While planning the forthcoming “Best New Restaurants” feature for the October 2021 issue, we were reminded of all the great places that have opened over the past year and a half, from January 2020 to mid-2021. Here’s a quick rundown, listed by neighborhood—and even more options are on the near horizon.
DOWNTOWN & MIDTOWN
Politicos, local swells, and a spectrum of the city’s workers meet at this revived sandwich place with a century-old past. Third-generation owner Paul Beffa eliminated the cafeteria-style service and added evening hours and a popular Saturday brunch. Keeping with tradition, however, there’s still no sign. 2700 Olive.
It’s big, modern and luxurious, a subtly baseball–themed steakhouse in a hotel at Ballpark Village with numerous other upscale attractions, such as the Whiskey Room and The Bullock terrace overlooking Busch Stadium, as well as an interior devoted to Cardinals lore. 799 Clark.
Tom Schmidt’s popular barbecue brand continues to grow, with its newest location situated a 700-foot center field home run from Busch Stadium. A singular focus on “barbecue, bourbon, and beer” translates to loads of meat, craft and barrel-aged cocktails, and more than 40 bourbons. The burnt-end T-ravs are a must. 501 Clark.
Does Busch Stadium have shuffleboard? Ping-Pong? Nope, and that’s why watching the game at this place, just next door, on one of about 400 big-screen TVs, is clearly a better deal. There’s also plenty of beer, cocktails, and nacho-style bar fare to add to the fun. 651 Clark.
Catering’s become more popular than hand sanitizer of late. What began as a food truck has morphed into a downtown eatery that provides boxed breakfasts and lunches for just you or your whole company. The choices are varied, tasty, and also available at the Clayton location. 701 Market.
CENTRAL WEST END
Pizza and pasta are the focus at the former Scape space—until you lay eyes on the spectacular ivy-walled European-style courtyard hidden in back. Andrew Simon, Scape’s former executive chef, has returned to dazzle guests with his creations, such as pastrami-cured tuna, orecchiette with pickled kale, pancetta, and pecorino cream, as well as the return of Ted’s Mac Nut Chicken, a tribute to Ted Koplar, the complex’s late founder. 48 Maryland Plaza.
The affable Mack Hill, whose restaurant took the space previously held by West End Bistro (which moved up the street), continues the address’ tradition as a great neighborhood place for sandwiches, salads, burgers, and pizza. 5513 Pershing.
The Tenderloin Room (Reopened)
In its 60-year history, the legendary restaurant has entertained presidents, actors, athletes, and generations of St. Louisans. Local restaurateur Bob Brazell spearheaded its most recent remodel and, after a pandemic pause, the storied steakhouse returned in July 2021, albeit with limited hours (Wednesday through Sunday evenings), a scaled-down menu, and scaled-up prices (an unfortunate but necessary sign of the times). 232 N. Kingshighway
As the name implies, there’s bistro fare (French onion soup, a perfect ribeye), along with some surprises (crab cakes, gyros, seafood dishes that shine). Surprisingly, the new iteration has yet to open the off-street patio, which spans the length of the building. 255 Union.
This Soulard watering hole sprawls, with two floors, big-screen TVs, games, and beaucoup room for relaxing. Darts, Power Putt, and Golden Tee are fun, but they can’t distract from a chicken pot pie-stuff croissant. Other Cajun-Creole specialties go great with a big selection of beers. 1031 Lynch.
From the Art Deco bar to the taxidermy-lined walls to the campground-style patios, The Golden Hoosier is a South Side respite. It’s convivial and resplendent, with great drinks and surprisingly contemporary takes on familiar dishes. 3707 S. Kingshighway.
You can actually have a cow here—the restaurant sells its own beef. Breakfast and lunch are also worthwhile, and the rustic setting, with a fireplace and patio, is charming. The array of books, bird feeders, and more makes for a unique approach. (Pastries are a serious temptation.) 2742 Lafayette.
Having relocated from Hyde Park to Cherokee Street in spring 2020, and with a new owner in summer of 2021, this restaurant offers fresh, flavorful takes on island cuisine that also include fusion dishes such as jerk chicken pizza and jerk steak fajitas. 3108 Cherokee.
The fertile imagination of local chef Logan Ely finds a new outlet in this comfy, low-key place, so expect spectacular surprises like dirty hominy cassoulet and roasted pork collar. Larger parties should attempt to snag one of the semicircular black-leather booths, prime perches for dinner and Sunday brunch. 2501 S. Jefferson.
A masterfully accomplished pizzaiolo and his authentic oven are popping out superb pies in the former Amighetti’s space in the heart of The Hill. Best of the bunch is the no-cheese pie with mandolin-sliced eggplant and garlic oil. 2024 Marconi.
From the owners of Kounter Kulture, this spot in The Grove serves up breakfast and lunch, with such offerings as sous vide pork steaks, grits, fresh eggs, imaginative espresso concoctions, and hefty sandwiches. The scene-stealer is the bacon-and-egg breakfast sandwich, which might as well have its own Instagram account. 4476 Chouteau.
