17th Street Bar & Grill 1711 West Highway 50, O'Fallon, Illinois; 618-622-1717. Mike Mills has been named grand champion at the annual Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (a.k.a. the Super Bowl of Swine) three times -- a dynasty as notable as the Yankees of the late 1990s or the Patriots of this decade. His trademark sauce is a coppery brown, layered with flavor and applied with proper restraint. Two- and three-meat plates allow you to sample several different meats (brisket, chicken, pork shoulder, spicy smoked beef sausage), but the standout dish is the baby back ribs. Smoked in a pit over apple- and cherry-wood for as long as seven hours, Mills' ribs taste like pork raised on pure autumn sunshine.
Though unassuming and simple from the outside, 33 Wine Shop & Tasting Bar provides outstanding hospitality, more than 700 wines and one of the best beer lists in the city. The result is a relaxing yet engaging opportunity to sip, contemplate or just plain drink your vino. Though lacking a full menu, there's a nice array of cheese, cured meats and crackers to hold you over. Pricing is great, with bottles marked up just $9 over 33's very competitive "take home" prices (it is a wine shop, too), which makes 33 a great place to go big on a specialty bottle. The oft-rotating draft selection, along with the list of bottled brew, highlights great beers both American and imported, many of which are rarely available on tap locally.
When Dan and Pat Graham decided to shutter Graham’s Grill & Bayou Bar last December after a seventeen-year run, the next generation decided to take over the reins - but put their own stamp on things. Brother and sister business partners Devin and Alison converted their parents’ Cajun-themed bar and grill into 612 Kitchen & Cocktails, a 1920s-inspired cocktail lounge and gastropub. The restaurant is at its best when it sticks to classic bar fare: Sausage and cheese stuffed mushrooms, breaded and fried, make for an excellent snack; beer-battered fish and chips pair nicely with a cold one; and the smoked chicken is juicy and glazed with caramelized barbecue sauce. Craft cocktails are on the approachable end of the spectrum. Signature drinks such include the "Great Gatsby,” made with cucumber and basil-infused rum, lemonade and blueberry puree. A bridal shower in barware, the “Coco Chanel,” is a blend of strawberry vodka, lemon juice, pink champagne, strawberries and mint. The most austere offering — and that is a stretch — is the “Scarface.” Tequila, tomato water, triple sec and lavender-infused sour combine to make an interesting twist on the margarita. Regardless of how the younger Grahams brand it, 612 Kitchen & Cocktails is still a simple neighborhood watering hole.
801 Chophouse’s super-size steaks are the most expensive meal in town — and that seems to be the point. The restaurant peddles opulence to holders of corporate cards, as well as regular folks who want to feel like royalty (at least for a day). For the price tag, diners will receive impeccable service, fine wines and shamefully large cuts of beef. Bone-in selections are the best offerings: The strip, rib eye, pork and veal all benefit from the extra flavor (and thicker cut). 801 Chophouse offers a variety of steak enhancements, from Oscar-style with crab and béarnaise to a bone-marrow bath. However, the high-quality steaks and chops are delicious enough on their own. Seafood is incredibly fresh, and the oysters taste straight from the coast. Side dishes are served a la carte: The creamy scalloped potatoes and lobster macaroni & cheese are excellent options — just make sure to ask for a half order so you can save room for the Grand Mariner soufflé.
A charming deli on the corner of Soulard's lovely, peaceful Pontiac Park. While there are a few "standard" sandwiches -- a meatball sub with Provel and marinara sauce, the "St. Louisan" (mortadella, capocolla, salami, ham and Provel) -- most are a step above basic deli fare. The "Cajun B.L.T." features very thick, smoky bacon, while the baked mortadella sandwich is a surprisingly happy marriage of mortadella, capocolla, Provel and a relish of artichoke, black olive and tomato. Co-owner Mike Risk (a veteran of Trattoria Marcella) researched cheesesteaks on a trip to Philadelphia, and his delightful rendition is as close to the real thing as you can find in St. Louis.
A neighborhood joint that offers pizza in four different styles: St. Louis (naturally), Chicago, New York and New York-Manhattan. That last distinction is crucial: Bite into a massive slice of the greasy, goopy Manhattan-style pizza and you'll swear you're in Brooklyn or Queens. Order anything else and you'll swear you're in Rock Hill, but you'll be happy to be there. A'mis also features a fairly extensive menu of pastas, sandwiches and dinner entrées. A great place to take the family for a weekday diner, and the ideal spot for that lunchtime pizza fix.
