Food & Drink

  • Best Fast Food

    Noodles & Company

    National Public Radio draws plenty of sponsors. One hour is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the next owes its existence to a civic-minded law firm. But one morning last fall, the honey-voiced announcer imparted, "This hour is brought to you by Noodles & Company, soon to open in Creve Coeur." Noodles & Company! Just the name fired… More >>
  • Best New Restaurant


    Owner Tom Schmidt and executive chef Justin Keimon didn't reinvent the wheel when they opened Franco late last year in Soulard's stately old Welsh Baby Carriage Factory. The menu fits squarely into the lightly French-accented modern bistro mold so beloved by the city's better restaurants. Though you might order sweetbreads, foie gras or frogs' legs, even the most conservative palate… More >>
  • Best Pizza (Thin Crust)


    Pizza-a-Go-Go neatly sidesteps the contentious which-thin-crust-is-best debate. A pie from this modest, rec-roomesque south-city joint — there's a piano in the dining room and a fridge for your BYO beer fer chrissake — is neither the cracker-crusted, Provel-topped pizza of St. Louis nor the nearly paper-thin grease bomb of New York and New Jersey. Instead, you get a deceptively simple… More >>
  • Best Restaurant Trend


    "Sweetbreads" isn't a scientific term. It's a euphemism some clever chef long ago gave the thymus gland and pancreas of veal, pork and lamb. Veal sweetbreads (which you're most likely to encounter in a restaurant) look something like white-meat chicken, when seared. Their flavor is very mild and ever so liveresque, and the texture is soft, almost creamy; it's the… More >>
  • Best Pizza (Thick Crust)

    Pizzeria Della Piazza

    Husband-and-wife owners John and Ann Piazza offer three crust options at their Daggett Avenue institution, Pizzeria Della Piazza: a thin semi-St. Louis style (made with mozzarella instead of Provel), a thick "Pan Style," and a monstrous "Stuffed Pizza." They're all dandy, but we're all over the Chicago-inspired "Stuffed" version. The dough, made fresh throughout the day, is adorned with mozzarella… More >>
  • Best Restaurant When Someone Else Pays


    Is there a compliment more backhanded than to say a restaurant is the best — but only when someone else pays? What does that even mean? It means the restaurant is likely opulent. It's a good spot, exotic, perhaps, and definitely an experience worthy of consideration — but only if you're not the one forking over the cash. Well, let's… More >>
  • Best Burger

    Llywelyn's Pub

    International Society for Hamburger Improvement Executive Board Annual MeetingSeptember 27, 2007Present: Mid-Priced Chain Restaurant, Four-Star Chef, Llywelyn's Pub, the HamburglarAbsent: Backyard barbecueQuorum? Yes- Meeting called to order at 7:30 p.m. by the chair, the Hamburglar.- The Hamburglar solicits ideas for creating the best burger in St. Louis.- Mid-Priced Chain Restaurant suggests gimmick in which a customer can order a burger… More >>
  • Best Local Chef

    Gerard Craft

    Gerard Craft isn't St. Louis' best chef because he might serve you bacon ice cream. That just makes him a badass. No, Craft is St. Louis' best because he's likely to pair that bacon ice cream with that hippest of hip meat cuts, pork belly, to a create a dish that isn't simply a clever joke or a lovely presentation… More >>
  • Best Burger (Non-Beef Division)

    Green Chili Turkeyburger

    Eating a turkey burger is often like choosing to wear sensible pumps instead of high-heeled stilettos: You know it's practical and good for you, but it's just not quite as much fun. Leave it to the Schlafly Bottleworks to make its Green Chili Turkeyburger as sassy and flavorful as a pair of hot-pink Manolos. The sandwich arrives open-faced, utilizing a… More >>
  • Best Kept Secret (Restaurant Division)

    La Dolce Via for dinner - CLOSED

    Remarkably, La Dolce Via remains open for dinner only twice a week. This must mean our plan is working! Once we sampled chef Ramon Cuffie's brief, market-driven menu, we knew we didn't want to share it with anyone else. It's an informal meal, the "dining room" very much the café that La Dolce Via usually is, the wine served in… More >>
  • Best Burger (You Ate What? Division)

    Baseball's Best Burger at GCS Stadium

    When historians look back on American eating habits of the late-20th and early-21st centuries, who will they consider the era's most influential culinary figure? Not Mario or Emeril or (thank God) Bobby Flay. Our money's on Homer Simpson. While a select few enjoy the benefits of America's foodie revolution, the rest of us get fatter and fatter — and enjoy… More >>
  • Best Outdoor Dining

    Terrene - CLOSED

    Imagine: Seated at a table, you're sipping a crisp rosé that dovetails admirably with the local tomato, fresh mozzarella and bibb lettuce panzanella at the business end of your fork. Missouri hawthorne trees surround the table. The brick-lined patio is landscaped with slender reeds that lend a sweetness to the air. It's dusk. The day's heat is just breaking, and… More >>
  • Best French Fries


    Now that we've entered the latter half of the decade and that whole us-versus-the-French unpleasantness has passed — that Sarkozy is one handsome, charismatic bastard, n'est e pas? — can we finally admit that the French make better French fries than we do? 'Cause they do. Doubt it? Visit Franco for an order of pommes frites. (Don't worry: Calling fries… More >>
  • Best Dining Concept

