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Among the clubs and hip hangouts on Washington Avenue downtown lies 12th Street Diner. The place is a throwback to the '50s and rock & roll. The menu features root beer floats, omelets, pot roast and burgers, including the La Bamba burger that is topped with pepperjack cheese, jalapenos, chipotle mayo and guacamole. This bright spot also features another diner classic: apple pie, cherry pie and a pie du jour.
17th Street Bar & Grill 1711 West Highway 50, O'Fallon, Illinois; 618-622-1717. Mike Mills has been named grand champion at the annual Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (a.k.a. the Super Bowl of Swine) three times -- a dynasty as notable as the Yankees of the late 1990s or the Patriots of this decade. His trademark sauce is a coppery brown, layered with flavor and applied with proper restraint. Two- and three-meat plates allow you to sample several different meats (brisket, chicken, pork shoulder, spicy smoked beef sausage), but the standout dish is the baby back ribs. Smoked in a pit over apple- and cherry-wood for as long as seven hours, Mills' ribs taste like pork raised on pure autumn sunshine.
On the southwest corner of Pershing Avenue and Union Boulevard sits the cozy and mellow 2Schae Café, where you will usually find owners Lisa and Don Schaefer working behind, or around, the kitchen counter. Inside this neighborhood café, patrons will find a relaxed atmosphere and casual dining. Breakfast items such as omelets, bagel and lox, French toast and oatmeal are served all day, and their large lunch menu features cold and grilled sandwiches, salads, flat bread pizzas and quesadillas. On Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., 2Schae sells small pizzas made in-house, and on weekend morning and afternoons they serve up stacks of pancakes with a variety of fixings. 2Schae has plenty of seating indoors as well as a few tables and chairs on their patio along Pershing Avenue.
When Dan and Pat Graham decided to shutter Graham’s Grill & Bayou Bar last December after a seventeen-year run, the next generation decided to take over the reins - but put their own stamp on things. Brother and sister business partners Devin and Alison converted their parents’ Cajun-themed bar and grill into 612 Kitchen & Cocktails, a 1920s-inspired cocktail lounge and gastropub. The restaurant is at its best when it sticks to classic bar fare: Sausage and cheese stuffed mushrooms, breaded and fried, make for an excellent snack; beer-battered fish and chips pair nicely with a cold one; and the smoked chicken is juicy and glazed with caramelized barbecue sauce. Craft cocktails are on the approachable end of the spectrum. Signature drinks such include the "Great Gatsby,” made with cucumber and basil-infused rum, lemonade and blueberry puree. A bridal shower in barware, the “Coco Chanel,” is a blend of strawberry vodka, lemon juice, pink champagne, strawberries and mint. The most austere offering — and that is a stretch — is the “Scarface.” Tequila, tomato water, triple sec and lavender-infused sour combine to make an interesting twist on the margarita. Regardless of how the younger Grahams brand it, 612 Kitchen & Cocktails is still a simple neighborhood watering hole.
A charming deli on the corner of Soulard's lovely, peaceful Pontiac Park. While there are a few "standard" sandwiches -- a meatball sub with Provel and marinara sauce, the "St. Louisan" (mortadella, capocolla, salami, ham and Provel) -- most are a step above basic deli fare. The "Cajun B.L.T." features very thick, smoky bacon, while the baked mortadella sandwich is a surprisingly happy marriage of mortadella, capocolla, Provel and a relish of artichoke, black olive and tomato. Co-owner Mike Risk (a veteran of Trattoria Marcella) researched cheesesteaks on a trip to Philadelphia, and his delightful rendition is as close to the real thing as you can find in St. Louis.
A neighborhood joint that offers pizza in four different styles: St. Louis (naturally), Chicago, New York and New York-Manhattan. That last distinction is crucial: Bite into a massive slice of the greasy, goopy Manhattan-style pizza and you'll swear you're in Brooklyn or Queens. Order anything else and you'll swear you're in Rock Hill, but you'll be happy to be there. A'mis also features a fairly extensive menu of pastas, sandwiches and dinner entrées. A great place to take the family for a weekday diner, and the ideal spot for that lunchtime pizza fix.
You can't spell barbecue without "cue," but the lines haven't formed outside the door at Adam's Smokehouse -- yet. The slow-smoking barbecue joint in Clifton Heights opened in October and serves as a sister store to well-renowned, consistently packed restaurants Pappy's Smokehouse and Bogart's Smokehouse, so it seems like only matter a time before all of St. Louis stands in line to try a bite. Co-owners Frank Vinciguerra and Mike Ireland spent several years working at Pappy's with barbecue master Skip Steele before embarking on their own venture. With the blessing of their barbecue brethren, the two put together a small but substantial menu of smoked meats and traditional sides done well. --MABEL SUEN
A cocoon of comfort - even elegance -hidden in a Chesterfield strip mall. The menu at Addie's Thai House generally hews to the template of St. Louis-area Thai restaurants, but it's worth veering off course to try one of the house specialties - like gang kua ped yang, an incredible red curry with duck breast, or soft-shell crab pan-fried in a garlic-pepper sauce. If the other dishes are conventional, they are no less outstanding, especially the assertive green curry. Without question, one of St. Louis' best Thai restaurants.
You don't get to eat a giant snail every day. Or, for that matter, yam porridge or fried plantains or palm juice. Unless, that is, you visit African Palace, one of the few local African restaurants that offers an alternative to Ethiopian cuisine. A thick sauce made from red bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, olive oil and lots of atarodo peppers is liberally employed in many of the dishes, from soups to gizzards to wings (and that giant snail). For an entrée, try the meat-and-rice-based jollof (prepared, like most of the main courses, with your choice of beef, chicken or fish), or the Daily Special (which is the same every day): a brightly flavored stew that unites dried cod, chicken and tripe with greens and that rich pepper sauce. Bonus: On weekends, African Palace becomes a nightclub, featuring reggae and world-beat music.
Built by Adolphus Busch around 1914, this magnificent example of the beer-baron-bravado style of architecture now features competent lighter, updated versions of classic German cooking mixed in with basic steaks and seafood, along with a quintessential apple strudel for dessert.
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