A Food Lover's Guide to St. Louis City

Discover the restaurants we love in 2023

Jun 1, 2023 at 6:10 am
Little Fox is a star in Fox Park.
Liz Miller
Little Fox is a star in Fox Park.

This year, we're bringing you a guide to restaurants we love throughout St. Louis’ many neighborhoods. These favorite spots have cemented their legacies and are joined by many new spots that are destined to become classics. These, and all the restaurants in our guide, were curated by RFT Restaurant Critic Cheryl Baehr. Read on to discover many of the great places to eat in St. Louis city, and then check out her introduction as well as her picks for St. Louis County and as well as St. Charles County and the Metro East.


click to enlarge Havana's sandwiches are pressed on Cuban bread from La Segunda Central Bakery.
Mabel Suen
Havana's sandwiches are pressed on Cuban bread from La Segunda Central Bakery.

Cinder House

At Cinder House (999 North Second Street, 314-881-5759), acclaimed chef Gerard Craft has created a menu of dazzling South American-style dishes inspired by his Brazilian "Dia," or childhood nanny. Small plates such as crab ceviche or crispy shrimp and squid evoke a Brazilian beachside barbecue, while entrees are one masterpiece after another. The five-star rendition of feijoada is a must-try, and meats grilled over a wood fire are as good as the offerings at any steakhouse in town. The food is made more thrilling by the stunning setting; the view from the eighth floor of the Four Seasons is simply awe-inspiring. $$$-$$$$. Opens daily at 8 a.m. Rooftop patio open daily from 2 p.m. to close.


After beginning as a stall at the Soulard Farmers Market, Havana's (1131 Washington Avenue, 314-449-6671) became a food truck during the pandemic and, two years ago, a cheerful brick-and-mortar on the western edge of downtown. The wait was worth it. The Cuban sandwich is justifiably owner Tamara Landeiro's signature, but she proves time and again she can make anything magical between two slices of bread, including the pan con lechon, with succulent, slow-cooked pork atop Cuban bread, and even a ropa vieja sandwich. And it's not just sandwiches — Landeiro excels with empanadas and croquettes. $. Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday.

Kimchi Guys

Located in Laclede's Landing, the fast-casual Kimchi Guys (612 North Second Street, 314-766-4456) serves Korean fried chicken along with dumplings, sandwiches, Korean BBQ bowls and a host of Korean/Mexican fusion items like the Korrito (a burrito stuffed with kimchi-fried rice plus your choice of protein). Vegans aren't ignored, with both bowls and "takos" available with spicy, marinated plant-based chicken. Thirsty? Kimchi Guys serves not only soda and water but the Korean beer Hite and soju, the vodka of Korea. $. Opens at 11 a.m. daily, with service until 8 p.m. Tuesday through Wednesday until 9 p.m. Thursday through Monday.


Since taking over culinary operations for Bailey's Restaurants in 2021, veteran chef Cassy Vires has left her mark on daytime mainstay Rooster (multiple locations including 1025 Washington Street, 314-241-8118), infusing the menu with her talented, homestyle touch. Adhering to a farm-to-table model and sourcing local ingredients, Vires' menu offers a modern take on breakfast, featuring crêpes, scrambles and breakfast sandwiches, including vegan options. Settle in for a bountiful brunch at an eye-catching and practical community table that creates a beautiful centerpiece in a serene Downtown space while enjoying traditional coffee beverages, or branch out with a matcha mint latte or a Dreamsicle smoothie. If you need a little something spicy with your scrambled eggs, opt for a cocktail. $. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.


click to enlarge A selection of dishes from Polite Society.
A selection of dishes from Polite Society.

The Bellwether

The main dining room at the Bellwether (1419 Carroll Street, 314-380-3086) is downright sexy with luxe velvet seating, brocade tapestries and Moroccan-inspired hanging lanterns. It might put you in the mood for indulgence, which is perfect because you'll never want to stop eating the restaurant's exquisite dishes. Entrees like venison osso bucco, braised in juniper and red wine, and shockingly fresh seafood ravioletti offer a modern take on elevated, globally influenced American fare. Also on offer is a list of delectable cocktails and a wonderfully curated wine list, filled with lesser-known varietals. Order something for yourself or your date and see where the night takes you. $$$. Sizeable rooftop patio. Open daily from 5 to 9 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for brunch Saturday and Sunday.

Hamilton's Urban Steakhouse and Bourbon Bar

Hamilton's (2101 Chouteau Avenue, 314-241-2333) is a high-caliber steakhouse, but it has a cozy, neighborhood feel to it — it's the sort of place you'd go with business partners to celebrate closing a deal rather than the pretentious place you'd take a new client to seal it. Still, the menu hews to the template, with a show-stopping dry-aged ribeye and a terrific Kansas City strip. Unlike corporate steakhouse chains, Hamilton's includes your choice of side dish with each steak. Get the roasted-garlic mashed potatoes. When the juice and rendered fat of that ribeye mingle with these garlic-laden beauties, you hear the angels sing. $$$. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Jack Nolen's

For some top-notch smash burgers, look no further than Jack Nolen's (2501 South Ninth Street), which serves its crispy-on-the-edge, melty-in-the-middle patties on potato buns. Owner Jim Grindstaff has been studying burgers for a while — even blogging about them — and has perfected a blend of chuck, short rib and brisket to create a quintessential burger patty. You can stack it up with a triple cheeseburger or get spicy with a Firecracker Burger complete with jalapeño relish. Not into meat? Check out the pesto grilled cheese or plant-based chicken nuggets. Or order the fries, which are a meal in their own right. We recommend the Bluetine Fries, a play on Canadian-style poutine. These are still covered with brown gravy, but instead of cheese curds, you get blue cheese crumbles on top. The no-frills Soulard establishment doesn't have a phone, but you can order takeout online or dine in person. $. Closed Monday. Open Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

John D. McGurk's Irish Pub and Garden

For 44 years, John D. McGurk's (1200 Russell Boulevard, 314-776-8309) has been giving local bargoers an authentic taste of Ireland in the midst of St. Louis' French quarter. Dimly lit and filled with exposed brick and dark wood, McGurk's sprawling interior offers the preeminent place to experience a pint outside of the Emerald Isle — unless it's a lovely autumn day, in which case you should enjoy that pint next to the fountain in the stunning courtyard. It's no wonder Esquire named McGurk's one of the best bars in America. A full menu of stick-to-your-ribs food offerings pairs perfectly with the environment. $-$$. Gigantic patio. Opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 11:30 Friday through Sunday.

Mayo Ketchup

Mandy Estrella, a.k.a. Plantain Girl, made her name holding pop-ups all over the metro with dishes from Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. That success led her to open a brick-and-mortar in the heart of Lafayette Square four years ago in the sunny storefront that old-timers remember as Arcelia's. Mayo Ketchup (2001 Park Avenue, 314-696-2699) is extremely efficient — you can order on your phone or at the counter, and the takeout operation runs like a well-oiled machine (a very good thing during a global pandemic). But don't mistake efficiency for soullessness; whether it's a sampler full of treats like empanadas and fried plantains, or heartier offerings like rice bowls or sandwiches, the food here is lovingly prepared and graciously served. Linger over a cocktail or bring the kids for an early dinner; you'll see plenty of regulars doing both. Sidewalk seating. $. Open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Planter's House

Planter's House (1000 Mississippi Avenue, 314-696-2603) is St. Louis' temple to the cocktail. Together with his wife and fellow bartender Jamie Kilgore and their partner Ted Charak, acclaimed mixologist Ted Kilgore has parlayed his expertise into the gold standard for bars in St. Louis: friendly staff serving up absolutely terrific cocktails in two of the handsomest rooms in town. The kitchen, captained by chef Sam Boettler, makes it possible to go to Planter's House for a dinner of Moroccan-spiced rack of lamb or duck carbonara and leave satisfied even without having a cocktail. But this is Planter's House; why on earth would you want to do that? $$. Patio. Open 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday. Open until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Polite Society

Sitting either at the attractive bar or in the dining room of Polite Society (1923 Park Avenue, 314-325-2553), you'll feel like an invited guest in someone's stylish Lafayette Square home. The menu has as much to offer someone looking for a cocktail and quick bite as someone looking for a multi-course dinner. Add to the mix a thoughtful beverage list and servers who provide easy hospitality and, well, let's just say that if the world was more like Polite Society, we'd all be happier. $$$. Open daily 5 to 9 p.m., with brunch Saturday and Sunday.

