Gut Check is constantly working to bring the latest food news to our readers. As a result, we do a lot of blogging. In an effort to draw attention to great posts that may have otherwise been lost in the blogosphere (and to recognize our hard-working writers), we present Post of the Month
.Selecting the Riverfront Times Best of St. Louis 2011 was no picnic. Choosing the winner meant several worthy candidates would go unmentioned -- until now. This year, Gut Check is celebrating five contenders in several categories.
The state of the economy remains iffy, at best, but over the past year some ambition and risk have sneaked back into the St. Louis restaurant scene. That made choosing the five best new spots (not to mention the
best, period) especially difficult -- so much so that I've included five "honorable mentions" along with this top five.
First, a word about what we consider "new": We based this list on the restaurants reviewed in the twelve months prior to the release of the Best of St. Louis 2011 issue, October 6, 2010, to September 22 of this year. Add the two months (at least) between a restaurant's opening and when I consider it fair game, and, yes, some of these restaurants have been open for a while.
Also, not every restaurant reviewed over the past year was new when I wrote about it, so those weren't considered for this list. Finally, to forestall an inevitable question -- and to bait some of our favorite commenters -- I decided to view Taste
as a relocated rather than a new restaurant. Otherwise, it would have made this list.
OK. Enough preliminaries. The five best new restaurants and five honorable mentions after the jump...
Best New Restaurants 2011: Honorable Mentions(in alphabetical order)DeMun Oyster BarHalf & HalfPrime 1000PW PizzaRiverbend Restaurant & Bar
5. Mad Tomato
The new restaurant from Vito Racanelli Jr.
(the late Big V's Burger Joint
, Onesto Pizza & Trattoria
) strikes a balance between higher-end dining and its owner's irrepressible energy. In other words, the food is great, but the space can get loud. The cuisine is rustic Italian, best exemplified by the "Hunter's Egg," an egg poached in a tomato broth and served over polenta. It's deceptively simple and incredibly flavorful -- a description that you might find yourself using often at this Clayton spot.
4. The Tavern Kitchen & Bar
The Tavern Kitchen & Bar has done the unlikely: It has given Valley Park an aura of culinary cool. In the sleek open kitchen, chef Justin Haifley
and his crew turn out contemporary takes on classic American dishes, from meatloaf to bacon & eggs, steak to fisherman's stew. The housemade pasta dishes are terrific, and the Tater Tot casserole might cause you to rethink the humble fried spud. (Unless, like us, you've loved Tots all along.)
3. Home Wine Kitchen
Home Wine Kitchen, from chef Cassy Vires
and her husband Josh Renbarger
, takes a bold stand in a town where reliable old favorites -- both restaurants and specific dishes -- reign supreme. Here the dinner menu changes every week. Yes, this is a nod to local, seasonal produce, those inescapable buzzwords, but it also speaks to Vires' confidence in her skills. Her confidence is well-placed. Without any idea what you might be eating, you can make a reservation here knowing a fine meal awaits.