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Monday, January 9, 2012

The Nine Best Tapas/Small Plates Restaurants in St. Louis

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 2:09 PM

Page 2 of 2

Kirkwood's best place for tapas. - JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Jennifer Silverberg
  • Kirkwood's best place for tapas.

One 19 North Tapas & Wine Bar (119 North Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood; 314-821-4119)

In its former life, 119 North Kirkwood Avenue was home to D'Vine Wine. As frequent visitors to the wine spot, husband and wife Pat and Ellen Carr took a shine to the location, and, when the opportunity arose, they took it over and re-created it as One 19 North Tapas & Wine Bar. While wine remains in the name, the Carrs took it up a notch by adding a tasty selection of traditional and not-so-traditional tapas. Here you'll find a meat-and-cheese plate as well as New Orleans barbecue shrimp and crawfish étouffée. The rustic setting provides a cozy backdrop with which to sit back, relax, sip wine and completely pig out on delicious tapas.

Wes Johnson's latest venture. - JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Jennifer Silverberg
  • Wes Johnson's latest venture.

Salt (4356 Lindell Boulevard; 314-932-5787)

Chef Wes Johnson found success at such spots as Eclipse and Shaved Duck, and now he shares his talents at a his own restaurant, Salt, in the Central West End spot formerly home to Savor. Here Johnson serves up ducky delights, porky pleasures and other rustic farm-to-table fare. Among the small plates, standouts include braised pork belly and duck-fat frites. Another must-have at Salt is a seared scallop in a cracked-mustard sauce, which is served inside a sealed Mason jar. In 2011 this dish earned praise when it ranked No. 2 on RFT food critic Ian Froeb's Top Ten Dishes of 2011, and the restaurant itself received Best of St. Louis honors as Best New Restaurant.

Tapas at Sanctuaria: It's wild! - JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Jennifer Silverberg
  • Tapas at Sanctuaria: It's wild!

Sanctuaria (4198 Manchester Avenue; 314-535-9700)

Brought to us from the team behind Café Ventana and the reborn Chuy Arzola's, Sanctuaria in the Grove cooks up a brief, but effective selection of tasty "wild" tapas. These aren't your typical ham, olive and cheese bites. Here choices include cabrales "cigars" - Spanish blue-cheese-and-leek fondue rolled into phyllo and pan-seared - as well as Monterey-jack-and-guava empanadas, bacon-wrapped dates and "wicked good shrimp," which features a garlicky, peppery tomato sauce. Sanctuaria cranks up the wild times with a hefty menu of specialty cocktails to accompany these unconventional, but delicious, plates.

click to enlarge Taste in the Central West End - LAURA ANN MILLER
  • Laura Ann Miller
  • Taste in the Central West End

Taste (4584 Laclede Avenue; 314-361-1200)

By now any local foodie knows that Gerard Craft cooks legendary meals at his multiple successful ventures in the city, but at Taste, fans can enjoy the ever-changing menu of small plates conjured by Craft's partner Adam Altnether, who heads up Taste on his own. Offerings have included plenty of piggy pleasures such as pork meatballs and pork belly. Not a Porky fan? No problem. Taste's delicious dishes also include seared scallops and roasted squash bruschetta. Ted Kilgore, Taste's mixologist, ensures that diners get the perfect beverage to accompany these perfect dishes.

And the Best Tapas/Small Plates Restaurant in St. Louis for 2011 is...

Robust (227 West Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-963-0033)

As St. Louisans we understand that going out for tapas here will never be the same as exploring the storied streets of Spain, the promised land of paella and jamón ibérico and naps. We get it. But the tapas experience is just as much about atmosphere as it is about food, and Webster Groves' Robust Wine Bar has atmosphere in spades. The vibe is stylish but warm and welcoming, and the food's outstanding, whether you opt for traditionally "Spanish" fare -- Cava and chorizo, for example -- or not-so, such as rib-eye medallions or Genoa salami. Explore Robust's pages-long wine list by opting for a flight ($12 to $26); that's three three-ounce pours grouped by theme -- "Bubble Bath" (sparkling wines), for instance, or "Take Me to Bed Reds." Robust also offers the option of purchasing wines by the half-glass, when you want just one more little taste of your favorite newly discovered wine (and you almost certainly will). And if you like it so much you want to take some home, Robust retails all its wines by the bottle, at very competitive prices.

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