The Gut Check One Hundred is our accounting of the 100 dishes in St. Louis that you must eat right now. These are the best dishes at the newest restaurants and the newest dishes at the best restaurants. These are the 100 dishes that define St. Louis dining in 2013. Our list culminates this fall when the Riverfront Times Best of St. Louis 2013 names the "Best Dish" of the year.
Kim Cheese (13435 Olive Boulevard, Chesterfield; 314-485-1408) combines one of the nation's hottest culinary trends with one of my personal restaurant obsessions. The trend is Mexican-Korean fusion: tacos and burritos stuffed with Korean barbecue and garnished, if you like, with pungent kim chi. Los Angeles birthed this trend, but it has proven wildly successful even where it doesn't make a lick of demographic sense.
My obsession is local, independent restaurants that open in shuttered fast-food joints. The Moon family opened Kim Cheese in August of last year in a former Dairy Queen. Driving past, you might still mistake it for a Dairy Queen.
It is so much better.
The most intriguing dish at Kim Cheese might be the "burgers." Strictly speaking, these aren't burgers but steak sandwiches served on hamburger buns. The "Kim Cheese Burger" pairs thin slices of grilled rib eye with a generous serving of kim chi and tops them, classic burger-style, with tomato, onion and a slice of American cheese. The savory-sweet beef, the funky kim chi and the tangy cheese manage to surprise at the same time the combo presses your fast-food-pleasure buttons.
You might notice the absence of a Mexican element to this "burger." The most promising aspect of Kim Cheese is that it seems to be pushing past the basic Korean-Mexican trend to something both quirkier and more universally appealing: a quality-conscious, Korean-Mexican-American fast-food mashup.
Make sure to order fries with your "burger." They are unimpeachable: crisp outside and cloud-soft inside.
-- adapted from Ian Froeb's RFT Review of Kim Cheese
Is there a dish that you think belongs among the Gut Check One Hundred 2013? Let us know!