybe it's her enthusiasm. Stinger can only extract the honey three times a year, and… More >>
  • Best Greek Restaurant

    Colossus

    Doesn't it seem like the Gods of Restaurant Hipness have been all, "Hey, Greek food, why don't you get sexy for us? Howzabout a little fusion-hybrid-tapas-slutty-bo”te tap dance?" To which Colossus would reply, "Hey, Restaurant Gods, why don't you bite me? Or better yet, why don't you bite into my awesome chicken souvlaki, my aptly titled Colossus Gyro, my beautifully… More >>
  • Best Farmers' Market

    Maplewood Farmers Market

    From 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays during the growing season, the market outside Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood lives up to its promise of putting St. Louisans in touch with their food and its origin. What this market lacks in size, it more than makes up for in quality—be it berries and peaches from Murphy's Orchard, lamb and eggs from… More >>
  • Best Mexican Restaurant

    Casa Lupita

    At first glance, St. Louis might not seem like a repository of topnotch Mexican fare. But look again, and here's what you'll find: Cherokee Street. This strip, just west of Jefferson Avenue, is stuffed like a piñata with Mexican businesses, including restaurants—and Casa Lupita leads the pack. Keep in mind, this ain't no Tex-Mex, and it ain't no Taco Flaco.… More >>
  • Best Asian Market

    Olive Farmers Market

    The Olive Farmers Market is not a farmers' market—unless someone out there's farming cuttlefish and fresh red snapper. But it does share in the farmers'-market concept of bounty from all directions. As one of the biggest markets in University City's unofficial Chinatown, the Olive Farmers Market feels more like a community hub than a mere store. It's the most spacious… More >>
  • Best Guacamole

    Maya Cafe

    Cilantro and lemon—these are the two ingredients that make Maya Cafe's guacamole so fine. Just the right amount of each, playing off each other as a zippy duet, the acidic bite of citrus foxtrotting around the soft, round-flavored notes of coriander. And texture—oh, the chunky-smooth texture of Maya's awesome guac. Put it this way: When you find yourself making plans… More >>
  • Best Mexican Market

    El Torito

    Eighteen thousand five hundred square feet. That's a lot of space to fill. That didn't intimidate Hector Medina when he moved El Torito up the street three years ago. Since then he has managed to fill the space in ways that only a Mexican market owner can. As soon as you walk in, you're assailed by the loud beats of… More >>
  • Best Italian Restaurant (Cheap)

    Trattoria Branica

    "Cheap" is such a crass word, so let's call Trattoria Branica "inexpensive." But let's say it with seductive Italian flair—inexpensioso, perhaps?—and let's talk about just how much fantastically, classically prepared Italian cuisine you can get on a plate at Branica for less than twenty bucks. An eight-ounce steak filet, thick and supple, ladled with a mushroom Cognac sauce and melted… More >>
  • Best Calamari

    Cardwell's at the Plaza

    "Flash fried calamari, spicy chili-lime mayonnaise." Oh, modesty, thy name is Cardwell's menu. In a world where bastardized bar-food cuisine has dragged squid rings down to the pitiful ranks of potato skins and jalapeño poppers, Cardwell's offers a beacon of hope and taste. That's in keeping with the whole of Cardwell's less-is-more food philosophy; it's about finding great ingredients and… More >>
  • Best Italian Restaurant (Not Cheap)

    Lorenzo's Trattoria

    It's rare to find homemade gnocchi in St. Louis. Rarer to find homemade spinach gnocchi. But both can be found on the Hill at the delectable Lorenzo's Trattoria. Small, pillowy and, believe it or not, light, Lorenzo's gnocchi is...perfect. This pasta also happens to be one of owner Lawrence Fuse Jr.'s two favorite menu items. Which is a good thing,… More >>
  • Best Taco

    Neveria La Vallesana - CLOSED

    While traveling in England, we stumbled across the McKorma. McDonald's' bastardization of this Indian dish prompted but one question: What the hell? In a nation with so many excellent Indian restaurants, why would anyone eat McKorma? Then we came to a terrible realization: The taco is the McKorma of the United States. Americans wolf down fast-food tacos by the boatload.… More >>
  • Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

