Food & Drink

  • Best Local Chef

    Kevin Willmann

    What do you need to be a topnotch chef? A fancy, cutting-edge kitchen? A corps of a dozen line cooks at your beck and call? Prime real estate in a major metropolitan area? None of the above, if you're Kevin Willmann. In a kitchen that makes a freshman dorm room look expansive, in a restaurant a half-hour's drive from downtown… More >>
  • Best Place to Eat Out with Grandpa

    First Watch

    Granted, it's fairly easy to please Gramps — 'specially when you're around. Bring up a brunch date to First Watch and he's all ears. Even though in his day all restaurants served steaks and whiskey around the clock, he'll marvel at how tight this corporate ship is run on its 7 a.m.-to-2:30 p.m. shift. Moreover, the expeditious delivery of perfectly… More >>
  • Best Restaurant for a First Date

    Il Vicino - CLOSED

    You've known the guy sitting across from you at Il Vicino for about ten minutes now, not counting the brief, slightly drunken conversation at another bar a week ago when you gave him your phone number, or the awkward handshake before the two of you walked in. You're seated on the surprisingly quiet street-side patio and apropos of nothing he… More >>
  • Best Power Lunch

    Mike Shannon's Steaks & Seafood

    A lot of St. Louisans, especially the kind who like to wash a Cardinals game down with Jäger bombs, think of Mike Shannon's as an after-party. Others, especially the kind who drive all the way from the county to see their beloved Cardinals, think of it for a pregame happy hour. But there's a whole Rolex-and-Brooks Brothers crowd that only… More >>
  • Best Ladies Who Lunch Restaurant

    The Zodiac (in Neiman Marcus)

    The runners at the Zodiac have a magical phrase: "Would you care for another popover, madam?" Because one popover at the Zodiac never, ever suffices. A pillow of warmth and egg accompanied by a ramekin of strawberry butter, the amuse-bouche — poof! — disappears as magically and expeditiously as it arrived, even among the ladies who lunch. Which is one… More >>
  • Best Lunch Counter

    Shapiro's Market

    From the street, Shapiro's looks like any other neighborhood grocery store, save for one thing: a crusted propane barbecue that steams eternally on the sidewalk. Work your way through the sparse shelves to the back of the shop; there you'll find the cheapest, tastiest menu in the city. Pulled-pork sandwiches, so drenched with sauce you're forced to eat the soaked… More >>
  • Best Breakfast

    The Kaffee Haus at Schneithorst's

    Let's face it. Breakfast is, if not an entirely dead meal, at least one that's on life support. Honestly, there are basically two times nowadays when people go out to breakfast. One, when you want to have a meal with parents (or grandparents) without eating into what little weekend there is; and two, when you want to thank someone for… More >>
  • Best Pie

    The Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery

    With the rising cost of gas, a Sunday drive isn't just a pleasure excursion anymore, it's an investment. If you're going to put your capital into ten dollars' worth of gas, it had better pay off some serious returns. It must be said that Mary Hostetter's pies at Kimmswick's Blue Owl are more of a liquid asset than a security;… More >>
  • Best Diner

    Tiffany's Original Diner

    Tiffany's Original Diner is a true diner: A little greasy and a lot smoky, equipped with an old-school jukebox, it's got a long and narrow counter, vinyl-covered stools and only a couple of tables and chairs. The menu is the best kind of diner fare, with hotcakes and tuna melts and grilled-cheese galore, while the coffee is classic greasy spoon:… More >>
  • Best Fast Food

    Lion's Choice

    In these fast-casual times, it's easier than ever to condemn straight-ahead fast food as "unhealthy" or "greasy." But we come from a generation that was raised on the stuff! We can't deny our roots now, at least not forever. Whether we like it or not, we need fast food. We need it on road trips, we need it when we're… More >>
  • Best Sunday Brunch

    La Dolce Via - CLOSED

    Although the decadent brownies and cakes sold at La Dolce Via ensure that the restaurant lives up to its name — translation: "the sweet way" — the corner spot's weekend brunch menu really hits the sweet spot. A bowl of peaches and cream is sublime; the tartness of the fruit only faintly muted by the rich dairy. Blueberry pancakes are… More >>
  • Best Burger

    Newstead Tower Public House - CLOSED

    The key to the hamburger is the hamburger. If that's not a Zen koan, it should be. Too many burger joints view the humble patty — which, you know, just so happens to be a cornerstone of American culture — as a vacant lot on which they can build terrifying towers of caloric excess. (Yes, we're looking at you, Thickburger.)… More >>
  • Best Dim Sum