    Veritas Gateway to Food and Wine

    "We say it's everything for the table," says Stephanie Stitt, explaining Veritas Gateway to Food and Wine. "It's about being at the table with really good friends and everything you need for that experience." Not a restaurant, not a wine store, not a cooking conservatory, Stitt's Veritas is actually all of those and more. Stitt and her husband, David (brother… More >>
  • Best Hot Dog

    The Sweetheart

    Oh, the poor, derided hot dog! Once celebrated at the backyard barbecue, the frankfurter has been abandoned by those who used to love its salty meatiness, and it has been relegated to the kids' table. No fair! You need to reclaim the hot dog, and ordering the $6.25 all-beef Sweetheart at Blueberry Hill is the perfect way to get back… More >>
  • Best Dining Destination


    If your memories of dining in Columbia are hazy and tinted the hay-bale shade of cheap beer, then you already know that a tour of this college town's eateries must begin (or end) with visits to Booches Billiards Hall (110 South Ninth Street, Columbia; 573-874-9519) and Shakespeare's Pizza (225 South Ninth Street, Columbia; 573-449-2454 or But good eats in… More >>
  • Best Barbecue

    17th Street Bar & Grill - CLOSED

    The Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is also known as the Super Bowl of Swine. That makes 17th Street Bar & Grill owner Mike Mills the Joe Montana or Tom Brady of the barbecue world. He has won the contest three times, a feat that has allowed him to open a chain of barbecue joints in Las… More >>
  • Best Breakfast


    Nothing says "thanks for last night" like a good breakfast. Pancakes are solid, but if you could pull off crpes, well...cancel the cooking class, Broseph. Rooster has your back. This downtown café offers sweet and savory crepes, plus basic breakfast sides and Kaldi's coffee. While the food is memorable, the atmosphere is more so. Outside is the burgeoning Loft District.… More >>
  • Best Fried Chicken

    Young's Restaurant & Ice Creamery

    Every other day a truck of freshly slaughtered chickens leaves an Arkansas farm and makes a delivery to Young's Restaurant & Ice Creamery, where owner Grant Young and his crack staff of local teens and twentysomethings plate up what just might be the tenderest, juiciest poultry west of the Mississippi River. "The youngest of the Youngs," as he describes himself,… More >>
  • Best Breakfast with a Hangover

    Courtesy Diner

    Hangover's a bastard. Dude drops by your apartment unannounced, drinks all your beer and tells your girlfriend something so outrageous you won't get laid for a week. Then after waking you up by playing the TV too loud and slamming the bathroom door whenever he goes in there to puke, Hangover has the cojones to ask what's for breakfast. Don't… More >>
  • Best Calamari

    Trattoria Two

    Every now and then a giant squid will wash up on a beach or get caught in a fisherman's net. And by giant we mean freakin' monstrous — just this year a squid measuring 26 feet from top to tentacle tip and weighing 550 pounds was found along the Australian coast. Whenever this happens, adventurous seafood lovers imagine a fantastic… More >>
  • Best Coffeehouse

    Kayak's Coffee

    Kayak's Coffee, named after a courageous Canadian, coffee-consuming Siberian husky, boasts a warmly welcoming lodgelike atmosphere complete with freshly prepared food and a doggone good mood. Lengths of logs run up and down the space, while murals of mountains adorn the walls, but customers need not be Colorado skiers to take pleasure in the cozy café. To go along with… More >>
  • Best Chicken Wings

    Pujols 5 Westport Grill - CLOSED

    Wing aficionados used to split into three camps: those who preferred the middle joint (what most diners consider "the wing"), those who loved the "drumette" and those who didn't care as long as there was blue-cheese dressing and celery on the side. Although armed conflict among the three groups was rare, they made no effort to understand one another. But… More >>
  • Best Dim Sum

    Wonton King

    How do you know you're at a good dim sum restaurant? Keep track of how many times you say, "No, thank you," as the carts roll past. By that accounting, Wonton King is one great dim sum restaurant: You might not speak those words until you're ready to burst — even then the temptation to try just one more dumpling… More >>
  • Best Toasted Ravioli

    Gentelin's on Broadway

    Archaeologists exploring the caves beneath St. Louis recently discovered what they believe to be the petrified remains of the first toasted ravioli. Although estimated at 75,000 years old and bearing scars from the crude (and inexplicable) hammerings of some Paleolithic tool, the ur-T-rav looks more or less exactly like those you'll find in St. Louis restaurants today. Which is why… More >>
  • Best Sunday Brunch

    Eau Bistro

    Nothing makes more sense than the build-your-own-omelet station at Eau Bistro's Sunday brunch. A table set up with two burners with skillets atop each, a bowl of eggs and an assortment of meats and vegetables draws a small crowd. Behind the table, a cook stands pleasantly awaiting orders. OK, so you really don't build the omelet, but watch and your… More >>
  • Best Use of the Worst Cheese

    Margherita Pizza

    While some signature St. Louis foodstuffs have managed to find fans outside the 314/636/618, Provel don't get no love. Same goes for the other St. Louis creation with which it goes hand in hand, the oxymoronically named St. Louis-style pizza. Generally speaking, Rigazzi's, an institution on the Hill, has perfected the coupling of this imperfect cheese with its rightful partner.… More >>
  • Best Lunch Specials

