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Along busy Hampton Avenue, Ari's offers Greek and American fare in a comfortable dining room or on their spacious patio. The menu includes saganaki, hummus and toasted ravioli. Specialties include their gyro sandwich and chicken souvlaki, with American selections such as a BLT and a club sandwich also available. Entrees range from lamb shank to chicken modiga to filet mignon. Ari's rounds out its menu with a few burgers and pastas. On Saturdays and Sundays Ari's also offers a breakfast buffet, complete with an omelet station. The restaurant has a parking lot on the side.
"Turkey coma" takes on a whole new meaning at this Turkish/Mediterranean restaurant that relentlessly tempts. Appetizer platters are resplendent with salt-of-the-earth goodness, while main courses are typically beef or lamb over rice or couscous. While most of Aya Sofia's dishes bear a close-cousin resemblance to other Eurasian delicacies such as spanakopita and gyros, the staff is quite fluent at helping to decipher and navigate the menu as needed.
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.
Bistro 1130 brings Mediterranean-inspired cuisine to the shoppers of Town and Country Crossing, albeit with varying degrees of authenticity. Executive chef Karim Bouzammour, a Moroccan native, infuses the menu with specialties from his homeland; Bistro 1130 is at its best when he embraces this rich, North Africa culinary heritage. In particular, the lamb couscous, served in a tagine with assorted vegetables and chickpeas, is the embodiment of authentic Moroccan cuisine. Likewise, do not pass up the fresh sardines when available. These mild, little fish are packed with fresh herbs and drizzled with lemon juice -- an authentic Mediterranean delicacy. Also noteworthy is fig-and-pine-nut-stuffed pork, as well as the excellent phyllo-dough-wrapped goat cheese turnover. Weather permitting, opt for the patio -- Bistro 1130 has a prime, lakeside location.
Most coffeehouses pour a good, strong cup of joe. Others have great atmosphere, and a few serve appealing food. Blackberry, a hangout that's popular among Washington University undergrads, delivers all three. Blackberry's espressos and lattes go down smooth and sock you with enough caffeine to keep you wide-eyed as you bang out that overdue lit paper. And you won't have to exist on java alone: Blackberry has a surprisingly extensive menu of Mediterranean and American fare, such as hummus, baba ghanouj, tabbouleh, wraps, pizzas and sandwiches.
Bocci Bar, a small-plates wine bar from the owner of BARcelona Tapas restaurant, gives Clayton diners a front-row seat to the hustle and bustle of Central Avenue. The restaurant features an eclectic selection of dishes, ranging from chilled soups to Argentine flank steak. Pan-seared sea scallops with an English pea puree are delicate and well-cooked, while Korean pork is creatively served in a hollowed-out apple. The Parmesan chicken broth is a must-try. The dish features confit chicken legs and thighs with meat so tender that it falls off the bone with only the slightest prodding. The broth is rich and flavorful; kale and rice noodles round out the dish. Bocci has a small but comprehensive wine list with several flights and glass selections available on a rotating basis. Every month, the restaurant offers wines and dishes based on a particular country's theme.
This Mediterranean-style restaurant in the bowels of the Renaissance Grand caters almost exclusively to hotel guests, so the kitchen could try to get away with an uninspired menu and lazy preparations. But instead the food is excellent, whether it's a flaky and fatty striped sea bass or a lustful rack of lamb. A great place to eavesdrop on traveling businessmen or take an illicit lover on a date: Nobody you know will be there.
Blink and you'll pass right by this itsy-bitsy storefront restaurant and its down-home delicious Eastern European offerings. Gyros, blintzes, hummus, chicken Kiev -- all the classics of Greek, Armenian and Russian cuisines comprise the menu, as well as curious additions like Armenian dip (kidney beans, bits of fried white onion and sesame seeds, like a refried-bean dip with more integrity) and Ukranian-style goulash, which foregoes Hungary's sour cream and buttery noodles for a light, flavorful herb-based broth. The mother-daughter team running the joint -- Mom owns the place and cooks, daughter waits tables -- may come off as standoffish in that humorless, behind-the-Iron-Curtain way, but don't be intimidated. Besides, the food is imbued with enough love to make up for it.
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.
A contemporary take on the old-fashioned lunch wagon, with food prepared in a traditional commercial kitchen and dished up from the back of a modified pickup. The signature sandwich, a strange mixture of falafel and couscous, is actually the one to skip. The gyro, on the other hand, is good, featuring thin and tender strips of beef. Also available is a curried chicken sandwich. The side dish is a sack of fried naan chips with dipping sauces. Follow Falafelwich on Twitter @falafelwich.
Foxy's Red Hots has been serving up its Chicago-style dogs for more than 25 years. Beyond hot dogs, Foxy's also offers gyros, Italian beef and Philly cheesesteak. Foxy's affordable prices make this a popular lunch spot for Maryland Heights workers.
Go! Gyro! Go! owner Nick Cowlen grew up in the restaurant business, working for his father at Clayton's Top of the Sevens restaurant. After a spell in real estate, he along with his wife, Laura, launched Go! Gyro! Go! this past fall. The truck's signature gyro follows the classic template: thin, tender strips of seasoned beef and lamb folded into pita with tomato, red onion, parsley, feta cheese and tzatziki sauce. The meat is excellent, the seasoning adding a lightly spicy punch to its natural flavors (to me, at least, tasting of lamb more than beef), while the toppings — especially bright red slices of tomato that actually tasted like, you know, tomato and the thick, tangy tzatziki — provide a cool, crisp counterpoint. A small, but welcome touch: Your pita is lightly toasted on the grill. Go! Gyro! Go! also grills skewers of marinated white-meat chicken, which it serves as a straight-up shish kebab or removed from the skewer in a pita with the same toppings as the gyro. The chicken has a good balance of grill char, its own essence and a bright, simple marinade (I tasted a hint of citrus and a dash of herbs). A vegetarian gyro swaps out the meat for cucumber, green pepper and kalamata olives. The online menu lists a "Bifteki Gyro," featuring Greek meatballs, but this wasn't available on any of my visits.
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