Recommended in St. Louis

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    Inspired by her culinary trips around the U.S., Cathy Jenkins opened Cathy’s Kitchen as a way for diners to eat their way around the country without ever leaving north county. Her menu is divided not by starters, entrees or sandwiches but by state, each category filled with the specialties she enjoyed from each place. Look for Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches, New Orleans jambalaya and Memphis-style pulled pork on this edible road trip in the heart of Ferguson. $. Closed on Sundays. Outdoor seating. 
    Located in what used to be a Taco Bell, Chef Ma’s offers the standard Americanized Chinese dishes, if that’s your jam — or you can go on a much more interesting journey with the acclaimed chef’s more authentic specialties. The simmering fish stew is delicate, understated cooking, while the twice-cooked pork is decadence incarnate. Or try the Hainan chicken: a boiled, skin-on bird, served room temperature and hacked into large pieces. The ginger-spiked cooking liquid gently infuses the meat with subtle sweetness. No alcohol. $$. Closed Wednesday. Open for lunch and dinner Thursday through Tuesday. 
    Chuck-A-Burger
    Chuck-A-Burger’s menu may be filled with delectable American classics like burgers, fries and malts, but the most wonderful thing served at this north county institution is pure nostalgia. For more than 50 years, the restaurant has existed as a living slice of history, maintaining the tradition of the quintessential 1950s soda fountain down to its car hops, old-school jukebox soundtrack and classic car cruise nights. This is the culinary version of poodle skirts and saddles shoes, yet it’s anything but passé. Fashions may have changed since Chuck-A-Burger opened for business, but its greasy-spoon diner classics have stood the test of time. No alcohol. $. Opens daily at 11 a.m. Curb service in addition to inside seating.
    Circa STL’s menu is a crash course in the greatest hits of St. Louis restaurant history. The French onion soup proves to be a riff on the soup made, yes, famous at Famous Barr. The house salad comes with an anchovy-forward Mayfair dressing, invented in the 1930s at downtown’s Mayfair Hotel. The “Loaded Garlic Bread Sandwich” — toasted garlic bread with ham, Provel and a sprinkling of paprika — is better known to St. Louisans as a “Gerber” sandwich, brought into being by a place called Ruma’s Deli. The “STL Prosperity” sandwich, invented at the Lemp Mansion, manages to incorporate alfredo sauce on top of ham, turkey and provel. Just what your cholesterol needed! Naturally, there’s also St. Louis-style pizza and chicken modiga, all served in a room positively stuffed with local memorabilia. $$. Opens at 11 a.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
    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. $$. Patio. Closed Mondays.
    DD Mau’s name roughly translates to “hurry up” or “let’s go.” But for all its speed, the counter-service spot takes no shortcuts. Owner Julie Truong’s food is both innovative and fiercely authentic, customizable yet appealing to fans of traditional Vietnamese food. A vermicelli bowl features such traditional accoutrements as crushed peanuts, cilantro and pickled vegetables, but it can be tossed with a dressing, such as the funky “Vietnamese Vinaigrette,” which infuses it with depth and heat. All bowls come with your choice of protein. Spring rolls, pho and  bánh mì round out a perfectly executed menu. No alcohol. $. Open weekdays from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Closed Sunday.
    Though you can find Ferguson Brewing Company’s offerings around town, the best place to experience them is at its brewpub, a warm, inviting spot in the heart of historic downtown Ferguson. This is more than simple bar fare; the place has become just as famous for thoughtful food that incorporates its brews, including its famous stout-marinated stuffed mushrooms, beer cheese mac, and fish and chips. With food this delicious, you might forget that the place is, first and foremost, a brewery. The pecan brown ale may be just the reminder you need. $$. Patio. Opens daily at 11 a.m. 
    Haveli
    A nondescript building on a nondescript stretch of Page Avenue is home to an Indian restaurant whose food is anything but nondescript. The kitchen offers a wide selection of chicken, lamb and vegetarian dishes, with lists of specials for both omnivores and vegans. Goat curry is a standout, rich and gamy, while Navratan korma is a complex vegetable dish to win over the staunchest carnivore. Lunch and dinner buffets. $$. Lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday.
    Hendel's Market Café & Piano Bar
    Hendel’s Old Town Florissant digs have a colorful past: The century-old storefront used to be a grocer. But there’s nothing old-fashioned about the food. Try the German potato soup with its zippy hint of vinegar or the smoked shrimp en croute; there’s also a full menu of steaks, chicken, fish and pasta. Other perks include enthusiastic, rosy-cheeked service; a comfy dining room; and outside seating in a serene garden. Kids menu. $$. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Patio.
