Inside the St. Louis Downtown Airport, travelers excitedly bustle about on their way to distant destinations or emerge from vacations rested and ready to return home. The constant stream of action is all part of the experience for diners at Crusoe’s on the Runway, which combines the spectacle of air travel with hearty American meals. Whether they’re traveling or just stopping by for a bite, diners fill their bellies as they overlook two of the three runways from the airport’s east ramp. St. Louis–style pizza, steaks, and pastas satiate hunger pangs, along with comfort food such as Mom’s meatloaf and country-fried steak. As they watch Airbus A320 jetliners and lightweight Boeing 757 aircrafts launch into the sky and gently touch down on the runway from their tables, guests can hold up score cards to judge the pilots’ form.
A huge yellow sign in the shape of a two-man log saw hangs above the unpainted clapboard fa?ade of Sawmill BBQ, emblazoned in bold block letters with the straight-forward phrase "BBQ RESTAURANT". Inside, the restaurant hums with the activity of diners chowing down on bratwursts and cheeseburgers as the scent of dry-rubbed spare ribs and tender beef brisket fills the air. Traditional dishes of coleslaw and baked beans sidle up to morsels of turkey beast and pork loin, while homemade hot, sweet, and mustard-based sauces slather pork, beef, and the faces of ravenous diners. The surroundings promote a feel-good vibe of backcountry hospitality, with its big, grassy lawn, huge, screened-in porch, and rustic handcarts, pumps, and farm implements.
When founders J. Kim Tucci, Joseph A. Fresta, and John P. Ferrara first opened The Pasta House Co. in 1974, they wanted to elevate pasta to an art form. “Some artists sculpt, some paint, and some sketch,” they write on the restaurant’s website. “But, at The Pasta House Co., we create authentic Italian culinary delights.” A few of the locations even have giant, exhibition kitchens so you can watch as pizzas, pastas, and entrees come to life.
Naturally, The Pasta House Co.’s menu revolves around the Italian staple from which it gets its name. There are more than 25 varieties of pasta to choose from, including linguine with chicken livers and the signature lasagna, plus weekday specials such as stuffed manicotti. Meanwhile, the mangia bene menu—which translates to “eat well” in Italian—showcases the more wholesome side of Italian eating, with dishes low in fat and calories that won’t peer pressure you to break curfew.
The idea that you can only get good Cajun food in Louisiana has been challenged. The chefs at J. Gumbo's craft classic creole and Cajun dishes, balancing heat and spice with skill. Homestyle gumbo begins with a deep brown roux and, like viewing The Big Easy both forward and backward, takes about four hours to complete. Crawfish ?touff?e teems with the plump shellfish while jambalaya is made creole style with shredded chicken and sausage. Chefs pile these into bowls atop a bed of rice, and diners who can't decide can opt for two or even three options in one bowl.
The eatery itself is intimate and casual. On the walls hang New Orleans?inspired art, such as a crawfish wearing a chef hat and Mardi Gras masks and beads. Diners are also welcome to scrawl their names in between the art, and they often write messages commemorating their visit or love letters to the chef written in French.
Scents of pimento, scotch bonnet peppers, and jerk chicken and pork waft through the air at Mi Hungry Jamaican BBQ & Catering's two casual locations. The county location’s menu of barbecue and Jamaican fare “makes it a dining destination,” according to St. Louis Magazine, and the city location serves up a similar multicultural duet of spice and flavor. Barbecue rib tips and crispy snoot coexist with Jamaican beef patties and tender red snapper. Island specialties such as the curried goat and brown stew chicken get a special flair from owner Rueben, who was born in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
The Hub at Holiday Inn serves up meals in a casual atmosphere equally suited to solo travelers, families with kids, and colleagues on business trips. The menu features a selection of "familiar foods made interesting": USDA Grade A choice steaks, charbroiled Angus burgers, and tender barbecued pulled pork all evoke memories of classic home cooking, while Asian-style sweet red chili sauces and pesto-topped hummus lend some dishes an international flair.
This dedication to warmth and welcome extends beyond the menu. High-backed booths and cushioned chairs surround the dining room's dark wooden tables, inviting diners to cozy up for a meal. A carpet emblazoned with orange and purple radial patterns adds a lively splash of color to the neutral-toned walls, which feature small pieces of frameless artwork.