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Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Few More Restaurants of Note from 2011

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge The "Hot Mama" wings at O! Wing Plus: 2011 was a good year for wing fans. - JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Jennifer Silverberg
  • The "Hot Mama" wings at O! Wing Plus: 2011 was a good year for wing fans.
This week, I counted down my top ten dishes for 2011, a list drawn mostly (though not entirely) from restaurants that opened this year. In October, I ranked the five best new restaurants in St. Louis for 2011 and awarded an honorable mention to five more new restaurants.

Even accounting for the overlap between the two lists, they cover a lot of ground. Still, as Gut Check closes the books on 2011, I thought I'd mention a few more restaurants and restaurant trends from the past twelve months of reviews worthy of note.

A burger at Dooley's Beef n Brew House - JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Jennifer Silverberg
  • A burger at Dooley's Beef n Brew House
- Burgers: The "better burger" trend brought the rapidly expanding national chain Smashburger to town this year. For my money, though, the best of these better burgers can be found at a new and locally owned restaurant, Dave & Tony's Premium Burger Joint (12766 Olive Boulevard, Creve Coeur; 314-439-5100).

For those who scoff at the notion that St. Louis needs "better" burgers, this October saw the welcome return of a beloved old-school spot, Dooley's Beef n Brew House (601 North Grand Boulevard; 314-531-7600).

What bridges the generation gap between Dooley's and Dave & Tony's? At both restaurants, thankfully, you can order a medium-rare burger with confidence.

Fried saba (mackerel) at Izakaya Ren - JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Jennifer Silverberg
  • Fried saba (mackerel) at Izakaya Ren
- Izakaya: In the U.S., izakaya is often described as Japanese bar snacks or (God help us) Japanese tapas. St. Louis gained two restaurants serving izakaya fare this year, bringing the grand total of St. Louis izakaya restaurants to, um, two: Izakaya Ren (2948 Dougherty Ferry Road, Valley Park; 636-825-3737) and Hiro (609 Eastgate Avenue; 314-721-9168) .

You don't have to know a thing about izakaya to eat at either restaurant, as both offer lengthy, fairly conventional menus of nigiri sushi, sashimi and rolls. If you venture outside your comfort zone, however, you can enjoy such tasty morsels as Izakaya Ren's whole fried saba (mackerel) or Hiro's braised pork belly served inside sweet steamed buns.

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