    India Palace
    India Palace no longer has its stunning (if confusing to find) location at the top of a tattered Howard Johnson’s, overlooking the lights of Lambert’s runway. It now occupies the former home of Standard Brewing Company, which explains the industrial, modern vibe. Still, what’s important is the food, which remains as good as ever. Lamb vindaloo is the signature dish, but you simply can’t go wrong anywhere on this menu. Kids menu; lunch buffet. $$. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
    Chef and co-owner Wesam Hamed, whose résumé includes such notable spots as Ranoush and Layla, has been cooking his delicious Palestinian fare in north St. Louis County since 2013, first opening in Florissant before moving to Kaslik’s current home. The place is a charmer, with thoughtful touches throughout and equally good food. Hamed’s signature shawarma remains as excellent as always. Likewise, the lamb chops, falafel and hummus are so authentic, you might be convinced you’re sitting on the eastern Mediterranean rather than in the middle of north county. Don’t miss the baklava. No alcohol. $$. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
    The intoxicating scent of garlic, Parmesan and dough that greets you upon arrival to Liliana’s is a precursor for what’s to come, which really ought to begin with an order of cheese garlic bread. At this charming, old-school Italian joint, chef/owner Tim Pieri dips crusty Italian bread into a concoction of melted butter, garlic and Parmesan, then covers it in mozzarella cheese before placing it in the oven. The result is a cheesy, butter-saturated wonder. Housemade meatballs and eggplant “lasagna” are equally dazzling, while the St. Louis-style pizza may well be the best in town. $$. Opens at 11 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Drive-through window for pizza.
    Lu Lu Seafood Restaurant
    In order to stand out among the aforementioned collection of Chinese restaurants and shops along Olive Boulevard, the owners of Lu Lu have slapped a pagoda on top of the building, and, we have to admit, it looks pretty awesome. Beyond aesthetics, there are more than 30 seafood selections, including stewed carp's head soup. But it's the dim sum that really packs them in. Choose from the traditional siu mai (firm steamed pork stuffed into thin wraps), shrimp har gow (steamed translucent dumplings), char siu bau (steamed rice-flour buns filled with diced roast pork in a sweet hoisin-based sauce), fried taro puffs (small balls covered in webbed mashed taro root and stuffed with finely ground pork or beef) and rice noodle (a white, slippery wide noodle folded over a filling of pork, shrimp or beef). And don't forget to try the chicken feet.
    Regulars will swear to you that their beloved Nick and Elena’s Pizzeria serves the best version of St. Louis style pizza in town. We have to hand it to them: With its flavorful crust that’s always crisped up just a little more golden brown than the town’s other squares beyond compare, these cracker-thin pies have that ever-so-slight bit of extra heft that makes a St. Louis pie go from good to great. You need that sort of architecture when you’re looking to pile on the pizzeria’s homemade, fennel-kissed Italian sausage — the more the better. $. Closed Mondays. Lunch served Fridays only.
    Destination barbecue in south county? Believe it —  even if on first glance the location couldn’t seem less promising. Nubby’s occupies the entire second floor of All American Sports Mall. One room looks over the hockey rinks; the other is a huge, open sports bar complete with a wall of televisions, darts, skee ball and a seating area with leather couches. The neon liquor signs and banners that decorate the room make Nubby’s look like the sort of county sports bar where you’d find deep-fried finger foods like crab Rangoon and taquitos — and you will, only instead of straight-from-the-deep-freeze junk, they are handmade and based on old family recipes. As for that barbecue, owner/pitmaster Matt Hines is serving some of the area’s best brisket and a wonderful thick-cut pork steak. $-$$. Opens weekdays at 11 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. Open til midnight on weekends. 
    Pearl Cafe
    From a contemporary storefront in the heart of north county, Pearl Café consistently offers what’s arguably the best Thai food in St. Louis, with a voluminous menu of noodles, fried rice, curries and noodle soups. Innovative chef/owner Scott Truong is always looking for ways to reimagine Thai cuisine through dishes like the “Phorito” or “Thai Burger.” Add in an extensive beer selection and 150 single-malt scotches and you’ll see why Pearl Café is so much more than your usual Thai spot. Kids menu. $$. Opens at 10:30 a.m. weekdays and at noon Saturday. Patio.
    Pirrone's Pizzeria
    For more 40 years, Pirrone’s Pizza has been serving up quintessential Sicilian-American comfort food in the form of deep-fried cannelloni bites, cheese sticks and salads that consist of little more than iceberg lettuce, Provel and a heavy-handed dousing of dressing. The big draw, however, is the pizza, a rectangular riff on the St. Louis-style cracker crust with cheese just a little bit gooier and sauce a little bit sweeter than the norm. Get it with pepperoni, Italian sausage or hamburger, and revel in the delight of a vibrant orange cheesy grease-slick that pairs perfectly with a frosty mug of draft Bud Light. $$. Opens Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at noon. Lunch buffet available weekdays.
