Best Museum: St. Louis Art Museum
1 Fine Arts Drive, 314-721-0072
This gem of a museum in Forest Park is our readers' pick for the city's best, and it's easy to see why. The gorgeous Cass Gilbert-designed building holds a wealth of cultural treasures, from Turkish rugs and an Egyptian mummy to the world's largest Max Beckmann collection. The price to view all the wonders in its standing collection? Absolutely free.
Best Art Gallery: Mad Art Gallery
2727 S. 12th Street, 314-771-8230
This Soulard gallery is more than just a home to contemporary art and performance. It's also an event space, which hosts concerts, plays and benefits. Oh, and did we mention you can get married here? Readers love its flexibility, accessibility and red-bricked good looks.
Best Comedy Club: The Funny Bone
614 W. Port Plaza, Maryland Heights; 314-469-6692
Newer clubs may have entered the St. Louis market, but readers say this Westport Plaza comedy mecca is still going strong after twenty years. Open mic night on Tuesdays lets amateurs try their hand at making audiences laugh, while headliners such as Pauly Shore and Rachel Feinstein pack them in later in the week. Hit that funny bone and prepare to LOL.
Best Dance Company: MadCo
The company in residence at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Modern American Dance Co. has become a local favorite for its exuberant performances and striking choreography. The company boasts that 30,000 people saw its work last year — no wonder MadCo finished first in our readers poll.
Best Theater Company: The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves; 314-968-4925
The Rep celebrates its golden anniversary this year, and its brilliant season opener, Follies, shows not only that it has what it takes — it's as good as it's ever been. Artistic Director Steven Woolf will guide the company through shows including Until the Flood, All My Sons and Million Dollar Quartet. RFT readers simply can't wait.
Best Theater: The Fox Theatre
527 N. Grand Boulevard, 314-534-1678A former movie palace, the Fox truly is fabulous, with a gloriously ornate "Siamese Byzantine" décor and a surplus of terrific programming. Readers come for the magnificent surroundings, but this year they'll stay for Fun Home, Finding Neverland or a host of other recent Broadway hits scheduled to play right here in St. Louis.
Best TV Journalist: Charlie Marlow
A sports reporter and anchor at St. Louis' KTVI (Fox-2) for more than eight years, readers say Charlie Marlow is that rare man who combines TV-ready good looks with a genuine sense of humor. Don't believe them? Check out his Twitter feed @CharlieMarlow_, where the Toledo native shows he's both funny and smart, 140 characters at a time.
Best Radio Morning Show: The Rizzuto Show
105.7 The Point
The merry band of talkers who bring St. Louis the Rizzuto Show — Rizzuto, Patrico, Burton and Moon — are beloved by RFT readers for their irreverent humor and dude-friendly banter. From "are they real or are they fake?" to the Craigslist "freak of the week," listeners to the Point morning show love what they're hearing.
Best AM Talk Show: The Charlie Brennan Show
KMOX (1120 AM)
In an era when many AM talkers sound like angry buffoons, readers find KMOX's Charlie Brennan a breath of fresh air: He's a thoughtful guy who knows how to ask a good question and keep the conversation smart. From 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. five days a week, he and co-host Debbie Monterrey show listeners how it's done — and prove why they've been winning these types of contests for more than two decades.
Best Radio Station: Therootsfm.com
A St. Louis-based station that streams online, TheRoots.FM boasts a team of radio veterans who take their jobs seriously — and a truly passionate group of loyal listeners. See what all our readers' excitement is about by tuning in for some classic rock ... or maybe even invest in a membership.
