from left, customer service manager shaye gross, co-owner monica hodges, executive chef and co-owner jason lamont photos by greg rannells

2020 Best New Restaurants // No. 10 Love at First Bite​

The St. Paul sandwich is a St. Louis food tradition that Love at First Bite has made completely its own. Here, the sandwich, which typically features an egg foo young patty tucked between two pieces of white bread slathered with mayo and topped with pickles, tomato and lettuce, is vegan. The flavor is remarkable – salty with textural elements from cauliflower, onions and peppers. The egg substitute, made from mung beans, is prepared in a wok, maximizing crisped surface area. It’s then folded over a few times, creating alternating layers of crispy and tender bites. It is utterly craveable, and you would never know it was vegan.

the vegan st. paul sandwich // photos by greg rannells

Love at First Bite’s executive chef and co-owner Jason Lamont is putting his twist on dishes we love. “I wanted to mix soul food with smoke with fine dining with fast food. I love vegan food – when it’s done right, it can be delicious,” Lamont said. Options like low-carb fried rice (in the form of riced cauliflower) with notes of sesame oil, soy and onion, offers a little something new, while Lamont’s smoked brisket shows his technical skill.

lobster on my spuds // photos by greg rannells

Lamont’s had a career of cooking in other people’s kitchens. “At Three Kings, I learned to move with a sense of urgency. Chef Brian Hale at Table Three showed me how to cook with alcohol. At Basso, chef Patrick Connolly – a James Beard Award-winning chef – taught me about fine dining,” he said. He recalled learning from Connolly how to poach pears in red wine, a technique he’s applied to his Lobster On My Spuds, where lobster tails are poached in white wine and butter until perfectly sweet, then unexpectedly placed atop french fries mingled with a Grand Marnier cheese sauce, shallots and chives. Drawing from his experiences, Lamont adds his own ingenuity to make dishes sing.

“I’ve come a long, long way, and I know what my lane is now. I’ve figured it out, and it’s a blessing,” Lamont reflected. His kitchen, nestled behind a modest storefront on an unassuming block of St. Charles Rock Road, is the kind of place you root for, the kind of place that wants to make a small corner in St. Louis its very own by doing something that’s uniquely itself. Try it and you’ll find, like us, that you love it at first bite.