RFT Restaurant Guide: Old Gems and New Spots in University City [PHOTOS]


We're kicking off our Restaurant Guide. Here's a look at one of the areas we're covering. Stay tuned for the rest.

If you want authentic Asian cuisine, options abound in and around University City. Grab steamed barbecue pork buns or beef tripe at Lulu Seafood and Dim Sum or Chilispot’s delicious mapo tofu. You could watch the team at Corner 17 stretch out the dough for handmade noodles while sipping on a bubble tea, or you can grab the bulgogi beef quesadilla at Seoul Taco. In the mood for Vietnamese? Head just up the street from the Pageant and stop by Fork and Stix for the Hung Lay curry. There are other classics in U City as well (Salt & Smoke, Frank & Helen’s, Taco Buddha), so you’re sure to find something delicious no matter what you’re in the mood for.
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Taco Buddha
When Taco Buddha (7405 Pershing Avenue, University City; 314-502-9951) first opened in 2017, customers poured in, tempted by delicious tacos and margaritas. Still, owner Kurt Eller brought on executive chef Jeff Friesen to make the place a top-notch dining destination. Friesen used his background in fine dining to create signature menu offerings, train and develop the team and transition the restaurant to more environmentally friendly business practices.
MABEL SUEN

Taco Buddha

When Taco Buddha (7405 Pershing Avenue, University City; 314-502-9951) first opened in 2017, customers poured in, tempted by delicious tacos and margaritas. Still, owner Kurt Eller brought on executive chef Jeff Friesen to make the place a top-notch dining destination. Friesen used his background in fine dining to create signature menu offerings, train and develop the team and transition the restaurant to more environmentally friendly business practices.
RFT Restaurant Guide: Old Gems and New Spots in University City [PHOTOS]
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Frank & Helen's Pizzeria
You’ll find the same cheesy-baked pastas, the same char-grilled ribeyes with sides of fettuccine and, of course, the same broasted chicken — a special way of pressure-frying the bird that results in impossibly succulent meat and a crispy, non-greasy coating. But if there is one thing you must order at Frank & Helen’s, it’s the pizza, one of the best St. Louis-style thin-crust pies in town. Beer and wine only. $-$$. Open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner.
ANDY PAULISSEN

Frank & Helen's Pizzeria

You’ll find the same cheesy-baked pastas, the same char-grilled ribeyes with sides of fettuccine and, of course, the same broasted chicken — a special way of pressure-frying the bird that results in impossibly succulent meat and a crispy, non-greasy coating. But if there is one thing you must order at Frank & Helen’s, it’s the pizza, one of the best St. Louis-style thin-crust pies in town.

Beer and wine only. $-$$. Open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner.
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Frank & Helen's Pizzeria
Less a restaurant than an institution, Frank & Helen’s Pizzeria (8111 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-997-0666) has been firing up its charcoal broiler since 1956, solidifying its place as the go-to spot for three generations of University City families.
ANDY PAULISSEN

Frank & Helen's Pizzeria

Less a restaurant than an institution, Frank & Helen’s Pizzeria (8111 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-997-0666) has been firing up its charcoal broiler since 1956, solidifying its place as the go-to spot for three generations of University City families.
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Lu Lu Seafood & Dim Sum
The grand entrance sets you up for what follows at Lu Lu Seafood & Dim Sum (8224 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-997-3108); what awaits you at this festively decorated University City institution is no less than a multisensory feast. Lu Lu is fiercely authentic.
Lulu Nix

Lu Lu Seafood & Dim Sum

The grand entrance sets you up for what follows at Lu Lu Seafood & Dim Sum (8224 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-997-3108); what awaits you at this festively decorated University City institution is no less than a multisensory feast. Lu Lu is fiercely authentic.
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Lulu's Seafood and Dim Sum
The restaurant has four chefs from four different regions in China and one chef dedicated solely to dim sum, resulting in dishes that are created by experts in the cuisine of their origin. Yet as traditional as Lu Lu may be, what sets it apart is a welcoming spirit that embraces first-timers as warmly as old hands. Lazy Susan tables make exploration particularly easy for big parties. $$$. Opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Sunday. Cart service on Saturday.
Lulu Nix

Lulu's Seafood and Dim Sum

The restaurant has four chefs from four different regions in China and one chef dedicated solely to dim sum, resulting in dishes that are created by experts in the cuisine of their origin. Yet as traditional as Lu Lu may be, what sets it apart is a welcoming spirit that embraces first-timers as warmly as old hands. Lazy Susan tables make exploration particularly easy for big parties. $$$. Opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Sunday. Cart service on Saturday.
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Corner 17
Corner 17 (6623 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-727-2402) is a U. City staple. Bubble tea and freshly made noodles are served at this beloved spot, as well as plump baos and satisfying soups. Immigrant owned and run, Corner 17 puts its chefs front and center, literally.
Lulu Nix

