Contemporary in St. Louis

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    Alexander's
    Alexander's Restaurant, tucked in the back corner of the Sheraton in downtown Clayton, is a spacious hotel dining option. Their menu includes familiar American fare, such as pasta, sandwiches, steaks and fish. Sunday dinner is served in the lounge instead of the main dining room, both located on the main floor of the hotel.
    Araka
    Steven Caravelli, formerly executive chef at Hubert Keller's steak house Sleek, now mans the kitchen at Araka. The menu retains a focus on the cuisines of Europe's Mediterranean coast, though Caravelli intends to home in on local produce and sustainable meat and seafood. New dishes include seared diver scallops with pork belly and a quail egg, a "duo" of local beef and a "tartare" made from beets. Standard and vegetarian tasting menus are available.
    Atlas Restaurant & Lunch Room
    Like a fine Bordeaux, Atlas grows richer and more noble with each year. The menu is timeless, with attention paid to the quality of ingredients and meticulous preparation rather than pizzazz and the latest trends. Dishes change seasonally, but you'll certainly find excellent lamb and pork dishes as well as a fish of the day and vegetarian selections. The steak frites, a staple, is the best in town.
    Balaban's
    A homage to the late, iconic Central West End restaurant. Owner Steve McIntyre, a long-time owner of the original Balaban's, has fashioned this new edition as a more casual restaurant serving mostly small plates. These include both classic Balaban's dishes - cucumber bisque, beef Wellington - and familiar bistro fare. The best bet might be the flatbread pizza, especially the version with spinach, fontina cheese and caramelized onion. This Balaban's also sells retail wine and offers carryout meals.
    BC's Kitchen
    Well-known local chef Bill Cardwell (Cardwell's at the Plaza) and his business partner and executive chef John Kennealy bring modern city dining to the exurbs. Handsome and smoothly run, BC's Kitchen offers generous portions of typical New American bistro fare - short ribs, pork chops, roasted chicken - all of it prepared with the utmost attention to detail. The St. Louis-cut spare ribs are a highlight, the meat more than flavorful enough to stand up to a smoky, tangy barbecue sauce. And Cardwell crafts one of the best burgers in town, with blue and cheddar cheese, bacon and a spicy-sweet tomato relish far superior to ketchup.
    Bici Cafe
    A neighborhood restaurant with a menu overseen by (very) prominent - and (very) busy - local chef Mike Johnson. Dishes draw inspiration from Mediterranean cuisines, not only European, but also North African and Middle Eastern. Crab cakes are spiced with za'atar and served with a harissa aioli; falafel is served in bite-size "popcorn" form. The menu is dominated by small plates, but there are also sandwiches, soups and flatbread pizzas, as well as a few pasta dishes and traditional entrées. Weather permitting, the patio is a popular seat.
    The Block
    A neighborhood establishment in the contemporary vein, this Old Webster restaurant doubles as a butcher shop: the meats, cut in-house, are also available for retail sale. Even if you never avail yourself of (or even notice) the butcher component, you’ll find that the Block is a significant and refreshing step up from the ubiquitous lowest-common-denominator neighborhood joint. The menu is an appealing array of contemporary American favorites: steak, roast chicken, braised pork, housemaid charcuterie. The steaks (available cuts vary) are grass-fed and beautifully grilled. Pork is a standout, too, especially the “Potted Pi
    Blood & Sand
    Blood & Sand is a members-only restaurant and bar located in an otherwise unremarkable stretch just south of Washington Avenue’s loft district. If you can swing a membership or know someone who has one, you should go. Owners TJ Vytlacil and Adam Frager and chef Chris Bork have created a remarkable venue: not a snobby club, but a community of people who are passionate about good food and good drink. Bork’s menu is seasonal, sophisticated and also playful: a plate of heirloom tomatoes like an abstract-expressionist painting in three dimensions; earthy sweetbreads paired with kimchi made from apple. Vytlacil’s cocktail list nods at tradition while indulging the mixologist’s impressive creativity. Service throughout is topnotch.