The Wood Shack

Chef Chris Delgado has imbued his quick-service restaurant the Wood Shack (1862 South 10th Street, 314-833-4770) with the sort of swagger typically reserved for more upscale establishments. From a cozy space on a tree-lined Soulard street, he smokes his own meats and serves top-notch sandwiches including the Soulard Primer, a prime rib sandwich that puts to shame every roast-beef sandwich that came before it. Meanwhile, the Three Cheesy Pigs is a pork lover's dream, pairing peppery, thick-sliced bacon with pulled pork and smoked ham on a French baguette with luscious comte cheese, pickled okra and pungent Champagne mustard. The standout side is the mac and cheese, a velvety concoction of corkscrew noodles and three-cheese sauce, its richness cut with crushed black peppercorns. $. Limited seating inside; picnic tables out front. Opens daily at 11 a.m.


click to enlarge Station No. 3's Crispy Chick’n Sandwich features seasoned and house-battered vegan chicken, mayo, pickles, lettuce, tomato and onion.
Mabel Suen
Station No. 3's Crispy Chick’n Sandwich features seasoned and house-battered vegan chicken, mayo, pickles, lettuce, tomato and onion.

Benton Park Cafe

Last year, Benton Park Cafe (2901 Salena Street, 314-661-2368) regulars Elicia Eskew and Gavin Haslett took over the 15-year-old breakfast and lunch spot from co-founder Jessica Lenzen with an eye to carrying forward its legacy. The cafe got some light renovations before reopening with largely the same menu and the same coffee supplier. The morning menu holds a variety of standard breakfast pleasers — omelets, pancakes and whatnot — and a wide range of specialties such as the McGrittle This (a pancake egg sandwich) or the Chairman of the Board (steak, eggs, carb of choice). Lunch fare includes pizzas, soups, salads and a variety of themed sandwiches. Naturally, there's a good espresso menu and other beverages. $. Open Monday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Blues City Deli

Since 2004, owner Vince Valenza has been the de facto ambassador of Benton Park, serving his impossibly good sandwiches to a crowd that turns this little stretch of south city into an impromptu street party any time the weather is good. Blues City Deli (2438 McNair Avenue, 314-773-8225) prides itself on having the feel of a "big old house party," one where you're likely to find yourself out back playing washers. Beer only. $. Sidewalk seating. Open 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Frazer's Restaurant & Lounge

Chef/owner Frazer Cameron's cooking strikes a balance between contemporary style, market freshness and good ol' American comfort. The menu features steak, salmon and other popular dishes, but regulars know to check the chalkboards outside the kitchen for the specials: multiple catches of the day, a king crab boil, pork schnitzel — who knows, really? The cocktail list, too, is endlessly changing, with four seasons' worth of selections in addition to a roster of classics. Few places are more fun to drink than the bar at Frazer's (1811 Pestalozzi Street, 314-773-8646), which has not only excellent cocktails but a snazzy mid-century modern vibe. $$-$$$. Patio. Opens at 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Station No. 3

At Station No. 3 (1956 Utah Street, 314-925-3883), owners Natasha Kwan and Rick Roloff tapped years of culinary cleverness developed at Frida's and Diego's to put together an ideal menu for plant-based eaters and omnivores alike. Set in a former gas station, the Benton Park spot delivers elevated American pub fare/barbecue: nachos, popcorn chicken, burgers, brisket sandwich. Most of it is vegan but so convincing in its meat mimicry you might never realize it. There's also a small menu of flex items containing animal proteins — a turkey burger or sandwich, a barramundi sandwich — so everyone in the party has something for them. Highlights include the vegan burnt ends, the Station Burger and the luscious soft serve. $$. Patio. Open Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from noon to 9 p.m.

Little Fox

When Craig and Mowgli Rivard moved from Brooklyn, New York, to Craig's hometown of St. Louis in 2019, they imagined themselves opening a modern interpretation of the quintessential neighborhood restaurant. They found the perfect space in Fox Park, partnered with a prominent architecture and design firm, and put together a vibrant menu, exciting beverage program and a hospitality ethos that would become the lovely Little Fox (2800 Shenandoah Avenue, 314-553-9456). The pandemic blew up their ideas about what the place could be, but the husband-and-wife team clawed their way back up the cliff through innovation, adaptation and a refusal to cede their dream. The result of their tenacity is a Little Fox that feels even more vital to the neighborhood than it did before — and even landed a spot on the 2021 New York Times Restaurant List. $$-$$$. Patio. Open Tuesday through Thursday 5 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 5 to 10 p.m.

Lona's Lil Eats

Owner Lona Lao hails from the remote southwestern part of China — closer to Laos and Burma than Beijing — and her mother is Thai, and her father is part of the Lao Lao tribe, which boasts a rich barbecue culture. Lona's Lil Eats (2199 California Avenue, 314-925-8938) draws its inspiration from her paternal heritage, but those other influences are woven into its fabric as well. Lao and her partner, Pierce Powers, opened their fast-casual restaurant in 2014 and have been wowing diners since. The menu is simple: dumplings, wraps and plates. But Lao's flavor combinations are so unique and multilayered, your mouth will be dancing long after you finish your meal. $. Sidewalk seating. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Lucky Accomplice

When Logan Ely announced the opening of Lucky Accomplice (2501 South Jefferson Avenue, 314-354-6100) in 2020, he said he wanted a friendly neighborhood gathering place that his then-restaurant, Shift, could not fully be. He achieved that, and then some, without dimming in any way the luster he first brought to Shift. Dining at Lucky Accomplice will make you think differently about food even though it resists the pomp and circumstance of fine dining. Expect something soulful yet refined, like grilled pork collar with bok choy and crispy rice or Roman-style fermented potato gnocchi, as well as a top-notch cocktail list. $$$. Open Wednesday through Saturday for dinner and cocktails. Catch brunch from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and dinner from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays.

Milque Toast Bar

More an open-faced sandwich shop than a fancy toast spot, this cozy McKinley Heights gem will make a believer out of even the most trend-averse skeptic. The "topped toasts" at Milque Toast (2212 South Jefferson Avenue, 314-833-0085) — slathered with an ever-changing roster of toppings such as goat cheese covered with truffled mushrooms, or a luscious blue cheese version spiked with Louisiana hot sauce — are simply delicious, with soups, stews and a few sides completing the menu. Smoothies, malts and fun drinks like a hibiscus fizz change with the seasons. $. Patio. Open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co.

For his sophomore effort, Sidney Street Cafe executive chef Kevin Nashan transformed the former Niche space in Benton Park into a whitewashed beach shack with the freshest seafood in town. Diners can feast on everything from lobster and crab boils to oyster po'boys to freshly shucked oysters and peel-and-eat shrimp. The signature dish at Peacemaker (1831 Sidney Street, 314-772-8858) is its lobster roll. Served either Connecticut style, with drawn butter, or Maine style, with mayonnaise, the shockingly fresh meat is wrapped in a bun that is half brioche, half Texas toast. Meat lovers should not shy away from Peacemaker; its brisket sandwich rivals those served at the town's best smokehouses. Boozy slushies add to the summer vacation vibe. $$$. Sidewalk seating. Open for lunch and dinner daily.

Sidney Street Cafe

Chef Kevin Nashan's cuisine is defined less by a particular genre than by a feeling — a sort of refinement of texture and flavor that comes from the hand of a master (is there a better seafood chef in town?). It's no wonder that he's achieved national recognition for his work, including the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Midwest in 2017. The vibe at Sidney Street (2000 Sidney Street, 314-771-5777) is romantic, with exposed brick walls, a dark bar and knowledgeable servers who know their way around a wine list. You can get adventurous with an Asian-inflected appetizer from the ever-changing chalkboard list or order a steak with béarnaise. Either way, rest assured it's been given Nashan's Midas touch. $$$-$$$$. Opens daily at 5 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday.


Mabel Suen
Yellowbelly takes Hawaii as a jumping off point for innovative dishes and drinks.

Bowood by Niche

In 2006, Bowood Farms set up shop in the Central West End, an outpost of its rural operation in Clarksville. The result was an urban oasis, complete with a charming cafe that celebrated the farm's bounty. More than a dozen years later, acclaimed chef Gerard Craft took over the since-shuttered cafe and transformed the space into a culinary destination — with food as stunning as its environs. Set amid the foliage and botanical decor of the surrounding nursery, the new and improved Bowood by Niche (4605 Olive Street, 314-454-6868) is a gorgeous sight to behold. But it's not just the setting that makes it so magnificent. The restaurant boasts a menu of elegant breakfast and lunch fare — think cacio e pepe eggs and best-in-class egg salad — that has turned the eatery into a neighborhood essential. The nighttime menu, too, celebrates the season's bounty with an ever-changing selection of flawlessly prepared dishes and wood-fired pizzas that are elevated, yet somehow feel like a warm hug. $$-$$$. Open for brunch Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Thursday through Monday for dinner from 5-9 p.m.

