Appetizers in St. Louis

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    Bissinger's at Maryland Plaza
    The beloved St. Louis institution has received a 21st-century makeover. Its new location in the Central West End's Maryland Plaza is a sleek, modern dessert bar. The menu divides desserts into light-, medium- and full-bodied selections. The last group offers a chocolate terrine as dense as a neutron star and a surprisingly good version of the ubiquitous flourless chocolate cake. Medium-bodied desserts include a silky chocolate pot de crème, and the standout among the light-bodied desserts is a smooth, cooling milk chocolate semi freddo. You can try selected Bissinger's chocolates in "Confection Flights," and several liqueurs are available as shots served in a cup made of chocolate.
    The In Spot Dessert Bar & Lounge
    Quietly situated in an unassuming building along Delmar Boulevard, just east of Hodiamont Avenue, hides the In Spot Dessert Bar & Lounge. The In Spot provides a warm, hip atmosphere laced with jazz and lounge music on Thursday through Sunday nights. Their small-plate menu features shareable items such as raspberry hot wings, Cajun catfish nuggets, chipotle sweet-potato fries and a variety of flatbread melts and pizzas. The sweeter side of their menu is highlighted by their creamy martini sips, combinations of Italian ice cream and liqueur. Flavors include caramel amaretto, coffee and vanilla, and the RumChata sip with RumChata Caribbean rum and Kahlua. A parking lot behind the building is available in addition to street parking.
    The Lobby Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton
    Clever, persuasive New American dishes built on a foundation of classics. For a light meal, order a couple of fanciful appetizers in place of an entrée. If you're in the mood for more substantial fare, try one of the superb game dishes, such as rabbit or pheasant. For a finale, order any sweet thing that's red and ripe -- strawberry shortcake, say, or a pear poached in zinfandel.
    Mile 277 Tap & Grill
    We've long been searching for a biker bar that doesn't make us want to bathe in hand sanitizer, and Mile 277 is the answer to our prayers. The owners spared no expense, from the brushed chrome doors to the hogs shining like diamond rings scattered throughout the bar. The self-described "Classic Roadhouse Fare" features a big selection sandwiches and burgers in addition to pasta, flatbreads and more. Expect live local music from a variety of big-draw names like Trixie Delight and Dr. Zhivegas, and the occasional touring acts like Shooting Star. Otherwise, the video DJs will treat you to the best in hair metal and hard rock to justify getting those so-called kicks on Route 66. The Hell's Angels may not feel over-welcome here, but you will. (Don't tell the Hell's Angels we said that.)
    Uptown Cafe
    Clayton's Uptown Cafe is a great weekday stop for pizza, pasta, sandwiches, apps and dessert. Box lunches are also available.
    The Wine Press
    Jazz, blues, wine and food. That's what you can look forward to at Wine Press, the newish (c. 2008) wine bar on the edge of the Central West End. Their red and white wine selections feature offerings from the old world and new, and there's an equally global beer list too. The Wine Press menu features several smaller plates, such as mushrooms stuffed with cheese, artichokes, garlic, onions and pecans, and asparagus with brie and prosciutto, as well as larger plates that combine smaller bites, including a cheese plate and bruchetta sampler. They've also got one of the coolest happy hour deals we've seen: From 5 to 7 p.m., you can get a bottle of wine from their hand-selected list plus an appetizer to share for just $25. Live music most weekend nights -- and some weekday nights, too.
    Winfield's Gathering Place
    Winfield’s Gathering Place is an upscale sports bar, smokehouse and American fare restaurant brought to life by business partners Mark Winfield and former Cardinals outfielder Jim Edmonds. Located in an unassuming Kirkwood strip mall, Winfield’s serves up some serious barbecue. The ribs are classic dry-rubbed style, and the beef brisket holds its own in this crowded ‘cue town. Sandwiches include the must-try “BBQ Burnt Ends Sourdough Melt,” a pastrami Reuben, and a brisket riff on a French dip. Winfield’s is more than a smokehouse, though. Flatbreads and Italian specialties round out the menu, and entrees such as a “Wined and Brined” smoked chicken prove that the restaurant is more than a rib shack. Don’t pass up the jalapeño cheddar au gratin potatoes – whether ordered as a side or served on their own with a cold beer, they are alone worth a visit.

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