    LuLu Seafood Restaurant

    When enjoying the dim sum at LuLu Seafood Restaurant, it's best to consider the philosophical musings of Friedrich Nietzsche. Wait! Come back! We promise there won't be a quiz. You see, Nietzsche was intrigued by the idea of eternal recurrence. Everything that happens, happens again and again, ad infinitum. What does this have to do with dim sum? Well, it's… More >>
  • Best Burger (Non-Beef Division)

    Veggie Burger

    Every once in a while, just about any vegetarian craves meat: hot dogs, hamburgers, even — gasp! — beef jerky. Said vegetarians are thankful for MoKaBe's housemade veggie burger. Sure, lots of joints offer veggie burgers these days — gritty patties so dry they fall apart with each bite or made with a random mix of grains that taste like… More >>
  • Best New Restaurant

    Pappy's Smokehouse

    Winning sports teams often cite "chemistry" among the players as a reason for their success. The metaphor works for restaurants, too. In fact, Pappy's Smokehouse can credit actual chemistry — you know, the subject you slept through in high school — for being named Best New Restaurant. After all, what is barbecue but the most delicious and, in its own… More >>
  • Best Place for Late-Night Dining

    The U - CLOSED

    It is a universally acknowledged truth that a night owl with the munchies must be in need of cheese fries. Jane Austen said something along those lines, and who are we to argue? It is also a universally acknowledged truth that late-night diners aren't exactly gunning for salads and smoothies when the clock strikes midnight — it's gotta be hot,… More >>
  • Best Spring Rolls

    Banh Mi So #1 — Saigon Gourmet

    Stop! Bite! Look! Three words for judging spring rolls. Stop! Don't dunk them in that over-sweet chili concoction. Cheap rolls are packed with vermicelli noodles — little mop heads soaking up sauce. Bite! The rice paper should be al dente; firm, but you shouldn't have to gnash your teeth to get through. You should feel the pop of springtime in… More >>
  • Best French Fries

    Off the Vine

    The French fries at Off the Vine are made from potatoes cut by hand, by which virtue alone they enter the upper echelon of St. Louis fries. Still, that doesn't guarantee a topnotch fry, so the kitchen makes sure to cook them to a medium golden-brown, crisp on the outside and tender-fluffy within, and season them with salt, pepper and… More >>
  • Best Tapas/Small Plates


    Modesto might be big enough to hold a half-dozen authentic Spanish tapas bars, but it captures the tapas spirit nonetheless. The dishes are delicious, the drinks — the sangria, especially — flow with ease and the atmosphere is exceptionally laid-back. Modesto is about having a great time with friends. It helps that chef Grace Dinsmoor turns out the best Spanish… More >>
  • Best Outdoor Dining

    Sasha's Wine Bar and Market

    With all due respect to the robin, we have another candidate for first sign of spring: the inaugural al fresco meal at Sasha's Wine Bar and Market. As soon as the mercury breaks 70 degrees, we snag a seat on this picture-perfect patio. The thoughtful wine list — with a broader and deeper by-the-glass selection than most other places in… More >>
  • Best Hot Dog

    Pam's Chicago Style Dogs & More

    Pam's offers thirteen different dogs to choose from. The one that bears the restaurant's name, the Chicago-style hot dog, is served on a poppy-seed bun and topped with peppers, a pickle, neon-green relish and chopped onions. This busy and bizarre concoction is what they eat at Wrigley Field. Since there's no such thing as a St. Louis-style sausage that you… More >>
  • Best Place to get Fatter

    The Juniper Grill

    The most popular appetizer on the menu at the Juniper Grill, the one that they always dish up each year for the Taste of Soulard festival, is the stuffed pasta shells. What this dish consists of is large pasta shells, stuffed with a mixture of goat cheese, crawfish and andouille sausage, all covered in a cream- and tomato-based Cajun-style sauce.… More >>
  • Best Desserts

    Niche and Veruca

    "Pastry chef" seems an inadequate title for Mathew Rice, who masterminds the desserts at the Benton Park restaurant Niche and its new, adjacent bakeshop, Veruca. "Mastermind" works — though that too seems to miss something essential about Rice's baking. His desserts plug into someplace deep in the unconscious, where the simple pleasures of our childhood reside: tollhouse cookies, Hostess snack… More >>
  • Best Condiments

    Dirty Dogz

    It began as an attempt to differentiate his business from the dozens of similar hot-dog stands inside area Home Depot and Lowe's stores. It grew into an obsession. Four years ago Jason Gaines opened his first stand in the Chesterfield Valley Home Depot with the then-novel selection of ten mustards, three varieties of ketchup and ten assorted hot sauces. Soon… More >>
  • Best Place to Wait for a Table