Brasserie by Niche

Gerard Craft's take on a classic Parisian brasserie has become a mecca for St. Louis' favorite French dishes, from a cheese-crusted crock of onion soup to a killer cassoulet. The emphasis at Brasserie (4580 Laclede Avenue, 314-454-0600) is on good ingredients prepared with skill and care, and while that doesn't come cheap, the payoff is worth it. The roasted chicken, served with shiitakes and dripping jus on its thick-cut bread base, is a masterpiece. And don't even think of starting dinner without an order of gougères. $$$. Sidewalk seating. Dinner daily; brunch on Sunday.


When you hear the name Juniper (4101 Laclede Avenue, 314-329-7696), the first thing that comes to mind is likely fried chicken. That's for good reason. The restaurant has established itself as the city's go-to for the Southern-style bird and has even earned national acclaim as the best place for fried chicken in Missouri. However, Juniper is no one-trick pony, also offering a sophisticated take on Southern cuisine ranging from the more traditional shrimp and grits to the upscale petite tender serving of beef. Sides are a must, and you'll struggle to choose among the mac and cheese, collard greens and cornbread. A variety of bright cocktails accompanies the inspired menu. The restaurant just expanded its brunch hours, so you can now feast on its comforting fare Wednesday through Sunday days. $$-$$$. Seated dinner service 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, with Friday and Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Retreat Gastropub

Retreat (2 North Sarah Street, 314-261-4497) hits that sweet spot between an upscale bar that serves food and a full-fledged restaurant. It's a trendy place that somehow never feels like it's trying too hard. Credit goes to co-owners Travis Howard and Tim Wiggins, who hit all the right notes in a menu that includes everything from a top-notch burger to braised pork gnocchi to smoked salmon dip. The cocktails are not simply exceptional — they come from Wiggins' deft hand, which helped spur the city's thriving cocktail movement. $$. Screened-in sunroom and sidewalk seating. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday; opens at 4 p.m. all other days.

Scottish Arms

Scottish Arms (8 South Sarah Street, 314-535-0551) owner Ally Nisbet, a native Scot, has created an invitingly dark and welcoming pub, perfect for downing pints or attempting to down haggis (which is actually good!). The fish and chips are the best in town; the bangers and mash will warm your belly. But it's not all classics; the restaurant's take on seasonal, modern cuisine shows an equally deft hand. There's a great scotch and whiskey list and also a superior draft beer selection. $$-$$$. Patio. Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner.

Pi Pizzeria

Pi Pizzeria (400 North Euclid Avenue, 314-367-4300) offers an upscale setting with dim lighting, a classy vibe and a large bar, perfect for sampling its great cocktails. At this popular eatery, you can choose between thin- or deep-dish-crust pizzas — both with the restaurant's signature cornmeal dusting — with an array of toppings including fontina cheese or fresh basil. Or try the namesake pizza, the Central West End, which includes mozzarella, Volpi prosciutto, goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, red onions and arugula. Gluten-free crust, vegan meat substitutes and vegan cheese are available on all pies. $$. Sidewalk seating. Opens at 11 a.m. daily.


Vicia (4260 Forest Park Avenue, 314-553-9239) feels like a contemporary farmhouse, with whitewashed exposed brick, pale wooden tables and white-framed windows that separate the bar from the dining room. A large wood-fired hearth is where much of the cooking takes place — and it's absolutely transcendent. The "vegetable-forward" dishes on Chef Michael Gallina's tasting menus are stunningly composed and imbued with intention. His Berkshire pork may have you wondering whether you've ever eaten pig before, just as his chicken-fried carrots will have you questioning whether you need meat at the center of the plate at all. No wonder the national press named Vicia one of the best new restaurants in the nation. $$$$. Enclosed patio. Open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday.


Located in the ultra-sleek Citizen Park building on the corner of Lindell and Euclid, Yellowbelly (4659 Lindell Boulevard, 314-499-1509) has the feel of a boutique hotel in present-day Waikiki. You could call it "modern Hawaiian chic," but Yellowbelly is not a Hawaiian restaurant. Instead, it takes the 50th state as a jumping-off point for dishes that include Spam-fried rice or Hawaiian roll sandwiches. Other offerings have a broader seafood focus, though the burger is also divine. However, the real star of Yellowbelly is mixologist (and co-owner) Tim Wiggins, whose beautiful, modern tiki cocktails anchor the concept. The menu includes world-class renditions of such quintessential rum-based concoctions as painkillers and daiquiris. You'll be pleased with Yellowbelly's food; you'll be blown away by its drinks. $$$. Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner, with additional hours on Saturday.


click to enlarge Saucy Porka's Guajillo Porka Baco with guajillo-marinated pork topped with pineapple salsa and served on a steamed bao bun.
Mabel Suen
Saucy Porka's Guajillo Porka Baco with guajillo-marinated pork topped with pineapple salsa and served on a steamed bao bun.


This hip counter-service spot was the first in St. Louis to offer the sushi burrito. But that's not all it's serving. Like Chipotle and its many imitators, the various proteins at BLK MKT Eats (9 South Vandeventer Avenue, 314-391-5100) can be prepared in a few different styles: a sushi burrito, wrapped in nori and packed with sticky rice; a poke bowl, with white or brown rice; an arugula-based salad; or nachos, with crispy fried wonton triangles as the base and garnished with a variety of toppings that include avocados, arugula, sesame seeds, shallots, scallions, tempura crunchies and the signature OG Fire sauce. It's a messy masterpiece. $. Very limited seating. Open Monday through Saturday from noon until evening.


Enjoying a meal at Chef Rob Connoley's Grand Center eatery feels like getting both dinner and a show — without any cheesy dinner theater vibes. At Bulrush (3307 Washington Avenue, 314-449-1208), you'll dine on a tasting menu of dishes using only ingredients native to Missouri before the railroads made it easy to bring in foodstuffs. Then, armed with videos accessible via the menu's QR codes, you'll also hear Connoley's tasting notes, which might incorporate diaries from the 1860s or research into native plants. With dark wood tables arranged in a rectangle around the open kitchen, and diners seated to face the action instead of across from each other, the focus is on the food and the charmingly erudite chef, who made his name foraging in New Mexico but has since become synonymous with the hitherto underappreciated cuisine of his native Ozarks. Pre-paid tickets are required and, at $115/person, include tax and gratuity. $$$$. Open 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Food Hall at City Foundry

The excitement that continues to surround the ever-expanding Food Hall at City Foundry (3730 Foundry Way) is understandable: After all, why go out to eat at just one restaurant when you could visit more than a dozen in one shot? The Food Hall is the home to 17 different St. Louis dining establishments, including such gems as Kalbi Taco Shack, Hello Poke, Fordo's Killer Pizza, Chicken Scratch Rotisserie and the only place in town solely dedicated to the mighty t-rav, STL Toasted. Disagreements over where to dine out become a thing of the past, and picky eaters pose no problem here, as cuisines from around the world are on offer all under one roof. With its elevated food court vibes and chic industrial styling, the Food Hall truly has something for everyone. $-$$$. Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Fountain on Locust

Long before the city's nouveau ice cream shops started offering boozy flavors and ice cream cocktails, Fountain on Locust (3037 Locust Street, 314-535-7800) was on the scene, blending ice cream with alcohol for a cool dose of yum. The city's OG ice cream parlor offers a voluminous menu of ice cream martinis, which go down smooth but also carry quite a kick. A roster of well-executed retro cocktails, from the rusty nail to the sazerac, also feels just right in the high-spirited, Art Deco environs. Because dessert isn't everything, Fountain on Locust also offers down-home entrees, including an outstanding French onion roast beef melt and an addictive dill-pickle soup that is much better than you'd ever dream. $. Opens at 11 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.

Pappy's Smokehouse

Since opening in 2008, this Midtown counter-service eatery has set the standard for 'cue in the Lou, thrusting St. Louis into the conversation as one of the best barbecue cities in the country and attracting visits from just about every rock star and pro athlete passing through the city. Credit goes to cofounder and pitmaster emeritus Mike Emerson, who as the face of Pappy's turned what he anticipated would be a simple smokehouse into a place that regularly sees lines snake around the block. Pappy's (3106 Olive Street, 314-535-4340) has become such a phenomenon that you might wonder if the fanfare is nothing but hype. Quite the contrary. Pappy's delectable smoked meats, in particular the dry-rubbed apple- and cherry-wood smoked ribs, leave no doubt that this is the real deal. $$. Opens at 11 a.m.; closed Monday and Tuesday. Frequently sells out. No alcohol.

