December 29, 2018

The Very Best Things We Ate in St. Louis in 2018

We ate at a whole lot of St. Louis restaurants this year and we tried hundreds of dishes. These are the meals that we still dream about, the foods that we gush about to our friends and the flavors we can't wait to "try" again soon. * denotes a restaurant that has closed Words by Riverfront Times food editor Cheryl Baehr

We ate at a whole lot of St. Louis restaurants this year and we tried hundreds of dishes. These are the meals that we still dream about, the foods that we gush about to our friends and the flavors we can't wait to "try" again soon.

* denotes a restaurant that has closed

Words by Riverfront Times food editor Cheryl Baehr

Photos by Mabel Suen
Scroll down to view images
Grilled bologna sandwich at Grace Meat + Three
4270 Manchester Avenue; 314-533-2700
Grace's signature sandwich is the grilled bologna, a housemade meat that has about as much in common with Oscar Mayer as a McDonald's patty has with Kobe beef. The garlicky meat is sliced to the thickness of a hamsteak, then griddled to give it a bitter punch of char. The sandwich is covered in pimento cheese and crowned with a sunny-side-up egg. Finishing it might cause your heart to stop, though there are far worse ways to go.
Check it out here.
Mabel Suen

Grilled bologna sandwich at Grace Meat + Three


4270 Manchester Avenue; 314-533-2700

Grace's signature sandwich is the grilled bologna, a housemade meat that has about as much in common with Oscar Mayer as a McDonald's patty has with Kobe beef. The garlicky meat is sliced to the thickness of a hamsteak, then griddled to give it a bitter punch of char. The sandwich is covered in pimento cheese and crowned with a sunny-side-up egg. Finishing it might cause your heart to stop, though there are far worse ways to go.

Check it out here.
Beef torta at One Way Cafe (now Dos Reyes)
5912 Hampton Avenue, 314-833-5550
It's like the best pot roast you've ever had, this succulent, braised beef seems like equal parts meat and rich gravy. Though the menu calls it barbacoa, the preparation is actually birria, a rich, stew-like concoction filled with hunks of beef so tender they fall apart with just the suggestion of a fork. And you will want one for this beast of a sandwich. It may be designed to be handheld, but the beef's savory jus soaks into every last crevice of the pillow-soft bread, turning it into a glorious gravy sponge and rendering it impossible to keep together. And why bother – all the effort you'd spend trying to eat it like a sandwich is better spent devouring every last morsel.
Check it out here.
Mabel Suen

Beef torta at One Way Cafe (now Dos Reyes)


5912 Hampton Avenue, 314-833-5550

It's like the best pot roast you've ever had, this succulent, braised beef seems like equal parts meat and rich gravy. Though the menu calls it barbacoa, the preparation is actually birria, a rich, stew-like concoction filled with hunks of beef so tender they fall apart with just the suggestion of a fork. And you will want one for this beast of a sandwich. It may be designed to be handheld, but the beef's savory jus soaks into every last crevice of the pillow-soft bread, turning it into a glorious gravy sponge and rendering it impossible to keep together. And why bother – all the effort you'd spend trying to eat it like a sandwich is better spent devouring every last morsel.

Check it out here.
The Biscuit Sand at the Clover and the Bee
100 W. Lockwood Avenue, 314-942-1216
The impeccable "Biscuit Sand" is a mammoth breakfast sandwich that layers a large rectangle of fennel-kissed pork sausage and an equal-sized slice of egg (akin to a frittata) with white American cheese on a buttery biscuit that tastes like flaky shortbread. Two people could share this breakfast masterpiece and be satisfied. Splitting the sandwich means you'll have more room for the terrific breakfast potatoes. Chimichurri dresses these roasted beauties, giving them a punch of garlicky tang that brightens their salty flesh.
Check it out here.
Mabel Suen

The Biscuit Sand at the Clover and the Bee


100 W. Lockwood Avenue, 314-942-1216

The impeccable "Biscuit Sand" is a mammoth breakfast sandwich that layers a large rectangle of fennel-kissed pork sausage and an equal-sized slice of egg (akin to a frittata) with white American cheese on a buttery biscuit that tastes like flaky shortbread. Two people could share this breakfast masterpiece and be satisfied. Splitting the sandwich means you'll have more room for the terrific breakfast potatoes. Chimichurri dresses these roasted beauties, giving them a punch of garlicky tang that brightens their salty flesh.

