Almost every out-of-towner who moves to St. Louis is surprised by the size of our art scene. We have one of the best opera companies in the nation, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, staging world premieres every summer. We also have theaters like Upstream Theater staging breathtaking small-scale world and national premiers, or New Line Theatre, which has been the first in St. Louis to put up major Broadway productions, including Next to Normal and Be More Chill. The music scene is similarly vibrant, with musicians and artists organizing new festivals and concerts that get the whole city talking — and local acts such as Lydia Caesar, who get the whole country talking. The visual arts in St. Louis are no slouch either, with the Kemper Art Museum, Saint Louis Art Museum, Luminary, Pulitzer Arts Foundation and Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis all bringing in exhibits from national and international artists, even as smaller galleries and museums highlight national and regional talent. The city has it all, and we’re here to celebrate it. —Rosalind Early
Mask mandates may be a thing of the past, dining rooms are at full capacity and diners have come back out in full force. If you’re on the receiving end of the service industry, you’d be tempted to think that the pandemic is over with restaurants basking in a Roaring ’20s-style resurgence fueled by the public’s unquenchable thirst for merriment.
But while it’s true that the demand side of the equation has not simply recovered but grown even stronger since before the COVID-19 outbreak, things have not returned to normal for the industry itself — not even close. Staff shortages, which have stressed nearly every restaurant to the breaking point, signal a long-time-coming systemic reckoning wherein service-industry employees are pushing back against an old-fashioned and, at worst, abusive culture.
Supply-chain breakdowns mean that restaurants — especially immigrant-owned mom-and-pop shops — have a difficult time sourcing what they need to run their businesses. Price increases are being disproportionately absorbed by restaurants, which know that they need to charge $22 for cheeseburgers but equally know their customers won’t stomach the cost. Add to this a stressed and exhausted dining public that pushes the limits of the now-outdated adage “the customer is always right,” and you get a situation where many in the industry are asking themselves why in the hell they are even in this business.
The following places remind us why. In looking at the names that make up the Best of St. Louis Food and Drink for 2022, what’s striking is not a particular dish, a well-balanced cocktail or a stunning view but the sheer grit demonstrated by the people behind each of these places. That they have the strength to persevere in the face of such difficulty is more than impressive — it’s the most honest form of hospitality there is. —Cheryl Baehr
*Due to the volatility in the restaurant industry, please always call or check a restaurant’s website before going.
Let’s face it: The lure of convenience with Amazon or your local big-box behemoth is real. Yet St. Louis has great boutiques where you can snag much better, more unique finds, from sleek, retro furniture to designer duds on the cheap to cheeky mugs and T-shirts for the bad boss in all of us. You just have to put in the work. Shopping local is a treasure hunt, and the fun involves not just finding items within the store, but finding the stores themselves. These hidden gems are sprinkled around the city for you to discover. And once you do, you’ll feel good knowing that your money is staying right here in St. Louis to support your neighbor. Pop in, say hi to the proprietors, and let yourself discover something new. —Rosalind Early
This town is only as good as its people, so it seems fitting that we cheer them (or in some cases boo them) in our annual Best Of. Here we celebrate the folks who are working hard to make St. Louis or Missouri a little better, who are fighting for our rights, fighting for what’s right, or celebrating our city in their own way. But this section also lets you in on some secrets — the best places to do anything, whether that’s meeting a future partner, hiding from the world, or dumping someone. Where can you throw a kid’s birthday party, or for that matter your own, with minimal fuss? The people and places of this city are what make it St. Louis, and here’s the best of both.
