The D.E.A.L. (Dining, Entertainment, Attractions & Lodging) in St. Louis
By Jeanne Brei, Chiara Peretti & Explore St. Louis
Missouri may be known as the “Show Me State” but in the last few years, they’ve become a state known for showing visitors a fabulous time—especially when it comes to great food, music, parks and sports.
A group of innovative and decorated chefs, including James Beard Award Semi-Finalist/Rising Star Chef of the Year/Best Chef 2020 on Food & Wine Nick Bognar (pictured left) (his indo combines styles of Southeast Asian fare) and Vicia’s chef Michael Gallina (pictured right), finalist for the James Beard Foundation Best Chef Midwest Award, who also owns Winslow’s Table, a glorified grocery store which serves produce, drinks and prepared dishes from a window, are transforming the St. Louis foodie scene.
Of course, there will always be some signature culinary staples, starting with St. Louis-style barbecue—racks of sauced sweet-heat ribs cut in the city’s eponymous style; thick pork steaks; and local takes on traditional styles such as smoky, charred-edge brisket and piles of pulled pork on a bun. There’s been a surge of new barbecue joints open, joining ranks with the titans in town including Roper’s Ribs (top picture), Bogart’s Smokehouse, Pappy’s Smokehouse, Sugarfire Smoke House, Adam’s Smokehouse, Hendricks BBQ, Bootleggin’ BBQ and Smoki O’s.
One of the most innovative is Salt + Smoke (pictured left), a full-service barbecue restaurant that has a shared emphasis on barbecue, bourbon and beer and claims to “treat meat right.” Owner Tom Schmidt says, “The biggest calling card for us is the brisket. We only source prime meat, we smoke it over post oak for 16 to 18 hours and it falls apart when you look at it. We use the whole brisket: So we have burnt ends, the point—or the fatty side—in addition to the flat, or lean side.”
The city is also home to Imo’s Pizza for iconic St. Louis-style pizza (famous for its thin crust and Provel cheese), and Park Avenue Coffee for the local St. Louis delicacy the gooey butter cake—which was originally made by accident. This signature St. Louis dessert is a mouth-watering coffee cake made with cream cheese, yellow cake mix and plenty of the namesake “gooey butter” smear. Other St. Louis staples that originated in the Gateway City include toasted ravioli, a breaded, deep-fried dish that is the favorite appetizer at any Italian restaurant this side of the Arch and a Slinger from a 24-hour diner. A Slinger is a hometown masterpiece which combines eggs, hash browns and a hamburger patty topped with chili, cheese and onions.
Finishing off, ice cream and frozen custard are very important to St. Louis: After all, according to local legend the ice-cream cone originated at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. The most iconic place for a frozen treat in St. Louis is Ted Drewes (pictured right), a Route 66 famous stop founded by Ted Drewes Sr. in 1930. The frozen custard—thicker than ice cream and made with egg yolk—is served out of two old-school stands with walk-up windows. The custard itself is so thick that they serve your cup upside-down.
But if you’d like to try a “microcreamery,” Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery (pictured left) opened a vintage-inspired ice-cream parlor in Lafayette Square in 2015 and now has three locations in town. Owner and “flavor temptress” Tamara Keefe says being a microcreamery requires a small-batch and by-hand preparation, being all-natural, containing more than 16 percent butterfat and being very dense—specifically, less than 30 percent overrun, which describes the amount of air whipped into the ice cream. The resulting treat is a decadent indulgence—and for those who want a bit of a kick with their treat, Clementine’s can infuse ice cream with wine, spirits, or beer. Some flavors are made with alcohol, up to 18 percent ABV, including maple-bourbon-pecan, Manhattan and chocolate-Cabernet. Mmmmmm!