Best St. Louisan to follow on Twitter: Matt Sebek
Matt Sebek, the sports-loving entrepreneur behind JoeSportsFan.com and the mobile apps Cast and Rookies, is the voice behind a Twitter feed that's almost perfectly pitched. Funny without trying too hard, smart without being overly self-aggrandizing, it's what everyone on Twitter aspires to, but few ever achieve. "Tons of people in Los Angeles right now getting texts, 'Hey, you wanna go to this Rams gam? Got a stack of tickets from work,'" he tweeted after the Rams' opener. And yes, we LOLed.Turn the page for more, beginning with Bars & Clubs. [page] Bars & Nightlife Readers Choice Winners
Best Bar: Howards in Soulard
2732 S. 13th Street, 314-349-2850
One of the newer bars in Soulard is also one of the friendliest, with a good-time vibe that's open to young and old, black and white, gay and straight. Owner Judith Howard books good music, serves good food and keeps the drinks coming. No wonder readers voted it the city's best.
Best Place to Sing Karaoke: Double D's
1740 S. Brentwood Boulevard, Brentwood; 314-961-5646
Forget all those places with a microphone tucked in the corner and an annoying host braying to a bored bar. Double D's is the place to go if you're serious about your karaoke career. With karaoke every night, readers say you simply can't go wrong.
Best Cocktails: Planter's House
1000 Mississippi Avenue, 314-696-2603
Both the critics and RFT readers agree: There's no finer spot for cocktails than Ted Kilgore's stylish bar in Lafayette Square. Choose from the extensive list, which includes both classics and newer creations, or just tell them a bit about what you like and watch them whip it up for you. Cheers.
Best Wine Bar: Sasha's on Shaw
4069 Shaw Avenue, 314-771-7274
This cozy wine bar in the city's Shaw neighborhood is beloved by both readers and critics for good reason — it's got a great wine list and knowledgeable servers, yet it never crosses the line into snobbery. It's a great place to learn more about that varietal you were interested in trying ... or just have drinks with dinner.
Best Beer Selection: iTap
Multiple locations including 1711 S. 9th Street, 314-621-4333
There's no better bar for beer lovers than iTap. Readers love bellying up to the bar at the Chesterfield flagship or its busy spinoffs in the Central West End, Columbia and Soulard and checking out the draft options, which are both many and ever-changing. Curious what's on tap at each location on any given night? Check out the webcam pointed at the current lineup.
Best Martini: Famous Bar
5213 Chippewa Street, 314-832-2211
Readers love this classic bar on the edge of the Southampton neighborhood, and you don't have to be a regular to see why. The drinks are made with precision but served without snobbery; the space is welcoming and warm without being overly fancy. The martinis? Perfection in a glass.
Best Margarita: Hacienda Mexican Restaurant
9748 Manchester Road, Rock Hill; 314-962-7100
Open since 1968, this Rock Hill institution is known both for its cheery patio and excellent margaritas. Even top-shelf options won't top $10. Get them frozen or on the rocks, with Grand Marnier or as a beer-rita — you'll find no judgment here.
Best Irish Pub: John D. McGurk's
1200 Russell Boulevard, 314-776-8309
This sprawling Soulard bar has the best patio in town and a friendly vibe that will take you right back to the Old Country. With Irish eats and often an Irish musician or two performing, it's the best of Ireland in the heart of St. Louis — and a perennial pick from our readers in numerous categories.
Best Gay Bar: Just John's
4112 Manchester Avenue, 314-371-1333
Whether you drink here, dance here or just want to ogle the eye candy, you'll always have a good time. Just John's has been voted the city's best gay bar so many times, we should probably just retire the category. Come see what all the fuss is about in the heart of the Grove.
Best Sports Bar: Hot Shots Sports Bar & Grill
Multiple locations, including 4021 Union Road, 314-416-8516
Readers love watching the game at Hot Shots, which in its 25 years of operation has grown to include close to a dozen St. Louis-area locations. Basic bar eats will keep you fueled up for pool, darts or just catching an NFL game on the big-screen TVs.
Best New Bar: Duke's
2001 Menard Street, 314-833-6686
This Soulard newcomer is nothing fancy or fussy, just a good solid spot to enjoy a beer or watch the game. Readers voted it the best new bar because they enjoy its friendly attitude and no-frills charm.