    Onesto Pizza & Trattoria

    Onesto has been open for barely half a year, and already it's well on its way to becoming a St. Louis favorite for tasty pizzas, pastas and sandwiches. Word quickly got out that the restaurant, tucked away in a residential area of the Southampton neighborhood, was a gem. On a weeknight a table is fairly easy to snag, but on… More >>
  • Best Sushi

    Yoshi's Japanese Sushi Restaurant

    Those of us who love Yoshi's but live in the city were dealt a double blow this year: the closure of Highway 40 and the spiking of gas prices. No matter. We added an extra half-hour to our allotted driving time and skimped on the extras (electricity, water) to pay for fuel. Yoshio Aoki's restaurant is worth it. There is… More >>
  • Best Barbecue

    Pappy's Smokehouse

    The most important thing at Pappy's Smokehouse — after the smoker, of course — is the dry-erase board. Here the restaurant lists which meats have sold out for the day. You see, owner Mike Emerson doesn't believe you should reheat barbecue. He wants you to have Pappy's pulled pork or pork ribs or beef brisket at its best or not… More >>
  • Best Cheesesteak

    9th Street Deli

    The secret to a great cheesesteak hides in plain sight, on the shelves of your local grocery store or maybe even in your own pantry. It's OK. Don't be embarrassed. Shout your love of Cheez Whiz from the rooftops. Or visit 9th Street Deli and order the "Just Like Philly" cheesesteak, which pairs tender steak with the velvety processed cheese… More >>
  • Best Service in a Restaurant

    Gian-Tony's Ristorante

    You don't notice the best service. It is quiet, self-effacing. Your server recites the day's specials letter-perfect while uncorking and pouring a taste of your wine. You don't even realize that he has replaced your knife between courses until you see him walking away, your old, dirty knife in his hand. He (or she) is formal, but never snooty. He… More >>
  • Best Taqueria

    Taqueria la Pasadita

    Cherokee Street rightfully receives attention as the epicenter of St. Louis' small but mighty taqueria scene, yet Taqueria la Pasadita — inside a renovated north-county Taco Bell — more than holds its own. Both tacos and tortas (the latter are traditional, overstuffed Mexican sandwiches) are excellent. You can choose any of the available meats without worry, but try at least… More >>
  • Best Soul Food Restaurant

    Sweetie Pie's

    Robbie Montgomery's mac 'n' cheese is better than your mom's, but you don't have to tell Mom that. What she doesn't know won't hurt her, and this isn't even the first time you've cheated on her with your newfound sweetie pie, and it won't be the last. You tried to resist the allure of this affair, but you can't stop… More >>
  • Best Restaurant to Die in the Past Year

    Big V's Burger Joint

    Cardiologists everywhere breathed a sigh of relief last November when Big V's Burger Joint closed its doors for good. Actually, Big V's didn't have doors. That was part of its charm. One of several small eateries inside University City's now-defunct indoor Market in the Loop, Big V's wasn't much more than a cash register and a couple of grills, but… More >>
  • Best Gooey Butter Cake

    Park Avenue Coffee

    Of all the foods native to St. Louis, gooey butter cake requires the least explanation to outsiders. Toasted ravioli isn't really toasted, you see, it's deep-fried. Provel, that controversial amalgamation of cheeses, has inspired more angry letters to the editor of this newspaper than any other local news issue. And ah, the sweet mysteries of the slinger and the St.… More >>
  • Best Vegetarian Restaurant

    Raj's Rasoi

    For those who abstain from meat and dairy, spotting "vegan" on a menu in this city is a rarity. Yet open one at Raj's Rasoi, an all-vegetarian Indian eatery, and the word is listed more than a dozen times. Tucked in a corner of Maryland Heights, the humble environs might fool an out-of-the-loop passerby. Looks, though, aren't everything. When owner-chef… More >>
  • Best Way to Ward off Vampires

    Shish Taouk

    Tornadoes, floods, thunderstorms, palm-size mosquitoes: You know just how to react when any of these familiar aspects of nature are threatening you. But what about lesser-known dangers? The news certainly can't cover them all, and you don't want to be caught unawares if, say, there's a vampire outbreak. You're definitely not interested in becoming one of those creatures of the… More >>
  • Best Dining Destination

    Edwardsville, Illinois

    A pleasant drive from the city, Edwardsville is a picturesque college town that just happens to be home to one of the area's best restaurants. Erato (126 N. Main St.; 618-307-3203; features the cooking of Kevin Willmann: inventive in design, beautiful on the plate and outright delicious from first bite through dessert. Erato alone is worth a trip, but… More >>
  • Best Steak House

