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The 10 Best New St. Louis Restaurants of 2015 

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Seared tuna with smoked eggplant caponata at Randolfi's. - MABEL SUEN
  • Mabel Suen
  • Seared tuna with smoked eggplant caponata at Randolfi's.

4. Randolfi's
6665 Delmar Blvd., University City; 314-899-9221
The Year of Mike Randolph continues with Randolfi's, his homage to the red-and-white-checked tablecloth dining that dominated the Italian restaurant scene in the 1970s and '80s. Randolph insists he is running an approachable, family-friendly dining establishment at Randolfi's — and he is, inasmuch as you can explain to your seven-year-old that sweetbreads are not a type of doughnut. Really, Randolfi's is more evocative than a literal throwback. Veal parmesan is there, but it presents as sweetbreads tossed in tart tomato sauce with funky cheese. Oysters Rockefeller is replaced with "Oysters Randolfi," with prosciutto in place of bacon, fennel in place of Pernod. You'll find the accessible stuff too, like spaghetti and meatballs, but it is elevated so far past the "red or white sauce" routine that dominates Midwestern Italian dining that it comes off as much more sophisticated. And for those who lamented the Good Pie closing to make room for Randolfi's, rest assured — the pizza is still there, and it is every bit as tasty.

5. J McArthur's
3500 Watson Road; 314-353-9463
What's most refreshing about J McArthur's — aside from the impeccable hospitality on display — is that it shows how a well-executed American bistro can still be relevant in today's dining climate. Over the past few hyper-specialized, food-obsessed years, the type of solid, seasonal American cuisine on display at this south-city gem seemed to have gone out of fashion, but chef Ben McArthur is bringing it back by focusing on classic flavors and impeccable preparations. He reminds us why chefs began pairing butternut squash with scallops or sweet potatoes with pork. After all, those combinations bring out the best of both components. Yet he does so even while honoring today's ethos — a utilization of local ingredients, a commitment to seasonality. He's not breaking the mold here. Instead, he reminds us why it was forged in the first place.

6. Chef Ma's Chinese Gourmet
2336 Woodson Road, Overland; 314-395-8797
Who would have thought that a former Taco Bell in the Middle of Overland would house one of the year's most exciting concepts? At first glance, Chef Ma's Chinese Gourmet could be mistaken for just another Americanized Chinese restaurant. Inside this bare-bones spot, however, you'll find a bastion of authentic Chinese cooking personally prepared and served by a veteran chef who has cooked all over Asia. Ma's specialty is his impromptu tasting menu — a treat he is eager to serve so long as you are willing to let him run the show. Doing so opens the door to a feast filled with pumpkin shrimp, twice-cooked pork and a fish stew filled with exotic vegetables. Sure, you'll find the other stuff too — the Mongolian beef, the crab Rangoon — and it's all done impeccably and from scratch. But really, there is only one way to go at Chef Ma's: Let him take the lead.

Hot Chicken plate with Southern greens and Hoppin' John. - MABEL SUEN
  • Mabel Suen
  • Hot Chicken plate with Southern greens and Hoppin' John.

7. Southern
3108 Olive Street; 314-531-4668
The "Clucking Hot" fried chicken at Rick Lewis' midtown spot Southern starts out with a tingly burn on the lips. It's mildly sweet, and the chicken it coats is so juicy and crisp you don't notice the heat creeping up on you. Beads of sweat start to form, but you are so enraptured by the nuance of flavors not typically present in such spicy food that you don't realize what's happening. By the time the burn wallops you with a shocking blow, you are so hooked you don't care. Is this an abusive culinary relationship? Probably, but it's one you hope will never ends.

8. Union Loafers
1629 Tower Grove Ave.; 314-833-6111
Man cannot live by bread alone, but Union Loafers sure makes you want to try. The Botanical Heights café and bakery showcases the bread making prowess of Ted Wilson, best known for his time spent perfecting the pizza dough at the Good Pie. There is much more to Union Loaders than its bread, though. Brian Lagerstrom, formerly of Niche, has crafted a simple menu that uses Wilson's naturally fermented bread as a canvass for everything from roasted pork to a shockingly good PB&J. General manager Sean Netzer says that the trio wasn't looking to do anything too far out — just simple food that they love to eat. Clearly, they are not alone. 

9. Seoul Q
6665 Delmar Blvd. #100A, University City; 314-925-8452
Korean barbecue had its St. Louis breakthrough moment this year with the opening of Seoul Q. Owned  by David Choi of Seoul Taco fame, the restaurant makes it clear why Korean barbecue has been so hot on the coasts — and makes us more than a little irked that it took so long to get here. The restaurant offers appetizers and hot pots, but there's no question that the reason to go here is to sample the tabletop-style cooking — especially those "LA-Style" short ribs which are the restaurant's version of the glorious galbi. Korean food is decidedly on-trend, but Seoul Q makes us hope this is no passing fad.

10. Taco Circus
4258 Schiller Place; 314-808-2050
People must have looked at Christian Ethridge and Mikey Carrasco like they were crazy when they packed up and left boomtown Austin, Texas, for St. Louis with the goal of opening a Tex-Mex taco joint. Now, as people line up to get a taste of their homemade breakfast tacos, they're getting the last laugh. The brightly colored Bevo Mill spot is cheap and fast, but Ethridge and Carrasco approach their food as if they were cooking in a fine-dining restaurant. Sausage is homemade, meat is locally sourced and humanely raised, and everything is made to order right in front of you. The pair wanted to open a place that was a love song to the taco joints of their youth, and we are happy to sing along.

See also: SLIDESHOW: St. Louis' 10 Best New Restaurants of 2015

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