Inside Coco Louco Brasil’s dining room, swirls of aromatic steam dance above platters of fresh seafood and meat skewered and grilled in the traditional Brazilian churrasco style. From behind the full bar, the restaurant's mixologist tops off glasses with cocktails, including the signature Brazilian drink known as the caipirinha. Most weekend nights, a host of live musicians entertain patrons with music ranging anywhere from traditional Brazilian samba to modern pop to playing the Canadian frog xylophone.
In 1972, Herbie Balaban opened a café in St. Louis’s West End, turning his former beatnik-boutique space into a French-inspired café. He grins from old pictures of the restaurant, a handlebar mustache curling upward toward a jaunty beret in crisp black and white. Though the space has changed hands in the ensuing years, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said it “would be an excellent restaurant in any era.” Aaron Teitelbaum, now the executive chef, honed his craft in New York City while working with Bobby Flay and Daniel Boulud in their kitchens. Aromas drift from Herbie’s own kitchen, hinting at French, Asian, and American influences. Those culinary traditions swirl together in truffled lobster mac 'n' cheese and shrimp with grits and buttermilk-fried leeks. Goat cheese steeps in smoke before melting with peppered bacon across burgers alongside a trout salad, of which a writer for the St. Louis Post Dispatch said, “I’d normally prefer no adulteration to well-smoked trout, but in this case folding in a gentle horseradish crème fraîche was a perfect foil for a fluffy, slightly sweet corn pancake underneath.” Grilled duck breast pairs with a duck-confit crepe served on an original Duck Hunt game cartridge, and Herbie’s Vintage 72's wine list is carefully curated to incorporate vintages from around the world, prioritizing US and French wines above all. The interior at Herbie’s Vintage 72 was designed by co-owner Jeff Orbin, whose past triumphs include restaurants such as Miso in Clayton and Monarch Restaurant & Wine Bar. Much like the food, the décor blends French and American influences, incorporating some of the antique French posters that decorated the walls of the café in the ‘70s. Inverted teardrop lamps and tableside candles illuminate the restaurant, which is surrounded by exposed-brick walls. Patrons settle in at curved corner booths or opt for open-air dining to enjoy their meal, and chatter drifts up from private parties amid the wine cellar’s barrels and rough stone walls.
In 1983, Bar Italia opened as a tiny café dishing up gelato and drinks just east of Euclid Avenue. Today, it's a multilevel Italian restaurant just west of Euclid Avenue. It hasn't moved very far, but now its chefs toss pasta with seafood, season and grill Black Angus steaks, and flame pork tenderloin with brandy before finishing it in a light cream sauce. They also whip up vegan and gluten-free plates, and they still serve housemade gelato created with all-natural ingredients.
Diners can order wine by the glass, bottle, or bathtub to enjoy in the dining room, by the bar, or outside on the sidewalk area, which is pet friendly. Inside the eatery’s entertainment venue, Luna Lounge, white leather couches bask in the glow of colored mood lighting and flickering candles. On Thursday nights, global tunes from the DJ pump through the sound system.
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.
Kota’s menu of cruise-ship-sized portions (half and whole orders available for dinner) starts your Caribbean mouthcation with an order of Kota barbecue-duck and wild-mushroom quesadillas ($9) and some island chicken wings with Jamaican jerk spices ($8) before taking a shortcut to the Pacific with a coconut-curry duck linguini tossed with portobello mushrooms, baby spinach, peppers, and shredded duck (half plate $11, full $15). Although Lycanthropic Americans relish espresso-rubbed beef filet medallions (half plate $15, full $20) smothered in blue-cheese cream and served with fresh asparagus, buttermilk mashed potatoes, and crispy onion straws; herbivores can also savor the smoky, flavorful effects of wood-fire grilling with the cheese-drizzled hickory-fired vegetable orzo (half plate $11, full $15). For something a little closer to home, cubicle-farm escapees can score a Louisiana-style lunch with the N’awlins po’ boy ($9.50), which piles your choice of oyster, shrimp, or catfish into a toasted baguette with remoulade. Neither meal is complete without a dessert of Kota’s specialty milkshakes, so get in your daily recommended dosage of pastel colors with the Miami Vice (strawberry and piña colada with coconut and pineapple, $6) or blow out your stomach’s TV with an Elvis in the House (chocolate-banana shake with Reese's peanut-butter cup pieces, $6).
Cini, named for the Italian street food arancini, packs its menu with a variety of these traditional rice balls that are crispy on the outside and packed with fresh veggies and meat on the inside. Guests first pick their cini of choice as their appetizer, with options including the Original packed with sausage and peas, a Primavera cini with zucchini and squash, or the four-cheese rice ball. From there, customers can select a base for their main meal, choosing either a thin-crust wrap called a piadina, a bowl of angel-hair or penne pasta, or a salad bowl of mixed greens. The wrap, pasta, or salad is then topped with a grill item such as meatballs, salmon, or steak and then adorned with a choice of hot or cold sauces such as fresh basil pesto, pomodoro, or creamy parmesan. And for dessert, the meal comes full circle with the addition of a sweet cini stuffed with hazelnut chocolate and sweet arborio rice.