Among the clubs and hip hangouts on Washington Avenue downtown lies 12th Street Diner. The place is a throwback to the '50s and rock & roll. The menu features root beer floats, omelets, pot roast and burgers, including the La Bamba burger that is topped with pepperjack cheese, jalapenos, chipotle mayo and guacamole. This bright spot also features another diner classic: apple pie, cherry pie and a pie du jour.
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.
In the heart of Soulard, 1860 Saloon serves up traditional bar food for Mardi Gras revelers and everyday visitors alike. Expect oysters, wings and fries for apps, while meals consist of catfish po' boys, pizzas and burgers. Like many Soulard-area restaurants, 1860 offers a shuttle to Rams, Cardinals and Blues games. You can enjoy live music every night in the front room, bar games like foosball and pool in the rec room, and all the way at the end of the house, there's a third room, replete with a full bar, ample seating, and a happily glowing fish tank.