    Bossanova Restaurant & Martini Lounge
    Bossanova Restaurant & Martini Lounge is a bar and restaurant located in Alton, Illinois. It serves contemporary cuisine with a focus on small plates and pizza.
    BrickTop's Restaurant
    BrickTop’s is a small Nashville-based chain specializing in slam-dunk high-end crowd pleasers: lobster bisque and beef carpaccio; crab cakes and meat loaf and steak frites; seared ahi tuna (as a steak, a sandwich or the main ingredient in a salad). The ambiance is Anywheresville, USA, and the cuisine isn’t ground-breaking, but the kitchen does a good job with most of it, and there’s a lot to be said for spot-on execution. Seafood dishes in particular stand out, especially the crab cakes and a skillfully grilled trout. Your server will undoubtedly ask if you’ve saved room for dessert. If you have, the key-lime pie with a macadamia-nut crust is the direction to take.
    Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar
    Restaurateur Dave Bailey's The Bridge offers a terrific casual-dining experience in a stylish downtown space. The two-story upscale hideaway in downtown St. Louis celebrates artisanal beers and wines and craft cocktails. Artsy lighting and a sumptuous wooden bar create a classically beautiful atmosphere you won’t soon want to leave. The menu intensely focuses on creative small plates, snacks, charcuterie and cheese, sandwiches, salads and small entrees. The decor, especially the giant bird's-nest light fixtures, is, frankly, awesome.
    Bud’s Smokehouse & Grill
    Starrs has provided Richmond Heights with libations for more than 30 years. Now it serves prix-fixe dinners in its 60-seat dining room on Friday and Saturdays from 6 to 11 p.m. Stop by for Beef Tenderloin with Demi-Glaze Wine Port Sauce with Stuffed Tomato and pick up a few bottles of wine on the way out.
    Tucked away near the juniors' section of Nordstrom at West County Center lies Café Bistro, the department store's restaurant. Diners can place their orders with the cashier and then choose a seat in the contemporary dining room. The menu focuses on organic, local and sustainable foods, as well as environmentally friendly cups, bottles and napkins. The café highlights soups, salads and sandwiches alongside a few pizzas and specialties such as roast chicken pommes frites. Café Bistro also offers a brief wine and beer selection.
    Cielo
    Cielo, in Laclede's Landing, is several steps above the usual St. Louis restaurant. Literally: The restaurant is on the eighth floor of the Four Seasons hotel, and the view of the Arch from its floor-to-ceiling windows is certainly one of the city's most striking. The food, too, is impressive. The contemporary Italian menu includes housemade pasta with such uncommon touches as veal cheek and oxtail ravioli. Entrees succeed on balance: A grilled Berkshire pork chop is paired with crisp Bosc pair and wilted chicory, a fantastic blend of sweet, savory and bitter. An excellent destination, provided you just hit it big at Lumiere Place next door.
    Clark Street Grill
    Located on the first floor of the Westin downtown and a stone's throw from Busch Stadium, Clark Street Grill offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast includes the standard options -- French toast, a build-your-own omelet -- and a "SuperFoods" menu, which highlights healthy ingredients, including blueberry orange granola pancakes. Lunch offers a simple selection of salads, sandwiches and pizzas, while dinner brings upscale options such as duck confit-and-pear salad, with entrées including pasta, Chilean sea bass and beef tenderloin. Clark Street Grill also offers a bar menu with appetizers and a small selection of casual fare.
    Copia Urban Winery
    Copia beat the odds, reopening two and a half years after a fire gutted the stylish and popular Washington Avenue restaurant. The look and the menu didn't change much in the hiatus. The space is outsize, with a spacious main dining room and an even bigger "wine garden" (with a retractable roof!). The menu caters to the tastes of St. Louis diners before the economy collapsed. Standout dishes include the smoked spare ribs and duck breast in a sauce of its own pan juices with candied dates and green peppercorns. If a dish sounds too 1990s-early 2000s-ish to be good - like, say, tuna with wasabi-infused mashed potatoes - trust your gut.
