On weekends between 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., a cart laden with plated dim sum rolls through Lu Lu Seafood, delivering handcrafted treats such as pork shu mai or spare ribs in black bean sauce. Patrons can also dine on regional Chinese seafood such as live lobsters with ginger and scallions or hot pots simmering with fresh scallops, washing it all back with cocktails, smoothies, and milk tea laden with pearls of tapioca. The opulent crimson-and-gold eatery also houses private karaoke rooms with bottle service where guests can sing in English, Chinese, or Korean.
Though it sits squarely in St. Louis, Broadway Oyster Bar might as well inhabit New Orleans. Even from the outside, the 150-year-old building exudes the revelry of the French Quarter, as an art-deco neon sign emblazoned with music notes joins colorful string lanterns to form an illuminated invitation for patrons to come in and live a little. Of course, inside is where the Cajun atmosphere is most apparent, especially in whiffs of dishes named the favorite Cajun/creole cuisine of the Sauce Magazine readers’ poll every year since 2003. Chef Brad Hagen's acclaimed recipes include marinated alligator with homemade tartar sauce, shucked oysters topped with spinach cream sauce, and fresh-baked Gambino's bread filled with traditional po' boy fixings, such as fried catfish and shrimp. Feasts unfold in a cozy dining room or an open-air patio enclosed and heated in winter. There, local and national musicians grace the stage seven nights a week to play funk and blues tunes, just like Mom used to.
Joe Sanfilippo got his start in the food industry at age 11 when his Uncle Agostino recruited him to bus tables at his St. Louis restaurant on a particularly busy New Year’s night, according to St. Louis Magazine. Two years later, he returned to his hometown of Palermo to study and to attend culinary school at night, which ignited his passion for cooking and spurred him to open his own eatery at the tender age of 24. Today, the owner and executive chef of J.F. Sanfilippo’s Restaurant mingles his southern-Italian training with northern-Italian influences in a menu of pastas with tomato- or cream-based sauces, sautéed chicken and veal, and broiled steaks. In a recent KSDK 5 interview centering on the opening of his second location in Chesterfield, Joe confided that his 80-year-old mother still bakes the restaurant’s bread each day and divulged plans to bottle and sell J.F.’s popular vodka sauce, then ship it to Neptune.
You wouldn’t think that food could change a city. But that’s exactly what Travel + Leisure praises Mosaic for, declaring that its innovative dishes and inspired design scheme have helped bring the former urban industrial St. Louis Garment neighborhood from “grimy to glam.” Since the their 2004 opening in downtown St. Louis, Mosaic restaurants have sprouted up in airport and Des Peres locations, bringing with them the contemporary gourmet menu of founder and head chef, Claus Schmitz. The highly trained, award-winning culinary whiz folds fine ingredients into internationally inspired tapas, soups, and entrees, whipping up dishes such as roasted grass-fed bone marrow or sustainable Chilean sea bass and pairing them with seasonal cocktails and fine wines. Outside the kitchen, Schmitz’s dining room’s interior design is equally appealing, with high ceilings, a freestanding bar, and tall windows that stream in sunshine while filtering out the glares of the jealous, hungry cars parked outside.
The Village People aren’t the only group to put their stamp on the YMCA. At Sushi Bistro a team of master sushi chefs assemble deep-fried YMCA rolls chockfull of yellowtail, spicy mayo, crab, and avocado. The YMCA is one of more than 20 specialties, like the blend of tuna and hot chili sauce in the new Dynamite roll, an improvement over the old Dynamite roll’s tuna and gunpowder. Besides its namesake treat, Sushi Bistro specializes in plenty of other Japanese favorites, including hibachi-grilled king salmon and succulent cuts of teriyaki steak.
In 2013, after more than a decade in business, the owners of Wild Horse Grill felt like they needed to shake things up. So they brought in Executive Chef Ray Carpenter, a Travel Channel-featured pro renowned for his prior work at Niche Restaurant and Prime 1000 Steakhouse. His two biggest influences on the menu have been an emphasis on using local food producers and a balance of classic and contemporary techniques and flavors.
But even the most conservative palate can embrace Carpenter's modern style. It's subtle—from the sous-vide cooking method he uses to inventive sides like the mushroom hash he pairs with Maple Leaf Farms cherry-wood-smoked duck. Still, Wild Horse's steaks remain a hugely popular draw, with Black Angus cuts aged at least 28 days before being plated as 8-ounce filets or 32-ounce bone-in rib eyes.
The restaurant is known for its quality, yet it's far from stuffy—every weekend there's Fried Chicken Sunday and on Wednesday evenings guests can bring their dogs to the patio, which was voted to the top 10 most dog-friendly patios by the Riverfront Times. Wednesday evenings are also the grill's Pups on the Patio night, where a portion of the purchases of customers with dogs is donated to animal shelters.