    Sleek - CLOSED

    The steak house has experienced quite a resurgence in recent years. This shouldn't be so surprising. Americans love few things more than a thick, juicy grilled steak. What might surprise you is the look of the new steak house. The new steak house isn't the traditional wood-paneled, leather-upholstered temple of meat, where tuxedo-clad waiters show you platters of raw steaks… More >>
  • Best Pizza (Thin Crust)

    Dewey's Pizza

    Sorry, St. Louis-style fans. Cincinnati is the place to be. That's where Andrew DeWitt — yes, yes, of those DeWitts — opened the first Dewey's Pizza. Since then the small chain has spread throughout Ohio and, thankfully, to St. Louis as well. There's no great secret to Dewey's success, just great pies, great service and — thanks to a music… More >>
  • Best Pizza (Thick Crust)


    When Chris Sommers and Frank Uible decided to open a pizzeria in St. Louis, they didn't look to the usual suspects for inspiration. No New York thin crust or Chicago deep-dish for them. And certainly no St. Louis-style pie. Instead they purchased the rights to the crust recipe from a San Francisco restaurant called Little Star. It's a deep-dish crust,… More >>
  • Best Restaurant When Someone Else Pays


    Everything about the new Four Seasons Hotel is exceptional and elevated to new heights: the hospitality, the amenities and, well, the price. But dinner at Cielo is worth the hefty price tag. (And hey, you're not paying.) After all, you don't just go to Cielo, you ascend to it — through the minimalist Four Seasons foyer that looks more like… More >>
  • Best Old-School Pizza Experience

    Pantera's Pizza

    There are no stuffed-crust options, no cheesy breadsticks, no be-fudged monstrosity at Pantera's Pizza. There is a deep wooden bench the length of the front window where you wait for your order, right near the charity gumball machine. For entertainment you can read the current Cardinals schedule, affixed to the wall near said gumball machine — unless it's hockey season,… More >>
  • Best Seafood Restaurant


    Obvious statement No. 1: Unless you count prairie oysters, the Midwest is not a region celebrated for its seafood. Obvious statement No. 2: We live in an age of speedy transportation and efficient refrigeration. Obvious statement No. 3: Too few restaurants in St. Louis bother to take advantage of the wonders of our modern age. And then there is SqWires.… More >>
  • Best Chain Restaurant

    Penn Station

    If you're sick of Jared and his eternal fat-gram count, head to any of Penn Station's sixteen locations in the St. Louis area. The chain was founded by a Buckeye who took a tour of east-coast sub shops and endeavored to bring home the best elements: sizzling Philly cheesesteaks and fresh-squeezed lemonade, like you might find on some beachfront boardwalk.… More >>
  • Best Roast Beef Sandwich

    Pickles Deli

    Catering as it does to the metro area's most cosmopolitan population, the Central West End has always been a decent place to sample global cuisine. But the lowly American deli sandwich? Not so much. Which is why it came as such welcome news last year that meat lovers Tim Metz and Sean Olson had decided to debut Pickles Deli, and… More >>
  • Best Decor


    Want your restaurant to have that cosmopolitan sparkle? Hire a design firm from New York City. That's what the brains behind Araka, Clayton's terrific Southern European restaurant, did. And the Big Apple's David Schefer Design turned out one of St. Louis' most striking spaces since — well, ever. The exterior is deceptively simple: black-frame windows and black awnings that follow… More >>
  • Best Chinese Restaurant

    House of Wong

    In the past, the false promise of the ubiquitous $6 Chinese lunch would get us every time. Logically, we knew it was virtually impossible to get so much — entrée, soup and fortune cookie — for so little without cutting a few corners. And still, somehow, we'd be shocked when we received our plate of grease floating in oil accompanied… More >>
  • Best Bread

    The Daily Bread Bakery & Café

    Sometimes an empty feeling can be a good one to have, especially if it comes at the end of an epic journey, one on which, say, you've been searching for the perfect loaf of bread for months on end, walk into yet another bakery and search for the sourdough, and, well — oh, my!!! — you're looking at a lot… More >>
  • Best Wine List in a Restaurant


    There is a wine list at Starrs, but you don't need to see it. This restaurant is attached to a wine shop (Starrs Market), after all. Arrive early for dinner and peruse owner Bud Starr's wide and deep retail selection, which covers the expected regions and varietals without looking like it was copied out of a distributors' catalog. You can… More >>
  • Best Greek Restaurant

    Spiro's Chesterfield

    Harry and Agnes Karagiannis have operated Spiro's in Chesterfield (the Karagiannis family empire includes another Spiro's in St. Charles, as well as various steak houses) since the early 1980s. The authentic Greek cuisine and hallmark exemplary service have reeled in regulars over the years. The result is an interesting amalgam of neighborhood eatery, fine dining and family tradition. A typical… More >>
  • Best Bakery