Saucy Porka

At first, when news broke that Chicago-based Saucy Porka (3900 Laclede Avenue, 314-818-2700) planned to open a location in Midtown, St. Louisans didn't quite know what to think. Our melting pot of a city boasts several culinary niches but ... Asian Latin American fusion? Saucy Porka showed us what's up. Its menu is a thrilling blend of culinary traditions that somehow makes sense. The restaurant first launched in Chicago in 2013 after chef Amy Le and then-collaborator Rafael Lopez discovered their respective cuisines — hers Asian and his Puerto Rican — had similar and complementary flavors. Lopez has since pursued a career outside of the industry, though Le continues what they started with Saucy Porka's location in St. Louis, which she runs with her brother, Phil Le. Thank the culinary gods they did. Where would we be without chorizo egg rolls and Nutella doughnut bites? $. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Small Batch

Restaurateur David Bailey takes the whiskey-bar trend in an unexpected direction with his vegetarian eatery Small Batch (3001 Locust Street, 314-380-2040). Bailey doesn't bill the place as a crunchy vegetarian spot; instead, he hopes diners will enjoy the vegetable-focused concept so much that they fail to miss the meat. The mind-blowingly flavorful gemelli pasta, tossed with tomatoes, eggplant, capers, Szechuan sauce, chili oil and Calabrian chiles, proves that it's not an impossible dream. Small Batch's bourbon selection and creative cocktails are also impressive, and the gorgeous vintage setting provides an ideal spot to indulge in Prohibition-era drinking. $$. Open 4 to 11 p.m. Thursday through Monday.


Southern (3108 Olive Street, 314-531-4668) is the undisputed champion of the hot-chicken genre in St. Louis — if not anywhere (shhh, don't tell the folks in Nashville), a reputation solidified by its impossibly juicy, so hot it will make you hiccup, deep-fried bird. It's so good it's almost masochistic — the heat stings your throat and makes your eyes water, but the chicken is so damn flavorful you don't want to stop. And it's only part of Southern's story. Catfish, biscuits and mac-and-cheese casserole make this wonderful Midtown spot much more than a hot-chicken restaurant. $. Opens at 11 a.m.; closed Monday and Tuesday. No alcohol.


A former DJ, Turn's chef/owner David Kirkland says cooking is a lot like spinning music — the physical movements, the energy, the constant pressure to be on top of what comes next. At his delightful Grand Center cafe Turn (3224 Locust Street, 314-240-5157), Kirkland may as well be Beethoven, concocting a symphony of flavors that has us dancing in our seats. An expert at infusing his dishes with local, seasonal ingredients, Kirkland shows a restrained hand on even traditionally heavy offerings like biscuits and gravy or chorizo-covered arepas. His flavors are refined and impeccably presented in a light, airy eatery that looks like a modern museum cafe. It's a fitting setting for such artful food. $-$$. Opens at 9 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday.


Songbird's Janie's Mill rye biscuits with house-cured salmon, creme fraiche, dill micros and sieved egg.
Songbird's Janie's Mill rye biscuits with house-cured salmon, creme fraiche, dill micros and sieved egg.

Chao Baan

There's such a diversity of regional cuisines on the menu at Chao Baan (4087 Chouteau Avenue #5, 314-925-8250) that it's hard to believe such a restaurant could exist. It's owned by the Prapaisilp family, and the menu showcases the food that the family cooked and ate at home, a fusion of northern and southern Thai representing lesser-known regional flavors of the country's diverse culinary heritage. Dishes such as the appetizer mieng kham green leaf wraps with toasted coconut, dried shrimp, lime and fiery chile dazzle. There's also a smoky take on gaeng sum, a spicy and sour green curry soup featuring white fish and papaya. In a modern but welcoming space in the Grove neighborhood, Chao Baan is one of the most thrilling — and unlikely — Thai experiences in town. $$. Opens at 4 p.m. daily.

Confluence Kombucha

Confluence Kombucha (4507 Manchester Avenue, 314-833-3059) sits on the western edge of the Grove, a plant-based serenade in a neighborhood known for its pulsing beat. Though the restaurant is primarily a kombucha bar, its dishes offer funk, tang, sweet, crunch and chew — a complex symphony of flavor, texture and color so unlike anything you've previously experienced that they fill the mind as fully as the stomach. The commitment to vegetable-forward cuisine does not limit what is offered, but rather delivers innovation, whether through transcendent tempeh, Thai green curry stew, chickpea tofu or the several kombucha flavors, which feature everything from local Missouri paw paw to Asian pear. Diners don't need to be hippies or vegetarians to thoroughly enjoy the experience. $$$. Opens at 11 a.m. Thursday through Sunday.

DuckBill at Platypus

What do you get when you cross two of St. Louis' top cocktail artists with one of the city's hottest up-and-coming chefs? Why, it's Platypus (4501 Manchester Avenue, 314-448-1622), of course, the Grove hotspot for sophisticated drinks, live music and, through its DuckBill food concept, some of the tastiest small bites in town. Acclaimed bartenders Meredith Barry and Tony Saputo helm Platypus' bar side, with the integrated DuckBill concept coming via chef Grant Heman, whose outstanding popcorn chicken makes a strong case for being some of the city's best fried bird. The food counter may be humble, but Heman puts his heart and soul into his chicken, as well as delicious fried tofu, caramelized brussels sprouts and housemade dipping sauces. As dazzling as the bar side is, DuckBill makes an equally compelling case for being one of the neighborhood's essential eateries. $. Kitchen open from 4 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. daily. Bar closes at 1:30 a.m.

Everest Cafe & Bar

At Everest (4145 Manchester Avenue, 314-531-4800), you'll find a mix of Nepalese, Korean and Indian dishes prepared with fresh, healthy ingredients. Chef/owner Devi Gurung States earned his doctorate in public health, and the menu is chock-full of organic vegetables, with no processed foods, butter or heavy creams. Choose from the simple pleasures of momos (steamed pork dumplings from Tibet) or the complex interplay of meat, vegetables and spices that fill daal bhat tarkari, a complete Nepalese meal with lentil soup, rice, meat, vegetables and spicy achars. $-$$. The restaurant is open Wednesday through Monday for dinner, with a lunch buffet from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Grace Meat + Three

A glance at the menu of good ol' country cooking at Grace Meat + Three (4270 Manchester Avenue, 314-533-2700) might lead you to believe that chef/owner Rick Lewis cut his teeth in the kitchen of a homestyle cafeteria — not in some of the city's finest white-tablecloth establishments. However, when you taste Lewis' cooking, you'll quickly realize that behind his self-described "blue-collar" dishes lies the refinement and skill of a great culinary talent. It's a marriage of haute blue-plate specials and down South after-church fare wrapped in bacon and sopped up with a biscuit. Counter service. $-$$. Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

The Gramophone

When the Gramophone (4243 Manchester Avenue, 314-531-5700) announced several years ago that it was switching gears from being a music club to a "sandwich pub," music fans were seriously bummed out — but they shouldn't have been. The sandwiches here are simply spectacular, with creative combinations of quality ingredients piled high. Add a side of loaded mashed potatoes or broccoli salad, and you've got a solid base to soak up no small amount of booze. Which is a good thing, since the vibe here remains distinctly conducive to drinking. It's a great combo. $. Patio. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.

Pie Guy Pizza

Pie Guy Pizza (4189 Manchester Avenue, 314-899-0444) isn't much bigger than a garage, with one metal communal table in the center and a counter separating the kitchen from the rest of the restaurant. It serves pizza and pretty much only pizza. Yet it's well-worth a visit. Co-owner Mitch Frost uses a sourdough base that's been cold-fermented for three days. The thin crust is crispy and full of flavor, with big slices that can be folded in the classic New York style — a true taste of the Big Apple's most delicious export. $. Open Wednesday through Sunday.


The lovely Songbird (4476 Chouteau Avenue, 314-781-4344), located just blocks from the Grove on the northern edge of Forest Park Southeast, is a perfect reason to get up for breakfast after a wild night out in the bars down the street — or a reason to call it a night early. The food is locally sourced and lovingly prepared, and the thoughtful service is a far cry from what you'll get at high-volume breakfast spots. Mains include several breakfast sandwiches — the must-try Classic put the restaurant on the map — a kale frittata and a breakfast tamale. Or try an entree-sized salad; offerings change with the seasons but are never less than delicious. $. Open Thursday through Monday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sultan Mediterranean

Kurdish immigrants Akram Saeed and Jenar Mohammed are serving the food of their homeland in a striking space, with large windows overlooking Manchester and charming accents that reference the family's heritage. The colorful chandeliers are from Turkey; the golden-hued tea sets displayed on a shelf near the dessert counter came directly from Kurdistan. House specialties include the Sultan Pilau, a Kurdish pastry that wraps lamb, rice, almonds and chickpeas in layers of phyllo dough. And instead of merely serving the stuffed grape leaves familiar to American diners, Sultan (4200 Manchester Avenue, 314-390-2020) stuffs zucchini, tomato and even eggplant. $-$$. Open for lunch and dinner every day except Monday. No alcohol.


click to enlarge Union Loafers' ham and cheese on rye.
Mabel Suen
Union Loafers' ham and cheese on rye.


