Hello Stranger | Login | Create Account
 
 
 
 
 
  SAUCE MAGAZINE
|
Dec 12, 2017
|
Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
|
SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
Email | Text-size: A | A | A

Best New Restaurants

Best New Restaurants: No. 12 – Shawarma King

Friday, December 1st, 2017

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here are St. Louis’ 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

112817_shawarmaking1

 

You don’t go to places like this for high-end service and ambiance, you go because the food is good. Like, really good. And affordable. Shawarma King’s plentiful lunch veggie platter, for instance, offers hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel, tabbouleh and pita for $8.99.

Owner Mohammed Alsalem, who grew up in Jordan, makes almost all the food himself. The falafel is crispy and fluffy, the baba ghanoush had a subtle smokiness, and the hummus is ultra-smooth and fresh. The tabbouleh is a must-have – its bright acidity is a nice complement to the menu’s richer items, particularly the tender, deeply flavorful beef shawarma, which Alsalem stacks and seasons by hand. Who cares if it’s on a paper plate? We’re ordering seconds.

Photo by David Kovaluk 

Meera Nagarajan is art director at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Sauce Magazine: Best New Restaurants 2017

• Review: Shawarma King

 

Best New Restaurants: No. 11 – St. Louis Soup Dumplings

Friday, December 1st, 2017

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here are St. Louis’ 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

112817_soupdumpling2

 

The name tells you everything you need to know. No salads, no entrees, no bar – St. Louis Soup Dumplings doesn’t try to do much, but what it does, it does exceptionally well. Its xiao long bao, which are also served at sister restaurant Private Kitchen, are some of the best you’ll find in St. Louis.

Warm pockets of fragrant broth surround a variety of pork-, beef-, chicken- and crab-based meatballs, all embraced by thin, delicately folded wrappings. Go for the pork and crab, which features a funky, salty richness perfectly paired with the slurpable, aromatic broth.

The minimalist decor echoes the short but flawless menu, with bamboo light fixtures reminiscent of steam baskets hanging above bare-bones furnishings, and a charming soup dumplings mural warming up one wall. Quick counter service is supplemented by a surprise bowl of chicken broth before your order arrives and (at least when co-owner Emily Yang is working) friendly tableside visits to make sure you know how to properly eat your dumplings.

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Heather Hughes is managing editor at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• First Look: St. Louis Soup Dumplings in University City

• Best New Restaurant 2016: No. 8 – Private Kitchen

• Sauce Magazine: Best New Restaurants 2017

Best New Restaurants: No. 10 – Hi-Pointe Drive-In

Friday, December 1st, 2017

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here are St. Louis’ 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

112817_hipointe

 

First off, try not to get distracted. There’s the Taco Burger, and sometimes silly, indulgent specials (grilled cheese buns, doughnuts, who knows), but this is your day. Burger day.

Hi-Pointe staff will probably treat you like a regular, which means they won’t sufficiently explain what’s happening, but don’t let the lack of direction put you off. Check the massive menu and make some choices. How many flavorful, tender, crispy-edged patties will it be?

There’s no full list of toppings, so scope out the case and make a plan of action before your turn to order – cheese (duh), maybe an egg and bacon, and the regulars: mayo, lettuce, tomato, red onion. They’ll write the list on your tray, then you can watch your burger get all dressed up to meet you at the cash register.

The burgers are good enough to land Hi-Pointe a spot on the list, but the rest of the menu is what makes this place a standout. A burger joint that offers a legit salmon banh mi and whose salads are interesting and satisfying – Greens & Grains, with its quinoa, wild rice and wheatberry base would be happy at any healthy cafe – is something special.

Photo by Carmen Trosser

Heather Hughes is managing editor at Sauce Magazine.

Related Content
• Review: Hi-Pointe Drive-In

• Mr. Johnson’s Opus

• Sauce Magazine: Best New Restaurants 2017

Best New Restaurants: No. 9 – Pizza Head

Friday, December 1st, 2017

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here are St. Louis’ 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

112817_pizzahead1

 

Pizza Head’s menu is a study in quintessence, just like the selection of classic punk records on its jukebox. Opening yet another pizza joint in St. Louis – let alone a punk-themed place where vegan and vegetarian options are front and center (Midwesterners love the animal protein, don’tcha know) – could seem like tilting at culinary windmills. But Pizza Head? It works.

Giant 20-inch New York-style pies or enormous triangular slices are the only size options. Toppings? Regular or vegan cheese, vegan meats and a small selection of fresh accouterments. Pizza Head pizzas, though, are much more than the sum of their humble parts. Pies are baked until the crust has just the right balance of chew and char. Eminently foldable, this is on par with the best “traditional” slice in town. Pair it with a can of Stag, put some Agent Orange on the box and dig in.

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• First Look: Pizza Head on South Grand

• Obsessed: The relentless repetition of St. Louis pizzaioli

• Sauce Magazine: Best New Restaurants 2017

Best New Restaurants: No. 8 – The U.R.B.

