Short List: Shrimp and grits

Crustaceans and corn porridge might strike some diners as an odd combination, but Southerners, especially Carolinians, have long loved shrimp and grits. At a number of restaurants here, St. Louisans, too, can enjoy the dish, whether plated as an entrée or an appetizer. In fact, for all but the most militant anti-grits types, it can make a surprisingly exquisite mix of the aquatic and the agrarian.

Herbie’s Vintage 72
405 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, 314.769.9595

In the CWE, Herbie’s serves shrimp and grits as an entrée – an extraordinarily satisfying one, at that. In it, the truffled old-fashioned grits exhibit gorgeous complexity, with chunks of house-made andouille sausage adding bursts of smoky goodness and a brandy-veal demi-glace contributing silken richness; atop it all, buttermilk fried leeks introduce a lucious textural note. Despite that, the natural succulence of the five large, sautéed shrimp shines in a main course that may defeat all but the heartiest of appetites. Fabulous.

Molly’s in Soulard
816 Geyer Ave., St. Louis, 314.241.6200

Diners seeking zing should make a beeline for Molly’s. The Soulard restaurant’s interpretation of shrimp and grits features a quintet of “Louisiana-style” shellfish – blackened (but not obnoxiously so) for a delicious pepperiness that almost demands a cold beer to go with the appetizer. Complementing the shrimp are creamy jalapeño and Cheddar grits in a sauce that has more than a little zip itself. All in all, this dish’s Cajun kick would likely make Paul Prudhomme proud.

Kota Wood Fire Grill
522 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, 314.535.5577

Kota, a welcome addition to Grand Center that opened in mid-February, plates shrimp and grits as one of its appetizers, and aptly enough, the dish may whet diners’ appetites – for seconds. It comprises a quartet of sautéed shrimp and creamy chile grits enclosed in a ring of mild Cajun barbecue sauce. Topping the dish are sweet potato straws, whose crunchiness nicely contrasts with the texture of both the shellfish and the grits and whose squiggly funkiness lends distinctive visual appeal. A simple dish presented with no little artistry.