Corner 17

Corner 17 (6623 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-727-2402) is a U. City staple. Bubble tea and freshly made noodles are served at this beloved spot, as well as plump baos and satisfying soups. Immigrant owned and run, Corner 17 puts its chefs front and center, literally.
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Corner 17
The focal point of the dining room is a window into the noodle-making station. Watch cooks stretch and slice the dough as you settle into the space. You might want to be prepared to wait, though. Lines to get in snaked down Delmar after a social media influencer tried to diss the restaurant earlier this year, and what followed was a show of fierce support from the rest of St. Louis. $. Open Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays.
Lulu Nix

Corner 17

The focal point of the dining room is a window into the noodle-making station. Watch cooks stretch and slice the dough as you settle into the space. You might want to be prepared to wait, though. Lines to get in snaked down Delmar after a social media influencer tried to diss the restaurant earlier this year, and what followed was a show of fierce support from the rest of St. Louis. $. Open Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays.
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Fork & Stix
Tucked in a small storefront off a side street on the eastern edge of the Loop, Fork & Stix (549 Rosedale Avenue, 314-863-5572) focuses on food from Thailand’s northern “second city,” Chiang Mai. That includes the fiery nam prik num, a chile dip served with vegetables and rice, and the lovely, lemongrass-perfumed pork sausages called sai oua.
Rosalind Early

Fork & Stix

Tucked in a small storefront off a side street on the eastern edge of the Loop, Fork & Stix (549 Rosedale Avenue, 314-863-5572) focuses on food from Thailand’s northern “second city,” Chiang Mai. That includes the fiery nam prik num, a chile dip served with vegetables and rice, and the lovely, lemongrass-perfumed pork sausages called sai oua.
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Fork & Stix 
Every last dish is prepared with the same care you’d find in the area’s top fine-dining restaurants, but if one thing stands above the rest, it’s the khao soi, a yellow curry egg noodle soup so revelatory it’s haunting. No alcohol. $$. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, and for dinner only on Sunday.
Jennifer Silverberg

Fork & Stix

Every last dish is prepared with the same care you’d find in the area’s top fine-dining restaurants, but if one thing stands above the rest, it’s the khao soi, a yellow curry egg noodle soup so revelatory it’s haunting. No alcohol. $$. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, and for dinner only on Sunday.
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Chili Spot
A newcomer to U. City, ChiliSpot (7930 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-925-8711) is a worthy addition to the phenomenal Asian cuisine options along Olive Boulevard. The comprehensive menu makes this the ideal place to come with a group of friends and sample several entrees and even more sides.
Rosalind Early

Chili Spot

A newcomer to U. City, ChiliSpot (7930 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-925-8711) is a worthy addition to the phenomenal Asian cuisine options along Olive Boulevard. The comprehensive menu makes this the ideal place to come with a group of friends and sample several entrees and even more sides.
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Chili Spot For the spice lovers, the Chongqing spicy popcorn chicken is a modern twist on a classic, and the Szechuan spicy wonton is a classic dish done to perfection. But don’t worry, there are also plenty of options for diners who don’t like heat. $$. Open for lunch and dinner daily except Wednesdays.
Rosalind Early

Chili Spot

For the spice lovers, the Chongqing spicy popcorn chicken is a modern twist on a classic, and the Szechuan spicy wonton is a classic dish done to perfection. But don’t worry, there are also plenty of options for diners who don’t like heat. $$. Open for lunch and dinner daily except Wednesdays.
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Wonton King
The dim sum spread here is one of the best in town. However, there is so much more to Wonton King (8116 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-567-9997) than what rolls by the table every Saturday and Sunday.
Rosalind Early

Wonton King

The dim sum spread here is one of the best in town. However, there is so much more to Wonton King (8116 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-567-9997) than what rolls by the table every Saturday and Sunday.
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Wonton King
The Hong Kong-style eatery boasts a menu of expertly prepared dishes, including traditional congee made with everything from preserved egg to pork to kidney; fiery hot pots; Hong Kong-braised noodles. The true mark of this restaurant’s greatness is the whole roasted duck, a feat of culinary prowess that combines crispy skin with incredibly juicy meat. The only thing better than this delectable dish is pairing it with an array of dim sum selections for a feast that is fit for a king. Beer and wine only. $$-$$$. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Cart service Saturday and Sunday.
Rosalind Early

Wonton King

The Hong Kong-style eatery boasts a menu of expertly prepared dishes, including traditional congee made with everything from preserved egg to pork to kidney; fiery hot pots; Hong Kong-braised noodles. The true mark of this restaurant’s greatness is the whole roasted duck, a feat of culinary prowess that combines crispy skin with incredibly juicy meat. The only thing better than this delectable dish is pairing it with an array of dim sum selections for a feast that is fit for a king. Beer and wine only. $$-$$$. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Cart service Saturday and Sunday.
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Mission Taco Joint
Inspired by spots in San Francisco’s Mission District, brothers Adam and Jason Tilford opened the first Mission Taco Joint (6235 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-932-5430) on the Loop in 2013, bringing a breezy, West Coast-style street-taco shack to St. Louis.
Courtesy Mission Taco Joint

