In 1904, the hot dog bun, waffle cone, and x-ray were all introduced at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. Two of these inventions forever changed how we spend our summers and cemented St. Louis as a key locale in American food history. The other was the x-ray. These days, you can get some good food in St. Louis, but whether it’s your hometown or you’re visiting for the first time, it can be tough deciding which restaurants are worth checking out. Luckily, that’s where we come in.
Here you’ll find our recommendations for where to eat and drink around St. Louis. We’ve included everything from our favorite barbecue spots to where to go for Italian food and frozen custard, along with some group dinner and date options in between. We’ve only scratched the surface, but this is a great start for the next time you’re here.
All restaurants featured on The Infatuation are selected by our editorial team. The St. Louis City Guide is presented by the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express. Click here to learn more about the benefits you get from paying with a Premier Rewards Gold Card while dining out.
THE NEW-ISH SPOTS
With bright green and turquoise walls and a pink garage door, Nixta looks like it was designed by your grade school art teacher who dressed like Frida Kahlo (there’s a large portrait of her inside too). This Mexican spot in Tower Grove focuses on shared plates and cocktails, and between the colorful space and amount of mezcal being passed around, it feels like you’re at an indoor/outdoor dinner party at a friend’s place. Their seasonal menu changes frequently, but the ceviche, octopus, and guacamole are all excellent. If you only have one dinner in St. Louis, make sure it’s here.
From the all-white interior to the wood tables and chairs, Vicia feels like somewhere that would sell a minimalist vase for $400. But instead, they serve a vegetable-focused menu (with meat options) and cocktails made with things like beets and cardamom. The food changes almost weekly, but the zucchini steak and roast pork with peach mustard are two dishes to keep an eye out for. Or there’s a five-course $85 tasting menu as well, with off-menu dishes and occasional activities, like build your own turnip tacos.
Just like the person you’ve been seeing who told you, “we’re not dating, but we’re not not dating,” Sardella is hard to define, but keeps you coming back. It works equally well for a casual lunch or a celebratory dinner; the food is Italian, but includes dishes with green curry and soy caramel; and the airy, brightly-tiled space feels like it should be overlooking the Mediterranean instead of a street in Clayton. Head here with a group and order a bunch of their small plates, like the burrata and octopus, along with a few of their pastas (they come in full and half sizes). And while you wait for dessert, you can try to convince the rest of your party that you’re just not that into labels.
Fresh seafood might not be the first thing you think of in landlocked Missouri, but Peacemaker wants to change that. This Benton Park restaurant flies in high quality fish daily and serves favorites like lobster rolls, steamers, and po’boys in a space that’s basically Restoration Hardware meets Cape Cod. The food is consistently great and it’s the perfect low-key spot to have some oysters and a frozen daiquiri while you plan your next trip to a beach.
The first thing you notice when you walk into Publico is the open kitchen. If you look closer, you’ll see an open hearth and a spit with pork shoulder roasting for the al pastor tacos, both of which are immediate signs that you’re going to eat very well here. This Delmar Loop spot serves Latin-inspired small plates like tostadas and arepas, along with a few larger dishes like a whole roasted fish. Finish with the flan, and then claim a finders fee anytime someone else brings up going to Publico.
Just like summer and that vintage Furby you ordered from eBay, Half & Half’s brunch is worth the wait. Everyone else in the Clayton area woke up with the same idea as you, but if you stick around, you’ll get to basically eat dessert for breakfast. The eggs here are good, but stick with the sweeter breakfast options, like the s’mores french toast or the blueberry pancakes. And if you’re not willing to wait it out for brunch, they serve breakfast during the week too.
When restaurant fatigue sets in and one plate of roasted chicken blends into the next, head to Olio in Tower Grove. This place is located inside a 1930s filling station with some of its original structure intact, like a garage door that opens in the summer. The Israeli-inspired menu is designed for sharing, with an entire section dedicated to mezze and hummus, and a Jerusalem bagel that you should dip into everything. There are plenty of small plates and salads, and a few larger dishes like a shawarma spiced turkey thigh, all of which you should split with whoever else you know that needs a reset.
If you only eat barbecue once in St. Louis, it should be at Pappy’s. This classic in Midtown is what you wish all barbecue places could be, and since everyone else in a large radius agrees, you’ll have to wait. They serve Memphis-style barbecue and while they do all the classics well, the ribs are their house specialty. Come with a big group and get some ribs, pulled pork, and sausage, along with the Frito Pie and a few sides. There’s always a line, and while waiting is definitely part of the Pappy’s experience, you can call ahead for pick up if you’re in a rush.