    222 Artisan Bakery

    Three cheers for three twos: 222 Artisan Bakery is worth the drive to Edwardsville. Plan a Saturday morning around the trip, but don't dawdle: the bakery closes at noon on Saturday. Or play hooky from work. You won't be disappointed, whether you're starting your day with a cup of one of 222's terrific single-origin or blended coffees (sold as Goshen… More >>
  • Best Beer Selection in a Restaurant

    The Shaved Duck

    Where do you find the beer list in most St. Louis restaurants? On the last page of the wine list — if you're lucky. More often than not, it exists only in your server's brain. It's not too tough, after all, to commit to memory a "selection" of Bud, Bud Light and Bud Select. A server might try to memorize… More >>
  • Best Restaurant Trend


    It would be easy to feel pessimistic about the St. Louis dining scene. The economy is in rough shape — thanks in no small part to the sharp rise in the cost of milk, corn and other staple foods — and if another year has seen more restaurants close, we don't remember it. Even such institutions as Busch's Grove and… More >>
  • Best Bagels

    Pratzel's Bakery - CLOSED

    A real bagel, a true bagel, is made with yeast and malt, and — and this is perhaps most crucial of all — is boiled before it is baked. That's right: The dough, after being allowed to rise, should be dropped into boiling water. Anything else is just round bread with a hole in the center. For a real bagel,… More >>
  • Best Mexican Restaurant

    Taqueria los Tarascos - CLOSED

    What's the easiest way to find great Mexican food in St. Louis? Well, first thing you do is head for the airport. That's not a punch line. Woodson Terrace, the small municipality located immediately south of Lambert Field — seriously: the runways are a brisk walk to the north — is home to the fantastic Taqueria los Tarascos. Don't let… More >>
  • Best Barista

    Eric Schaefer

    How many baristas can say they actually roasted the French roast being sipped by their customers? In St. Louis, Eric Schaefer of the Central West End branch of Northwest Coffee Roasters might be the only one. Three days a week Schaefer tends to the shop's antique German roasting machine, feeding batches of green coffee beans into the cooker and listening… More >>
  • Best Doughnuts

    Mini Donuts, Etc.

    One of St. Louis' greatest charms is its wealth of doughnut shops. Choosing the best among them requires serious time, travel and consideration. Do we celebrate the cakey or the flaky, the fruity or the frosted, the doughnut or the hole? This year, we honor the fresh. Every Saturday at Soulard Market, Mini Donuts, Etc. one-ups Krispy Kreme with hot,… More >>
  • Best Cheese Flip

    St. Louis Hills Donut Shop

    Technically, something is the "best" when it proves itself superior to its peers. Such is the case with most of the items in the issue you now hold in your hands. But should an item be excluded from this Best of St. Louis because it is unique? Some things are unique because they are undeserving of imitation (like Provel cheese).… More >>
  • Best Thai Restaurant

    Simply Thai

    The name is both a description and a revelation. There is nothing fancy about this small north-county restaurant. Blink as you're driving Florissant's commercial drag, and you certainly will miss it. A shame, because here, in a dining room that offers paper napkins and no booze, you will find dishes more complex, more flavorful and — if you desire —… More >>
  • Best Restaurant Neighborhood

    The Grove (Forest Park Southeast)

    Only a few years ago there was no reason to slow down, let alone stop, on the stretch of Manchester Avenue between Kingshighway and Vandeventer Avenue. But these days the area known as the Grove offers something for foodies of almost every stripe. Enjoy bistro fare featuring fresh, local ingredients at chef Anthony Devoti's Five, or head to Devoti's gastropub,… More >>
  • Best Cupcakes

    The Cupcakery

    Shhh. Be very, very quiet. We're hunting for rare variations of the elusive cakeus minimus, better known as the cupcake, and we've been told that cozy Central West End shop the Cupcakery is the place to find them. Wait — there! Did you see that? That was a Tuxedo, whose distinguishing feature is a mini chocolate-cream cookie perched atop a… More >>
  • Best Indian Restaurant


    No restaurant could encompass the entire cuisine of India, a nation of 1.1 billion people and — it sometimes seems — nearly as many recipes. That said, Ruchi does a bang-up job showcasing the extraordinary range of this ancient fare, from the royal Mughal cuisine of India's north to the fiery dishes of its south and more than a few… More >>
  • Best Coffee

    Shaw's Coffee, Ltd.