    Sameem

    Just when you thought the ethnic eats along South Grand couldn't get any more diverse—the place is like an EPCOT food court with parking meters—in comes the Afghani restaurant Sameem. Owner Qayum Mohammad and his family are 100 percent devoted to their enterprise, covering front and back of house for long hours and with little hired help. The food embodies… More >>
  • Best Salsa

    Pueblo Solis

    With its airy, year-old addition and charming covered patio, Pueblo Solis isn't quite the elbow-your-way-to-the bar, sit-in-the-laps-of-your-dining-companions affair that it once was. But this authentic Mexican restaurant still packs em in, and deservedly so (cf. "Best Mexican Restaurant" 2005, "Best Guacamole" 2003 and 2004, "Best Margarita" 2004). On a recent Saturday night our affable waitress is visibly in the weeds.… More >>
  • Best Tapas

    Mirasol

    Tapas is a dining concept based in Spain, yet Mirasol serves Latin American food. But the restaurant pulls off this bit of fusion with such panache, it's easy to forget that it's a stretch. Maybe that's because Mirasol's owners had already mastered the true-tapas trade at Modesto, their restaurant on the Hill. Or maybe it's because duck and pork meatballs,… More >>
  • Best Empanada

    Tango Argentina Food

    Care for a dumpling, little dumpling? Then you should care deeply about the empanadas made daily at Tango, for each one yields bitefuls of South American resplendence. Go ahead, gorge yourself on whichever savory flavor suits your fancy: creamy spinach, spicy ground beef (too fiery for you? There's a milder meat empanada as well) or the sweet and rich humita… More >>
  • Best Indian Restaurant

    India's Rasoi

    There's stuff going on in the food at India's Rasoi that Western tongues can barely fathom, frankincense-and-myrrh-type stuff that adds a complexity touching on magic and makes every other area Indian joint in the area—and there are a lot of good ones—fade into the background. The lunch buffet here is a glory, glowing in a corner like a treasure chest:… More >>
  • Best Fish Burrito

    Nachomama's

    The fish burrito may not be the institution that the hamburger is, but it should be. Newbies and devotees alike would do well to check out Nachomama's take on this fine conveyance of eating pleasure. Theirs is a near-perfect combination of cool, crisp cabbage, grilled onions, lightly battered cod, tangy sauce and a smidge of rice and cheese. Available in… More >>
  • Best Sushi

    Cha Yoon - CLOSED

    Life is too short to eat subpar sushi. That's what brings us, again and again, to tiny Ch‡ Yoon. The restaurant more than makes up for its postage-stamp space with a larger-than-life menu. Sashimi is fleshy, tender and full of flavor, while seaweed-wrapped thin rolls and reasonably priced medium rolls don't skimp on the fillings. (We highly recommend the white… More >>
  • Best Pupusa

    Los Catrachos

    Funny how many countries love to stuff food into other food. The Chinese have their won tons, the Italians their ravioli and manicotti, the Mexicans their tamales, the Argentineans their empanadas. In Honduras and El Salvador, the dumpling of choice is the pupusa, a masa patty filled with beef, cheese and/or vegetables. At Los Catrachos, St. Louis' only Honduran restaurant,… More >>
  • Best Korean Restaurant

    Hangook Kwan (a.k.a. Korea House) - CLOSED

    Hangook Kwan looks like the quintessential semifinished basement of the 1980s: spacious, equipped with a wide-screen television, a fish tank, a few photos and an it's-OK-if-you-spill-down-here air. The décor plays an indifferent supporting role to top-flight Korean cuisine. Start with the spicy cabbage condiment/appetizer known as kimchee and steamed or fried pork dumplings; then move on to a classic specialty… More >>
  • Best Cuban Sandwich