Best Local Brewery: Schlafly
Schlafly dared to take on Anheuser-Busch long before that company was even on InBev's radar — and that bold action and some excellent brews have earned it the city's eternal gratitude. With more than 50 different styles of beers now brewed annually, Schlafly is a growing regional player, but one that's still committed to its local roots, just the way it ought to be.
Best Dive Bar: Cat's Meow
2600 S. 11th Street, 314-776-8617
This Soulard dive, owned by the family of Alderman Ken Ortmann, isn't just another place for a drink in a neighborhood with tons of options. Our readers also consider it the city's very best dive — a low-key place where the drinks are cheap and the pours are strong. That might be a state legislator on the barstool next to you or it might be the local drunk. Either is good company once you're a few drinks in.
Best 3 a.m. Bar: Bar 101
1724 S. Broadway, 314-621-5400
Where to go on the south side when it's closing time everywhere else? Bar 101 has sand volleyball during the day, but late at night and early in the morning, readers say it's the best place to be. Enjoy affordable drinks and a fun crew until it really is quitting time.
Best Bartender: Lucky McAteer
John D. McGurk's
A longtime bartender at the city's best Irish pub, Lucky McAteer may have the best name for such an occupation we've heard in a long time — and he also wins our readers' devotion for his excellent service. He's not the hottest new bartender in town or the one mixing the fanciest drinks. He's just a true professional, and in a hard-drinking town, isn't that what counts?
Best Music Venue: The Pageant
6161 Delmar Boulevard, 314-726-6161
This all-ages club in the Delmar Loop is our readers' pick for the best place to see a show, and it's easy to see why. The Pageant books great talent in a clean, well-run space. The fact that Steve's Hot Dogs has set up shop on the premises? A wonderful bonus to what was already a clear choice for best music venue.
Best Dance Club: Thaxton Speakeasy
1009 Olive Street, no phone
Located in the basement of the beautiful Thaxton Building, the Thaxton Speakeasy is the best way to take a trip back in time — and our readers' choice for best dance club. You can dress up here or even dress 1920s style; just come prepared for a roaring good time.
Best Jazz/Blues Club: BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups
700 S. Broadway, 314-436-5222
Located in the shadow of Busch Stadium in St. Louis' famous Blues Triangle, BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups is a wonderful spot to see local and touring performers alike. Grab some Cajun and Creole food from the respected kitchen and see why readers consistently vote it one of the city's best live music spots.
Best Rock Club: Old Rock House
1200 S. 7th Street, 314-588-0505
Readers say there's no better place to see rock & roll than this club on the edge of Soulard. With its spacious room, friendly bartenders and a calendar that features the likes of Beach Slang, Bob Schneider, Cowboy Mouth, Rusted Root and more (just this year alone!) it's easy to see why.Turn the page for more, including Food & Drink [page] City Life Readers Choice Winners
Best Park: Forest Park
There's a reason even national travel publications recognize Forest Park as the best park in the nation: There's nothing that comes close to its majesty. With 1,371 acres holding everything from a zoo to an ice skating rink, it's unquestionably one of the very best things in St. Louis.
Best City Neighborhood: Soulard
The island of Soulard can be a magical place — a gorgeous old neighborhood filled with red brick, cheap bars and friendly locals. Whether you live here, come here to try the increasingly good restaurant scene or just like to stop by to visit McGurk's, you probably have a soft spot for Soulard. No wonder readers chose it as the best.
Best Antique Shop: Emporium St. Louis
9410 Manchester Road, 314-962-7300
This shop on the edge of Webster Groves is a favorite with readers for its reasonable prices and great selection. Whether you're looking to buy heirloom jewelry or furniture you can't find in a mall, readers says Emporium can't be beat.
Best Furniture Store: Emporium St. Louis
9410 Manchester Road, 314-962-7300
Also the winner of this year's Best Antique Shop category, Emporium couldn't be more different than IKEA. The furniture is fully assembled — and more than a few years old. But the unique finds here are definitely worth a trip; no wonder it's won a top spot in our readers' choice category for two consecutive years.