    Cork Wine Bar
    Sophisticated Cork Wine Bar offers diners in historic downtown Ferguson a selection of elegant wines and equally elegant food to accompany it. The area’s undisputed date-night spot, Cork serves a thoughtful menu of sharable dishes and larger entrees that go beyond the usual cheese and charcuterie you find at most wine bars — although, of course, it has those too. Not to miss are the bar’s thrilling wine flights, curated around a theme like sparkling, full-bodied reds or sweeter style whites. Don’t worry if you are intimidated about pairing cactus tacos or char sui glazed chicken with something to drink. The approachable wait staff has the know-how to guide you in whatever direction you want to go. $$. Patio. Closed Mondays.
    The Corner Pub & Grill
    The Corner Pub and Grill in Valley Park -- specifically, the intersection of Big Bend and Dougherty Ferry roads -- is owned by the same team who opened the Tavern Kitchen and Bar, a higher-end restaurant whose contemporary take on American comfort foods. Food at the Corner Pub and Grill includes casual American fare including burgers, sandwiches, wings and fries with an emphasis on gluten-free options.
    Eclipse
    As you might expect from the man who brought St. Louis Blueberry Hill and the Pin-Up Bowl, the restaurant inside the Moonrise Hotel features plenty of retro kitsch: paintings of ray guns and rockets, moon- and space-related tchotchkes behind glass. The menu veers toward contemporary bistro cuisine, including steak frites, roasted chicken and trout grilled on a plank. Appetizers include a topnotch (and spicy!) calamari starter in jalapeno-garlic butter and a lobster beignet (basically, lobster in a doughnut). Breakfast and lunch are served daily. The cocktail menu is excellent. For a change, try the Blood & Sand, a Scotch-based creation infused with citrus and herbs. In addition, the rooftop offers unmatched views of “one of the 10 Great Streets in America” (dubbed by the American Planning Association) all the way to the arch underneath a rotating moon, said to be the world’s largest. The newly opened New Moon Room offers an additional all-season indoor/outdoor space with bottle service.
    EdgeWild Restaurant & Winery
    No grapes grow here on the outskirts of Chesterfield Mall, just around a bend in the looping drive from the new American Girl store, behind the Dillard's parking lot, in the building that once housed a restaurant called Bahama Breeze. But by law, if not by obvious outward appearance, EdgeWild Restaurant & Winery truly is a winery as well as restaurant. Steak Bruschetta - rosemary flank steak, blue cheese, arugula, chianti braised shallots, grilled baguette, shaved Parmesan and balsamic reduction. Here's how it's done: EdgeWild buys unfinished wines from wineries in California, Oregon and Washington, brings them to the restaurant and ages them there in oak barrels. The restaurant then bottles the wine under the EdgeWild label, which bears the same sleek logo that adorns the restaurant signage: the gray silhouette of a tree whose trunk turns into a mirrored reflection of itself in red.
    Elaia
    Elaia brings elegant modern dining to the city's up-and-coming Botanical Heights neighborhood. The cooking of owner Ben Poremba is Mediterranean in the broadest possible sense: His mother hails from Morocco; he himself is a native of Israel who studied in France and Italy. He is confident enough to combine any or all of his influences in a single dish, and he shifts with ease from sophisticated compositions (a parfait of foie gras so delicate you spread it on toast as carefully as you'd polish your great-grandparents' china) to rustic fare (a salad with slivers of pressure-cooked pigs' ears). An à la carte menu is available, but ambitious diners should consider the tasting menu: a dozen or so courses that showcase the full range of Poremba's skills and talents. Elaia isn't cheap (the tasting menu costs $100 per person), but it belongs on the very short list of St. Louis' very best restaurants. Diners seeking a more casual experience can visit the adjoining wine bar, Olio.
    Erato
    What began as a wine bar has become one of the more intriguing establishments in the metro east, with a topnotch wine list and beer selection and a tiny kitchen that has been home to such talented chefs as Kevin Willmann (now of Farmhaus) and Jonathan Olson. The menu features thoughtful, often inventive, preparations that utilize as much local product as possible.

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