Selecting Riverfront Times' Best of St. Louis 2011 was no picnic. Choosing the winner meant several worthy candidates would go unmentioned -- until now. In this Gut Check series, we are chewing our way through notable runners up in a number of categories. To see hundreds more winners and finalists and download the Riverfront Times Best of St. Louis mobile app, visit our Best of St. Louis homepage.
The term "neighborhood restaurant" is deliberately vague. Like the man said about pornography, it's hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Unfussy, soul-satisfying fare is one common denominator. A friendly staff -- even if everyone doesn't remember your name, they seem sincere when they call you "babe" or "darling" or "hon" -- is another.
More than anything else, though, each of the five finalists for "Best Neighborhood Restaurant" is a place where, no matter where you happen to live, you feel a little closer to home.
5. Mama Josephine's (4000 Shaw Boulevard; 314-771-4001)
Owner Mary Samuelson honors her late mother by dishing up her recipes at this cozy spot in the Shaw neighborhood. Much of the fare is classic southern home cookin': pan-fried chicken, catfish, hush puppies. The standout, though, is the lasagna: eight layers of beef, noodles and cheese in a long-simmered sauce.
4. The Piccadilly at Manhattan (7201 Piccadilly Avenue; 314-646-0016)
Ellendale might not top any one's list of hip restaurant neighborhoods in St. Louis, but it does have the Piccadilly at Manhattan. This small restaurant and bar in a mostly residential area is a gem, with excellent barbecue (Five Best-worthy, in fact), burgers and fried chicken. Pro tip: If you want a burger, go for a double or the patty melt, which might be the best in town.
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