In November 2012, Ben Poremba descended upon a forgotten swath of the city called McRee Town and opened a small, fiercely ambitious restaurant in a former drug house. With a menu of elegant, Mediterranean-inflected cuisine, a world-class wine list and impeccable service standards, Elaia (1634 Tower Grove Avenue, 314-932-1088) quickly landed in the pantheon of the city's best restaurants. Since then, Poremba has launched a mini-empire of restaurants that represents the best of the city's dining scene, and McRee Town (now called Botanical Heights) has become a major dining destination. Through it all, Elaia has remained his flagship, a gallery of culinary elegance. The à la carte menu, served alongside the restaurant's traditional tasting menu, only serves to make that elegance more approachable. $$$$. Opens at 5:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.


Headed by James Beard Award semifinalist Nick Bognar, Indo (1641D Tower Grove Avenue, 314-899-9333) combines his stunning command of sushi with the Thai cuisine that is his heritage as the son of Nippon Tei owners Ann and Mike Bognar. Offering Hot and Cool Tastings, larger shareable plates and an impressive nigiri selection, Indo's menu respects tradition without being married to it. Instead, Bognar uses classic techniques and recipes as a jumping-off point for exploration, whether with candied pine nuts in lamb laarb or a rice flour and water "lace" that lies atop two flawlessly cooked gyoza. Though Indo offers an indulgent omakase, as a whole it's not a fine-dining restaurant, despite being thoroughly luxurious. Rather, it's a revolution. $$$. Opens at 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.


Nixta (1621 Tower Grove Avenue, 314-899-9000) has seen significant change since its debut, switching chefs a few times as well as regional focuses. But the restaurant still remains true to its original vision: to be a forum for exploring upscale Mexican cuisine that causes American diners to check their preconceptions. An ethos like that transcends individual plates — and results in transcendent food. Don't miss the crispy octopus, which has become Nixta's signature dish. A mezcal focus keeps the cocktail list as smokily sexy as the low-lit bar area. $$$. Patio. Opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.


It's no surprise that Ben Poremba's Israeli-inflected wine bar Olio (1634 Tower Grove Avenue, 314-932-1088) serves up great food. Poremba, after all, is one of the city's most acclaimed chefs. What might be surprising to first-time visitors, though, is just how much it retains its bar feel, even though the menu items it's serving are good enough to carry a restaurant. Located in a renovated Standard Oil filling station, the quarters are close, lending an intimate vibe. Poremba's food is a stunning reflection of his Israeli-Moroccan heritage, like hummus studded with almonds, pine nuts and braised lamb shoulder, and egg salad that has become legendary in the metro area. $$-$$$. Patio. Opens at 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.


For 13 years, owner and baker Reine Keis has been sharing her culinary talents with guests at her beloved Shaw neighborhood cafe SweetArt (2203 South 39th Street, 314-771-4278) in the form of some of the area's most delicious and artfully presented baked goods and daytime fare. Originally envisioned only as a pastry shop, SweetArt has evolved over the years into a full-blown breakfast and lunch spot; now completely vegan, it appeals to plant-based eaters and omnivores equally, in part because of the food (that buffalo cauliflower!), but also because of the warm, welcoming environment guests feel the moment they walk through the front door. $. Open Wednesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Union Loafers

The lunch menu at Union Loafers (1629 Tower Grove Avenue, 314-833-6111) is simple — a ham-and-cheddar sandwich, chicken-and-rice soup, even a humble PB&J — but it's the best version of simple food you will ever have. There is also what may be the best salad known to man, the Little Gem, a mix of lettuces, herbs, breadcrumbs and buttermilk dressing that is so transcendent you'll wake up in the middle of the night craving it. Indeed, once you've ordered it, this salad will be the first thing that comes to mind any time someone mentions Union Loafers — the city's best bread shop. This doesn't just say a lot about the Little Gem; it speaks volumes to just how much care head baker Ted Wilson and company put into everything they do. $-$$. Patio. Lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday with an entirely different pizza-based menu from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.


click to enlarge Even fries are something special at Nomad.
Mabel Suen
Even fries are something special at Nomad.

Hi-Pointe Drive-In

Mike Johnson made his name with the Sugarfire chain, but Hi-Pointe Drive-In (multiple locations including 1033 McCausland Avenue, 314-349-2720) proved he's much more than a one-trick pony. The modern counter-service diner offers a mouthwatering mix of burgers, shakes (boozy and un-), sandwiches and salads. While you could order a salad, this is no place for restraint. The burgers here are over-the-top decadent — and also over-the-top good, with a perfect mix of brisket, chuck and short rib that glistens with rendered fat, served on a soft potato bun. Why not order a double — or get one piled high with bacon? $. Sizable patio. Opens at 11 a.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Mac's Local Eats

Mac's (5656 Oakland Avenue, 314-393-7713) won't let you eat any old cow (or pig). Living up to its name, the restaurant works with local farms that humanely pasture-raise their animals. Then Mac's uses the whole cow, not just off-cuts, and dry ages its beef for 28 days. The result is in the taste, with lacy thin patties that pack a wallop of hearty flavor that pair amazingly well with the restaurant's signature Rip Fries, hand-cut french fries dusted in Red Hot Riplets seasoning. After years as a food counter in other establishments, Mac's has happily settled into permanent digs — a fitting setup for an iconic St. Louis burger joint. $. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Michael's Bar & Grill

Fan favorites at Michael's Bar & Grill (7101 Manchester Avenue, 314-644-2240) include the gyro salad and the wings. That's right, it's a Greek and American tavern where you can get saganaki, dolmades and spanakopita alongside New York strip steak, a burger or steak fries. The concept began in 1979, when Greek immigrant Michael Malliotakis bought a place called Nick's Little Pebble. It had belonged to his then-father-in-law, who had just found out he had cancer and needed to step away from the business. Nick's was "rough," according to Katina Malliotakis, the current proprietor of Michael's Bar & Grill. But through four decades of careful stewardship (and a name change), the place is now a St. Louis mainstay. $$. Open for lunch and dinner daily. Patio seating.


Tommy Andrew's stylishly modern counter-service restaurant connected to the Tamm Avenue Bar serves what critic Cheryl Baehr calls "unarguably the best pastrami in town — if not the state, or even the entire planet." But that's not the only thing to eat at Nomad (1221 Tamm Avenue, 314-696-2360). Try sandwiches that include a cauliflower gyro, sides including kimchi brussels sprouts or arancini, or even a ridiculously decadent pastrami poutine, which tops french fries with white gravy, molten Provel, scallions and crumbles of pastrami. No matter what, you won't leave hungry. $-$$. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

The Pat Connolly Tavern

Opened in 1942 by an Irish immigrant, the Pat Connolly Tavern (6400 Oakland Avenue, 314-647-7287) is the canvas on which much of Dogtown's green, white and orange history was painted. Over the decades, the venerable bar and grill has mastered the classic Irish pub formula: a down-to-earth atmosphere, friendly service and cold Guinness, and a menu of classic pub food that harkens back to its mid-century origins. The famous fried chicken remains among the best in town; a kids' menu means this is the rare pub where you really can bring the whole family. $. Closed Monday and Tuesday; opens every other day at 11 a.m.

Southwest Diner

If you think Southwest Diner (6803 Southwest Avenue, 314-260-7244) is named after the street on which it resides, you haven't had the New Mexican Breakfast Burrito, a green-chile-infused fire bomb of a breakfast that will make you think you're at a roadside shack outside of Santa Fe rather than a diner on the western edge of St. Louis. This beloved daytime spot serves up Southwestern-inflected specialties to bleary-eyed customers who are not afraid of heat. If you are spice averse, stay as far as you can from Jonathan's Famous Fiery Scramble, a cheesy egg concoction filled with enough heat to make you break a sweat. $. Opens at 7 a.m. on Monday, Thursday and Friday and at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.


click to enlarge Basil India offers dishes like Tangra-style chili paneer.
Mabel Suen
Basil India offers dishes like Tangra-style chili paneer.