    The pretzels here are New York-style, meaning pillow-soft and golden, and dressed with a generous amount of coarse salt. Traditional twisted pretzels have a squat look to them, while the pretzel nuggets are so fluffy and glistening, they look like beignets. The pretzels and nuggets are alone worth a trip, but Pretzel Pretzel aims to set itself apart from its competitors by also serving stuffed pretzels. About the size of a demi-baguette but slightly pouffier, they’re filled with everything from salsiccia to hot dogs to the signature house-roasted beef, onion, bell pepper and cream cheese-filled Philly cheesesteak. Counter service. $. Opens at 8 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 9 a.m. Sunday and Monday.
    The Des Peres outpost of Wash Ave favorite Rosalita’s Cantina is a Tex-Mex party in the ‘burbs, with a huge bar and friendly service. Naturally, the place is often packed, but if you can withstand the wait, you’ll feast on complimentary chips and salsa and St. Louis-sized portions of favorites like chile rellenos, coconut shrimp and chimichangas. Margarita options include everything from blueberry to a “Vegas” with silver tequila, peach Schnapps, peach puree and fresh lime juice, topped with Red Bull. Happy hour is a major draw. $$-$$$. Opens at 11 a.m. Monday th
    Seoul Garden
    A lengthy menu and the steady patronage of a Korean-speaking clientele mark this spot near Northwest Plaza as an excellent choice for standards such as bulgogi and more exotic selections like yuk hoe, the Korean equivalent of steak tartare. All entrées come with the complimentary Korean appetizers called banchan. Unlike its sister in Creve Coeur, however, you won’t be able to cook your own meat at this Seoul Garden; blame the fire department for that. The all-you-can-eat option remains popular, although your whole table must sign on to qualify. Beer and wine only. Opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday and noon on Sunday.
    Taqueria Durango
    Ask where to find St. Louis’ best Mexican food and many people in the know will point you not to Cherokee Street but Taqueria Durango, the unassuming strip mall taqueria in northwest county. The eatery is serious about its tacos; carnitas, barbacoa and al pastor are available, of course, but they share equal billing with such lesser-found ingredients like lingua, cabeza and pork stomach. Trust the cooks; these off cuts are some of the most tender, flavorful fillers you will find on the menu —  that is, if you allow yourself to order anything other than the torta ahogada, a heaping portion of pork and onions cradled between two massive slices of pillow-like bread that have been dipped in fiery red chile sauce. It’s a masterpiece. $. Opens daily at 11 a.m.
    Thai Kitchen’s menu consists of familiar Thai dishes, though the recipes are uniquely Andie Ongartsutthikue’s, having been passed down in her mother’s family for generations. Her version of the northern Thai noodle soup khao soi, for instance, is spicier than others. The warm heat is more haunting than assertive, sneaking up on the back palate and lingering. Meanwhile, a tangier, more tomato-forward presentation of curry is the base of the gang quah shrimp, a rich, brothy concoction meant to be served over rice. The star ingredient is pineapple, cut into chunks and warmed by the broth. $-$$. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday.
    Tucker's Place-South County
    In its nearly four decades in business, Tucker’s Place has grown to three locations, and the south county one is a particularly huge draw for its affordable steaks in an unpretentious setting. Diners can expect choices from filets, sirloins and strips, and unlike the national chains, Tucker’s includes a dinner salad, baked potato and even dinner rolls along with your cut of meat. The lemon-pepper salad dressing is so famous, people buy it by the bottle. $$-$$$. Opens weekdays at 11 a.m., Saturdays at noon and Sundays at 4 p.m. Patio.
    Anything you might presume about the Twisted Tree based on its location in a Holiday Inn parking lot will get checked at the door, as the fast food joints and chain stores of Sunset Hills give way to a sophisticated bar that could be a million light years away — or at least several miles to the northeast in Clayton. Dim lighting and sleek, backlit finishes illuminate the lounge, packed with would-be patrons waiting upward of two hours for a table. It’s not just hype; Twisted Tree’s food is worth waiting for. The onion rings are famous, the steaks are expertly cooked and the batter-dipped lobster tails are terrific. Even the salads (made tableside to your specifications) are seriously good. The service, too, is impeccable. $$$-$$$$. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Closed Sunday and Monday.)
    The massive, 12,500-square-foot Westport Social is sleek and stylish, with two rooms featuring everything from foosball tables to bocce courts to full-size basketball pop-a-shot setups. Food and drinks match the modern vibe, nodding at classic bar food but transcending the baseness often associated with the genre. The pizza and burgers are both solid choices, and if the nachos show that the kitchen can elevate classic appetizers, the wings prove they can put them on a jewel-crusted pedestal. The plump drummies and wings are smoked, infusing the juicy meat with flavor without overtaking it. $-$$. Opens daily at 11 a.m.; open ‘til 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 p.m. Sunday.

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