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Mar 24, 2018
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Posts Tagged ‘University City’

Vernon’s BBQ closes for good in U. City

Monday, February 12th, 2018



Vernon’s BBQ & Catering at 6707 Vernon Ave., in University City, has closed for business. The barbecue joint, which opened in 2012, had its last day of service Tuesday, Feb. 6.

“Basically, our lease came to term, and we decided not to renew,” said co-owner Matt Stiffelman said. “We just didn’t like the terms.”

Vernon’s was known for its traditional barbecue offerings and more unconventional items like smoked tofu and a barbecue slinger, which was featured on Food Network’s “Eat, Sleep, BBQ” last year.

Stiffelman said he and co-owner Tim Zolman have no immediate plans to reopen the restaurant, but they are weighing their options. “We want to sit back and think it through,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Vernon’s 

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

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


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.




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.




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. 2 – Privado

Friday, December 1st, 2017

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




Reservations only. Open just two seatings on Friday and Saturday. Sixteen diners, max. A 12- to 15-course tasting menu that changes nightly.

But don’t get the wrong idea. Privado is high-concept dining performed to a Bruce Springsteen soundtrack by a Midwestern chef who is genuinely having fun – and guests are having a blast, too. This is fine dining according to Mike Randolph.

“I really wanted to prove to myself as much as anyone else that we could – in this particular market, two nights a week – change the way the people thing about a ‘fine dining’ experience,” Randolph said.

Yes, there are a handful of seats at the bar, where those who still pine for Randolfi’s can walk in and select from a tight menu of pasta and snacks. Randolph even hosts occasional weeknight pop-ups to stretch his creative muscles (curry, anyone?). But to truly experience Privado, book a reservation online and prepare for a three-hour multisensory meal.

When you arrive, you feel like you’re in on a secret – sneaking into a restaurant for a private meal on the chef’s day off. Swing by the open kitchen before service and chat with Randolph and his team (no starched chef whites here, just a couple of guys in baseball caps and aprons) while you sip an aperitif and snack on an amuse bouche served at the pass. That’s the whole point: to create a relaxed, organic interaction between diner and kitchen. “We want people to feel disarmed, like they can come in and be themselves,” Randolph said.




As First Aid Kit’s cover of “America” cues up, settle in to the first course – perhaps Missouri paddlefish caviar atop a crema cloud – and feel free to audibly marvel. Everyone else is, and it gets louder as the wine pairings flow to a steady playlist of rock, bluegrass, soul and jazz.

The meal features two- to three-bite dishes you’ll stretch into seven or eight nibbles just to study their complexity and savor the moment. Observe the crisp skin atop a meaty cube of pork belly and how it provides textural contrast to the unctuous liver (yes, liver) ice cream. Swoon over a raviolo stuffed with braised turnips and buried under a snowbank of white truffle shavings, presented on its own hand-carved spoon.

Swipe the perfect cylinder of mind-blowing Taleggio cheese wrapped in dried pear through vibrant sorrel ice cream. Wonder why on earth you never thought to pair earthy porcini mushrooms with rich dark chocolate ganache before now. Savor the last bite as Roy Orbison croons “It’s Over” and collect your thoughts between sips of Madeira and French-pressed coffee. You’ll never experience that meal again – and neither will anyone else.

Photos by Carmen Troesser

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• First Look: Privado in The Loop

• Mike Randolph will open Privado in former Randolfi’s space

• Sauce Magazine: Best New Restaurants 2017

Eat This: Tianjin-Style Bing at Bing Bing

Friday, December 1st, 2017



Before Bing Bing opened off The Loop earlier this year, we had a jianbing-shaped hole in our hearts, and we didn’t even know it. Now we can’t imagine a time without the Tianjin-Style Bing. The Chinese crepe/burrito/magic-like street food starts with a super thin, tender eggy pancake wrapped around your choice of meat and sauce. Our dream combo is the slightly sweet barbecue pork and hoisin-like house sauce. Along with the standard scrambled eggs, Chinese pickles, lettuce, cilantro, scallion and crunchy wonton, it hits every silky, chewy, crunchy note you didn’t know you needed.

Photo by Carmen Troesser 

Heather Hughes is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

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• Hit List: 3 new places to try this September

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First Look: St. Louis Soup Dumplings in University City

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017



St. Louis is home to dozens of Chinese restaurants, and this week, one more will join the ranks when St. Louis Soup Dumplings opens Friday, Sept. 22, at 8110 Olive Blvd., in University City.

The restaurant is the brainchild of Lawrence Chen and his wife, Emily Yang, who own Private Kitchen, located just two doors down at 8106 Olive Blvd.

As The Scoop reported in March, Chen said the inspiration for the new restaurant came from the popularity of the pork and crab soup dumplings served at Private Kitchen.

Those dumplings will now be available at St. Louis Soup Dumplings, along with fish, chicken, beef and shrimp and mozzarella versions. Chen said other fillings would likely be added in the future, including a veggie option.

A small selection of cold items, including salads, will be available in a refrigerated grab-and-go case near the counter, but Chen’s focus is squarely on the soup dumplings.

The minimalist interior has undergone extensive renovations and retains no hint of its former incarnation as a cell phone store. The space seats approximately 30 and features light wood, neutral colors and light fixtures resembling bamboo lanterns.