    Mi Ranchito

    Most fast-food joints now offer a 99-cent "value meal." But where's the value in a small serving of food you wouldn't serve your cat? For a real value, check out the lunch deals at Mi Ranchito. From 11 a.m. till 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday you can choose from nine combination meals — tasty versions of the usual suspects: enchiladas,… More >>
  • Best Macaroni & Cheese

    Growlers Pub - CLOSED

    When you break it down, macaroni & cheese is simply that: noodles and curdled milk. But why would you want to talk that way about the most heavenly side dish ever? It's a warm-you-from-the-inside-out casserole on a blustery winter's day, and it's a comforting cushion for icy cold beers during the summer months. Perhaps this latter reason is why we… More >>
  • Best $6 Lunch

    The Tiffin

    So hungry. Need lunch. Have...six dollars. (Where does it all go?) Could eat a sub. Don't want a sub. Could have a protein bar and a wheatgrass shot. Could also remove own toenails with rusty pliers. Good Lord, so hungry. Hmm. Six dollars. Hmm. Gokul Snacks and Sweets! Perfect. Cruise up Page Avenue, keep an eye out for the unassuming… More >>
  • Best Caesar Salad

    The Vine Wine Bar & Bistro

    In the past few years it has become all too easy to take the Caesar salad for granted. Imposing itself on two out of every three menus, spilling across ever bigger plates, crying for help from the portion police, the king of salads has, alas, been relegated to a mere commoner. Caesar Cardini, the noted Mexican restaurateur said to have… More >>
  • Best Lunch Counter

    Spencer's Grill

    How quintessentially American is the humble lunch counter — content, comfortable, devoid of pretense. It comes with no surprises. The patty melt you had last week will be the same patty melt you'll have next week. Populated with happy yet harried waitresses ("More coffee?") and loyal hungry patrons who breathe in the sizzle of morning's bacon and the greasy afternoon… More >>
  • Best Spring Rolls

    Banh Mi So

    How do we know Banh Mi So has the best spring rolls in town? Because the restaurant displays a neon sign on its storefront that says "Best Spring Rolls in St. Louis." OK, so just because a restaurant claims to have the "best" anything doesn't mean it's true. Except when it comes to Banh Mi So. Its spring rolls are… More >>
  • Best Soul Food Restaurant

    Imperial Palace Restaurant & Lounge - CLOSED

    Located just north of Grand Center, the Imperial Palace is perhaps best known as a 30-and-up nightspot, but its soul-food lunch specials bring out the locals and a few curious patrons. The emphasis here is on the soul: the booming sound system pumps out timeless Quiet Storm slow jams and bubbly '70s funk from the likes of the Chi-Lites and… More >>
  • Best Bibimbap

    U-City Grill

    Bibimbap — "mixed rice," in Korean, and spelled a zillion different transliterated ways — has to be one of the world's best comfort foods. At the hands of Yong Sup Sim and his wife So La Sim, owners of the nineteen-year-old U-City Grill, the dish does take you back to the blithe old days. Back to that time when food… More >>
  • Best Indian Buffet

    Flavor of India

    The all-you-can-eat lunch buffet is as much a part of the Indian restaurant experience as naan, pappadam and tandoori chicken. But you can't compare buffets by the same standards you use to compare the restaurants as a whole. Some great Indian restaurants treat the buffet as a breather; some very good restaurants rise to greatness at lunchtime. Of course, the… More >>
  • Best Cure for What Ails You


    Mom? There's something I need to tell you. Yes, you'd better sit down. Here — take this box of tissues. So you know how you've always said there's nothing better than chicken soup for the common cold or a tired soul? Well, you're wrong. Try this. It's a bowl of pho from Pho Long, a tiny restaurant that specializes in… More >>
  • Best Chain Restaurant

    Chipotle Mexican Grill

    This was the year Chipotle Mexican Grill finally rode into town from Denver, lassoed longtime believers and new converts alike and herded them into the best fast-casual dining experience — period. There's really not much to it. Chipotle makes burritos. Tacos, too. It's an assembly line, sure, efficient and somewhat impersonal, but why complain when you get to choose between… More >>
  • Best Torta

    Taqueria el Torito

    The key to the torta — the classic Mexican sandwich: meat, lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, cheese and jalapeños — is the bolillo, a plump roll with a crusty exterior and a soft, white interior. It needs to stand up to the sandwich's ample filling, but it also must have character of its own. Taqueria el Torito, the restaurant inside El… More >>
  • Best Chinese Restaurant

    In Soo

    You will eat at In Soo tomorrow. You will deem it the best Chinese restaurant in St. Louis, bar none. You will have the pot stickers to start. Hot and sour soup, as well. You will love both. In fact, you will love anything you order at this joint. You will order the crispy eggplant. Anyone who has ever tried the… More >>
  • Best Guacamole


    Let's play a game with prepositions. (Wait, please keep reading.) Which would you rather have: guacamole before dinner, guacamole with dinner or guacamole on dinner? OK, so it's a trick question. What we're interested in is guacamole for dinner — especially when said guac comes from KoKo, the great pan-Latin/Creole place on Ivanhoe. The menu is uniformly tempting, but it's… More >>
  • Best Sushi


