As originally conceived by the Riverfront Times marketing department, the 2004 “Best of St. Louis” was to unfold as a bicentennial celebration of the immortal Voyage of Discovery.

However, owing to a teensy typo in a memo from the publisher, this entire issue will be brought to you by Louis and Clark, two guys we met in a bar and sent off into the wilds of the metropolitan area in search of the many marvels they were bound to encounter.

Luckily, much like their forerunners Meriwether and William, our intrepid wanderers were astonished by what they saw. Taking painstakingly careful notes all the while (and digital photos!), L & C uncovered a whopping 364 St. Louis superlatives, sending back dispatches from Grafton to Affton and all points in between.

Heading north, they discovered Grandpa Mischeaux’s Real Deal Barbecue on Union, where they feasted on hamburgers bigger than a baby’s head. Turning to the east, they ran smack into Fast Eddie’s Bon-Air, whose down-home ambiance and ample supply of Anheuser-Busch products made such a profound impression that the fellas could hardly bring themselves to leave. While wending their way south, the boys took time out to visit the home of the Cardinals and the Eighth Wonder of the World — not Busch Stadium, but Albert Pujols’ astounding backside. And to the west, halfway to Wentzville, our courageous trekkers stumbled into Annie Gunn’s, only to be waylaid by a dry-aged rib eye so tender it made them weep.

In the meantime, of course, RFT readers were weighing in with their own exploration expertise via our Readers’ Poll. The results were heavy on the predictable — the trustworthy trifecta of Nelly, Sheryl Crow and Francis Slay made off with Best Local Boy Made Good, Best Local Girl Made Good and Best Local Politician honors, respectively (same as last year) — but there were a few surprises: Black Thorn’s pizza? Mirasol’s Latin take on tapas? Boozing and bowling at Pin-Up? Let’s hear it for good taste!

Some say what you see is what you get. But the well-traveled Louis and Clark have a somewhat different tale to tell:

It’s what you find that truly rewards you.