    Coffee drinkers know that the closer you are to a cup of coffee, the better, and experienced coffee drinkers know the corollary: The closer the cup of coffee is to you, the better. Now, the Midwest is a fine place to grow a lot of things, but not coffee beans. The bean is nothing before it's roasted, of course, and… More >>
  • Best Italian Restaurant (Cheap)

    10th Street Italian

    We could tell you about the meatballs. Oh, the meatballs. Tender, perfectly seasoned and absolutely delicious in a fat sandwich with marinara sauce and provolone cheese. All that (and a bag of chips) for just $6.95. We could tell you about the other sandwiches, the twelve-layer lasagna or the simple, tasty pastas — all of which will set you back… More >>
  • Best Chocolate

    Kakao Chocolate

    This past spring Brian Pelletier dared to do what most of us only dream: When he heard Kakao Chocolate was up for sale, he promptly ditched his corporate desk job, rented space on Cherokee Street and devoted himself to mastering the art and science of chocolate-making. Using only natural ingredients — and no corn syrup! — and taking care to… More >>
  • Best Korean Restaurant

    Hangook Kwan - CLOSED

    Hangook Kwan doesn't draw much attention to itself. The Korean restaurant, a.k.a Korea House, is located near the back corner of a shopping plaza that is barely visible from bustling Olive Boulevard. Inside, the décor is modest, the music soft, the service unobtrusive. All of which makes the food stand out even more, from the most familiar Korean dishes such… More >>
  • Best Italian Restaurant (Not Cheap)

    Lorenzo's Trattoria

    Osso buco translates literally as "bone hole." The next time you order osso buco, wait a moment before digging into the tender, braised veal shank — yes, it is tough to resist, but you need only a second or two — and consider this. Is there a hole in the shank bone? That's good. The kitchen isn't trying to pull… More >>
  • Best Milkshake

    Jennifer's Pharmacy & Soda Shoppe

    The milkshake doesn't show up on modern menus, and when it appears it does so as a hallmark of traditional American fare. Lately the cheeseburger, the milkshake's longtime comrade in arms, has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, flushing the indulgent carnivore from celebrity chefs who dress up the chopped beef with manchego or Cotswold or eggplant in an attempt to… More >>
  • Best Bosnian Restaurant

    Taft Street Restaurant and Bar

    Bosnia-Herzegovina stands at a crossroads of geography and history, and its cuisine reflects the region's many diverse influences from Europe's east, west and south. No restaurant better expresses this diversity than Taft Street Restaurant and Bar, where you can enjoy both hummus and potatoes in a thick mushroom cream sauce, both fried goat cheese and a steak stuffed with mushrooms.… More >>
  • Best Middle-Eastern Restaurant

    St. Louis Coffee Oasis & Mediterranean Café

    "Hello, my friend." Belal al-Ramahi might not know you by name. This might even be your first visit to his Central West End restaurant and coffee shop. It doesn't matter. To al-Ramahi, "guest" isn't just a pleasant euphemism for "customer." He is your host, frantic but friendly, his booming voice offering suggestions while he makes a latte, answers a phone… More >>
  • Best Smoothie

    Washington Ave Post

    For downtown loft-dwellers, Washington Ave Post may be best known as a coffee shop and office-supply store rolled into one. But discerning customers know Washington Ave Post for its out-of-this-world smoothies. The store offers traditional smoothies made from frozen yogurt, power shakes fueled with skim milk and mellow green-tea blends that provide a subtle kick of caffeine. Washington Ave Post… More >>
  • Best Vietnamese Restaurant

    Banh Mi So #1 — Saigon Gourmet

    Look, Banh Mi So #1 has the best spring rolls in St. Louis. This paper has said so multiple times, and the restaurant itself has a neon sign in its front window proclaiming the truth. But don't overlook the rest of the tiny restaurant's menu: You won't find fresher or more delicious Vietnamese cuisine anywhere else in St. Louis, from… More >>
  • Best Bubble Tea

    OR Juice & Smoothie

    To boba or not to boba, that is the question. And the answer? Of course you should have boba with your bubble tea — you only live once, right? Those pea-size near-black tapioca balls add a bit of surprise to your beverage encounter: Will there be a boba in this slurp? Will there be two? Or will you have to… More >>
  • Best Beer

    O'Fallon 5-Day IPA

    India pale ale was born of necessity. How to preserve Britons' beloved beverage during its long voyage to the far-flung corners of the empire? The solution was elegant in its simplicity, its genius so profound that it has become a rallying cry for craft brewers across America: "Add more hops!" O'Fallon 5-Day IPA — so named because the beer sits… More >>
  • Best Flaming Cheese

    Iron Barley

    Some cheese lovers hear "queso panela" and turn up the nariz. Poor fools haven't sampled Tom Coghill's flaming rendition of this humble Mexican mozzarella-like cheese. Coghill, proprietor-chef of Iron Barley, slaps a honkin' slice of panela on his grill, then slides it into a warm cast-iron frying pan, hits it with his special tequila-lime vinaigrette and finishes it off in… More >>
  • Best Use of the Worst Cheese