    Sushi has become such a fixture on the American dining scene that stepping into Nobu's feels like traveling in a time machine — and not just because it's located in an old IHOP. (The unexpected setting does help, though.) The location, the serene atmosphere and the preternatural elegance with which Noboru Kidera arranges a piece of nigiri sushi: together, they… More >>
  • Best Salsa


    The great Western philosopher Marshall Mathers once declared, "My salsa makes all the pretty girls want to dance." With all due respect to Señor Shady, the most delicious, most danceworthy salsa can be found at only one place: Nachomama's. This colorful Rock Hill eatery offers some of the best Tex-Mex food in the area, and the freshly made salsa —… More >>
  • Best Indian Restaurant

    Indian Food - CLOSED

    Nihari is unlike anything you've had at an Indian restaurant. Sure, its basic flavors are firmly rooted in the subcontinent: cardamom, curry, nutty ghee. But it begins with an explosion of ginger, lime and cilantro that wouldn't seem out of place in a Southeast Asian or Latin American dish. Actually, there's a good reason you won't find nihari in most… More >>
  • Best Beer


    Yee-haw! Hey, everybody, it's me: the Wheach peach. Surely you've seen my likeness emblazoned on a six-pack of O'Fallon Brewery's fine summer brew. That's right: I'm the li'l guy who looks like the lovechild of Pac-Man and Scooter the Talking Baseball. But I'm all peach, baby, and you need only one sip to fall for me. Not to knock my… More >>
  • Best East African Restaurant

    Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant

    This category couldn't have existed in 2006, but the past year has seen a boomlet of East African restaurants opening in St. Louis — none more welcome than Meskerem. The first Midwestern outpost of a very small chain (there are two locations in New York City and one in Charlotte), Meskerem offers something for everyone. Longtime fans of Ethiopian food… More >>
  • Best Sandwiches

    Stellina Pasta Cafe

    Too often we take the sandwich for granted. Anyone can throw together some cold cuts, cheese, vegetables and condiments between two slices of bread and call it a sandwich — the result is usually satisfying, sometimes good. But to make a great sandwich takes the same attention to detail chefs shower on a more "refined" dish. Jamey Tochtrop is a… More >>
  • Best Thai Restaurant

    Blue Elephant

    Thai food, when prepared well, is nothing less than majestic, which explains why the main school of cookery is called Royal Thai Cuisine. And there's no better place to be served a kingly plate of Thai flavor (without the Thai heat, unless you want it — but we know of few non-Thai people who can handle the full nuclear scorch… More >>
  • Best Sammiches

    Iron Barley

    Some say the best sandwiches are those whose bread is entirely incidental to the flavorful fill. The best sammiches, found only at Iron Barley in south St. Louis, follow this same rule, and raise it a pile of chips. The hearty innards of these tasty local heroes are supercharged with the gusto of chef/owner Tom Coghill's smokin' grills and skillets.… More >>
  • Best Vietnamese Restaurant

    Lemon Grass

    The fabled Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has the phrase "Don't Panic" inscribed on its cover. Lemon Grass would be wise to do the same with its menu. At most Vietnamese restaurants, first-time diners and aficionados alike fret as they skim the 100 or 150 or 200 choices. Where do I even start? What is the specialty of the house?… More >>
  • Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich

    Tin Can Tavern and Grille - CLOSED

    As soon as the weather turns cold, our thoughts turn to roaring fires, wool blankets and comfort food: hot soup, hot chocolate and grilled cheese sandwiches. Especially grilled cheese — which, like peanut butter and jelly, is a favorite holdover from childhood. While the concept of the grilled cheese sandwich is simple — uh, take bread, add cheese and heat… More >>
  • Best Korean Restaurant


    Korean cuisine is reputed to be the healthiest in the world. Keep telling yourself that as your server at KoBa places slices of fat-rich pork belly on your tabletop grill. Of course, once that pork belly commences to sizzle, you won't care whether you live till tomorrow. Kalbi, marinated beef short ribs, inspires a similar reaction. Dab the meat with… More >>
  • Best BLT

    The BLTA

    No, the "A" in Big V's BLTA does not stand for "Awesome" — although it should. Nor does it stand for "Another," because if you put away more than one of these sandwiches in a single sitting, you will need a BLTAmbulance. What it does stand for is "Avocado" — fresh, vibrant, creamy slices of avocado. Big V's owner Vito… More >>
  • Best Restaurant Neighborhood

    South Grand

    "Where should we eat?" is never an easy question to answer. For residents of Tower Grove South and East, it takes on the mind-bending complexity of quantum physics. Choosing to dine at any one of the restaurants on the stretch of South Grand between Arsenal and Gravois means choosing not to dine at all of the others. Eating charbroiled pork… More >>
  • Best Fish Sandwich

    City Diner

    Fish sandwiches are a conundrum. The term "fish sandwich" is far too vague (you wouldn't call a hamburger a "meat sandwich" — that would be gross). And the fish sandwich itself is kinda vague, too. Order one most places, and you get...some sort of whitefish pressed into a square and then topped with cheese of equally mysterious provenance. Bleh. Let… More >>
  • Best Strip Mall for Dining

    Jeffrey Plaza

    Strip malls are so uncool it's not even cool to mock them anymore. (We have big-box stores for that now.) But foodies know that more than a few strip malls hide restaurant gems: run-down joints that just happen to serve the best burger or chili in town; the only Peruvian (or Mongolian or whatever) restaurant within a 500-mile radius. Jeffrey… More >>
  • Best Roast Beef Sandwich