Best Record Store: Vintage Vinyl
6610 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-721-4096
With both new and used CDs, amazing in-store performances and an incredibly knowledgeable staff, Vintage Vinyl wins awards year after year, with good reason. Now a solo operation run by Tom "Papa" Ray after Lew Prince decided to move on, Vintage Vinyl remains a great place to find that new release you were looking for — or just browse.
Best Clothing Store: Paper Dolls
Multiple locations including 7700 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-899-0446
This boutique has been on a growth tear, adding a shop in Des Peres this fall to complement the ones in Kirkwood, Ballwin and University City. There's a reason they're loved by readers and savvy shoppers alike; the prices are reasonable and the selection expertly curated.
Best Gift Shop: The Porch
1700 S. 9th Street, 314-436-0282
A "wine and gift" boutique in Soulard, the Porch has something for just about everyone on your list, from hand-painted goblets to candles to birdfeeders. Readers love the brightly colored selection and, yes, that wine selection! Stop by and see what the fuss is about.
Best Jewelry Store: Paramount Jewelers
7348 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-645-1122
This Maplewood shop has been "sparkling in St. Louis since 1946," and it's easy to see why. Readers praise its staffers' attentive service and custom design. Whether it's an engagement ring or an heirloom piece that needs updating, Paramount is ready to work with customers.
Best Book Store: Left Bank Books
399 S. Euclid Avenue, 314-367-6731
This Central West End mainstay has everything you could ever want in a book store: great selection, plenty of cozy corners for wiling away the hours, incredible programming and even a book store cat. Check out new releases upstairs and the great used selection downstairs or just come for an author reading; you'll see why readers consistently choose it as No. 1.
Best Thrift Store: Goodwill
Multiple locations including 3728 Market Street, 314-531-0671
This national chain has been finding a new generation of eager customers lately, with expanded offerings of used books and, in some locations, remodeled showrooms to keep things light and bright. Best of all, your purchases help a good cause: Profits help people with barriers to employment live fuller, more independent lives.Turn the page for more, including Food & Drink [page]
Best Restaurant: Anthonino's
2225 Macklind, 314-773-4455
Readers love this Italian-Greek hybrid — it's a perennial winner in our Best Of issue and our Restaurant Guide as well. Good food, warm service and an inviting atmosphere keep people coming back year after year. A recent revamp of the dining room is just the cherry on top.
Best New Chef: Ben Welch
Big Baby Q and Smokehouse
It's fitting that Welch, whose six-month-old Big Baby Q and Smokehouse won "Best New Restaurant," would also win our readers' nod for "Best New Chef." A Johnson & Wales graduate, Welch toiled for a series of kitchens needing a hired hand until finally opening a place of his own — and now he's got lines coming out the door. Remember his name; someday you'll brag you voted for him.
Best New Restaurant: Big Baby Q and Smokehouse
11658 Dorsett Road, Maryland Heights; 314-801-8888
RFT food critic Cheryl Baehr gave this Maryland Heights spot a rave review this summer, and readers agree, calling it the best new spot to open this year in addition to two other top spots in this poll. The tiny barbecue shack serves up expert brisket, smoked chicken wings and pork steak. Delicious.
Best Late-Night Eats: Courtesy Diner
Multiple locations including 1121 Hampton Ave, 314- 644-2600
Other greasy spoons in town may boast that they're fancier, or tinier, or even greasier. But for that classic diner experience without an ounce of fuss, nothing beats Courtesy Diner. It's big enough that you can spread out with your newspaper in a booth but friendly enough that you'll be just as happy elbow-to-elbow at the counter. Order up an omelet and see why readers love it so much.
Best Brunch (tie): Katie's Pizza & Pasta Osteria and Three Monkeys
9568 Manchester Road, Rock Hill; 314-942-6555
3153 Morgan Ford Road, 314-772-9800
Readers' picks for "Best Brunch" offer two different, but equally delicious, experiences. At Katie's Pizza & Pasta Osteria, Katie Collier serves her signature fresh Italian cooking in a strikingly attractive environment. At Three Monkeys, the portions are huge and the vibe totally laidback. Either way, once you're sipping on a bloody mary or mimosa, you simply can't go wrong.