    Gerber Sandwich

    Time was you couldn't swing a cat in this town without hitting a Ruma's Deli. The local chain had locations in strip malls and shopping centers throughout much of the city, but these days Brock Ruma holds down the fort at the last Ruma's in the known universe. And God bless him for that: Ruma's Deli is a haven for… More >>
  • Best Place to Put Your "Eat Local" Cred Where Your Mouth Is

    Floppin-N-Fryin Market

    After the New Oxford American Dictionary named "locavore" its word of the year in 2007, foodies dutifully spent 2008 foraging farmers' markets for food from within 100 miles of their homes. But while herb gardens and local produce are all well and good, everyone knows good-old-fashioned protein, mostly in the form of chicken, pork, beef and fish, is needed to… More >>
  • Best Comfort Food


    The lamentably late, totally great George Carlin once opined that the United States' national symbol shouldn't be a bald eagle; it should be a bowl of macaroni and cheese. Of course, Carlin was making a statement about American gluttony and laziness, not cozying up to Kraft. But we posit that mac 'n' cheese could be a perfectly wonderful national symbol… More >>
  • Best Ice Cream Parlor

    Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream

    It's not ice-cream store; why is ice cream served in a parlor? Parlor — or parlour if you want to be all Oxford about it — is derived from parle, or "to talk," which indicates that the parlor is a room where people gather to talk. In Latin, one supposes. Granted, it has a nicer ring than a more vernacular… More >>
  • Best Guacamole

    Agave Mexican Table & Tequileria

    Agave, a beautiful new spot in the quickly gentrifying Grove, puts many delightful twists on standard Mexican fare. That's partly because Agave's menu is Mex-Mex, not Tex-Mex, so you won't have to go cheese-spelunking to unearth an enchilada, nor will you be faced with copious amounts of sour cream and pale shredded lettuce. Instead, you'll find gorgeous plates of well-executed… More >>
  • Best Caesar Salad

    The Vine Wine Bar & Bistro

    The days when the dining-room captain would roll out the gueridon and proceed to carve, flambé and toss your food have pretty much passed. The thing that was most frequently tossed, of course, was the caesar salad. When you think about it, the caesar was an unlikely candidate to be plucked from the hordes of aspiring greens and thrust into… More >>
  • Best Farmers' Market

    Tower Grove Farmers' Market

    On a sun-drenched summer Saturday morning, the squeals and shouts of kids splashing in Tower Grove Park's wading pool are no match for the excited voices at the nearby Tower Grove Farmers' Market. "That asparagus is gorgeous." "Are strawberries here yet?" "Did I sleep too late to get the ripest tomatoes?" You'll hear that last question a lot. The market… More >>
  • Best Asian Market

    Olive Farmers' Market

    The pig is the unquestioned star of the contemporary food scene, but until you have visited the Olive Farmers' Market — not a farmers' market at all, but one of the area's biggest Asian grocery stores — you have absolutely no idea just how diverse Porky's culinary offerings are. Here you will find everything from the gently folded pork face… More >>
  • Best Mexican Market

    Carniceria Latino Americana

    When you walk in, head to the right and break left before you get to the shelves full of cleaning products (all of which have the same color and design as the Mr. Clean you know, but a completely different brand name). You'll find a whole wall of saints candles. Included in the venerable wall are both Santa Muerte and… More >>
  • Best Cheese Counter

    DiGregorio Imported Foods

    Cheese is a universal language that is spoken by many cultures. Though the varieties of cheeses across the globe vary like dialects, one fact knows no borders: Cheese is awesome. The makers of Italian cheeses are perhaps more aware of this fact than any other curdled-milk artisans. For proof, head to the cheese counter at DiGregorio. This corner grocery on… More >>
  • Best Meat Counter

    Hanlen's Meat Shoppe

    Driving down always-hustling-and-bustling Manchester Road, it's easy to cruise past Hanlens' storefront window. Meat lovers, however, have a bloodhound's nose for the place, and they flock to the Kirkwood meat counter for slabs of ribs, packages of farm-fresh bacon and the occasional bundle of organ meat. Dennis Hanlen and his crew prepare everything from kebabs to salsiccia in-house, and the… More >>
  • Best Fresh Seafood Counter

    Bob's Seafood

    Blast freezing, next-day air, the rapid pace of globalization: These days it's easy to take the availability of seafood for granted, even here in St. Louis, a loooooooong ways away from the nearest ocean. Heck, sushi is so commonplace, it probably won't be long before some Americans start thinking we invented the stuff. Which is why this category's nearly perennial… More >>
  • Best Canned Seafood Selection

