Best Of 2012

Best Restaurant Trend: Risky formats

A few things St. Louis restaurateurs shouldn't do during a halting economic recovery: 1) Open an upscale, members-only establishment that charges a monthly fee. 2) Overhaul the beloved menu that has helped make you an institution. 3) Operate a second restaurant concept within an existing restaurant, and then replace the second concept with another, even more ambitious concept. Yet local restaurateurs have done all three of these things over the past year, and the area's dining scene is the better for it. Blood & Sand (members only) has been a smash hit, selling out its full memberships (weekday-only memberships remain) for access to Chris Bork's cuisine and TJ Vytlacil's cocktails. At Central West End stalwart Dressel's, owner Ben Dressel and chef Mike Miller upgraded the menu (don't worry: the chips and rarebit are still available), turning the city's best pub into one of its standout restaurants. And Mike Randolph made the most audacious decisions of all, opening a progressive Mexican restaurant called MEDIAnoche inside his Clayton breakfast spot Half & Half; only a few months later, he announced that MEDIAnoche would close in favor of a concept called Little Country Gentleman, serving tasting menus of Midwestern cuisine. Will all of these moves pay off in the long run? Maybe, maybe not. But for our dining scene to continue to evolve, these are exactly the kinds of risks chefs and restaurateurs must be willing to take.

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