    Blues City Deli

    Located in still-flowering Benton Park, Blues City Deli acts as a kind of gustatory crossroads for the varying strains of sandwich styles. New Orleans-style po' boys sidle up to Memphis BBQ plates, and the Italian sandwiches rival anything found on the Hill. All these are superb, but the standout is the Veno, which sets a new standard for excellence even… More >>
  • Best Comfort Food

    Hwy 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen

    The subject of the blues may be misery, but the result is often comfort. By sharing our pain with one another, we begin to heal. Some gooey, stick-to-your-ribs grub usually helps speed along the process. You'll find both the blues and the grub at Hwy 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen in Webster Groves, which celebrates the music and food of that… More >>
  • Best Grocery Store

    Trader Joe's

    Trader Joe's is like that laid-back, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing friend who's always experimenting with something new. He's funny, helpful and always in-the-know. The first local outpost of this California-based chain opened in October 2004, and now Trader Joe's boasts four area locations — in Brentwood (the original), Creve Coeur, Des Peres and Chesterfield. The grocery shelves won't have everything on your shopping… More >>
  • Best Meat Counter

    Mateker's Meat & Catering

    Mateker's is a mecca of meat, a place where all forms of flesh are cut, cured and combined for your gustatory pleasure. Hidden away in a little slab of south county not far from the behemoth Ronnie's 20 Cine, Mateker's trumps its competitors with not one, not two, but three meat counters: one for slabs of ribs and thick, marbled… More >>
  • Best Diner

    Café Manhattan

    People say they go to diners for different reasons, whether it's for the like-they've-always-known-you service, a dinner so good Grandma could've made it or a cure for that wretched hangover. Yet no matter what specifically motivates folks, they truly hit up these home-style spots for the comfort — and is Café Manhattan comfy! This diner has been filling plates since… More >>
  • Best Fresh Seafood Counter

    Olive Farmers Market (Olive Supermarket)

    Peruse most any seafood counter in our third-coast city and you're likely to find a few formerly frozen salmon steaks, a cut or two of graying ahi tuna and the cloudy-eyed remains of a few river fish. Not so the seafood counter at Olive Farmers Market. On any given day, a visit to this Chinatown stalwart yields aquariums filled with… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Fatter

    Tiffany's Original Diner

    This city has plenty of greasy spoons, but there is one destination that, ahem, takes the cake. Tiffany's Diner in Maplewood is a pint-size slice of deep-fried Americana. The diner is open 24/7 and the employees put on a show all day long. Here you are guaranteed a heaping helping of Attitude Problem from a beehive-headed waitress. (It's OK, a… More >>
  • Best Cheese Counter

    The Wine Merchant

    There are many places to buy cheese in St. Louis. But at most of them, a question like "What's the difference between Stilton and Kraft Blue Cheese Crumbles?" would probably classify as a stumper. That's why we love the Wine Merchant. We've been known to while away an hour at the Wine Merchant's cheese counter, talking (and tasting) cheese —… More >>
  • Best Italian Restaurant (Cheap)

    Guido's Pizzeria & Tapas

    Forget for a moment that Guido's cooks up some of the best, most authentic Spanish dishes in town. (It's hard, we know. Try hypnosis, if necessary.) The Carreteros may originally be from Madrid, but they happen to serve pasta dishes as tasty as just about anything you'll find on the Hill — tasty and cheap. A dish of spaghetti is… More >>
  • Best Farmers' Market

    Ferguson Farmers' Market

    A perfect Saturday morning of errand-running between April and October begins at the Ferguson Farmers' Market, a mile or so north of I-70 on South Florissant Road. There, next to the gazebo on the Ferguson Victorian Plaza, awaits the bounty picked just a few hours prior by at least a dozen local farmers. From sunflower shoots to black raspberries, zucchini… More >>
  • Best Italian Restaurant (Not Cheap)


    Step through the front door of Acero and you might think you've left sleepy downtown Maplewood for one of New York City's hippest 'hoods. The unflappable hostess telling you there will be a wait. The bustling, black-clad waiters. The noise. Yeah, Acero's loud, but everyone's talking about the food — Italian cuisine unlike anything else you'll see in St. Louis.… More >>
  • Best Takeout Counter (Grocery Division)

    Whole Foods Market

    So you're having a dinner party. During past forays into entertaining, your sole consideration was whether your guests preferred sausage or pepperoni. Drink options? PBR and Busch — if they were lucky. But your relationship with the pizza-delivery guy has become strained recently, and the cheap beers just aren't going down as easily as they used to. You want to… More >>
  • Best Greek Restaurant

    Olympia Kebob House & Taverna

    Sometimes restaurants, not unlike a partner of many years, still have the power to surprise from time to time. Olympia Kebob House is such a restaurant. You could order nothing but the flaming kasseri cheese and a gyro or shish kebab and baba gannoujh and dolmades for the rest of your days and be perfectly content, but if you're a… More >>
  • Best Takeout Counter (Gourmet Division)

    The Smokehouse Market

    The Smokehouse Market nearly drowned in the great flood of 1993. Now it's sitting on top of the world, with a selection of cheeses, meats and its signature sauces so good that you'd drive from anywhere else in the metro area all the way out to Chesterfield without thinking twice. Those who live in Chesterfield are especially lucky: For them… More >>
  • Best Middle-Eastern Restaurant