Best Barbecue: Sugarfire Smoke House
Multiple locations including 9200 Olive Boulevard, Olivette; 314-997-2301
Readers love Mike Johnson's barbecue. They love the flagship in Olivette, they love the new location downtown adjoining the National Blues Museum and they love all the other restaurants in this rapidly growing chain too. Why? Get a taste of what he's cooking and we guarantee you won't ever have to ask again.
Best Burger: Bailey's Range
920 Olive Street, 314-241-8121
David Bailey's stylish burger-and-shake joint packs in diners downtown, with guests feasting on a range (get it?) of clever combinations. Try the "Hawaii 5-Oh!" with pineapple salsa, candied bacon and jalapeno, or the "Texas Ranger" with poblano peppers, queso and chipotle cream cheese. You'll see why readers have chosen it as the city's tastiest.
Best Burger (Non-Beef): Frida's
622 North and South Road, University City; 314-727-6500
This beloved vegetarian restaurant promises "no sugar, no butter, no bull." But while the beef is missing, the burger isn't — readers love Frida's veggie burger, which comes topped with tahini-chipotle slaw and tomato on a rye sourdough bun.
Best Bakery: Jilly's Cafe and Cupcake Bar
8509 Delmar Blvd, University City; 314-993-5455
It's not just about the baked goods — at this sunny University City cafe, you can also dine on mac & cheese, soups, salads, sandwiches or quesadillas. But make sure to save room for dessert, because the cupcakes here are truly inspired, with creative toppings and striking good looks. Readers say they're the best in town.
Best Desserts: Cyrano's Cafe
603 E. Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-963-3232
Whether you're on your way to the opera or seeing a film at Webster University, you'll want to make time to stop by Cyrano's — and make it long enough to grab dessert in addition to a quick bite. Desserts include a series of flambees, pastries, ice cream and sorbets. Love the cake or pie you're eating? Get a full-size version to go.
Best Wings: Culpeppers Grill & Bar
Multiple locations including 300 N. Euclid Avenue, 314-361-2828
This local chain has a big following for its reasonable prices, solid bar food and, yes, those delicious wings. Crispy on the outside, these meaty wings come slathered in hot, gold, chipotle BBQ, sweet & spicy or honey mustard. Readers say you can't go wrong with any of the above.
Best Tacos: Fort Taco
Multiple locations including 8106 Manchester Road, Brentwood; 314-647-2391
From one humble drive-through that opened two years ago, this growing St. Louis-based chain has big ambitions, and after tasting the small but perfectly executed menu, it's easy to think world domination is in their grasp. We'll explain why in two words: puffy tacos. They're expertly fried and stuffed with fresh fillings, a delicious meal you'll want to eat again and again.
Best Pizza: Imo's
Multiple locations including 1828 Washington Avenue, 314-241-6000
The "square beyond compare" has earned St. Louis' undying devotion, making it a perennial pick in contests like these. If you grew up in St. Louis, you almost certainly love cracker-thin pizza slathered with provel and various toppings, then cut into squares instead of slices. What can we say? Love of Imo's has been implanted on your brain. Enjoy it!
Best Fried Chicken: Hodak's
2100 Gravois Avenue, 314-776-7292
This south city landmark brings in hordes of diners eager to chow down on its fried chicken and classic fixings, including french fries and coleslaw. RFT readers have named it their favorite for 25 years running. We can't stop now!
Best Doughnuts: Strange Donuts
Multiple locations including 2709 Sutton Boulevard, Maplewood; 314-932-5851
It's been a year of change for Strange Donuts, which in the last twelve months saw the departure of one of its co-founders and its corporate chef. But one thing hasn't changed: the affection St. Louis feels for its off-the-wall donuts, which include collaborations with local restaurants and tasty flavors like red velvet and blueberry cheesecake. Stop by and see what the excitement is about.