    La Tropicana Market & Cafe - CLOSED

    What do you get when you take a stack of roasted pork, baby Swiss, sweet ham, cornichons, mustard and mojito (garlic and olive oil), load it onto a split baguette and press like panini? A naughty, fleeting, forbidden pleasure—like the land the Trabancos, of south city's 30-year-old La Tropicana, hail from. (Also known as a Cuban sandwich.)… More >>
  • Best Chinese Restaurant

    House of Wong

    The sleek LA-meets-Shanghai interiors of House of Wong's two locations suggest an aesthetic far from the stereotypical Chinese joint of old. As goes the décor, so goes the cuisine as well. It's MSG-free and deliciously fresh. The crisp, green scent of cilantro practically greets you at the door, whetting your appetite for such house specialties as Wong's Hot Chicken (oh-so-lightly… More >>
  • Best Use of the Worst Cheese

    House Salad

    Welcome to Iron Chef St. Louis! All riiiight! Welcome to Battle Provel, featuring Cheese Challenger Brazie's, who'll duke it out with last year's winner, Joe Boccardi's! Can salad beat pizza? We're going to find out! OK, Brazie's appears to be chopping up lettuce, while on the other side, Boccardi's is tossing dough. Looks like our champ is sticking with its… More >>
  • Best Dim Sum

    Lu Lu Seafood Restaurant

    A passion for dim sum is like any great love affair. You plan the next encounter before you're even out the door, you vividly go over each feverish moment, and —this is the hardest part—you learn to say no. To say yes too often is to diminish the experience. You can't just grab at every steamy dumpling that rolls by… More >>
  • Best Use of the Worst Meat

    Spam Musubi - CLOSED

    Here's a fun fact you can whip out at a party sometime: Hawaii leads all states in per-capita Spam consumption. Islanders were forced to rely on the canned meat back in wartime, and what started as a ration turned into a passion. So now there's a little delicacy known as Spam musubi: a slab of Spam upon a bed of… More >>
  • Best Thai Restaurant

    Manee Thai

    Sometimes the package isn't as nice as its wrapper, but that's far from the case at Manee Thai. Gorgeous gold-beaded tapestries line the walls of the restaurant, and the waitstaff wear lovely elaborate ensembles—yet the food is even more beautiful. Take the yellow curry: Perfectly sweet with chunky potatoes, onions and your choice of meats (or vegetable), this entrée couldn't… More >>
  • Best Delicatessen

    Protzel's Delicatessen

    As part of his court-ordered punishment for alleged anti-Semitic remarks during a traffic stop, Mel Gibson recently paid a visit to Protzel's Deli, located in a tiny eating and shopping district in Clayton, Missouri. His sentencing included sampling a smorgasbord of Protzel's classic deli sandwiches: corned beef, pastrami, brisket, tongue, whitefish salad, reuben. When he asked, "Do these come on… More >>
  • Best Vietnamese Restaurant

    Banh Mi So #1 — Saigon Gourmet

    Banh Mi So #1 began humbly back in 1994, selling its namesake pork-and-pickle-stuffed baguettes from a shrouded storefront on far South Grand. In twelve years it has slowly evolved into—well, a slightly sizier hole-in-the-wall. Owners Lynne and Thomas Truong still offer a smaller menu than other Vietnamese restaurants in town. But none come close to rivaling the zing and freshness… More >>
  • Best Pastrami

    Lampert's Plush Pig Barbeque - CLOSED

    Our ancestors made pastrami in order to keep the meat from spoiling. Larry Lampert, owner of Lampert's Plush Pig Barbeque, makes pastrami because the man can't help himself. If there's some process or technique or method he can apply to a slab of beef, he's going to do it. With pastrami, that means trimming the fat off a brisket, rubbing… More >>
  • Best Spring Rolls

    Pho Saigon

    There are two kinds of spring rolls in St. Louis: the fat kind that look like Asian burritos, which are good and everything, but nowhere near as great as the other kind, the freshly rolled little ones the size of a Twinkie. We like the rolls at Pho Saigon, located at the intersection of Grand and Gravois right next to… More >>
  • Best Baba Gannoujh