Check it out here.
Bone-in ribeye at Hamilton's Urban Steakhouse
2101 Chouteau Avenue, 314-241-2333
The beautiful inch-thick cut of beef is the Platonic form of steak: the vision you have in your mind's eye when you muse upon such subjects as "death row meals" or what you'd eat in the event of an impending asteroid impact. Gilded with fat to the point it sparkles, the steak is coal black from the rub's coarse black pepper. Its back-of-the-throat heat is certainly present, but it's subtle, mitigated by a hint of sweetness and zest. The rub forms a coarse crust on every inch of the steak, its particular pleasure realized when you bite into a little pocket of beef and buttery-soft fat.
Check it out here.
Mabel Suen

Bone-in ribeye at Hamilton's Urban Steakhouse


2101 Chouteau Avenue, 314-241-2333

The beautiful inch-thick cut of beef is the Platonic form of steak: the vision you have in your mind's eye when you muse upon such subjects as "death row meals" or what you'd eat in the event of an impending asteroid impact. Gilded with fat to the point it sparkles, the steak is coal black from the rub's coarse black pepper. Its back-of-the-throat heat is certainly present, but it's subtle, mitigated by a hint of sweetness and zest. The rub forms a coarse crust on every inch of the steak, its particular pleasure realized when you bite into a little pocket of beef and buttery-soft fat.

Check it out here.
Crab rangoon at VP Square
3611 Juniata Street, 314-833-4838
At VP Square, the crab Rangoon may be the restaurant's signature dish, a half-moon-shaped wonton that is as crisp and delicate as a paper-thin potato chip. Somehow, that dainty wrapper is able to contain a cream-cheese filling so interspersed with crabmeat and scallions it could be considered a crab salad. Chef Pham would never dare serve such a masterpiece with cloying, pre-made sweet and sour. Instead, he pairs his Rangoons with a vibrant housemade sweet-and-sour sauce spiked with chiles. There is not a better crab Rangoon in town; there may not be a better crab Rangoon in existence.
Check it out here.
Mabel Suen

Crab rangoon at VP Square


3611 Juniata Street, 314-833-4838

At VP Square, the crab Rangoon may be the restaurant's signature dish, a half-moon-shaped wonton that is as crisp and delicate as a paper-thin potato chip. Somehow, that dainty wrapper is able to contain a cream-cheese filling so interspersed with crabmeat and scallions it could be considered a crab salad. Chef Pham would never dare serve such a masterpiece with cloying, pre-made sweet and sour. Instead, he pairs his Rangoons with a vibrant housemade sweet-and-sour sauce spiked with chiles. There is not a better crab Rangoon in town; there may not be a better crab Rangoon in existence.

Check it out here.
Meatballs at J Devoti Trattoria
5100 Daggett Avenue, 314-773-5553
The fist-sized sphere of pork and beef is perfection of the form: firm yet tender, powerfully meaty yet delicate. The meatball simmers in tomato sauce as it cooks, allowing the pork and beef drippings to infuse it with meaty richness. It's the sort of sauce you see slowly bubbling on the stove, ruby red and slicked with pork and beef fat. And forget spaghetti; Chef Anthony Devoti serves this revelation atop creamy polenta that soaks up every drop.
Check it out here.
Mabel Suen

Meatballs at J Devoti Trattoria


5100 Daggett Avenue, 314-773-5553

The fist-sized sphere of pork and beef is perfection of the form: firm yet tender, powerfully meaty yet delicate. The meatball simmers in tomato sauce as it cooks, allowing the pork and beef drippings to infuse it with meaty richness. It's the sort of sauce you see slowly bubbling on the stove, ruby red and slicked with pork and beef fat. And forget spaghetti; Chef Anthony Devoti serves this revelation atop creamy polenta that soaks up every drop.