    Café Natasha's Kabob International

    Why isn't Persian cuisine better known? It's elegant, sophisticated and delicious. All three attributes are on display at Café Natasha's Kabob International. Those with a taste for Middle-Eastern cuisine will find excellent falafel, hummus and baba gannoujh, but husband-and-wife owners Behshid and Hamish Bahrami will reward the adventurous spirit. From simple kashke-bademjune (like baba gannoujh, a dip made from eggplant,… More >>
  • Best Delicatessen

    McLozzi Deli & Marketplace

    Here's a good rule of thumb: Don't trust a deli that doesn't make a good sandwich. McLozzi Deli & Marketplace — named for its location at the corner of McNair Avenue and Pestalozzi Street in Benton Park — makes a damn good sandwich. Several of them, in fact, including a delicious grilled Italian cold-cut sandwich and the "Gobbler," a turkey-cranberry… More >>
  • Best Bosnian Restaurant


    "Bigger is better" has never been our motto here at Best-Of HQ. We seek treasure in the tiniest nooks and find greatness in the itty-bittiest crannies. But part of Grbic's charm owes to its sheer size. While most ginormous restaurants are unpleasant locales like industrial cafeterias and all-you-shouldn't-eat buffets, Grbic is simultaneously spacious and utterly warm. The Grbic family had… More >>
  • Best Whole Roast Chicken

    La Tropicana Market & Cafe - CLOSED

    Chicken: a domestic fowl developed for its eggs, feathers and juicy flesh. Mojo: Cuba's signature marinade, existing in many variations and subject to the whims of its creator, but often including garlic, jalapeño, scallion, lime, cayenne, cumin, sour orange juice and vinegar. Whole roast chicken con mojo ($6.99) by the Trabanco family of La Tropicana Market & Café in the… More >>
  • Best Tapas/Small Plates


    Chef Kevin WillmannEmploys the "small plates" conceptTo its best effect.His dishes aren't mereAppetizers disguised asTapas or small plates.He treats each like aMiniature work of art:Plump cubes of tuna,Sushi-grade, served witha streak of truffled mustardflecked with balsamicCandied into specks,The autumnal colors likeA Rothko painting.Or a pair of soups:Corn and fennel, tomatoAnd garlic. Both thickAnd brightly colored,One strong and verdant, the otherMild,… More >>
  • Best Asian Market

    Seafood City

    Unless you have a passing knowledge of how to read Chinese, Thai or Korean, your typical Asian market can be a tad intimidating. In this respect, Seafood City is no different: It has aisle after aisle of jars filled with slightly menacing pastes cryptically labeled with names like "Sauteed Shrimp Fry." Then there are the vegetables — leafy, bulbous and… More >>
  • Best Mexican Restaurant

    Señor Pique

    So you want to eat at an authentic Mexican restaurant. Your friends would like a place that caters to American taste. You can waste time arguing among yourselves, or you can head to Señor Pique, which is a great Mexican restaurant and a great "Mexican" restaurant. An "M" next to a dish on the menu denotes an authentic dish: tacos… More >>
  • Best Bagels

    Companion Baking

    Bagels must be big; it's one of the rules. Here's a quick test: if you think a bagel is kind of big, then it isn't big. Likewise, a bagel must be dense without being heavy, and chewy without being sticky. You must have stamina to eat it, but not get tired. Companion Baking, in operation since 1993, understands the fine… More >>
  • Best Taqueria

    La Vallesana - CLOSED

    La Vallesana packs some of the tastiest — and cheapest — food in St. Louis into a squat structure not much bigger than your average backyard shed. Here you can feast on the best tacos in town, bar none. Several different meats are available, but the absolute best taco you will eat in your life is the taco al pastor:… More >>
  • Best Doughnuts

    Eddie's Southtown Donuts

    South city is a haven for doughnut lovers. Within a three-mile radius, one can pick from such long-john luminaries as World's Fair Doughnuts, O'Fashion Donuts and Donut Drive-In. While those mainstays are all dandy, there's a new kid in the neighborhood. Tucked away in the Southtown neighborhood, Eddie's is the most recent addition to the roster of south-city purveyors of… More >>
  • Best Place to Eat Out with Grandpa


    If there is one person who likes to keep it real, it's Grandpa. He's been known to smack strangers with his cane. Anyone under age 50's a "whippersnapper." Grandpa don't take no shit. Neither does Eat-Rite. St. Louis' most storied diner is about as real as you can get, with no-nonsense servers, honest deep-fried everything and prices to match. The… More >>
  • Best Baklava

    Al-Tarboush Deli

    As the novice pastry chef will quickly learn, phyllo, a.k.a. the flaky part of baklava, is the temperamental genius of the baking world. Working with the difficult dough can be quite frustrating: Is it moist enough? Is it too moist? Is it chilled? Or should it be a little less chilled? And don't even get us started on the layers....… More >>
  • Best Place to Eat Out Alone


    "Are you having dinner at the bar tonight?" Owner Jean Donnelly's question never fails to surprise. Of course you're having dinner at the bar. As usual, the restaurant's packed, and you're too self-conscious to request a table for one. But Donnelly's welcoming smile makes you feel like the pater familias of a four-top from Ladue, and her enthusiasm for your… More >>
  • Best Bakery

