from top, balkan treat box co-owners edo and chef loryn nalic photo by ashley gieseking

Tour chef Loryn Nalic's 7 favorite St. Louis restaurants

Loryn Nalic has made a name for herself creating comforting dishes from the Balkans, first with a food truck and now with the brick-and-mortar Balkan Treat Box in Webster Groves – winner of this year’s Favorite Mediterranean/Middle Eastern category. 

Like most industry folks, Nalic and her husband and Balkan co-owner Edo Nalic have precious little free time to kick back at anyone else’s establishment. “When we go out, we want it to be a sure shot,” she said. That’s probably why they frequent so many Sauce Readers’ Choice winners

from left, nudo house co-owners qui tran and marie-anne velasco // photo by izaiah johnson

Nudo House
First Place Favorite Ramen 

“We go there a lot, and not just because Qui [Tran] and Marie-Anne [Velasco] are friends,” Nalic said of the duo at the Creve Coeur noodle standby. “We’re total Shroomed Out junkies,” she said, referring to Nudo’s uber-popular ramen bowl based on mushroom broth and full of king oyster mushrooms. She’s also fond of Nudo’s take on banh mi.

eggs benedict at brasserie by niche // photo by elizabeth jochum

Brasserie by Niche
Honorable Mention Favorite Brunch

For special occasions, Nalic opts for this French comfort food staple. “It’s a place we go to celebrate – from birthdays to anniversaries.” Nalic gravitates toward the dessert menu, specifically the Floating Island – Brasserie’s version of the decadent, old-school French dessert made with a mound of meringue, custard and caramel sauce.

louie owner matt mcguire // photo by izaiah johnson

Third Place Favorite Fine Dining // Third Place Favorite Romantic Spot

While the menu is stellar, Nalic said the vibe at Louie is worth the price of admission all by itself. “The thing is the hospitality at Louie,” she said. “You feel well taken care of. The energy is so great. If a restaurant had an aura …” She said Louie’s lunch service should also be at the top of everyone’s daytime dining list – especially the sandwiches. “All day, Louie.”

flank steak at olive & oak // photo by carmen troesser

Olive + Oak
First Place Favorite Fine Dining // Second Place Favorite Cocktails // Third Place Favorite Restaurant // Honorable Mention Romantic Spot 

Olive + Oak is well known for its food menu (chef Jesse Mendica placed in the Chef of the Year category again this year), but it’s also Nalic’s go-to for a top-notch cocktail. “It’s close by, so we go there a lot,” she said, adding she usually bellies up to the bar and drinks whatever husband-and-wife bartending team Charlie Martin and Morgaine Segura (second place Bartender of the Year) put in front of her. 

turkey sandwich at pappy's // photo by amy schromm photography for pappy's

Pappy’s Smokehouse
Second Place Favorite Barbecue

Nalic was a vegetarian for nine years, so she’s pretty particular about what meat hits her plate these days. She also honed her grill skills at Pappy’s and sister eatery Bogart’s Smokehouse before launching Balkan Treat Box. “It’s family. It was part of my life for a long time,” she said. When Nalic’s in a carnivorous state of mind, she opts for Pappy’s turkey breast and the smoked wings when they make a menu appearance.

the dining room at union loafers // photo by carmen troesser

Union Loafers Café and Bread Bakery
First Place Favorite Bread

Nalic’s favorite slice can be had at Loafers. As Sauce readers’ favorite bread, it’s only natural Loafers has the best pizza crust around. “I could eat their pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Nalic said, though she’s pretty much a fan of the whole menu. “Everything there is so well-executed and thought out.” 

mung bean spring rolls at banh mi so no. 1 // photo by carmen troesser

Banh Mi So No. 1
Honorable Mention Favorite Vietnamese

Located well past the restaurant row on South Grand Boulevard, this nondescript mom-and-pop place specializes in Vietnamese cuisine with a focus squarely on food instead of frills. “We need more small, hole-in-the wall places like it,” according to Nalic. The restaurant touts its mung bean spring rolls as the best in town, and Nalic is in complete agreement. She’s also partial to the vegetarian Joe B. banh mi and the tofu curry noodle soup. 

Matt Sorrell is a staff writer at Sauce Magazine.