With a chef of Ben Grupe’s caliber at the helm (he earned a spot on the ACF Culinary Team and eventually became its captain), it’s a good idea to work your way through the entire menu, from smoked potatoes to brandade with sauerkraut. As of mid-2021, the dining room has yet to open, but even Grupe’s to-go food looks good and tastes better. 4370 Manchester.
SOUTH COUNTY & JEFFERSON COUNTY
A rotating parade of food trucks circles this Affton outpost at lunch, dinner, and breakfast from 7–9 a.m. Wednesday through Friday. Guests can find everything from tacos to popsicles at the city’s first food truck park. Regular entertainment and frequent events adds to the alfresco jollity. 9375 Gravois.
Upscale burgers and an extravagant menu of whiskeys and Bourbon—what genius put these together? Whoever, it’s that combination of suitably smashed burgers and more than 60 spirits (from Buffalo Trace to Blanton’s) that distinguishes this enjoyable joint. Other offerings—lobster melts, onion rings, steaks—merit a trip to the Arnold restaurant. 3606 W. Outer Road, Arnold, Mo.
There’s not a menu in the area that’s more eclectic than this one, with everything from lobster fried rice to stuffed salmon to chicken “sammiches.” The chef’s a genius, and the location is unpretentious. You’ll want to revisit again and again. 10479 St. Charles Rock Road.
Masterfully grilled meat, seafood dishes, outstanding lobster bisque, and a cocktail list with a dulce de leche martini are served in the former Reeds American Table space. Chimichurri and other exciting seasonings are distinctive; the menu’s a wonderful, contemporary tour of Ibero-America. 7322 Manchester.
“Whole hog” means just that at this Maplewood restaurant, where local meats are featured in a menu that offers burgers, sandwiches, and lively bits. (Think pork rinds and tallow fries.) The kicker: It’s also a working bespoke butcher shop. 2733 Sutton.
The former Maya Café location in Maplewood lives on with a roster of familiar Mexican favorites, plus several “ranchero” specials, including the show-stopping Ranchero Desoto, with grilled chicken, steak, bacon, shrimp, Spanish rice, sautéed peppers, onion, and tomatoes topped with Casa Maya’s special queso. 2726 Sutton.
Northern Thailand’s cuisine is distinctive. One of the few St. Louis restaurants to specialize in the cuisine, this Webster Groves restaurant serves some excellent examples. Don’t miss the grilled pork sausage or the Burmese-inspired gaeng hung lay, made with fatty pork belly. 8158 Big Bend.
Julie Mau recently opened a second location of her popular Vietnamese fast-casual spot in the former Firenza Pizza space in Webster Groves. Build-your-own-bowls are the big seller, but consider a banh mi sandwich, bao sliders, spring rolls, fried rice, nine varieties of tacos, or a bowl of pho with almost as many options. 20 Allen, Ste. 120.
Those hip new “aeroplanes” are the theme at this cool, sleek joint with a diverse international menu, from sushi to tacos. The interior’s amazing, the aluminum bar has as many rivets as a 737, and the large patio has several different dining areas, plus ample grass where the kids can play. 9528 Manchester.
At the newest location, in the massive former Kirkwood Station Brewing space, the specialties are house-made corn tortillas and authentic Mexican street food reminiscent of the offerings in San Francisco’s Mission District. Carne asada fries and brisket birria are also notable. And Mission Taco is a great spot for a beyond-the-margarita handcrafted cocktail. 105 E. Jefferson.
The puffy, charred crusts and restrained sauces of Neapolitan-style pies are a thing of beauty. And although the name says pizza, chef Mike Risk’s menu contains many of salads (that Caesar!) and outstanding fresh pastas (rigatoni with lobster) borrowed from sister restaurant The Clover & The Bee (now open for breakfast and lunch only). 102 W. Lockwood.
After recently relocating to a larger space down the street, the popular Webster Groves spot continues to offer a constantly changing menu of light snacks and full meals, including the perfect butterscotch pot de crème, as well as inventive mixed drinks. The service is personable and refreshingly excellent. 216 W. Lockwood.
There are no more car hops, but the revived St. Louis classic serves the same burgers, chili dogs, meatloaf, and incredible onion rings as the original namesake, along with a wide selection of SnoBall flavors. Audio buffs will appreciate the old-school Teac reel-to-reel tape player and vintage speakers. 220 W. Lockwood.
It’s hard to find a bad seat at this hangar-size spot in downtown Webster Groves. There are pork tenderloin sandwiches, schnitzel, pretzel monkey bread, and one of the best chicken sandwiches in town. It’s also a home for Perennial Artisan Ales, which means 15 taps and an array of fabulous local beers, with several brewed on site. 216 W. Lockwood.