Homegrown comedian Kathleen Madigan once described St. Louis as a “beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking, meat-eating town. We are so unhealthy that my youngest sister moved to Seattle and when she got there she saw everyone on bicycles, and she just assumed they’d all gotten DUIs.” OK, we aren’t known for being the healthiest city in the country, but we are avid about our outdoor activities. How else do you explain all the parks, the miles of bike trails and the outstate recreation areas that people flock to every summer? Plus, we are a town that loves our sports. The Cardinals and the Blues are part of the city’s beating heart, and we’re sure to add the returning Battlehawks (or whatever our XFL team name ends up being) and St. Louis City SC to the mix. And while some of us are more outdoorsy than others, you can still get your recreation indoors, with options from bowling to pinball to darts. So for those of you who ride bikes even when you don’t have a DUI, this list is for you. —Rosalind Early
Scott Rovak/Getty Images/Courtesy St. Louis Blues
Hockey is often a blur of blue and white on the ice in the Enterprise Center, but if you see a flash of skates as the puck sinks into the net, chances are they belong to Robert Thomas. A breakout star this past year, Thomas scored a rousing 20 goals throughout his time on the ice, securing his spot as the best hope for the Blues’ future. Now freshly signed to an eight-year deal, the Canadian-born forward boasts a wicked shot-on-goal and an eye on the puck, proving an essential part of both defense and offense. General manager Doug Armstrong compared signing him to a long-term deal to the previous commitments he secured from Alex Pietrangelo and Vladimir Tarasenko. Here’s hoping Thomas, too, will lead the team to the Stanley Cup. —Jenna Jones
There are undoubtedly scores of powerful people all around the St. Louis area who think that Mark Pedroli is a total pain in the ass. But the attorney, who got his JD from Washington University, is a pain in the ass for the people. Pedroli has helped families sue the region’s two biggest jails over inhumane conditions. He’s also battled for transparent government through the Sunshine and Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit that has fought against the erosion of Missouri’s open records and transparency laws. He sued Eric Greitens over the then-governor’s use of a texting app that automatically deleted his messages to staff. Earlier this year Pedroli won a six-figure settlement for a St. Louis County mother of four who suffers from stage 4 cancer. After getting arrested, the mom was lost in the county jail system for three weeks due to a paperwork error. “Now she can spend her remaining days with family, maybe buy her kids a house,” Pedroil tells the RFT. “That feels good. That’s what it’s all about.” —Ryan Krull
State Representative Chuck Basye (R-Rocheport) went viral this spring as the recipient of a blistering takedown from fellow Representative Ian Mackey (D-St. Louis County). The Missouri House was debating an amendment to an elections bill that would prevent transgender women from playing on all-female teams.
Mackey told Basye he was “afraid of people like you growing up. I grew up in Hickory County, Missouri. I grew up in a school district that would vote tomorrow to put this in place.” The impassioned speech went viral on TikTok and Twitter. Rather than take his tongue-lashing like a man, Basye tried to save face by releasing a statement calling Mackey a “loudmouth crybaby.” On Facebook he wrote, “Ian is a man I think, but I’ll need to check on a few pronouns before I can certify!”
When one Kansas City resident asked Basye about his homophobic language, the state rep doubled down. Basye phoned the resident and continued to spout asinine nonsense about transgender people. “I don’t get [transgender] people at all. Isn’t it great that they can live in America and do that kind of stuff? Where if they were in Iran or North Korea or Russia they’d be slaughtered.”
But we may have heard the last of Basye, who is stepping down due to term limits after eight years in the House. Even without term limits, the former air-traffic controller, who once introduced a bill to make it legal to turn left on a red light, would face an uphill battle in his district, which was redrawn to be more favorable to Democrats. All the better for Missouri, we say. —Rosalind Early
We didn't have a photo of Renaud, but here is an image of the paper he works for.
Josh Renaud has had a hell of a year. Governor Mike Parson falsely accused the St. Louis Post-Dispatch data journalist of “hacking” the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website to access the Social Security numbers of educators. He hadn’t — the numbers were viewable in the HTML code of the website, something anyone could access. Renaud even informed officials of the vulnerability before publishing his exposé, and officials later determined Renaud did nothing wrong. The governor still has not apologized. Despite all that, Renaud has displayed extreme grace and composure, continuing to publish quality data representations of just how much rain the St. Louis area got in the historic flash floods earlier this year, the ages of area buildings and crime statistics. Plus, Renaud used his spotlight to highlight a greater issue: the government’s attack on freedom of the press. Renaud’s resilience is the stuff that journalists everywhere can take a page from. —Jenna Jones
VIA UNITED TALENT AGENCY
With her new show Welcome Home Nikki Glaser, the comedian has become a great St. Louis ambassador.
Comedian on the brink of major stardom leaves her glitzy life in Los Angeles for flyover country, hooks up with an ex and crashes in her parents’ suburban home for more than a year. It sounds like the setup for a terrible sitcom, one in which we learn the comedian is a slob (or a snob) and her hometown is a backwater. But that’s not how Welcome Home Nikki Glaser? plays — because this is a reality show, not a sitcom, and because the reality is that Nikki Glaser is hilarious and charming and not at all a slob (or a snob). Sure, her E! series jokes about the unlikely relocation, and the way you can’t go anywhere in this two-horse town without running into some guy you dated in high school. But overall, St. Louis looks as good as it’s looked in the national media in a long time. By showing that you can achieve show business success from an apartment in the Central West End that’s a hell of a lot bigger than anything you could afford in LA, the famously raunchy comedian sets an example that we can only hope other celebrities will follow. And if not, we’re counting on the pride of Kirkwood High filming many more shows here. FBoy Island: Lake of the Ozarks? We’d watch the hell out of that one. —Sarah Fenske