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The diminutive Blue Nile Market and Café is half grocery store, half restaurant. The modest menu works as a primer on Ethiopian cuisine, with each dish served atop injera, a spongy bread that's employed in lieu of a utensil. Dishes include tibs (sautés) with mildly spicy beef and, for the truly adventurous, kitfo (raw, finely chopped beef). The vegetarian combo brings small servings of four excellent vegetable dishes.
In the late 1970's, the seafood selection available in St. Louis left something to be desired. Bob Mepham recognized a need for fresh seafood in town, so he decided to open an outdoor market in the Delmar Loop. Bob took weekly trips down to the Gulf of Mexico to purchase seafood. He would leave St. Louis every Wednesday and return the following Saturday with a refrigerated truck full of fresh seafood to sell to retail and wholesale customers.
You know a pizza place is reliable when it's a favorite hangout for cops. So Frank & Helen's, which originally opened in 1956, must be one steadfast eatery -- its current owner, Scott DePolito, is a former U. City police officer who now feeds the joint's famous pizza and broasted chicken to his former colleagues. The pizzas, halfway between St. Louis and New York-style, are thin-crusted (not cracker-crusted), made with mozzarella (not Provel) and cut into squares. The menu also features blue-collar staples like fried zucchini sticks, burgers and steak dinners. Many of Frank & Helen's ever-loyal customers were introduced to the place by their grandparents; now, they bring their grandkids.
Frida's Deli is a vegetarian deli in University City. It specializes in vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and raw foods. The menu includes meat-free alternatives such as seitan, tempeh and Match Meat, which appear in robust, hearty menu items such as the "crab cake burger," "steak" sandwich, tempeh "BLT" and spicy buffalo "chicken" sandwich.
You can get your greasy spoon on at the Olivette, a strip-mall eatery serving just breakfast and lunch seven days a week. You can sit in a vinyl booth or at the Formica counter and enjoy a bottomless cup of hot, fresh coffee; eavesdrop on the regulars making chitchat with the waitresses; and order yourself a burger, eggs and bacon, or a slinger. But you can also look forward to plenty of unexpected menu choices, too -- like a bacon, feta and tomato sandwich or a breakfast burrito wrapped inside a spinach tortilla. Other strange (but super) signature items include the Amazing Banana Waffle and the Hot Hash & Holly: potatoes with grilled onions, green peppers and ham, topped with two eggs, melted Cheddar and hollandaise. Cheap, good and just a little offbeat, the Olivette embodies everything great about diners.
Pho Long isn't your typical 100-plus-selection Vietnamese restaurant. It specializes in pho, the traditional Vietnamese noodle soup. But you don't need much more than a bowl of good pho for a fast, satisfying meal. Pho Long's great: thin rice noodles, onions and scallions in beef broth, customized with your choice of meats - eye round steak or flank steak are the straightforward choices; oxtail or beef meatballs offer a heartier, earthier flavor; tripe and tendon give the full, authentic experience - fresh herbs, jalapeños and lime. Best of all, pho is good for breakfast, lunch or dinner, in hot weather or cold. Not in a pho mood? There are a few entrées, as well as appetizers and desserts
You'll find plenty to choose from at Royal Chinese Barbecue, from familiar kung pao chicken and orange beef to humble congee (rice porridge) to exotic shark's fin soup. But be sure to take a cue from the name and try a barbecue dish. Barbecue pork evokes both a tender roast and indulgently fatty belly. Then again, once you see the roasted ducks hanging inside the door, their copper-colored skins so crisp that you can hear the crackling from the parking lot, you'll have a tough time choosing anything else. Stop by for weekday lunch and try an ample portion of each for just $8- $8.50.
Shu Feng is a restaurant located in University City serving Chinese and Korean food. At this University City spot, you can enjoy excellent renditions of your favorite Chinese dishes, including a wonderfully fiery hot braised pork and the rare hot-and-sour soup that is, in fact, both hot and sour. But Shu Feng also offers a selection of intriguing Taiwanese soups and curries, including roast eel rice. As if that weren't enough of an attempt at bringing about world peace, Shu Feng has Korean dishes as well. Can't we all get along here? At Shu Feng we certainly can — and, at lunch, we can get along for much less and with two tasty crab rangoon (or one egg roll) to boot.
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