In a 2021 year-end review of my phone’s food photographs, I found I could almost taste some of the best in my mind. This list is of the St. Louis restaurant dishes I want to repeat and in some cases, have tried to recreate in my kitchen. I’ve only included those I actually ate during 2021. I can’t quit thinking about these delicious meals. They are the ones I will repeat and if you haven’t tried them, I suggest you do! All of the restaurants mentioned here are known for so much more than the item mentioned, but if I had to narrow it down — these are some of the best bites in St. Louis dining.
706 DeMun Avenue, St. Louis
Roman Gnoccho — pork ragu, bechamel and pecorino
It turns out “gnocchi” is Italian for “lump” and this is one hefty lump of happy delicious. Creamy polenta, covered in pork ragu, with creamy white and red sauce and pecorino cheese with a little parsley garnish. I can’t stop myself from ordering this. If someone knows how to make this at home, please let me know.
Brussels Sprouts — lemon, capers and pecorino
Louie’s Brussels are so good. Firm but not hard, crispy but not burned and all covered in a tangy lemony zest and olive oil. I found a copycat recipe on another blogger’s site and tried making them (good, but not as good as Louie’s).
You will also find one of the best wait staffs in St. Louis at Louie's.
L-R: Louie's Gnoccho, Little Fox's Delicata Squash, Indo's Seafood Polenta
2800 Shenandoah Avenue, St. Louis
We finally got into Little Fox after waiting for months. Once the New York Times named Little Fox one of the top 50 restaurants you should try in the United States (!), it’s been a hard reservation to get. It was worth the wait and lived up to the hype. I could probably list everything we had here, but I can’t quit thinking about the crunch of the Delicata Squash. The menu describes it as: masarepa-battered delicata rings, lemon, scallion, provolone piccante, Hawthorne honey, aleppo pepper. I had to look up some of these terms, but instead I should have spent the time making another reservation and hoping this squash stays on the menu.
1641D Tower Grove, St. Louis
Seafood Polenta Deluxe — lobster, snow crab, spicy aioli, bechamel
Indo won all sorts of accolades in 2019 and 2020 and we were excited to try it and we kept trying to get reservations…and then COVID. It took until 2021 to get inside the dining room to enjoy a variety of artfully plated perfectly flavored, sharable plates. My favorite was the creamy seafood polenta, served in a bubbling hot pan.
Balkan Treat Box's Chicken Pide
8103 Big Bend Boulevard, Webster Groves
Chicken Pide — Turkish wood-fired flat bread, cheese, ajvar, kajmak, herbs, side of cabbage salad
Another St. Louis favorite with all sorts of national acclaim. How do we have this many good restaurants? I don’t know that, but I know sometimes I can nearly conjure up the smell of the pide by thinking of it. It’s like a Turkish pizza football. Arrive early or get takeout because it will be jammed by noon.
L-R: Nudo House's Curry Up, Pastaria's Kale Salad, The Crossing's Tagliolini
11423 Olive Boulevard, Creve Coeur or 6105-A Delmar Loop, University City
Curry Up! with Chicken — yellow coconut curry, carrot, onion, celery, peanut, fried shallot, cilantro – choice of tempura: pork, chicken, Japanese squash
We ordered this so many times to go during the COVID-shutdowns. It is comfort in a bowl, plus crunchy toppings. If you can control yourself, the portion can be two meals but sometimes we just had to finish it. Really, we finish it almost every time. And yes, Nudo House is also famous, Chef Qui Tran was featured on the cover of Food & Wine magazine a few years ago.
7734 Forsyth, Clayton
Shaved Kale Salad — creamy anchovy dressing, pecorino, bread crumbs
I love the pasta. I love the pizza. But with this giant list of my favorite carbs, it is good to have a salad. And this is the one I crave. The kale is perfectly “shaved” or massaged or whatever they do to make it not so stalky. And the dressing is divine.
7823 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton
Tagliolini Mushroom pasta
The Crossing is my go to business dinner or celebration meal. You can count on great food, attentive service and consistent quality…especially when it comes to their handmade pastas. Luckily the mushroom pasta seems to stay on the menu, the mushrooms just may change by season. Their sister restaurant, Acero, is also a winner.
L-R: Trattoria Marcella's Roasted Mushrooms over Polenta Fries and Lobster and Shrimp Risotto, Winslow's Bar
Roasted Mushrooms — polenta fries, gorgonzola and marsala wine sauce
Lobster and Shrimp Risotto — tomato broth, spinach, lots of seafood
3600 Watson Road, St. Louis
While I consistently order Trattoria Marcella’s Lobster and Shrimp Risotto, with its rich tomato base, sautéed spinach and generous parcels of seafood, I am currently more obsessed with the Roasted Wild Mushrooms with polenta fries, gorgonzola and marsala wine sauce. I’ve tried to copy it at home doing polenta in the air fryer with moderate success.
Winslow’s Bar — a delicious chocolate shortbread bar
7213 Delmar, University City
Their menu description really says it all: Pecan shortbread, chocolate ganache, creamy caramel. Winslow's take on a millionaire bar - but better. Winslow’s does not have any reasons to be humble.
And lastly at number 12, the choice was more about the whole feeling than the actual food—although the fries were really good ones. Over the summer, on a perfect St. Louis night, when it was breezy and not humid (it does happen!), we visited the Art Bar on the roof of the Angad Arts Hotel. A favorite combo was served at the perfect moment: Champagne and French Fries. Salty, bubbly and breezy and a feeling of freedom from COVID worries and the past couple of years that have bludgeoned our restaurants. I hope to recreate this feeling again!
What were your favorite bites of the year? What are you looking forward to eating?