Best Mexican: Hacienda Mexican Restaurant
9748 Manchester Road, Rock Hill; 314-962-7100
Readers love this sprawling Tex-Mex joint in Rock Hill, which is known for both its beautiful patio and its tasty margaritas. Sit back, relax and tuck into some chips and salsa and a wet burrito. It's the house specialty, and it's been thrilling diners for more than 40 years.
Best Greek: Olympia Kebob House and Taverna
1543 McCausland, 314-781-1299
This homey spot on McCausland has been in business for more than 35 years, drawing diners for its delicious Greek cuisine and laidback atmosphere. Try the flaming cheese, set on fire at your table, for the classic Greek experience, or keep things low-key with cheese, olives and lamb. Either way, you'll leave happy — and full.
Best Italian: Cunetto House of Pasta
5453 Magnolia Avenue, 314-781-1135
This old-school Italian joint on the Hill is a readers' favorite year after year thanks to its generous portions and delicious food. Try the signature "Cardinale" sauce, a creamy decadence that always feels right at home in St. Louis.
Best Indian: Haveli
9720 Page Avenue, 314-423-7300
Readers love this north county Indian restaurant for its delicious renderings of all the classics from the subcontinent — curries, biryanis and vindaloos, all expertly prepared. Not sure what to order? Stop by at lunch and try the buffet. You'll find a favorite new dish in no time.
Best Korean: Seoul Taco
6665 Delmar Boulevard, 314-863-1148
This spot began as a food truck serving Korean/Mexican fusion, which should give you some idea of its quote-unquote authenticity. But while it's not classic Korean cuisine on offer at Seoul Taco, what's being served at this fast-casual spot is utterly delicious — and isn't that what matters? Once you've tried these tacos, you may never go back to Tex-Mex again.
Best Chinese: Wonton King
8116 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-567-9997
A staple of University City's China Town, Wonton King is well known for its expansive menu and excellent dim sum. The Hong Kong-style restaurant has a selection broad enough for a first-timer to find something familiar, while still serving the classics of Chinese cuisine. Aficionados should check out the authentic lunch menu, which includes delicacies such as preserved egg and shredded pork congee, and the Chef's Specialties menu and its "Golden Chrysanthemum Chicken."
Best Vietnamese: Mai Lee
396 Musick Memorial Dr, Brentwood; 314-645-2835
Critics will tell you Mai Lee isn't just the best Vietnamese in town — it's one of the best restaurants, period. Even as Chef Qui Tran and his family are gearing up to open a ramen shop, their Brentwood eatery remains at the top of its game, with delicious pho, mouthwatering noodle bowls and expertly grilled meats.
Best Bistro: Brasserie by Niche
4580 Laclede Avenue, 314-454-0600
There may be newer, and fancier, restaurants in Chef Gerard Craft's stable, but not one as chic as Brasserie by Niche. Dine on bistro classics in a sophisticated atmosphere. Everything is expertly done, from the bread and butter that opens the meal to the wine list. And don't even get us started on that wonderful sidewalk dining, perfect for Central West End people-watching three seasons a year.
Best Thai: Pearl Cafe
8416 N. Lindbergh Boulevard, Florissant; 314-831-3701
This Florissant restaurant has a complicated pedigree — the chef is from Vietnam, with Chinese heritage. Yet it's not just readers who say he's cooking the best Thai food in town. Scott Truong married into a Thai family and mastered their dishes, thrilling readers with classic preparations and some super-spicy options as well.
Best Middle Eastern: The Vine
3171 S. Grand Boulevard, 314-776-0991
This Tower Grove South spot specializes in Lebanese food, and all we can say is lucky us. The classic Middle-Eastern dishes are all here, served with fresh-baked flatbreads and warm hospitality. Don't miss the bakery, which sells perfectly prepared Mediterranean-style treats.
