Since I was a kid I always loved going to new cities and finding out what new and wonderful things there were to eat. On a Trip to the Canadian Rockies I discovered Rocky Mountain Oysters, My brother discovered Giardia. Giardia for those of you fortunate enough not to be in the know is a lovely little infection caused by a microscopic parasite. It basically turns you into a human sea cucumber, where you are turned inside out faster than a turtleneck on wash day.
A second example was a trip to Baltimore to visit family, and I found “The Crab Cake”… My brother found something that more closely resembled “The Trots.” I felt bad for my brother on that trip because I got the chance to go see my Yankees Play the Orioles in the old Memorial Stadium. I got to see Goose Gossage pitch, a two dollar hot dog, a power outage during the game, the Yankee’s winning, and lots of boxing after the game in the parking lot… which turns out not to be boxing at all. My brother got a fever and hallucinations that made him think he was being poked by purple monkeys…either way, we both got to see something new.
That was the summer of seventy-eight and darned near every summer since then I have gone to a new city and tried new and different foods and experiences. Last summer was a bit of a mixed blessing as I was in Knoxville, TN. I hate saying that because the people of Knoxville were so wonderful and inviting. The city itself is well laid out and the nightlife was FABU… but then there was the food… or lack thereof.
Now before you start hating, there was some good food going on. The bacon and smoked jowl from Benton’s in Madisonville is in a word amazing. Café 4 on Market Square does some pretty plates and the brunch was without a doubt…great! I Loved Soccer Taco for their Lengua, Cachete, Pastor, Bouche, and Chorizo Tacos… plus their Sunday menudo to help fend off the occasional demon that was trying to split my head open and made my eyes look like two tomatoes in a bowl of buttermilk .
Ali Babba’s on Kingston Pike for…well for damned near everything! Downtown brewery has some good beers. Sangria’s on the square shouldn’t be missed for all the tastiness they offer. The Shrimp Dock on Kingston Pike does a nice Po Boy and thankfully had some Cajun ingredients worth checking out. Last but not least, Preservation Pub… I never ate there, but the people and the vibe are awesome plus they make a mean Guinness so, thanks for that!
That all being said I can’t recommend a single place for breakfast because beyond Cracker Barrel, IHop and Waffle House, there are very few “breakfast” places. I drove from one end of Kingston Pike to the other one morning looking for a “Diner” style dive, and was directed to go downtown for Pete’s… it wasn’t bad, but it was a much uninspired menu.
There is another actual “Diner” in the Knoxville area that I went to but it felt like more of the same and I never went back. Not sure if “corned beef hash” or hash in general is a northern thing… but someone in that town should look into it. Biscuits, ham, bacon, sausage, gravy, toast, hash browns and eggs are not a complete breakfast menu for the love of….PETE?!
I’m not a sushi fan to begin with really, but the three places I went to used more cream cheese in their sushi than a cheesecake factory…Seriously, cream cheese in sushi?! I am far from what people would consider an expert in the world of sushi, but even I know there is something criminal about this concept. No matter, Knoxville isn’t what one would call “coastal” so for my money, the importance of a good sushi restaurant is nil.
So goodbye Knoxville for now, and hello St Louis! I have been talking with many people in St. Louis and I have to say, I’m super thrilled to be going there. It seems to be nearly the antithesis of Knoxville from a food standpoint. But that’s not saying a lot as Knoxville isn’t a very high bar to surpass. In all fairness you’re talking about a city that is less than half the size of St Louis so it’s not a good comparison and I’m sure there will be things I miss about Knoxville that St. Louis can’t offer. But from what I’m hearing so far, I can’t imagine what that would be.
So let’s see what I’m thinking of trying in St Louis, and you tell me what I’m missing:
Beer: Schlafly is the biggest of the craft beers in town, wides selection and it has two brew pubs, both with good food. The better food is probably at the Tap Room but the Bottleworks has the Wednesday afternoon farmers’ market.
Perennial is one of the newer craft breweries. Large format, probably most creative assortment out there.
Urbanchestnut: Great rehab on their midtown building, beers are good styles most German in nature.
4 Hands: Down around the Soulard area, they have hosted a few food truck nights. Plus they have good beer.
Farmers’ Markets: complete rundown the Post Dispatch website, probably on their Off the Menu blog section. Wednesday is the Bottleworks afternoon market, really good stuff there with usually a live bland and you can drink beer while your shop. Saturday morning has the Tower Grove market where there is a little bit more ready to eat food, KDHX live performances, and some good growers. Soulard is a crapshoot. You need to be able to see the people who are sellers and who are growers. There are some good farmers there, most on Saturday. It’s technically open Thursday through Saturday, but most of the booths are open on Saturday. There are also Kirkwood, Ferguson, Clayton, and Ellisville markets.
Food: Lots of food trucks lately, look for the Sauce Magazine food truck friday when you get here.
BBQ — Pappy’s and Bogart’s specialties to look for would be rib tips and snoots.(I’d like a few more recs on BBQ)
Sandwiches – Winslow’s Home is a great general store, serves great breakfast and lunch. Blues City Deli has a great selection of sandwiches. Gioias Deli for a hot salami (this one just makes me chuckle for many sophomoric reasons…and in ordering it I hoping they have a number system!
Breakfast/Diners/Donuts -Look into Donut Drive in, World’s Fair Donuts, etc. Brand new is Pint Size Bakery, and while they don’t have donuts, they have a lot of great pastries. For diners, there is a great tradition in STL for these, like Eat Rite Diner (notice bullet holes about the juke box). The Slinger is a must, but then again, you must be drunk to truly appreciate it. Other Breakfast spots would be Half & Half.
Good Food: Sidney Street, Niche is great, wonderful ingredients with great execution. Farmhaus is casual, small plates. Very good flavors. Salt is somewhat new, also small plate like 5 Bistro is very locavore, somewhat Italian in approach and really good. Harvest and Riverbend
Seafood Market: Bob’s
Pizza: Pi Pizzeria The Good Pie. Joanie’s
Sausage: G&W Sausage. Go on Saturday morning, you’ll be greeted by a can of Busch beer. Salume Beddu has heritage breed meat going into their salumi. Farmer’s Larder sells at local farmers’ markets and they make great sausages and bacon.
Mexican can be found all over town, the main hub is on Cherokee. La Vallesana is the grand daddy of them, but it recently got a facelift. So, I miss the grime a little and the menu has gotten a little americanized. There are plenty of other good places down cherokee, including a grocery store.
Asian – Look into the Thai get together in Florissant, I think it’s the 3rd sunday of the month at a local temple. For Vietnamese, I like Mai Lee. There are plenty of other ones, but Qui is a madman and will take good care of you. There’s good Korean, I like Korea House but also look into U City Diner.
Chop Suey Shops get a St. Paul (when I saw this I thought it was secret code for something, but apparently Chop Suey culture is strong in St Louis and so is a sandwich called a St. Paul…I guess I’ll just have to find out for myself)
These are recommendations and a few notes from Bloggers, Friend’s and Chefs in St Louis, but if you have something I need to see, drink or eat I’d love to hear it! Meet you in St Louis…Louis….sorry, I did the musical when I was a kid and I think of it every time I hear the city mentioned.