St. Louis Soup Dumplings will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Here’s a first look at what to expect from St. Louis’ first soup dumpling shop:


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Photos by Michelle Volansky 

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
St. Louis Soup Dumplings to open in University City

Best New Restaurants 2015: Private Kitchen

• Review: Private Kitchen

First Look: Mad Crab in University City

Friday, July 21st, 2017



Grab your bibs and crackers – Mad Crab is now open in University City. The seafood boil spot opened doors July 17 at 8080 Olive Blvd., in the former home of Kim Son Seafood.

As The Scoop reported earlier this month, Mad Crab is a partnership between first-time restaurant owners and brothers Victor and Nam Ho. They were inspired by similar concepts in Dallas, Texas, where Victor Ho lived for several years.

The 5,000-square-foot space seats an impressive 205 people and sports a nautical theme, bedecked with rope, paddles and a prominent lighthouse atop the host stand.

The build-your-own boil menu starts with a choice of market-priced seafood (currently arriving daily at the restaurant) like lobster, snow or king crab legs, whole blue or Dungeness crabs, crawfish, clams or mussels. Sausage is also available, and customers can mix and match by the pound.

Next, they choose from three sauces or combine them all for The Whole Sha-Bang, and choose their spice level. The boils arrive in a plastic bag served atop paper-lined tables for easy clean up.

Those in the mood for a neater, less visceral meal can order from a menu of plates including gumbo, fried rice or noodles with crawfish or shrimp. Mad Crab also offers fresh raw oysters, hot wings and fried shrimp baskets as appetizers. Once a liquor license is approved, customers can sip canned or bottled brews with their boils.

Mad Crab is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Here’s a first look at what to expect from St. Louis’ newest seafood spot:


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Photos by Michelle Volansky 

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine.

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The Scoop: Seafood boil spot Mad Crab to open mid-July

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The Scoop: Seafood boil spot Mad Crab to open mid-July

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017



Things are heating up at the Mad Crab, a new seafood boil concept set to open July 17 at 8080 Olive Blvd., in University City.

As reported by the Riverfront Times, Victor Ho, whose family also owns Max Beauty Source, will open Mad Crab first restaurant venture with brother Nam Ho as manager.

Similar seafood boil concepts in Dallas inspired Ho to bring the concept to his hometown. Friend Bon Quach will help give the 5,000-square-foot space an oceanside vibe to go with the relaxed atmosphere.

Ho said customers will peel and eat shellfish atop paper-lined tables. Look for boils with options like lobster, oysters, mussels, shrimp and crawfish – not to mention plenty of crab. Those who prefer utensils can order from a short list of dishes like crawfish pasta and fried catfish.

“I hope that [people] come and try it because it’s going to be one-of-a-kind,” Ho said.

Caitlin Lally is an editorial intern at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
The Scoop: Taco Buddha to open in University City

The Scoop: St. Louis Soup Dumplings to open in University City



The Scoop: Taco Buddha to open in University City

Friday, May 26th, 2017



University City will soon be home to another taco spot. Taco Buddha is slated to open at 7405 Pershing Ave., this summer in the former home of short-lived Perjax American Kitchen.

“Taco Buddha is world flavors put into the vessel of a taco,” said owner Kurt Eller. Eller, who came to St. Louis from Austin, Texas, said his tacos are similar to those served in the Southwest. “It’s not strictly meat and lettuce and cheese,” he said.

Menu items will include a chicken tandoori taco with a mango chutney salsa and a Thai-influenced taco with beef marinated in ginger and red pepper flakes. Eller has property in New Mexico and brings back chiles from the area, which he plans to incorporate in his creations.

A variety of breakfast tacos will also be offered, as well as other dishes, like cilantro lime rice and beans and sopapillas.

Eller said he expects doors to open in late June or early July, and the counter service cafe will have 25 seats inside and 25 patio seats.

Initially, Taco Buddha will be open for breakfast and lunch on Thursday and Friday, and breakfast, lunch and dinner on Saturday. Eller said he expects to expand hours and be open six days a week in October.

Photo courtesy of Taco Buddha

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• The Scoop: St. Louis Soup Dumplings to open in University City

The Scoop: PerJax Americana Kitchen closes just two months after opening


The Scoop: St. Louis Soup Dumplings to open in University City

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017


{Private Kitchen co-owners chef Lawerence and Emily Chen }


Fans of Private Kitchen, the reservations-only Chinese restaurant in University City, will soon have a more casual venue to indulge in one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. As reported by the Riverfront Times, Private Kitchen owner Lawrence Chen will open St. Louis Soup Dumplings at 8110 Olive Blvd.

Chen said he was inspired to open the restaurant because many Private Kitchen customers enjoyed the pork soup dumplings, but didn’t always want to make reservations and text ahead to order. St. Louis Soup Dumplings will be a no-reservations affair with 15 to 20 seats, quick service and carryout.

In addition to pork, Chen said St. Louis Soup Dumplings will offer chicken, shrimp and vegetable versions, along with some non-dumpling dishes. The full menu is still a work in progress.

“I’m still thinking about how many different kinds we can make,” Chen said.

He expects the restaurant, which used to house a cell phone store next to Private Kitchen, to open late spring, depending on renovations.

Photo by Greg Rannells

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Best New Restaurants 2015: Private Kitchen

Review: Private Kitchen

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