Basil India

Madan Chhetri, one of the best chefs in St. Louis, spends his days and nights preparing the curries, noodles and various other Indo-Chinese, Thai and Indian dishes featured at Basil India (3183 South Grand Boulevard, 314-428-9711). The place is owned by the team behind the Delmar Loop Indian restaurant Turmeric and offers dishes such as Tangra-style chili paneer, a flash-fried corn-cake appetizer and a luxurious Bombay curry. The butter chicken is rich, with tender chunks of chicken swimming in a tomato-based sauce seasoned with fenugreek, giving it a deep, maple-like flavor. Similar dishes can be found at other restaurants, but every dish at Basil India makes you feel like you are experiencing it for the first time. $-$$. No alcohol. Opens at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Opens at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Closed Wednesday.

Black Sheep Whiskey & Wine

Owners Zach and Mary Rice's Black Sheep Whiskey & Wine (3153 Morgan Ford Road, 314-772-9800) offers a sophisticated but casual, dimly lit but family-friendly atmosphere in what used to be Three Monkeys, a longtime Morgan Ford favorite. Black Sheep is great for date nights or family dinners out. Offerings range from the high-concept to classic fare. The Bloody Mary deviled eggs feature a creamy yolk mixture that tastes exactly like the classic brunch cocktail with notes of celery salt. The classic smash burger is exactly what you want at your local watering hole, while elevated offerings like pan-seared trout or braised short ribs give guests the chance to make it a special occasion spot. $$. Open Wednesday through Saturday from 4 to 11 p.m.


The lounge at Brasilia (3212 South Grand Boulevard, 314-932-1034) is a bossa-nova-inflected dream world. "The Girl from Ipanema" plays on a loop while reed-fashioned hammocks hang from the ceiling and a giant mural of Christ the Redeemer takes up an entire wall. After two of Brasilia's stiff caipirinhas, you might b

e convinced you're viewing the famed statue from a spot on Copacabana Beach. A solid set of entrees includes vatapa de frango (a boneless, skinless chicken breast with traditional cashew nut gravy) and beef acebolado, Brazil's version of skillet steak, flecked with coarse black peppercorns and served sliced with onions and peppers on a searing hot cast-iron skillet. $$. Open Wednesday through Sunday for dinner. Lunch buffet Sunday.

Grand Pied

What began as owners Tony Collida and Jaimee Stang's love letter to New Orleans has evolved, as Grand Pied (3137 Morgan Ford Road, 314-974-8133) has weathered COVID-19, the flu and even losing its bar. After all that change, the MoFo eatery has become an ode to perfectly executed brunch-to-lunch staples inflected with flavors from the Big Easy. Those dishes range from some of St. Louis' finest pancakes — which sport a crisp, golden, nutty crust that gives way to a custard-like interior — to baby beignets, dusted with butter and cinnamon or served with sausage gravy, to a slinger that balances restraint and indulgence. The bistro only serves tables of two or four, and ordering is done through QR codes at each table. BYOB. $$. Patio. Open Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Pizza Head

A no-frills counter-service spot, Pizza Head (3196 South Grand Boulevard, 314-266-5400) seems to turn any high-falutin' notions of the "art" of pizza-making on its head. Purchased by Dylan Dodson and Sam Driemeier in January 2022, Pizza Head can cater to anyone — omnivores, vegetarians and vegans — though the proprietors promise to expand their vegan options and charitable donations in the future. The transcendent slices begin with a rich, chewy crust that has the subtle tang of sourdough and ends with a journey through a delightfully greasy mozzarella or cashew-alternative topping. Beer and wine only. $. Opens at noon Thursday through Monday.

Salve Osteria

St. Louis mourned when South Grand's Cafe Natasha's closed, but now the city has reason to rejoice again: Salve Osteria (3200 South Grand Boulevard, 314-771-3411) is a new Italian, Spanish and Mediterranean-inspired restaurant that occupies its former home. A complement to the Gin Room, which also operates in the space, the restaurant has a harvest-centric menu that pairs well with Gin Room cocktails. Get your G&T with bacon-fat carrots or have a negroni with lamb arancini. Not into gin? There's also an extensive natural wine list. $$. Patio. Open Thursday through Sunday 3 to 10 p.m.

Sheesh Restaurant

Brother and sister Safa and Zaenab Marmarchi spared no expense in opening this Turkish restaurant on South Grand, bringing in chefs from their motherland in addition to striking copper tables and colorful tapestries. That care also shows in the food, which is executed with precision. The lamb biryani's soft meat almost falls off the bone, its bed of rice studded with raisins, chickpeas and subtle spicing. Order the hummus appetizer, and you won't just get the usual mass-produced pita bread. Sheesh (3226 South Grand Boulevard, 314-833-4321) serves it with a giant, lightly charred puff, perfectly baked so there's just a fine layer of crisp around the warm center. No alcohol. $$. Open daily from 5 to 10 p.m.

Terror Tacos

Brothers and longtime vegans Bradley Roach and Brian Roash created the type of irreverent, loud, in-your-face vegan restaurant they always wanted to eat at when they debuted Terror Tacos (3191 South Grand Boulevard, 314-260-9996) in March 2021. The restaurant's interior, with its punk-rock music and graffiti-style décor, speaks to that vibe. So does the menu, which is filled with sassily titled dishes such as the Carnage Asada Burrito and a flight of tacos named Basic Witch. Terror Tacos taps veggie proteins from tofu to seitan and transforms them into flavorful fare packed with all the hallmarks of the best Americanized Mexican restaurant. There is also a full menu of cocktails, beer and seltzers. $. Sidewalk seating. Open Monday through Thursday from noon to 9 p.m. Open Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Tree House

Bay Tran first opened Tree House (3177 South Grand Boulevard, 314-696-2100) a decade ago with numerous vegetarian menu items that could be modified as vegan, but the vegan offerings proved so popular she's now made them the default in many cases. In a stylish dining room overlooking South Grand, she's serving a menu with highlights including a fried beet appetizer, thickly sliced into a French-fry-like shape with a crisp outside and a coating of sea salt and togarashi. The brussels sprouts salad is also beloved, with red and green cabbage joining shallots, fresh herbs, jalapeño and sweet chile vinaigrette. Weekend brunch is a highlight; the ambitious cocktail program proves that organic and sustainable don't preclude fun. $$. Patio. Open Wednesday through Sunday for dinner, with brunch Saturday and Sunday.


click to enlarge Pizzeria da Gloria's wood-fired pizzas stand out in a pizza city.
Mabel Suen
Pizzeria da Gloria's wood-fired pies stand out in a pizza city.

Anthonino's Taverna

For nearly two decades, Anthonino's Taverna (2225 Macklind Avenue, 314-773-4455) has been serving St. Louis diners a taste of Anthony and Rosario Scarato's joint Greek and Italian heritage in a setting as warm and family-friendly as the brothers' home. Dolmades and pizza, chicken Parmesan and gyros, pastas and sandwiches all beg you to play favorites, but the toasted ravioli is the must-order on this menu. $$. Sidewalk seating. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.


The Hill's first steakhouse, Carnivore (5257 Shaw Avenue, 314-449-6328) offers a more reasonable price point than the national chains, and each cut comes with a salad or your choice of side. The dining room has a more modern vibe, too, with a colorful mural of the neighborhood on one wall, white-painted brick and big windows facing Shaw Avenue. But Carnivore is not lacking for decadence; top your steak with a house butter, including garlic and herb, blue cheese or garlic Parmesan. $$-$$$. Open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


An institution since 1918, Gioia's Deli (multiple locations including 1934 Macklind Avenue, 314-776-9410) began its life as a grocery store but is now a sandwich shop with four locations. The original is on the Hill, a friendly counter-service shop named an "America's Classic" by no less than the James Beard Foundation. Gioia's is most famous for its hot salami, or Salam de Testa: a thick, soft salami made from beef and — yes — pork snouts. The flavor is rich, earthy and delicious. Try it on its own or in the Italian Trio with mortadella and Genoa salami, peperoncini, onions and cheese on toasted garlic bread. Gioia's salsiccia is tasty, too, especially smothered with melted mozzarella cheese. $. Patio. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.