    The Cupcakery

    It's been years — years — since other urban dwellers have benefited from the cupcake craze launched by New York City's famed Magnolia Bakery. Now, at last, cupcakes take St. Louis, with thanks to baker Nicole Panepinto. She and co-owner Ericka Frank have enjoyed several years of success with special orders at Frank's Dogtown bakery, the Cakery, and decided to… More >>
  • Best Seafood Restaurant

    Wapango - CLOSED

    Tired of shrimp cocktail, grilled salmon and crab cakes chock-full o' filler? Shake up your seafood routine at this pan-Latin restaurant. A ceviche of ahi tuna will spark your taste buds with its mixture of tart lime, fresh tuna, coconut milk, pickled onions and cilantro. Tired of tuna? There's also a ceviche featuring the fresh fish of the day. Fans… More >>
  • Best Bread


    Here's the good news about Breadsmith: Every day brings a new loaf (raisin cinnamon, honey oat, honey whole wheat, rosemary garlic ciabatta, Asiago cheese, gluten-free, Greek olive, and more and more). Every day features the wildly popular apple pie bread, a lip-smacking, calorie-loaded concoction whose every ounce lives up to its sinful-sounding promise. And, every day — all day —… More >>
  • Best Power Lunch

    Bristol Seafood Grill

    When one thinks of "power lunching" in St. Louis, a few well-known names spring to mind: Cardwell's, Kitchen K, Kemoll's. For those who work in the Westport area and its environs, though, Bristol Seafood Grill tops the roster of places at which to woo out-of-town clients, talk serious business or reward overworked office minions. Low lighting, simple yet elegant décor… More >>
  • Best Local Honey

    Gibbons Bee Farm

    If you come across a honeybee in St. Louis County, it might well belong to Sharon Gibbons. The sixtysomething beekeeper has more than 150 hives scattered around the county: in back yards, near streams, on the edges of fields and on working farms. The result? A toothsome honey heady with clover and alfalfa. Gibbons also offers a full line of… More >>
  • Best Primal Eating Experience

    Tamarind Crab
    Kim Son Vietnamese Bistro

    Order the tamarind crab (cua rang me) at Kim Son Vietnamese Bistro, and the kitchen does some of the dirty work for you. Though the plump Dungeness crab appears to be whole when it arrives at your table, the shell has been separated from the body, and the body split to reveal the hunk of snow-white meat attached to each… More >>
  • Best Coffee

    Chauvin Coffee

    In the early 20th century, St. Louis was as much a coffee town as it was a beer town. Makes sense: Put away a few too many barley pops at night and you're bound to require a caffeine jolt in the morning. But while the A-B eagle spread its wings across the whole dang globe and microbreweries like Schlafly ascended… More >>
  • Best Steak House

    Mike Shannon's Steaks & Seafood

    Look: Most steak houses are the same at heart. Steaks. Potatoes. Salads. The rest is just atmosphere. And frankly, the stuffy, men's-clubby atmosphere of most steak houses is too much for us. Give us the raucous postgame crowd at Mike Shannon's, the air thick with hatred for the Cubs, a medium-rare steak on our plate. If the Cards are out… More >>
  • Best Tea


    The great sage Lao Tzu referred to tea as "the froth of the liquid jade." Lao Tzu was a romantic. Up until World War II, tea bricks (densely compressed blocks of tea leaves) were still used as currency among the nomadic peoples of Siberia. Clearly, the Siberians are a pragmatic people. At Cornucopia, the tea lover finds that romance and… More >>
  • Best Vegetarian Restaurant

    Crazy Bowls & Wraps

    Can a chain restaurant that serves chicken, beef and fish wear the crown of vegetarian eateries? If that chain restaurant specializes in fresh vegetables accompanied by beans, rice and tofu, yes. Crazy Bowls & Wraps has been marching across the metro area like a, well, like a popular fast-food chain, and that's actually a good thing. St. Louis has one… More >>
  • Best U-Pick

    Lakeview Farms

    Lakeview Farms, a sunny spot out where St. Peters meets O'Fallon, is a family-oriented U-Pick, with raspberries as big as quarters...strawberries the size of tennis balls...pumpkins that peak at the knees. The cook of the family gets to forage for Lakeview Farms' luscious bounty and consult "Farmer Carl's" favorite recipes while the kids whip through the corn maze and straw… More >>
  • Best Service in a Restaurant

    Trattoria Toscana

    It's not often your server gives you her business card. Her head shot, maybe. A flier for her day job walking dogs or selling stuff on eBay. But if Jackie waits on you at Trattoria Toscana, she just might hand you a business card with her name embossed below the restaurant's. "Ask for me the next time you're here." You… More >>
  • Best Smoothie

    St. Louis Smoothie

    Very soon you and the rest of us will be using alternate routes. We'll be spending more time on the road, which means eating right and exercising are bound to be sacrificed. Dunno about you, but rather than expanding our waistline along with our familiarity with creative ways to get to the office, we're gonna devote more attention to the… More >>
  • Best Sommelier

    Chris Hoel

    Cocky though he may come across, Chris Hoel does sport this town's million-dollar nose. One of only two St. Louis sommeliers certified "Advanced" by the London-based Court of Master Sommeliers, the 33-year-old took a crack at becoming the world's 125th "Master" this past March. Alas, Hoel didn't pass the exam — which covers wine, spirits, cigars and waters — but… More >>
  • Best Milkshake