Mission Taco Joint
Inspired by spots in San Francisco’s Mission District, brothers Adam and Jason Tilford opened the first Mission Taco Joint (6235 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-932-5430) on the Loop in 2013, bringing a breezy, West Coast-style street-taco shack to St. Louis.
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Mission Taco JointMission Taco Joint begins with a respect for traditional tacos, then infuses the form with culinary creativity, resulting in offerings like slow-roasted duck with ancho chile glaze, wood-fired portobello mushrooms with goat cheese and succulent beef-brisket birria. And did we mention the margaritas? $-$$. Opens daily at 11 a.m.
Courtesy Mission Taco Joint

Mission Taco Joint

Mission Taco Joint begins with a respect for traditional tacos, then infuses the form with culinary creativity, resulting in offerings like slow-roasted duck with ancho chile glaze, wood-fired portobello mushrooms with goat cheese and succulent beef-brisket birria. And did we mention the margaritas? $-$$. Opens daily at 11 a.m.
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Private Kitchen / Soup Dumplings STL
At Private Kitchen (8106 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-989-0283), prospective diners make reservations and select their dishes in advance of their visit, thereby setting up their own, personalized tasting menu.
MABEL SUEN

Private Kitchen / Soup Dumplings STL

At Private Kitchen (8106 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-989-0283), prospective diners make reservations and select their dishes in advance of their visit, thereby setting up their own, personalized tasting menu.
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Private Kitchen / Soup Dumplings STL
The selection is huge, peppered with options such as whole Peking duck, sea cucumber rice and slow-cooked pork knuckles. There’s a mystique that comes from an advance order for a tailor-made dinner, sight unseen. Chef Lawrence Chen opened an offshoot, St. Louis Soup Dumplings (8110 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-445-4605), in 2017. The restaurant is entirely dedicated to the handmade, liquid-filled Shanghai-style dumplings that have been sending his guests into a frenzy. Unlike its upscale older sister, St. Louis Soup Dumplings is a casual concept serving chicken, pork, fish, shrimp, beef or vegetarian varieties as well as a selection of ready-made cold dishes. $-$$$$. Both open at 11 a.m. daily; closed Tuesday.
Cheryl Baehr

Private Kitchen / Soup Dumplings STL

The selection is huge, peppered with options such as whole Peking duck, sea cucumber rice and slow-cooked pork knuckles. There’s a mystique that comes from an advance order for a tailor-made dinner, sight unseen. Chef Lawrence Chen opened an offshoot, St. Louis Soup Dumplings (8110 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-445-4605), in 2017.

The restaurant is entirely dedicated to the handmade, liquid-filled Shanghai-style dumplings that have been sending his guests into a frenzy. Unlike its upscale older sister, St. Louis Soup Dumplings is a casual concept serving chicken, pork, fish, shrimp, beef or vegetarian varieties as well as a selection of ready-made cold dishes. $-$$$$. Both open at 11 a.m. daily; closed Tuesday.
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Salt + Smoke
Salt + Smoke (6525 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-727-0200) serves the best brisket in town. That’s not controversial. What may be a little more contentious, though, is an even bolder statement — Salt + Smoke serves some of the best brisket in the country.
Lauren Milford

Salt + Smoke

Salt + Smoke (6525 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-727-0200) serves the best brisket in town. That’s not controversial. What may be a little more contentious, though, is an even bolder statement — Salt + Smoke serves some of the best brisket in the country.
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Salt + Smoke
Tom Schmidt opened this full-service, bourbon-centric barbecue spot in 2014 at a time when every food publication in town was noting the over-saturation of the barbecue market. But Schmidt knew he was onto something, and his killer ’cue proves his point. From the type of wood used to smoke the beef (post oak, of course) to the 18-hour smoke time, Salt + Smoke is the real deal — one reason it’s successfully expanded its footprint around the region. If you’re not a barbecue person, order a dish of the white-cheddar Cracker Mac and try not to fall in love. $-$$. Opens daily at 11 a.m. Sidewalk dining.
Lauren Milford

Salt + Smoke

Tom Schmidt opened this full-service, bourbon-centric barbecue spot in 2014 at a time when every food publication in town was noting the over-saturation of the barbecue market. But Schmidt knew he was onto something, and his killer ’cue proves his point. From the type of wood used to smoke the beef (post oak, of course) to the 18-hour smoke time, Salt + Smoke is the real deal — one reason it’s successfully expanded its footprint around the region. If you’re not a barbecue person, order a dish of the white-cheddar Cracker Mac and try not to fall in love. $-$$. Opens daily at 11 a.m. Sidewalk dining.
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Sugarfire Smoke House
Sugarfire Smoke House (9200 Olive Boulevard, Olivette; 314-997-2301) is a perennial readers’ choice favorite for best barbecue, as well as a strong contender in the increasingly crowded fast-casual category. And rightly so: What could be faster or more efficient than going through Sugarfire’s cafeteria-style line and choosing among the numerous cuts of smoked meat and creative sides?
Rosalind Early

Sugarfire Smoke House

Sugarfire Smoke House (9200 Olive Boulevard, Olivette; 314-997-2301) is a perennial readers’ choice favorite for best barbecue, as well as a strong contender in the increasingly crowded fast-casual category. And rightly so: What could be faster or more efficient than going through Sugarfire’s cafeteria-style line and choosing among the numerous cuts of smoked meat and creative sides?
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