No chef is better at capturing the spirit of Midwestern fine dining than the multiple James Beard nominee Kevin Willmann, whose beloved Clifton Heights restaurant is a comfortable setting for enjoying the area's bounty. Any chef worth his or her salt these days uses local, seasonal ingredients, but at Farmhaus (3257 Ivanhoe Avenue, 314-647-3800) these are less components and more the restaurant's entire reason for being. You see elements of Willmann's upbringing on the Gulf Coast in his seafood dishes, but the restaurant remains all Missouri — and this place has never tasted so good. $$$$. Open Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

O'Connell's Pub

If you think they don't make them like O'Connell's Pub (4652 Shaw Avenue, 314-773-6600) any more, you're right. The nearly 100-year-old restaurant is appealingly dim with a tin ceiling, dark wood bar and some surprisingly ornate chandeliers. The kitchen serves up the prior century's greatest hits without irony — you can get a cup or bowl of chili, a chicken breast sandwich topped with Swiss and grilled onions, a house salad with iceberg lettuce. The big draw is the burgers, cooked to order. Get a basket of onion rings on the side or fried mushrooms. $. Open 11 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Saturday.

Pizzeria da Gloria

There's no shortage of good Italian food in St. Louis' Hill neighborhood, but Pizzeria da Gloria (2024 Marconi Avenue, 314-833-3734) stands out in a tough market. Located by St. Ambrose Catholic Church and the fabulous Piazza Imo, Pizzeria da Gloria occupies a prime slice of neighborhood real estate. The crust on its 12-inch wood-fired pies is fantastic: Light, crispy and with just a bit of char. Don't miss out on the classic margherita, which is perfection, but also make sure to try some Pizzeria de Gloria specialties like the Bonci (thinly sliced roasted eggplant, garlic chili oil, parsley) and the Marinara (tomato sauce, thinly sliced garlic, chili flakes, extra virgin olive oil). $$. Closed on Sunday and Monday. Open 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 9:40 p.m. on Friday and noon to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Rock Star Tacos

A few years ago, chef and guitarist Wil Pelly was hanging out with his bandmate Matt Arana after a gig. A couple of hours and several shots of brown liquor later, the two hatched a plan to open a music-inspired taco counter out of a concession stand in New Town St. Charles. The concept was a hit, so much so that the operation eventually moved to new, larger digs in the Hill neighborhood, bringing Rock Star Tacos (4916 Shaw Avenue, 314-625-7508) to life in the Gaslight building. Pelly draws on his decades of experience in St. Louis' food scene — he's worked in several of the area's prominent kitchens, including the Libertine, Nudo House and Boundary at the Cheshire — to deliver Tex-Mex fare with Cuban influences that looks simple but is anything but. One bite of his whimsically named and musically themed dishes — Skinny Puppies, Street Korn, Shrimp Bizkit — and you'll agree: This place rocks. $-$$. Open from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Closed on Sunday and Monday.


click to enlarge Menya Rui's (clockwise from top left) Pork shoyu ramen, house cucumbers, original tsukemen, tantanmen brothless and karage.
Mabel Suen
Menya Rui's (clockwise from top left) Pork shoyu ramen, house cucumbers, original tsukemen, tantanmen brothless and karage.

Himalayan Yeti

Chef/owner Dipak Prasai is serving top-notch Indian and Nepalese cuisine at Himalayan Yeti (3515 South Kingshighway Boulevard, 314-354-8338) out of a former Long John Silver's. During lunch hours, the hostess will likely assume you're there for the standard (albeit excellent) buffet in the corner of the room. It's a great deal, but you'll find magic in the à la carte offerings, including revelatory versions of Indian classics such as chicken tikka masala and chana masala. More adventurous diners will thrill to the lamb sekuwa, with its shockingly tender spice-rubbed meat, and the standout goat curry. $-$$. Patio. Open 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily, 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Knead Bakehouse

Co-owner AJ Brown got his start baking bread, but Knead Bakehouse (3467 Hampton Avenue, 314-376-4361) offers much more than that. In fact, it's one of the city's top daytime spots. The exceptional egg, sausage and cheese sandwich presents like a breakfast burger stuffed with soft-scrambled eggs, smoked cheddar, aioli, sliced tomatoes and greens. Brioche French toast, meanwhile, is so pillow-like you'd be forgiven for trying to nestle your face into it. Topped with sweet strawberry preserves, it's a masterpiece. Counter service, with limited communal-style seating inside as well as limited outdoor seating. $. Opens at 9 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Menya Rui

At Menya Rui (3453 Hampton Ave, 314-601-3524), they make noodles. Quite literally, that's what "menya" means in Japanese: noodle shop. Chef-owner Steven Pursley, a St. Louis native, lived in Japan for three years, where he studied ramen and worked in multiple noodle shops. When he returned to St. Louis, he started a pop-up shop, Ramen x Rui, and eventually turned it into a full-scale restaurant. Outside of housemade cucumbers pickled in rice vinegar and Japanese fried chicken, the entire menu is completely composed of noodle dishes, thin and thick, ranging from ramen to tsukemen to mazemen. Lines often stretch out of the door before they even begin serving, but this ramen is worth the wait. $$. Open Thursday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m.

Russell's on Macklind

Trained as a pastry chef, owner Russell Ping has created an impossibly cozy bistro — exposed brick, low ceilings, mismatched wood furniture and a vintage fireplace. In the evening, Russell's (5400 Murdoch Avenue, 314-553-9994) is lit by votive candles, making it an intimate spot to nosh on Ping's signature upscale comfort food. On a nice weekend morning or afternoon, the large, tree-covered patio is the place to be, as neighbors pop in and out to grab a coffee and pastry and just say hello. It's a true neighborhood gathering place. $$-$$$. Patio. Open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday and weekend brunch.

Trattoria Marcella

When it first opened, Trattoria Marcella (3600 Watson Road, 314-352-7706) didn't have two things: t-ravs and lobster risotto, now among its most popular menu items. The t-ravs were at first eschewed because who needed another place that sold t-ravs? Then proprietor Steve Komorek, who owns the restaurant with sisters Jamie and Christine, went to Italy to train under the Slow Food program and learned that each Italian family makes the classic, popular dishes with their own twist. So Trattoria Marcella started making its signature t-ravs. The lobster risotto was a one-night-only New Year's Eve special, but the dish received such a warm reception that they kept offering it as a verbal special. The additional offerings sum up how Trattoria Marcella has prospered since 1995: by offering its own take on modern Italian cuisine but keeping it unique to St. Louis. $$. Open Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 8:30 p.m. and Friday through Saturday from 5 to 9:30 p.m.


click to enlarge The Taco & Cream Joint's flavors include blackberry, cucumber with chile powder and chocolate de abuelita.
The Taco & Cream Joint's flavors include blackberry, cucumber with chile powder and chocolate de abuelita.

Fattened Caf

Fattened Caf (2724 Cherokee Street, 636-498-4240) cofounders Charlene Lopez-Young and Darren Young are the ultimate turnaround team. The two launched their Filipino barbecue brand as a popup that drew hundreds, pivoted to takeout ready-to-eat meals during COVID-19 and then began selling their longganisa sausages and sauces in grocery stores. Finally, in 2022, after a series of pop-ups, the duo launched regular hours within Earthbound Beer, with dishes that highlight their masterful grilling, smoked meats and Filipino flavors. The menu, written on a long chalkboard, is variable. But whether it holds sweet chicken longganisa, Pinoy pork steak BBQ or chicken sisig silog, eaters are sure to be delighted — especially if they finish with gooey butter cake flavored with ube, a purple tuber with a vanilla taste. $. Patio. Open Thursday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday also has lunch hours from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

The Taco & Ice Cream Joint

A long-abandoned department store in the heart of Cherokee Street has been turned into a massive, Technicolor restaurant that makes Willy Wonka's chocolate factory look subdued. The Taco & Ice Cream Joint (2738 Cherokee Street, 314-224-5799) has an ice cream counter that runs the entire length of a very deep space, overflowing with flavors both traditional and unique, candies, sprinkles, bacon, exotic fruit and anything else you could imagine for toppings. Popsicles with hunks of fresh fruit, waffle cones coated in sugary glaze and a chocolate fountain that seems to run just for the spectacle of it sit behind the glass. The savory menu (ordered at a separate counter) is every bit as worthy. The restaurant offers a dozen different taco fillings, all served à la carte and completely undressed. This presentation allows diners to choose their own accouterments from a salsa bar that offers everything from pickled onions to fiery mango salsas. No alcohol. $. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Taqueria El Bronco

You won't find many decorations inside this narrow storefront; Taqueria El Bronco (2817 Cherokee Street, 314-762-0691) is all about the food. The menu features standard taqueria fare, though a few larger entrées are available. On both Saturday and Sunday, menudo and posole are on the menu, along with brunch-friendly egg-based items such as huevos rancheros and huevos con chorizo. A michelada is the obvious hair-of-the-dog choice, but other options include margaritas, buckets of beer or tequila. $. Open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

La Vallesana

La Vallesana (2801 Cherokee Street, 314-776-4223) has been serving a rainbow of ice creams with flavors that range from the standard (chocolate, coffee, strawberry and vanilla) to the wild but wildly delectable (pine nut, rose petals, chocolate with banana, curdled milk), as well as paletas (popsicles) in an array of equally tempting flavors. The savory side of the menu is just as appealing with familiar classics such as burritos and quesadillas. However, offerings that may seem more far afield to the uninitiated also shine: Check out the tortas, which can be filled with ham, breaded steak, or chicken — or grab a street taco filled with cow head, cheek or tongue. $. Patio. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Tuesday.


click to enlarge Stellar Hog's half-pound burger topped with "Rib Jam" and served with pit beans.
Stellar Hog's half-pound burger topped with "Rib Jam" and served with pit beans.