    Pita Plus

    You only need one creamy mouthful of the garlicky, eggplant-laden baba gannoujh at Pita Plus to know that owner Lev Lemashov did a very smart thing when he hired Svetlana Rakhmanova to cook. She roasts her eggplant to velvety perfection and combines it with just the right balance of tahini and olive oil. Couple it with fresh homemade pita (white… More >>
  • Best Spinach-Artichoke Dip

    Café Balaban

    Fairy-tale time: Many years ago, in a land not so far from here, a spinach leaf met an artichoke, and they hit it off. You see, in the vegetable kingdom, size doesn't matter, so although Madame Artichoke was much larger than Sir Spinach, he could not resist her big heart. After an old-fashioned courtship, these two lovebirds got hitched. But… More >>
  • Best Recipe for Insulin Shock

    Straub's English Tea Cookie Brownies

    Even before everyone started fretting about the hidden calories in jolts of java, we were conscientious when purchasing our daily fix: nonfat milk in our coffee, no whipped cream on mochas, and absolutely no biscotti tacked on to our order—ever. But the ascetic lifestyle goes out the window every time we're in shouting distance of Straub's English Tea cookie brownies.… More >>
  • Best Desserts

    Niche

    It's a good thing Niche serves its desserts at the end of the meal. Sure, it's customary to do it this way, but if pastry chef Mathew Rice's sultry sweetness came out first, no part of the feast following would be able top the dessert course — not even at Niche. The dessert list here, dubbed "Sweet Dreams," is brief… More >>
  • Best Gelato

    Gelato di Riso - CLOSED

    During a year when gelato finally found its way into the St. Louis mainstream, no business embraced the sweet Italian treat like Gelato di Riso. Owner Suzy Reis sources two kinds of cherries (one from Michigan, the other from Wisconsin) to make her two kinds of cherry-flavored gelato (one like a sorbet, the other cream-based). She concocts a balsamic glaze… More >>
  • Best Chain Restaurant

    Steak n Shake

    You hear the sizzle first, juices popping so sharply that, for a moment, you don't even notice the other families clamoring for a table, their children squealing for an adult-size milkshake this time, Mommy, please. Sometimes you imagine you can hear it from the road, that famous Steakburger, calling to you from the grill, demanding your immediate patronage. It's part… More >>
  • Best Milkshake

    Cafe Manhattan

    A great milkshake requires time—time to make, and time to consume. In fact, you might have to hop into the DeLorean and go back to the 1950s, the decade Cafe Manhattan lovingly evokes, to have enough time to finish one of the diner's shakes. You can choose among only a few flavors, but do you really need anything more than… More >>
  • Best Restroom in a Restaurant

    Baileys' Chocolate Bar

    Everybody pees. To take the truism a step further: Everybody pees during a night out at a bar, and a large percentage of the Great Peeing Everybody do so more than once. So it would stand to reason that bar owners—perhaps the keenest observers of human nature—would provide clean, comfy water closets. But as anyone who has stumbled into a… More >>
  • Best Ice Cream Parlor

    Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream

    Locally speaking, once you eliminate the frozen custard joints and the chains, there's not much to choose from. That's not to diss Serendipity; it's just a sad comment on the frozen-confection landscape. Be that as it may, we come back again and again for Beckie Jacobs' delicious ice creams, from Chocolate Orange (two great tastes that taste great together!) to… More >>
  • Best New Restaurant Concept

    Destination Dining

    Jim and Cathy Hoyle nearly opened a Moroccan restaurant last year. Lucky for St. Louis, they canned that idea. Instead, the couple, formerly of west county, debuted Destination Dining, a radical new restaurant concept—here, or anywhere—in which a region-inspired menu changes every month. Among others slated in 2006 were the cuisines of Paris, America's South, the Orient, Tuscany and Russia.… More >>
  • Best Smoothie