The Glendale restaurant’s tiny but full of flavor, creativity, and a ton of options, with a convenient pickup window to boot. Terminal ditherers can choose between pizza, tacos, burritos, machete-style quesadillas, Rico-Cinis, and burgers, salads, fried chicken sandwiches, and several kinds of margaritas. 9900 Manchester.
CLAYTON/RICHMOND HEIGHTS/UNIVERSITY CITY/OLIVETTE
Seriously sophisticated and tucked into Clayton’s Le Meridien Hotel, it’s like a trip to France. Breakfast and lunch give way to a tres cool cocktail lounge in the evenings. Light French fare is beautifully presented, and the atmosphere is fresh and classy. 7730 Bonhomme.
It’s worth just a leisurely espresso here to take in the luxurious interior of decorated tile, the stunning open kitchen, and the marble-topped bar. Mediterranean specialties and Southern Italian cuisine, along with Neapolitan pizza, are world-class. The counter seats are in full view of the pasta makers and pizza bakers. 100 Carondolet Plaza.
The tile-accented interior is just as vibrant as the colorful Mexican dishes. Most are traditional, but surprises like queso flameado and costra de chiles asados arepas add to the allure, as does a range of tequila and mescal. 630 North and South.
The region’s first mezcaleria serves as an introduction to the Mexican state of Oaxaca, as evidenced by examples of its culture, colors, culinary creations, and its most famous liquid commodity—mezcal—tequila’s smoky, lusty, more flavorful cousin. Guests should peruse the artwork and ask questions, since there’s meaning and purpose beyond the bold, brash colors. 25 The Boulevard.
The popular U. City outpost for Taiwanese food closed but reopened a few miles west, serving the same menu and Taiwanese barbecue. As the name implies, the featured item is shabu shabu—ingredients cooked in broth using tabletop hot pots. 9626 Olive.
After years downtown, the venerable restaurant recently reopened in a sleek new space in Clayton’s Centene complex. As owner James Bommarito told SLM, the new Tony’s resembles the old in as many ways as possible: the menu and beverage offerings, the tableware, the copper pans, the design of the kitchen… Bommarito was even able to retain the longtime kitchen and floor staff, who use the brigade system of table service to flawlessly serve favorites like Lobster Albanello and linguine with lobster and shrimp. The dining room on the main level seats 68; upstairs, Anthony’s Bar has 40 seats and 16 barstools. The patio will soon seat 40. 105 Carondelet Plaza.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse (Relocated)
The New Orleans–based brand recently replaced its Clayton location with a sprawling space in Chesterfield. The steakhouse is ideal for those moments when you’ve just gotta dress up and eat a week’s worth of protein paired with gorgeous wine. The atmosphere is opulent, and service shines. 16493 Wild Horse Creek.
At this upscale Mexican restaurant in Frontenac, everything’s house-made and magnificently presented, especially the aged, skirt steak fajitas. Drinks are muy grande, and the ambience says happy-hour fiesta. Don’t miss the guacamole, which sets the standard. 2011 S. Lindbergh.
ST. CHARLES COUNTY & BEYOND
Burgers, flatbreads, several patios, and lots of TVs indoors and out are the draw at this sprawling multilevel sports bar in Wentzville that also accommodates parties and meetings. Bespoke cocktails are a specialty. Blues hockey game days are popular. 1311 Lodora.
Located in the Streets of St. Charles, the humble nacho has gone uptown. If it’ll fit on a tortilla chip, chances are you can find it here. There are renditions inspired by crab Rangoon, T-ravs, jerked chicken… You get the idea. The menu constantly changes. It’s limited only by the imagination of the kitchen—and they seem to just be getting started. 1450 Beale, #130.
A refreshing haven of formality also happens to be the place to go for splendid and high-end Italian fare. The atmosphere here is relaxed but genteel, molti couth, with impeccably polished service. Specialties, like arrancini, fresh pastas, and excellent salads are lovely; the stylish ambience is wonderful, a perfect new addition to the Streets of St. Charles development. 1450 Beale #105.
A friendly, remarkably sophisticated Italian place dishes out delightful pizzas and other Italian dishes—think handmade pastas—in this intimate setting that’s worth the trip to St. Peters. Don’t miss the Calabrese meatballs. 5105 Westwood.
A cosmopolitan spot on historic Old Main Street in St. Charles features craft cocktails and small plates that skip around the globe, from poke to chicken pot pie. The perfect laidback gathering spot for friends or family also boasts a patio, a popular Sunday brunch, and a ghost kitchen called Burger Underground. 201 N. Main.
With a new location in St. Peters, the award-winning spot serves arguably the best Memphis-style barbecue in its class. Sample the dry-rubbed ribs and pulled pork to see why people don’t mind waiting in long lines. 5246 N. Service.
Situated in a vintage house in Augusta, Root’s ambience is as rustic as the food is sumptuous. Drawing almost entirely on local sources, the chef plates extraordinary, multi-course combinations that change daily. With plans to make the village even more of a winery destination, this place will likely be a star attraction as well. 5525 Walnut.