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Gut Check: Stimulus packages! 

The Missouri Restaurant Association has announced that September will be Dine Out Missouri Month. This is no mere honorific, but a program that pays you back for dining in selected restaurants around the state. Think of it as a stimulus package for Missouri restaurants — with a small kickback for you. Here's how it works: Accumulate $200 in receipts at selected restaurants between September 1 and September 30. Mail those receipts to the Missouri Restaurant Association. The first 1,000 diners to do so will receive a $25 restaurant gift certificate. Visit for more information and to see the list of participating establishments.

Chris Sommers, owner of the wildly popular (and President Obama-approved) Delmar Loop pizza joint Pi, took to Twitter ( last week to announce that the City of Kirkwood has given him the all-clear for his latest venture, Pi Squared. The cleverly named Pi deux will open on Wednesday, September 9 — that's 9/9/09. Sommers also announced that he plans to open a bar and a third Pi in the Central West End.

Bombay Sapphire has tapped mixologist Ted Kilgore — formerly of Monarch, now at Niche Taste Bar — as the "Most Inspired St. Louis Bartender." The contest aims to determine who can make (quoting from the press release here) the "most exciting, creative libations using Bombay Sapphire" gin. Kilgore's drink, "Gem of a Punch," combines gin, tea-infused vermouth, Champagne, lime and pineapple juices, and simple syrup. Kilgore will compete against 39 other bartenders in Las Vegas at the end of August, with the winner scoring a profile in GQ magazine.

Speaking of lad mags, Playboy recently made its picks for the top ten barbecue joints in America, and 17th Street Bar & Grill makes the cut. There are four 17th Street locations in Illinois: the original in Murphysboro, O'Fallon, Sparta and Marion. In the Playboy piece, author Sean McCusker calls 17th Street owner and barbecuer Mike Mills "the Muhammad Ali of ribs." Mills has won the Memphis in May barbecue title — a.k.a. the Super Bowl of Swine — three times. Two years ago, in a program broadcast on the Food Network, Bon Appétit magazine declared Mills' ribs the best in the nation.

Are you opening a new restaurant? Know of a place that has closed? Got something else for Ian to chew on? E-mail And check out this column's virtual doppelganger here.

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