The oatmeal cream pie at self-described "punk-rock grandma" Christy Augustin's tiny bakery are two oatmeal cookies, delightful on their own, sandwiched around a layer of marshmallow-fluff buttercream that will kick your brain into Proustian nostalgia overdrive.
Siete Luminarias offers this version of the classic Mexican torta -- though before you assemble a pambazo, you soak the bread in a guajillo-chile sauce, giving it a distinctive red hue and a mild kick.
"Dad's Green Chile Cheeseburger" (the recipe is from owner Steve Gontram's father) features hatch chiles from New Mexico in three ways: a layer of raw chiles beneath the burger; a layer of battered and deep-fried chiles atop the patty and its two slices of pepperjack cheese and, on the side, a green-chile mayonnaise.
On a weekday afternoon at St. Louis Pho, even the Vietnamese pop ballads blasting from the television speakers can't entirely obscure the business of eating pho: the clinking of chopsticks against the rim of the bowl as diners stir bean sprouts, fresh basil leaves and shreds of sawtooth herb into the broth; the squelching of bottles of Sriracha chile sauce and hoisin; and, of course, the slurping and slurping of rice noodles.
As terrific as the quail is, you might remember even more fondly the miniature tamale that accompanies it. The masa is perfectly moist, thanks in no small part to the fact that it has soaked up bacon fat. (Pictured: The dining room of Blood & Sand.)
Its beauty and charm is its simplicity: the lightly chewy pasta coated with the fruity, nutty oil, the garlic softened to a very mild bite, just a pinch of chile heat. Which is why the chitarra is so exciting: It's the perfect introduction to what simple, casual and affordable Italian food should be, not the limp, oversauced slop it all too often is. (Pictured: Pasta makers Greg Reece and Mike McManus at work at Pastaria.)
The "Flying Pig" is Guerrilla's standout dish: tender slow-roasted pork on a bed of jasmine rice, the meat's natural flavor subtly spiced and then spiked with chiles, sriracha sauce and calamansi (a lime-like citrus fruit).