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.
Stepping into De Palm Tree Restaurant is like stumbling into a portal and ending up in the Caribbean. Exposed-brick walls give way to decorative support beams that end on a vibrant crimson ceiling, recalling a beachside cabana fanned by ocean breezes. Flecks of culture spread across the walls as well, from a framed collection of Jamaican dollars and a national flag to portraits of Bob Marley and metallic replicas of tribal art. But as in Jamaica, the community at De Palm Tree Restaurant forms around the food.
Feasts of fragrant, spicy curries, flaky fish, and hearty bean stews follow frosty glasses of ginger beer and freshly squeezed fruit juices. The menu’s rum cakes, stuffed pastries, seafood, and plantains reflect the lush, tropical landscape of Jamaica, with its abundant fruit trees, teeming oceans, and waving fields of jerk-chicken plants. Well-known dishes such as tender jerk pork or curry chicken anchor the offerings, whereas exotic island delicacies such as akees and saltfish, oxtail stew, or spicy pickled escovitch fish tempt adventurous diners.
At each of Drunken Fish's upscale restaurants, chefs create traditional and specialty sushi, along with stir-frys and other Japanese entrees. Fresh tuna nigiri and 10 oz Teriyaki glazed strip steak make for tasty pairings with signature cocktails, such as the Madame Butterfly with raspberry vodka, mango puree, and pineapple juice. Drunken Fish has three convenient locations within St. Louis, each featuring modern decor.
The Piano Bar catalyzes nights of song-laden celebration with finely tuned bar snacks served between spirited musical battles. Patrons munch on baskets of alligator bites ($6) and honey-mustard-adorned chicken strips ($6) or choose classics like shrimp cocktail ($6) or chile con queso ($5) as the two piano men play tug of war with a spontaneous, all request set-list of pop, rock, and country standards. The $20 Groupon can be used to cover the total bill.