    Global Foods

    To those gastronomes who dine upon caviar and foie gras and toast points and larks' tongues in aspic, kindly please continue your journey up your own alimentary tract. It's 11 a.m. Thursday, and some of us need a sardine sandwich, preferably on pumpernickel. But the pantry is bare, so off to Global Foods we go for an iridescent blue tin… More >>
  • Best Takeout Counter (Gourmet Division)

    Stellina Pasta Café

    How many times have you stood in front of a large refrigerated case, trying to decide which take-home meal looked the best, the freshest, the whatever-est? You won't have that problem at Stellina Pasta Café — and not only because the refrigerated case at this south-city restaurant is relatively small. The menu is brief: three pasta dishes, a half-dozen sandwiches,… More >>
  • Best Takeout Counter (Grocery Division)

    Macklind Avenue Deli

    When the thought of another sandwich or salad loaded with sun-dried tomatoes makes the stomach shrivel, it's time for a trip for takeout from the Macklind Avenue Deli. Two years ago the Krekeler family retooled their neighborhood market and concocted a grocery counter lineup long on old-school favorites like chicken salad (with chives and mayo), creamy cole slaw (with apples… More >>
  • Best Grocery Store

    Local Harvest Grocery

    When was the last time you saw a neighborhood grocery store that you wanted to visit? In a Norman Rockwell painting? The neighborhood grocery store might not be as dead and gone as the dodo, but it's close, squeezed out of our lives from the top (supermarket chains both local and national) and the bottom (7-Eleven and its nefarious clones).… More >>
  • Best Grocery Store to Die in the Past Year

    Wild Oats Community Market

    Toward the end it proved that tragedy and comedy are but a matter of perception. The roof, long neglected and prone to leaks in rainy weather, gave way after an ice storm and forced a temporary closure. A hasty repair job resulted in fewer leaks but in new locations; every rainstorm thereafter brought gentle and localized showers in the water… More >>
  • Best Sandwiches

    McLozzi Deli & Marketplace

    Panini have become so commonplace in restaurants, delis and even the home kitchen that only the very best are worth mentioning. So do forgive us if we go on — and on — about the panini at this cozy corner deli in Benton Park. First of all, they're grilled just right: The bread is crisp but not burnt; the interior… More >>
  • Best Whole Roast Chicken


    If a whole-roasted chicken isn't available after 7 p.m., does it still have a taste? Oh, it so does. It's the taste of a "King of the Hill" sammich — packed full of ham, shredded lettuce, gooey cheese and ripe tomatoes served in between bakery-fresh French bread — offered up for free if Schnucks' deli has sold out of its… More >>
  • Best Chicken Wings

    BARcelona Tapas Restaurant

    Much of the debate about what constitutes great chicken wings is misplaced. Folks like to argue the merits of the classic Buffalo preparation — a mixture of butter and hot sauce with a side of blue cheese — versus newfangled variations like habanero, jerk, Thai, etc. But great wings can be judged on two factors: the size of wing and… More >>
  • Best Fried Chicken

    Porter's Fried Chicken

    Pavlov's bell has nothing on Porter's fried chicken. As you step inside the unassuming strip-mall storefront, you can hardly keep yourself from drooling: The smell of breaded, deep-fried manna wafts out of the kitchen and from the plain white boxes on the dining tables. You can hardly wait — though if you order your chicken with the spicy breading, you… More >>
  • Best Place to Eat Out Alone

    Chez Leon - CLOSED

    "Are we dining alone?" boomed the maître d' from the doorway of a now-long-defunct café, as if we were concealing a copy of War and Peace under our coat with the intention of taking up residence. "Not here," we replied as we turned and departed. These days restaurants are more accommodating. But dining alone at Chez Leon is — well,… More >>
  • Best Coffeehouse

    Mississippi Mud House

    The Cherokee neighborhood has been working to make a comeback for a long time. At the heart of its most recent (and successful) arts-and-culture renaissance is a devoted group of gadflies, activists and community leaders who congregate at Mike and Cyndee Saunchegraw's Mississippi Mud House. Stop by to get a cup of the joint's house-roasted joe and roaster/barista Christopher Ruess… More >>
  • Best Gelato

    Benito's Gelato

    It's a vast understatement to say that Benito's Gelato is committed to quality: The shop concocts its dreamy Italian ice cream with ingredients and gelato machines imported from Italy, using a modified recipe from the family of company cofounder Judy Bellos. As a result, the gelato at Benito's possesses authentic, fresh flavor — no chemical aftertaste here. Deep Espresso —… More >>

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