Friday, December 1st, 2017

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here are St. Louis’ 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

112817_urb2

 

Somewhere between New York and Neapolitan, the pizza at The U.R.B. (Urban Research Brewery) stuck with us like Instagram’s stupid heart arrow filter.

Walking in, you might think pizza isn’t the point here. The place exists for Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. to test new brews on customers who agree to give feedback. Food happens three rooms into the space, past an expansive U-shaped research bar that promises almost-free beer (a handful of constantly rotating 2-ounce pours for $1 cash when you take a survey). Who’s walking past that?

After you try those beers and take the survey (totally worth showing up for regardless), keep on walking to the pizza counter and pick out a slice or five along with an Urban Chestnut canned beer. True to UCBC’s Reverence & Revolution sensibilities, toppings range from classic cheese and pepperoni to international specials that don’t just sound good, but seriously follow through – like the complex and balanced Thai pie made with peanut sauce, serrano chile, chicken, pickled carrot and daikon, and cilantro.

The quality of the food and ingredients live up to all expectations set by executive chef Andy Fair, who helms all UCBC’s food programs as director of restaurants. Do not miss the perfectly spiced house-made Italian sausage. But really, anything on that naturally leavened crust – light, crisp and chewy without being tooth-wrenching, and flavorful enough to eat alone – is worth your time. Now, is it prost or cincin?

Photo by Jonathan Gayman

Heather Hughes is managing editor at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• UCBC to open Urban Research Brewery in The Grove

• Sauce Magazine: Best New Restaurants 2017

Best New Restaurants: No. 7 – Polite Society

Friday, December 1st, 2017

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here are St. Louis’ 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

112817_politesociety2

 

A meal at Polite Society makes you feel like you’re hanging out in some sitcom Brooklynites’ open-concept living room, not snagging a seat at a slick new restaurant. Owners Jonathan Schoen and Brian Schmitz spent more than a year renovating the former home of Ricardo’s in Lafayette Square into their dream business – a concept they’d been working on for much longer than that.

Polite Society’s three rooms are reminiscent of a shotgun-style brownstone with exposed brick, refinished hardwood and enough open, salvaged shelving to inspire a run on Restoration Hardware. Dishes are familiar, yet presented with unexpected touches – an herbaceous olive oil dip with aggressively caramelized Brussels sprouts or a lacquered halibut so delicate it melted into the accompanying miso-spiked jasmine congee.

Wine from the extensive cellar flows; the congenial staff offers friendly, professional assistance and is quick with a recommendation. The space can be loud as friends linger over drinks, chatting with neighboring tables. As with any good dinner party, there’s no sense of urgency to depart. Order another bottle and pass it around as you enjoy good company and Polite Society.

Photo by Jonathan Gayman

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Review: Polite Society

• Best New Restaurants: Top 3 Dishes of 2017

• Sauce Magazine: Best New Restaurants 2017

Best New Restaurants: No. 6 – Cate Zone Chinese Cafe

Friday, December 1st, 2017

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here are St. Louis’ 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

112817_catezone

 

It takes a lot for a Chinese restaurant to make a splash on Olive Boulevard, but Cate Zone Chinese Cafe’s regional cuisine has attracted lengthy wait times since it opened on the highly competitive corridor last November.

Cate Zone’s interior is casual and understated, adorned with black-and-white photos of NYC and wallpaper crisscrossed with the names of subway stops. The distinct lack of flash, pageantry or stereotypical decor (not a dragon, shrine or fish tank in sight), puts all of the attention squarely where it belongs: on the food.

Your server may not speak perfect English, but don’t be afraid to ask questions and solicit recommendations. The menu has plenty of familiar dishes – the sweet and sour pork, killer stir-fried noodles and crispy eggplant would please any palate – but Cate Zone sets itself apart by offering up a bevy of traditional favorites from northeastern China.

Off-cuts make myriad adept appearances in dishes like pork jelly and tripe in chile sauce. Don’t miss the super fresh and healthy-feeling Korean cold noodle dish in a slightly sweet broth with cucumber and kimchi. Want to expand your culinary horizons? Get in the Zone.

Photo by Meera Nagarajan

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Hit List: 7 places you must try this January

Sauce Magazine: Best New Restaurants 2017

 

Best New Restaurants: No. 5 – Nudo House

Friday, December 1st, 2017

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here are St. Louis’ 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

112817_nudo1

 

Nudo House, the noodle shop from Mai Lee’s Qui Tran and Marie-Anne Velasco, was years in the making. When instant gratification is the norm – we want what we want, and we want it yesterday – it’s nice to be reminded that some things are worth the wait.

Unlike the voluminous menus found at many Asian restaurants, Nudo keeps things simple with a handful of cold apps like spring rolls and kimchi, vegetables sides and two bahn mi variations. Four versions of pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup Tran’s Mai Lee is famous for, are also on the menu.