    OR Juice & Smoothies

    You just finished your first session at Bikram Yoga St. Louis (see "Best Yoga Studio"). You're sweaty as all get-out, but you feel pretty good. You've downed plenty of water, but holy guacamole, you're still thirsty. OR Juice & Smoothies is right here, and it's just the place for you. Try something fruity, like the Sunny Monkey. Or maybe a… More >>
  • Best Restaurant Trend

    The prix is fixe

    When Niche opened its doors late last year in Benton Park, it carved out an instant niche thanks to its prix-fixe dinner option. While the menu was arranged a la carte, diners were welcome to curate their own three-course meal—appetizer, entrée, dessert—and pay only $30 for the privilege. Larry Forgione's virtuous, wondrous An American Place has begun offering a six-… More >>
  • Best Doughnuts

    St. Louis Hills Donut Shop

    St. Louis Hills Donut Shop is a bright-green stand-alone edifice deep in south city. Like all doughnut shops whose names don't contain the word "Dunkin'" or "Krispy," it's a throwback. For fifteen years husband-and-wife team Larry and Teresa Magnan have run the show. Their current schedule has them showing up for work at 2 a.m., six days a week. He… More >>
  • Best Local Chef

    Mike Johnson

    As we testify to the beyond-impressive run of seductive and successful restaurants Mike Johnson has had a hand in, we must also bid him a farewell of sorts. This spring he debuted his double-whammy concept of side-by-side restaurants in downtown Clayton, contemporary-global spot Mira and frisky French café Roxane (for the latter, see "Best Place for Late-Night Dining"). The do-pay-a-visit… More >>
  • Best Coffee

    Hartford Coffee Company

    Hartford Coffee Company's java philosophy is referred to as "Relationship Coffee," and the term couldn't be any more accurate. From the instant Hartford's whole-bean display—boasting organic beauties from Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Indonesia, New Guinea, Brazil, Peru and Ethiopia—heaves into view, it's love at Fair Trade. These exotic beans are caressed with tender care thanks to a process called fluid… More >>
  • Best Restaurant to Die in the Past Year

    Caribbean Sun

    There's no comprehending the restaurateuring gods. There's no pleasing them and no use questioning them. There's no good reason Caribbean Sun shuttered its doors this summer after all of a year-ish in business. There was nothing bad to be said about Caribbean Sun's oxtail stew, jerk chicken, saltfish or escovitch. (Yes, aside from the jerk chicken, these are not the… More >>
  • Best Iced Mocha

    Kayak's Coffee

    We don't like chocolate milk. Yes, we guzzled the stuff when we were toddlin', but the appeal of chocolate-flavored liquid nourishment waned as we matured. (No, we don't like Kahlua, either.) Not surprisingly, the problem we have with most iced mochas is that they taste too much like chocolate milk. How pleased we were, then, to discover that Kayak's Coffee… More >>
  • Best Chocolate

    Chocolate Cafe & Coffee House

    The Aztecs were no fools. They knew a good thing when they harvested it, and cacao was their top crop. They'd offer spicy, drinkable chocolate to monarchs and deities as their most sacred gift, winning over kings and Cuaxolotl alike. Is it any wonder, then, that the Chocolate Cafe & Coffee House in O'Fallon—a.k.a. the Lake Texcoco of the Midwest—has… More >>
  • Best Indulgence

    Berries and Cream - CLOSED

    You know you shouldn't. You just came in for the scone. But oh, dear God, that blackberry is the size of a golf ball! And it's swimming in cool white cream. A rather large bowl of cream, in fact. And in there too are raspberries, little tart cups of delight soaking cream into their hollows, and thick-sliced strawberries (so red!… More >>
  • Best Food Festival

    Belgian Beer & Mussel Mania, July 21-22, 2006

    This year, in this category, the Schlafly Tap Room kicked its own ass. Seriously: We were all set to write about Schlafly's Oyster & Stout Festival, the late-March fete that allows the landlocked to eat bivalves till we're stupid. Then July rolled around, and with it came Mussel Mania. Pshaw, we thought crankily. Takes a lot more than a plate… More >>

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