St. Louis has approximately 1 million Italian restaurants, but nothing like Acero. Here you don't choose between the red sauce or the white, and you won't find Provel on anything. Sample salumi from the nation's top artisanal producers, or share a quartino of Amarone wine with a special someone. Pasta dishes, especially, are exquisite - small portions crafted with incredible attention to detail; polenta is poured tableside onto a marble slab and then topped with one of several sumptuous sauces. You're meant to order in the traditional Italian style - antipasto, pasta, then entrée -- but there are no rules except to celebrate the sheer joy of good food and wine.
You can't spell barbecue without "cue," but the lines haven't formed outside the door at Adam's Smokehouse -- yet. The slow-smoking barbecue joint in Clifton Heights opened in October and serves as a sister store to well-renowned, consistently packed restaurants Pappy's Smokehouse and Bogart's Smokehouse, so it seems like only matter a time before all of St. Louis stands in line to try a bite.
Co-owners Frank Vinciguerra and Mike Ireland spent several years working at Pappy's with barbecue master Skip Steele before embarking on their own venture. With the blessing of their barbecue brethren, the two put together a small but substantial menu of smoked meats and traditional sides done well. --MABEL SUEN
A cocoon of comfort - even elegance -hidden in a Chesterfield strip mall. The menu at Addie's Thai House generally hews to the template of St. Louis-area Thai restaurants, but it's worth veering off course to try one of the house specialties - like gang kua ped yang, an incredible red curry with duck breast, or soft-shell crab pan-fried in a garlic-pepper sauce. If the other dishes are conventional, they are no less outstanding, especially the assertive green curry. Without question, one of St. Louis' best Thai restaurants.
It's testament to an eatery's excellence when the place can stay open only five or so hours a day, yet hold a place among a city's most-loved nosh spots. Such is the case at the family-run Adriana's, where loyalists lunch on Sicilian specialties like eggplant caponata, mostaccioli and salsiccia sandwiches. Those sandwiches are oversize, so plan to pack up half a lunch for the next day, or take advantage of the half-sandwich combos (with soup or salad). Some folks call Adriana's a no-frills joint because there's no table service, the tablecloths are vinyl, and the prices are low. But really, the frills are in the food, abundant and delicious.
You don't get to eat a giant snail every day. Or, for that matter, yam porridge or fried plantains or palm juice. Unless, that is, you visit African Palace, one of the few local African restaurants that offers an alternative to Ethiopian cuisine. A thick sauce made from red bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, olive oil and lots of atarodo peppers is liberally employed in many of the dishes, from soups to gizzards to wings (and that giant snail). For an entrée, try the meat-and-rice-based jollof (prepared, like most of the main courses, with your choice of beef, chicken or fish), or the Daily Special (which is the same every day): a brightly flavored stew that unites dried cod, chicken and tripe with greens and that rich pepper sauce. Bonus: On weekends, African Palace becomes a nightclub, featuring reggae and world-beat music.
Built by Adolphus Busch around 1914, this magnificent example of the beer-baron-bravado style of architecture now features competent lighter, updated versions of classic German cooking mixed in with basic steaks and seafood, along with a quintessential apple strudel for dessert.
A promised land of milk and honey and falafel, Al-Tarboush is the perfect pilgrimage for hungry folk without much cash. Half grocery, half counter-service diner, it has only a few tables, and some of the menu items (e.g. the tabbouleh) come right out of the refrigerated case. Other Middle Eastern goodies include stuffed grape leaves; meat, spinach and cheese pies; and hummus.
Formerly known as The Stable, this bar/restaurant a shrine to great beer. There are two dozen brews on tap, most of which you won't find on draft or in bottles at other area bars. The list of bottled brew is as extensive as a fine restaurant's wine list. The menu features food that is primarily beer-friendly: pizzas, sandwiches and shared appetizers. The pizzas are good, with a soft-but-still-chewy crust. Here, sandwiches are known as "grinders" and include several loose-meat selections. In the late evening, local cover bands and blues acts grace the club's small stage; they sound great reverberating off the lofty ceilings.
If St. Louis has a signature sandwich, the leading contender must be the Amighetti's special, an ultragourmet poorboy overloaded with meats, cheese and peppers on crusty Italian bread. This location on the Hill is the original, and here you'll find many other fine sandwich choices, along with delectable ices and gelati and fresh baked goods. Always crowded at lunchtime. See listing for second location under "Webster/Kirkwood."
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