Check it out here.
Ribs at J Smug's Gastropit
2130 Macklind Avenue, 314-499-7488
J. Smug's ribs are simply dazzling. They smoke a dry-rubbed version, and, more than others in town, their generous, salty rub forms a thick crust that actually crunches when you bite into it. It's reminiscent of the bark you get on a well-prepared brisket, and just as deeply smoky. Underneath this crisp, seasoned layer is succulent, cherry-wood-scented meat that has the proper chew you get from good ribs but still yields without too much effort. They're some of the finest in the city, the restaurant's clear standout.
Check it out here.
Mabel Suen

Ribs at J Smug's Gastropit


2130 Macklind Avenue, 314-499-7488

J. Smug's ribs are simply dazzling. They smoke a dry-rubbed version, and, more than others in town, their generous, salty rub forms a thick crust that actually crunches when you bite into it. It's reminiscent of the bark you get on a well-prepared brisket, and just as deeply smoky. Underneath this crisp, seasoned layer is succulent, cherry-wood-scented meat that has the proper chew you get from good ribs but still yields without too much effort. They're some of the finest in the city, the restaurant's clear standout.

Check it out here.
Dia's Cheese Bread at Cinder House
999 North Second Street, 314-881-5759
The tapioca-based poufs are delicate, cheese-studded spheres that melt in the mouth before you have a chance to chew. The bread is a masterpiece on its own, but Gerard Craft pairs it with country ham that is shaved prosciutto-thin and a ramekin of salt-sprinkled lardo. Together, they infuse the light cheese puffs with salt and porky flavor.
Check it out here.
Mabel Suen

Dia's Cheese Bread at Cinder House


999 North Second Street, 314-881-5759

The tapioca-based poufs are delicate, cheese-studded spheres that melt in the mouth before you have a chance to chew. The bread is a masterpiece on its own, but Gerard Craft pairs it with country ham that is shaved prosciutto-thin and a ramekin of salt-sprinkled lardo. Together, they infuse the light cheese puffs with salt and porky flavor.

Check it out here.
Jibarito at Alphateria
4310 Fyler Avenue, 314-621-2337
In place of bread, two patties of smashed plantains, sprinkled with coarse salt, serve as the sandwich's base. Chopped marinated steak covered with melted Swiss cheese evokes a Dominican-style Philly cheesesteak; a chiffonade of crisp iceberg lettuce, sliced ripe tomatoes and rich garlic mayonnaise.
Check it out https://www.riverfronttimes.com/stlouis/at-the-benevolent-king-ben-poremba-triumphantly-returns-to-the-kitchen-and-his-roots/Content?oid=24217794.
Mabel Suen

Jibarito at Alphateria


4310 Fyler Avenue, 314-621-2337

In place of bread, two patties of smashed plantains, sprinkled with coarse salt, serve as the sandwich's base. Chopped marinated steak covered with melted Swiss cheese evokes a Dominican-style Philly cheesesteak; a chiffonade of crisp iceberg lettuce, sliced ripe tomatoes and rich garlic mayonnaise.

Check it out https://www.riverfronttimes.com/stlouis/at-the-benevolent-king-ben-poremba-triumphantly-returns-to-the-kitchen-and-his-roots/Content?oid=24217794.
The Soulard Primer at the Wood Shack
1862 S 10th Street, 314-833-4770
This prime-rib sandwich puts to shame every roast-beef sandwich that came before it. Hunks of inch-thick prime rib, kissed with hickory and mulberry-wood smoke and so tender you could butter your bread with them, are cooked to a quintessential, well-rested medium-rare. Grillers at the city's top-dollar steakhouses should take note of such perfectly cooked beef.
Check it out here.
Mabel Suen

The Soulard Primer at the Wood Shack


1862 S 10th Street, 314-833-4770

This prime-rib sandwich puts to shame every roast-beef sandwich that came before it. Hunks of inch-thick prime rib, kissed with hickory and mulberry-wood smoke and so tender you could butter your bread with them, are cooked to a quintessential, well-rested medium-rare. Grillers at the city's top-dollar steakhouses should take note of such perfectly cooked beef.

Check it out here.