chicken fried brussels sprouts with buttermilk dressing at the chocolate pig photo by izaiah johnson

5 STL dining trends we're watching now

1. Chicken-Fried Veg

Some of our favorite veggies are getting the poultry treatment, creating vegetarian dishes as finger-lickin’ good as their chicken counterparts. Vicia chicken fried whole carrots and served them with whipped feta aioli, then made mini versions for the snack menu, complete with honey mustard sauce. 

SweetArt chef-owner Reine Bayoc created craggy, crunchy fried chunks of cauliflower for her Friday night church basement plate special, and The Chocolate Pig applied a similar method to Brussels sprouts, serving them alongside buttermilk dressing with confit lemon and pickled spring onions. Juniper also chicken fried rutabaga for a featured course on its Valentine’s Day tasting menu. 

2. Boutique Hotel Dining 
St. Louis’ swankiest hotels have long boasted tasty fine dining options (see: Cinder House at the Four Seasons and The Preston at The Chase Park Plaza), but a recent surge in boutique hotel openings has ushered in new dining options too. 

The brightly colored Angad Arts Hotel in Grand Center welcomed Grand Tavern by David Burke, an international celebrity chef, at the end of 2018, and Hotel Saint Louis appointed former Quincy Street Bistro executive chef Matt Birkenmeier to run both its recently opened Union 30 restaurant and Form Skybar

Next up: The Last Hotel, set to open downtown later this spring, will feature The Last Kitchen, helmed by Sauce Ones to Watch alumna Evy Swoboda

3. Even More Local Liquor 
Distilleries like Spirits of St. Louis and Still 630 have made their marks on the local scene for years, but recent months have seen several newcomers to the game. 

Civil Alchemy owners Kelley Hall-Barr and Ian Vandam recently expanded their Webster Groves-based lifestyle brand to include Truly Floral Spirits, debuting with two gins in early 2019. Demetrius Cain launched his Nobletons Distilling House with Duckett Blue Rum, now available on the rail at Yellowbelly and Mission Taco Joint

Across the river in Collinsville, Ardent Spirits co-owners Whitney and Derik Reiser have started producing gin, vodka, rum and more at their Old Herald Brewery & Distillery

the tom collinsville at old herald brewery & distillery // photo by meera nagarajan

4. Pea Flower Syrup 

Made from the butterfly pea flower, this syrup is typically a byproduct of butterfly pea flower tea, distilled from a mix of ingredients like dried lemongrass, lemon juice and more. And it’s a VIP when it comes to cocktails, turning them a sultry shade of violet. 

Retreat Gastropub uses a butterfly pea rum float to top the persimmon- and coconut-spiked Queen Frostine, while The Bao’s citrus-heavy Bao Chicka Bao Wow includes a pea flower-infused Plantation 3 Stars rum. Old Herald Brewery & Distillery’s signature Tom Collinsville features butterfly pea syrup alongside Ardent Spirits gin, lemon juice and soda. 

This unique floral ingredient was also featured in Cat and Mouse wild ale, a deliciously tart, plum-hued collaboration between 2nd Shift Brewing and Off Color Brewing

5. Homespun Desserts 
Sure, it’s nice to enjoy a decadent bread pudding, panna cotta or boozy ice cream after a satisfying meal, but sometimes you just want something simple and familiar – which doesn’t mean lowbrow. 

Between Yellowbelly’s Grandma’s Coconut Cake and Louie’s deceptively understated cookie plate (often containing ginger-molasses, lemon-rosemary and chocolate-sea salt cookies), there’s a push toward the familial in desserts. 

At The Benevolent King, save room for the My Mom’s Cookies plate – literally made by owner Ben Poremba’s mom – which feature a rotating roster often starring maamoul and ghriba cookies. Juniper has a revolving door of homespun pastries, like the recent coconut-orange marmalade cake and a Coca-Cola cake with bourbon buttercream.

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. Adam Rothbarth is a staff writer at Sauce Magazine.