Chicken Seven

At Chicken Seven (6312 South Grand Boulevard, 314-354-6349), Korean fried chicken has been elevated to high art. The golden batter that encases the plump, searing-hot drumstick is as crunchy as a kettle-cooked potato chip, yet also somehow impossibly light, wrapping the juicy bird in a layer of savory flavor so crisp you can hear someone bite into it halfway across the dining room. Still not persuaded to give it a try? Well, Chicken Seven also serves a Yum Yum sauce, a brown-sugary nectar laden with soy, garlic and medium-hot red chiles. It's a perfect glaze (though not its only one) for the fried chicken. No alcohol just yet, but a liquor license is in the works. $-$$. Open Thursday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 to 9 p.m., Sunday 1 to 8 p.m. and Monday 4 to 9 p.m.

The Drawing Board

With a pool table and stable of craft beers, at first glance, the Drawing Board (4123 Chippewa Street, 314-899-9343) may seem like your average bar in Tower Grove South. But if you look a little closer there's something unique. Maybe it's the chalkboards that line the restaurant or the mural of the St. Louis skyline that covers a wall. Or maybe it's the menu, with jambalaya balls, falafel sliders, smash burger, grilled PB&J and Gooey Babies — its version of gooey butter cake. Or maybe it's the activities — the darts, the Bimini ring toss, the live music, the trivia and the karaoke. Really, there's something for everyone at the Drawing Board. $. Open 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday.


Have you ever heard of a pizza with a giant egg foo young patty, mayo, lettuce, onions and pickles? Or a fried tofu pizza with pickles? Or a fried bologna sandwich or a bacon-jelly cream cheese sandwich? Well, they're all menu items at Gooseberries (2754 Chippewa Street, 314-577-6363), a beloved south city restaurant and gathering place. Owner Kim Bond calls the menu "weird." You could also call it creative, original and a vegan haven. The selection is comprehensive and eclectic. You'll find dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner that include omelets, carrot cake pancakes, hand-pies and pizzas. Not only are Bond and her partner, Ross Lessor, beloved for their delicious food; they have been a source of support for their south city neighbors throughout the pandemic, showing their regulars what community means. $-$$. Open Thursday through Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m.

Majeed Mediterranean Restaurant

Opened in January 2018 by Syrian refugees, Majeed (4601 Gravois Avenue, 314-282-0981) offers not only terrific bargains but some of the best Middle Eastern food in town. Beef kefta, so often a dried-out, lackluster kabob choice, here is as juicy as a composite of slow-cooked pot roast. The meat pulls apart at only the slightest prodding; each bite is verdant with fresh parsley and garlic. Served over a platter, it is wonderful; wrapped in pita and covered in garlic sauce, it is sublime. The hummus is sumptuous and velvety; the chicken shawarma is transcendent. No alcohol. $. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Stacked Burger Bar

The inventive burger creations at this friendly Patch bar and grill are pretty fantastic. However, the "Think You Could Do It Better?" build-your-own menu is what sets Stacked Burger Bar (7637 Ivory Street, 314-544-4900) apart from the rest. Diners devise their own one-of-a-kind creations from 72 options. Patties include ground chuck, chicken breast, black bean, local grass-fed beef, Sriracha burger and turkey. The lengthy toppings list includes bourbon-bacon maple jam, fried pickles, guacamole, sauerkraut, sautéed mushrooms, barbecued brisket and a fried egg. Could you do better? Maybe not, but you'll sure have fun trying. $. Open for lunch and dinner on Mondays as well as Wednesday through Saturday (closed Tuesday), with Sunday hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Stellar Hog

Chef and pitmaster Alex Cupp is dishing up some quintessential St. Louis barbecue at Stellar Hog (5623 Leona Street, 314-481-8448, and other locations), which is where dive bar Super's used to be. The pulled pork is infused with fruitwood smoke that underscores its sweetness, and you can add a smoky, mustard-forward Carolina-influenced sauce with a tang that cuts through the pork flavor. The ribs are fork-tender and slide off the bone with almost no prodding, dressed up in a rub that is simple and slightly sweet with a touch of warm spice. You really can't go wrong with anything on the menu, but if you had to choose just one thing, it comes down to Cupp's brisket or, when they're available, beef ribs, which are the best the town has to offer. If we had friends come in from out of town who wanted St. Louis 'cue done right, we'd take them here and order one of everything. $-$$. Patio. Open Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Tacos La Jefa

Nearly two decades ago, Heriberta Amezcua started selling birria out of her house. She set up shop at Mexican festivals in town and held cookouts in her backyard. Amezcua was one of a few people in St. Louis who made birrias, the Mexican meal that takes crispy corn tortillas and envelopes them around meat that has been cooked for hours. Then in 2020, she opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Tacos La Jefa (3301 Meramec Street, 314-845-4248). Sadly, Amezcua passed away only a few months into her business, but her family keeps her legacy alive, offering just two meals: the matriarch's signature birria and quesobirria — a birria with melted cheese inside. Located inside Dutchtown's Urban Eats small food hall, Tacos La Jefa is open only on weekends (check hours because they are known to fluctuate). But when open, it's not uncommon for the restaurant to sell out before the day is over. Just don't forget to dip the birrias into consommé, the broth — not sauce, you'll be reminded — that tops off the meal. $. Open Saturday and Sunday for lunch.

Tiny Chef

Tiny Chef (4701 Morgan Ford Road, 314-832-9223) is an unlikely bastion of Korean cuisine inside Bevo Mill neighborhood pinball bar the Silver Ballroom. From a small takeout counter in the back of the space, owner Melanie Meyer fulfills her dream of connecting with her Korean heritage through food with delicious results and has built a group of loyalists who are always eager to taste what she is cooking on any given day. Her offerings are creative, such as amazing tteokbokki to Carbo noodles that have people clamoring for more despite the heat. If you're lucky enough to snag one on the rare occasion she still offers it, Meyer's Korean-style seafood boil is one of the most exciting takeout items in town. $-$$. Open Fridays from 6 to 10 p.m., Saturdays from 5 to 10 p.m., Sundays from 5 to 9 p.m.


click to enlarge The massive BLT is Crown Candy Kitchen's iconic sandwich. - MABEL SUEN
The massive BLT is Crown Candy Kitchen's iconic sandwich.

Crown Candy Kitchen

A beloved Old North landmark for more than 100 years, Crown Candy (1401 St. Louis Avenue, 314-621-9650) serves up a mean BLT and makes some of the sweetest candy in the city. The scoops of rich ice cream can be ordered in a malt, a sundae, a Newport (a sundae with whipped cream and nuts) or banana split, or just go with a scoop. There's also the legendary milkshake — if you can drink five in half an hour, they're all free. But more than the treats, it's the old-timey feel at Crown Candy that will put a smile on your face. There's often a line around the block on Saturday; why not visit on a weekday? $. Open 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Gregg's Bar & Grill

One of the few sit-down restaurants in the industrial north riverfront, Gregg's (4400 North Broadway, 314-421-1152) is a realm of beer and burgers, of generous fish sandwiches and perfect onion rings. Gregg's attracts diverse characters and old friends, everyone from cops to construction workers to nearby neighborhood residents. You can get chili or fried chicken or a burger, but you can also get a 13-ounce New York strip, along with dinner salad and baked potato, for $15.95. It's that kind of place. $. Full bar, patio. Open 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday.

Playboy Cappuccino Lounge

Seafood is the name of the game at Playboy Cappuccino Lounge (8500 North Broadway, 314-869-4098). But the real specialty is the shrimp and not just any kind of shrimp: jumbo, golden, fried shrimp. Regulars say it's the best in the city. Located in a tan brick building in Baden, this spot is loaded with all kinds of seafood options, including catfish nuggets, jack salmon, jack filet and tilapia. With colorful cocktails, a lounge area, a jukebox and dart boards, Playboy's offers a hopping bar scene to complement its food. $$. Open daily at 11 a.m. but closed on Monday and Sunday.

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