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Set in a historic home just off the cobblestone streets of old town St. Charles, Bella Vino Wine Bar & Tapas charms diners with its cozy atmosphere. The menu is an eclectic array of Spanish small plates, such as chorizo-stuffed dates, fried calamari and spicy pork and beef meatballs. Bella Vino offers several pastas and flatbreads; most notable is the duck-prosciutto flatbread; instead of sauce, the base is rich mascarpone cheese topped with cured duck, caramelized onions and Gorgonzola cheese. Bella Vino makes its desserts in house, and the gooey butter cake is its standout. The bottom of the cake has an almost savory, brown-butter nuttiness that is complemented by the creamy and caramely topping. Cozy up by the fireplace, order a bottle of wine and let the plates keep coming.
Rome? Or Madrid? At Guido's you don't have to decide. This Hill institution serves tasty Italian fare, including one of the city's best thin-crust pies, and authentic, knockout Spanish tapas. While Guido's has no pretensions of being a tapas bar in the Spanish sense, owner and chef Miguel Carretero and his parents Segundo (front of house, including wine) and Genoveva (executive chef) hail from Madrid, and Guido's tapas are as close to the real deal as you can find in this town: soul-satisfying albóndigas (meatballs), spicy patatas bravas (sautéed potatoes in a picante sauce), the striking charbroiled squid dish calamares a la plancha and more.
In a neighborhood where Italian cuisine is king, Spain somehow manages to reign supreme at Modesto Tapas Bar & Restaurant. For more than a decade, the Hill neighborhood restaurant has served an extensive Spanish wine list alongside small plates and vibrant entrees that reflect the finer side of the country's cuisine. The restaurant's color palette featuring brick and bright reds, browns and oranges creates a perfect setting for a relaxing siesta. Choose from traditional paella or opt for modern plates including fried lobster tail topped with chimichurri. Stop in for happy hour on a weeknight for artfully skewered finger foods to enjoy with a glass of house sangria.
The “younger brother” of popular and critical Soulard success Franco eschews its older sibling’s French-bistro leanings for a broader Mediterranean flavor. Dishes range from tapas like fried almonds to housemade pappardelle in an Italian pork ragu to lamb spiked with a fiery North African harissa sauce. The lamb burger, seved with a fried egg on top, is superb. For a pleasant summer evening, grab a seat on the patio, order a “Jack Buck” (gin, Aperol, ginger beer and lemon) and enjoy all the people watching the Delmar Loop has to offer.
This Kirkwood restaurant covers two of St. Louis' favorite recent dining trends: small plates and wine bars. Unlike most "tapas" restaurants locally, some dishes here show Iberian influence, such as grilled asparagus with melted Manchego cheese and romesco sauce. In general chef Christopher Delgado's kitchen shows strong technique and careful attention to detail, as evidenced by beautifully grilled lamb chops in a cucumber-yogurt sauce, or a rich, perfectly seasoned crawfish étouffée. For a self-proclaimed wine bar, though, the narrow selection is in need of attention, given the preponderance of labels that can be found at most area grocery stores.
Sanctuaria’s tapas-style menu, based on the flavors of Latin and South America, includes a modern twist and changes with the seasons. Produce and meats are often sourced locally, some from their own garden. The art of mixology is alive and well here — all cocktails are expertly handcrafted and served with a flourish. Sanctuaria’s Cocktail club features a Club Menu of 150 cocktails that's been nominated for World’s Best Cocktail Menu at Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards in 2011. Even the art is big - there are several 17th and 18th century pieces of art from churches around the world and prayers over 450 years old are painted on metal and in the main dining room.
Veteran chef John O’Brien and his wife Cathy opened Three Flags Tavern with the humble goal of creating a nice neighborhood spot. What they ended up with is one of the city’s best restaurants. Drawing on St. Louis’ rich history, the tavern serves a mix of Spanish, French and American fare that is impeccably executed but unfussy. Smaller plates, such as posole with braised pork shank, fried Manchego cheese and lobster beignets make for delectable starters, while a pork mixed grill and Marcona almond-topped trout are hearty entrees. Three Flags fried chicken is some of the best in town, and the brisket burger is simply magnificent (ask for the Delice de Bourgogne cheese on top). Dine in the cozy dining room, up at the bar, or on the huge, tree-covered patio -- and by all means treat yourself to a craft cocktail or local beer. Just prepare to be dazzled.
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