Best Of 2021

Best Deli: Al-Tarboush

Sleiman "Sam" Bathani at Al-Tarboush Deli
Before he was the patriarch of the beloved University City Lebanese deli Al-Tarboush (602 Westgate Avenue, University City; 314-725-1944), Sleiman “Sam” Bathani was somewhat of a Lebanese pop star, traveling around his home country and regaling his fans with his stunning voice. Stranded in the United States while on tour due to the war that ravaged Lebanon, Bathani sent for his family and set out to create a new life as a restaurateur, first opening a club and events space in Chicago, and eventually landing in St. Louis and his tiny storefront on Westgate Avenue. It’s been a difficult ride that has led him to this point, but the way he has created something so beautiful out of the challenges he and his family have experienced is nothing short of inspiring. Al-Tarboush Deli is an icon of the St. Louis dining scene, with the best shawarma, falafel and numerous other Lebanese delicacies you can find in the area. Sometimes, when he’s slathering that mouthwatering garlic sauce on your wrap, you’ll hear him humming a tune — one of many gifts he’s been so generous to share with us over the years. —Cheryl Baehr

Previous Winners