 

112817_nudo2

 

But the star of the show at Nudo is the ramen, the traditional Japanese noodle dish that inspires untold obsessive devotion in so many diners. In those seeming eons of R&D, Tran and Velasco delved headfirst into the world of ramen, sampling versions from across the country and hosting pop-ups around town to keep up interest.

At Nudo, there are four different versions that build on the basics, melding tradition with a distinctive creative bent. Standouts include the vegetarian Shroomed Out ramen, which deploys meaty, earthy king oyster mushrooms to delicious effect, and perhaps the ultimate in cross-cultural comfort cuisine, the Hebrew Hammer, a rich and creamy combo of tender ramen noodles and chicken schmaltz. Tuck in with a bowl and take your time.

Photos by Izaiah Johnson

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Sauce Magazine: Best New Restaurants 2017

• Review: Nudo House

• First Look: Nudo House in Creve Coeur

Best New Restaurants: No. 4 – Balkan Treat Box

Friday, December 1st, 2017

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here are St. Louis’ 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

112817_balkantreatbox

 

Food trucks are restaurants. But there’s no sleek space, no cutting-edge decor – the food is the only attraction to draw diners in. Since Balkan Treat Box hit the road late last year, owners Loryn Feliciano-Nalic and her husband, Edo Nalic, have cultivated a dedicated following. The truck focuses on the cuisine of the Balkan States, and fans flock for a taste.

Feliciano-Nalic, who has an extensive background in pastry, explored the food of the Balkans while visiting her in-laws in Bosnia.

“I realized there was a lot of pastry in that food in general, even on the savory side, so it kind of spoke to me,” she said.

Many of the truck’s rotating offerings are built on a base of somun, a Balkan bread similar to a pita, and pide, a Turkish flatbread. Feliciano-Nalic makes her bread fresh daily in a wood-fired oven at the back of the truck. It’s the attention to detail that elevates Balkan Treat Box well above the norm. No thaw-and-go bread here.

The condiments offered are subtle, meant to compliment but not overwhelm, like ajvar, a roasted red pepper spread; kajmak, a tangy cream cheese; and shredded purple cabbage for textural contrast.

While the names of the dishes might seem foreign to some, the flavors and ingredients are ultimately familiar and comforting – peppery house-made sausage, chicken, onion, cheese and those fragrant, fresh breads. It’s just like being in Grandma’s kitchen, if Granny drove a truck.

Photo by Spencer Pernikoff, courtesy of Loryn Feliciano-Nalic

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
Balkan Treat Box food truck to offer a taste of Eastern Europe

• Sauce Magazine: Best New Restaurants 2017

Best New Restaurants: No. 3 – Grace Meat & Three

Friday, December 1st, 2017

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here are St. Louis’ 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

112817_grace1

 

At Grace Meat & Three, Rick and Elisa Lewis answer to no one but themselves. “Grace is about our freedom and our liberation, honestly,” Rick Lewis said.

He is a familiar bearded face in the St. Louis restaurant scene. Diners have experienced Lewis’ take on comfort food since he left fine dining to take the helm of Quincy Street Bistro, his in-laws’ pub and grill in South City, in 2012. His birds at Southern led the flock during the fried chicken fury of 2015.

“We went back and forth with what we wanted to do and probably the best option would be to keep it in the wheelhouse of what I enjoy cooking,” he said.

 

112817_grace2

 

Yes, Grace Meat & Three serves the classic southern fare St. Louis has come to expect from Lewis: fried green tomatoes, griddled bologna sandwiches and, of course, fried chicken. But he never settles – even lowbrow ingredients are crucial to Lewis’ success.

“You have to have Velveeta in your mac and cheese in order to make it creamy,” he said. “We’ve got $9-a-pound Gouda in there, and then we’ve got hunks of Velveeta – name brand, none of that fake stuff. It must be Velveeta, it must be Duke’s mayonnaise, and it must be Busch beer.”

Devotees will notice subtle changes to well-known dishes and unexpected additions. Burgers are a combo of house-ground brisket and bottom round; the carnival-sized turkey leg is shockingly tender from overnight brining; a hummus starter is spiced up with harissa; the seasonal salad is tossed with a charred onion vinaigrette, a name that doesn’t do justice to its complex depth.

“I feel like 90 percent of the time, no one notices but ourselves,” Lewis said. “What you do notice is people coming in … and going, ‘Man, the food just keeps getting better.’”

Photos by Carmen Troesser

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Amazing Grace: Meet the team at St. Louis’ Grace Meat & Three

• First Look: Grace Meat & Three in The Grove

• Rick Lewis to open new restaurant in The Grove

 

RSS FEEDS
Keep up with one or all of your favorite Sauce Magazine columns
Conceived and created by Bent Mind Creative Group, LLC 1999-2017, Bent Mind Creative Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Sauce Magazine 1820 Chouteau Ave. St. Louis, Missouri 63103.
PH: 314-772-8004 FAX: 314-241-8004