Monday, March 26, 2012

Favorite St. Louis Restaurants

First off, we have to say that it’s virtually impossible to cover all of the many wonderful St. Louis restaurants in one list.  St. Louis is a restaurant-friendly city, with a long history of “originals,” – home-grown eateries as opposed to ubiquitous chains.  So, we do not by any means presume that the following list is complete, and, in fact, we’ve pretty much decided to do a series of features on St. Louis restaurants.   What we have done here is try to highlight a few great restaurants that represent a variety of neighborhoods and cuisines.  You can’t go wrong with any of them.  

Sidney Street Café – 2000 Sidney Street, St. Louis, MO  63118
Located near downtown in the Benton Park neighborhood, Sidney Street Café has been a dining favorite for the past 25 years. With its exposed brick walls and wood floors in a century-old storefront, the restaurant draws diners for special occasions, a night out with friends, or just drinks and snacks at their bar.image

James Beard nominated Chef Kevin Nashan bought Sidney Street Café a few years back, and was careful to blend his expertise of current food trends with the classics that SSC regulars have come to enjoy. For example, my husband and I celebrated six of our first seven anniversaries there when we lived in St. Louis, and the Filet Bearnaise was always one of our picks. Flash forward 16 years later, the Filet is still on the menu, but additions such as Smoked Sweet Potato Perogis with a fricassee of Brussels sprouts, black trumpet mushrooms, chestnuts, pickled ramps and a brown butter sauce, bring the menu up to date.

Nashan works to include locally sourced products as well, including produce from Vesterbrook Farms and Doublestar Farms.

Pho Grand – 3195 S. Grand Boulevard, St. Louis, MO  63118
imageSouth Grand is an eclectic part of town with a decidedly international flavor.  It is home to a number of delicious Vietnamese restaurants, including Lemongrass and, my personal favorite, Pho Grand.  To me, Pho Grand marries a great menu with an atmosphere that reminds us of our dining experiences in the southern portion of Vietnam, from where the owners – the Trinh family -- originally came.  The ingredients are fresh and the prices are reasonable.  If you’re not familiar with Vietnamese cuisine, this is a great place to explore it! 
Some menu suggestions:
Goi Ngo Sen (Lotus Root Salad) – shredded lotus root mixed with cucumber, carrots, and basil.  Topped with shrimp, pork, lemon sauce and peanuts, this is a great starter to any meal.  Of course, we always end up ordering spring rolls, too.

My eldest daughter always, always orders Pho Bac (beef noodle rice soup).  One of my favorite entrees is Banh Xeo  -- pan-seared rice flour crepes filled with shrimp, pork and bean sprouts, and imageserved with fresh lettuce and cilantro for about $7.  Other great options, Shaking Beef (love the name) and Stir-fried Chicken with hot chiles and lemongrass.  My husband likes the curried seafood dishes.  There’s also an extensive vegetarian menu.

I’m drooling just thinking about it, so it’s good that I’ll be dining there for lunch with my sister tomorrow.  Can’t wait!
Dominic’s – 5101 Wilson Avenue, St. Louis, MO  63110
You can’t make a list of St. Louis restaurants without including at least one Italian option – and there are so many to choose from, especially on the Hill – an Italian neighborhood with a plethora of high quality places in virtually every price point.  image
For the budget-conscious, Favazza’s is a great bet (must try the fried artichoke hearts), but for that special occasion kind of meal, Dominic’s is “the bomb.”

Voted one of the two best Italian restaurants in the country by Conde Nast Traveler, Dominic's features fresh fish daily and focuses on traditional continental Italian cuisine, with an emphasis on regional dishes.   Owner Dominic Galati emigrated to the United States from Sicily in 1964, bringing with him a passion for food and life. He settled in St. Louis and, after learning the business, opened Dominic's on the Hill in 1971.

Dining at Dominic’s doesn’t come cheap, but you’ll feel like you’ve literally been transported to Italy, with impeccable elegance and service.    

 Outside the Hill, there’s also Trattoria Marcella, arguably one of imagethe best Italian eateries in town and a personal favorite.  If you go there, you HAVE to try the whole stuffed artichoke with couscous, herbs, grated parmigiano and toasted pine nuts.

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