Contemporary in St. Louis

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    Pastaria
    Acclaimed chef Gerard Craft (Niche, Brasserie by Niche, Taste) turns his attention to Italian cuisine at Pastaria, a large, bustling fun restaurant in downtown Clayton. The cuisine is simple, affordable and -- for the price (nothing over $20) -- outrageously good. Pasta, made in house, features in dishes both simple (the sublime chitarra: spaghetti-like noodles with olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes) to the sexy and sophisticated (the luscious pistachio ravioli). Pizzas are made in the Neapolitan-style, on a thin crust and cooked very quickly in a very hot oven. You can opt for an American style pepperoni pie (the meat cured by the restaurant) or a more ambitious pizza with Brussels sprouts, lemon, bechamel sauce and lardo. Save room for dessert, especially the gelati. Craft, with executive chef Adam Altnether and executive sous chef Brian Moxey, has created another gem. There are no reservations; expect a wait.
    Plush
    With 40,000 square feet to play with, Plush is a truly unique bar, restaurant, and music venue located just east of Grand Center in Midtown. You can sit down most nights of the week and enjoy a menu full of eclectic American food that borders on greasy spoon but with modern twists (meatloaf cupcakes, for example). Dinner and lunch are served from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, with kitchen hours extending to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. And Brunch lovers can hit up Plush on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Whichever meal you choose, a variety of coffee and espresso drinks, as well as a full selection of beers, wines, and cocktails are available. Plush’s venue side has music several nights each week, while the second floor houses a smaller room for more intimate shows along with pool and ping-pong tables. Plush also has two spaces - a second-floor parlor and the building’s fourth-floor penthouse – both available for private events. RFT named Plush the "Best New Bar" in 2012, and things have only gotten better for this jack-of-all-trades, one-of-a-kind establishment.
    Portabella
    Helmed by Tom Zoog and Angela Del Pietro-Zoog, Portabella offers a menu that reflects decidedly modern influences. Sauces are derived from a range of geographic origins, and the kitchen has a deft touch with grilled vegetables. The room's modern and airy, with windows across the front and a classy, neutral décor that ensures a focus on the kitchen's, not the interior decorator's, artistry. Seasonal rotation of the menu illustrates an approach that's fresh in every sense of the word.

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