Best Sushi (tie): Cafe Mochi and Tani Sushi Bistro
3221 S. Grand Boulevard, 314-773-5000
7726 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-296-8069
In the all-important sushi category, readers were torn between the sleek perfection of Clayton's Tani Sushi Bistro and the friendly delights on offer at Cafe Mochi in Tower Grove South. Can't we say yes to both? The two places specialize in incredibly fresh fish and adventurous rolls. Pull up a seat at the bar and let the chefs work their magic.
Best Ramen: Vista Ramen
2609 Cherokee Street, 314-797-8250
This brand-new spot on Cherokee Street combines the expertise of Chef Chris Bork with 2016's hottest dish — ramen. The result is a restaurant that critics and readers alike can't stop raving about. Bork's ramen isn't traditional (witness the "pozole ramen," which combines notes of the classic Mexican stew with the Asian noodle dish), but it is beyond brilliant. And isn't that what really counts?
Best Vegetarian: Lulu's Local Eatery
3201 S. Grand Boulevard, 314-300-8215
For their pick for the city's best vegetarian food, readers again turned to the bustling South Grand dining scene, giving the nod to husband-and-wife team Robert Tucker and Lauren Loomis and their stylish plant-based spot, Lulu's Local Eatery. Originally a food truck, the restaurant now draws regulars who relish the inventive wraps, sandwiches, bowls and salads.
Best Diner: City Diner
3139 S. Grand Boulevard, 314-772-6100
Long part of a pair, Tower Grove South's City Diner is now on its own, having obtained new owners even as its twin sister in Grand Center takes on a new identity as Stage Left Diner. This fun, retro-themed eatery continues to be a favorite with readers, who come for the shakes and patty melts and adore the meatloaf omelet.
Best Steakhouse: Tucker's Place
Multiple locations including 2117 S. 12th Street, 314-772-5977
If you long for the days when steakhouses weren't so stupidly fancy (and expensive), you'll love the way they do things at Tucker's Place, a laidback restaurant that happens to serve some truly delicious cuts of meat. With locations in south county, west county and Soulard, Tucker's draws props from readers for its generous portions and signature lemon-pepper salad dressing.
Best Food Truck: Seoul Taco
Sometimes, the original is still the best — and Seoul Taco, which kicked off the food truck craze in St. Louis, continues to draw lines of hungry diners wherever it parks. David Choi has built an empire on the back of this truck, with Seoul Taco restaurants now thriving in the Loop; Champaign, Illinois; Chicago; and Columbia, Missouri.
Best Ice Cream: Ted Drewes
Multiple locations, including 6726 Chippewa Street, 314-481-2652
It's one of the very best summer rites in St. Louis — standing in line at Ted Drewes' Chippewa location to get delicious frozen custard that won't fall out of a cup, even if you hold it upside-down. But it's not just nostalgia. Witness how fast that line moves, how efficient the workers are. See how much fun everyone in this little microcosm of the city is having. And, more than anything, taste how delicious those frozen treats can be.
Best Coffee Shop: Coffee Cartel
2 Maryland Plaza, 314-454-0000
Coffee Cartel handles coffee drinks, ice cream and even sandwiches with aplomb, keeping the Central West End caffeinated and well-fed even into the wee hours of the morning. And if there's any better spot for people-watching in the whole damn city we have yet to find it. No wonder readers are vociferous in their praise.
Best Deli: Blues City Deli
2438 McNair, 314-773-8225
The Valenza family has had lines out the door of their Benton Park sandwich shop for years on end, and we can explain why in two simple words: those sandwiches. They are enormous, delicious and utterly deserving of every kudo they get. So go ahead, get in line. Blues City Deli is one experience that's worth it.
Best Fast-Casual: Big Baby Q and Smokehouse
11658 Dorsett Road, Maryland Heights; 314-801-8888
Ben Welch's six-month-old barbecue shack is the perfect spot to order a quick bite at lunch, with one caveat — you'll want to make sure they haven't run out of food yet. With a growing following, Big Baby Q can't always give you what you want. But if you're lucky, you'll love what you get.