    City Diner

    City Diner's rich, creamy, thick (but not too thick) hand-dipped milkshakes prove that when life sucks, all you need is a straw. To learn what flavors are available, just ask your server. Syrups can range from hazelnut, Irish cream and caramel to raspberry, watermelon and orange. Stick with classic vanilla, chocolate or strawberry, or step outside your safety zone and… More >>
  • Best Wine List in a Restaurant


    Acero's wine list isn't comprehensive. Every wine offered at this fantastic new Italian restaurant hails from Italy. That's the beauty, though. Rather than force you to choose from a bewildering variety of varietals and producers, or allow you to fall back on a reliable favorite, Acero's list focuses your attention on the extraordinary diversity of Italian wine. You'll find wines… More >>
  • Best Alternative to a Milkshake

    Avocado Juice

    It's a little hard to wrap your head around the idea of avocado juice. "How can you juice an avocado?" we wondered, but we were too intrigued by the table of Ethiopian soccer players eagerly gulping (or shall we say, slurping, not without difficulty) them down not to try a glass of the cool green...slime? It might look like grocery-store… More >>
  • Best Restaurant for a First Date

    Eleven Eleven Mississippi

    We don't have to tell you how important a first date is. But we will anyway: The night sets the tone for the second, third and fourth outings (if things go well), and if things go really well, this date could be something you both talk about for the rest of your lives. You need to make it unforgettable. And… More >>
  • Best Chocolate

    Bissinger's: A Chocolate Experience

    There are no accidents at Bissinger's, only calculated choco-crimes. On a recent evening, a friend had the nerve to suggest otherwise: "I accidentally ate your half of that truffle." Our hostility over the pilfered confection (a dark-chocolate Champagne truffle, to be precise) was mitigated, somewhat, by the fact that we were sitting at a table absolutely covered with decadent desserts.… More >>
  • Best Desserts

    Jasminka Homemade Cakes

    Jasminka Malnar used to bring her homemade cakes to work. Her co-workers raved. They raved so much, in fact, that Malnar decided to open her own bakery. Now you can see for yourself how fantastic her desserts are: Bosnian sweets so rich and decadent that you should probably plan on only a (very) light meal before indulging in one (or… More >>
  • Best Frozen Custard

    Silky's Frozen Custard

    If you turn a Silky's concrete upside down, will the custard stay in the cup? Uh, who cares? Why risk spilling such an awesome dessert? Dessert — or dinner, because your average Silky's concrete is thick enough to serve as a meal. Silky's menu offers more than a few ways to pimp out your concrete. The "Elvis Pretzely" gives you… More >>
  • Best Music to Dine By

    Dewey's Pizza

    A meal at Dewey's is like an afternoon spent with your college roommate's CD collection. We know. College students don't collect CDs anymore. That's the point. Dewey's music suggests a distinct personality — someone who came of age in the 1990s, when the tunes of Ben Folds seemed edgy in a nerdy kind of way, and you could still say… More >>
  • Best Ice Cream Parlor

    Crown Candy Kitchen

    Crown Candy Kitchen has been a treasure trove for sweet-toothed St. Louisans (and a nightmare for the city's more self-righteous dentists) for nearly a century now, but the north-side landmark wears its age well. Squeeze into one of the small booths and read how Harry Karandzieff and Pete Jugaloff founded Crown Candy Kitchen in 1913. It's still a family affair,… More >>
  • Best Dinner Theater

    Lucas Park Grille

    You never know what show you'll see at the hottest of Washington Avenue's hot spots. The ribald adventures of a bride-to-be and her bachelorette party favors? A comedy of manners about someone's wiggling rear and its proximity to your $30 entrée? A tragic tale of convention attendees drunk on Bud Select and ogling women half their ages? A triple bill,… More >>
  • Best Décor

    Wapango - CLOSED

    Even before you step inside the front door, you know Wapango won't be anything like the shopping mall that surrounds it: Spheres streaked with glowing light sit outside the restaurant's patio. Inside, a strange picket fence-like structure cuts a large swath across the massive space. Behind the picket fence is a row of invitingly cushy booths, behind those a dining… More >>
  • Best Comeback


    Don't call it a comeback? Balaban's been here for years? Well, yeah. That's sort of the point. When Brendan Marsden (of Modesto) and his partner Harlee Sorkin bought the Central West End institution late last year, they could have banked on the inertia of the past three and a half decades. Instead they gave the place a much-needed sprucing-up and… More >>
  • Best Never Left

    Harvest - CLOSED

    How long has Harvest been open? A few weeks? A couple of months? No — longer than that. Dinner there runs much too smoothly for the restaurant to be brand new. The servers know the menu and the wine list. Courses are perfectly staggered. Dessert isn't a tacked-on afterthought. It's divine. Six months old, then? Or maybe a year? It… More >>
  • Best Restaurant to Die in the Past 12 Months

    King Louie's

    King Louie's, located improbably but splendidly amid a scrappy swath of Chouteau Avenue just west of 39th Street, would have celebrated its 13th anniversary this fall. Would have... Should have... With its outdoor brick oven, top-flight wine cellar, expert wait staff, charming bartenders and pioneering focus (around these parts, anyway) on local ingredients, it's a stretch to believe that the… More >>

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