Blueberry Hill in the Delmar Loop is what we imagine a hyperactive ten-year-old would come up with if put in charge of a restaurant. There are collections of vintage Pez dispensers and jukeboxes, a basement music venue called the Duck Room that was christened by Chuck Berry, and a wall painted like Pac Man. It’s a great spot to bring kids during the day, especially with the built-in board games on many of the tables. At night, it’s definitely less kid-friendly with its row of dart boards and wide selection of beers. If you get hungry after a few drinks, they also serve things like mozzarella sticks and burgers, and a gooey butter cake for dessert.
Housed in a former downtown brothel from the 1840s, Broadway Oyster Bar is the kind of place you go to in the early afternoon and end up spending the next 12 hours at. It feels like a little slice of New Orleans right in the middle of downtown, with a big patio and a menu that includes crawfish, po’boys, and jambalaya. They also stay open until 3am every night, which means you can still get oysters and wings at 1am when those two things suddenly sound like the right move.
A trip to Crown Candy Kitchen is as close to time traveling as you can get without having to worry about parallel dimensions or screwing up history. This Old North luncheonette opened in 1913 and they make their own candy, have a real soda fountain, and serve sandwiches that your grandparents grew up with. But what they’re best known for is their BLT, which comes with 14 slices of bacon and might make you reconsider some of your decisions. With its white wooden booths, vintage feel, and classic food, it’s the perfect place to go with someone who wishes they were born in a different decade, no DeLorean required.
This classic Richmond Heights ice cream stand is a must-visit during the summer. They have everything from slushies to frozen custard concretes and once you order, grab a spot at one of their picnic tables and debate with your group if it makes sense for you to all go in on a soft serve machine together. As a heads up, Mr. Wizard’s converts into a Christmas tree lot in the winter, so plan accordingly.
St. Louis has plenty of barbecue spots, but Salt & Smoke is the move when you want to eat great ribs, and still go somewhere nice. This Delmar Loop staple is always slammed, but just go grab a seat at the bar and work through their pages-long bourbon menu or drink a cocktail while you wait. Once you get seated, go for the the prime brisket and ribs, along with the white cheddar cracker mac and cheese and green beans, if you’re truly in need of vegetables.
I Fratellini is one of those places you consider lying about and telling people is terrible just so you can keep it to yourself. This Italian spot in Clayton serves classics like linguine with clams, along with some more creative dishes like pistachio-crusted trout. From the roses on the table to the long and affordable wine list, it’s great for a date with someone you might want to share a life with, or maybe just a bowl of pasta. Also, make sure to get the lemon panna cotta, regardless of how full you are after dinner.
We all have that one friend who went to Paris once and hasn’t stopped making unsubtle comments about how much better the bread is there or how there are no good places to get escargot in “the States.” Take this person to Brasserie By Niche, and we bet they’ll be impressed. This Central West End restaurant has a menu full of French classics like mussels and steak frites, and it’s thankfully not excessively expensive. We’re also fans of their brunch, especially the beignets, quiche, and cocktails.
This South City spot is both a Persian restaurant and a gin-themed cocktail bar, where you can still order from the full menu. On warm nights, sit on their patio and start off with a cocktail and a few dips, like the walnut-olive feta spread, tart pomegranate eggplant, and hummus. The Gormeh Sabzie, a lamb stew, should be on your table too, and make sure you save room for their freshly baked baklava.
Maybe you got a promotion and want a brunch spot with patio space and drinking options. Or maybe you’re just trying to find somewhere that’ll have something on the menu for everyone in your family. Wild Flower in Central West End works for both of these scenarios. They have indoor and outdoor seating, a menu full of brunch favorites (and lunch options too), and fun drinks like their wild orchid margarita or an espresso martini.
Hi-Pointe Drive-In in Richmond Heights makes all of the classic burgers, sandwiches, and shakes that come to mind when you think of a “drive-in,” but with food that’s a little higher quality and more interesting than you might expect. All of the ingredients are locally sourced and the menu includes everything from a cool ranch Dorito burger and grilled cheese tacos to a salmon banh mi. The space itself is made out of colorful shipping containers too, and is where you should go before seeing a movie at the Hi-Pointe Theatre next door.
Located inside a former car showroom from 1916, Fountain on Locust is a great spot for a casual lunch or weeknight dinner. But either way, make sure you finish your meal with one of their ice cream cocktails. If you do come for lunch, the french onion roast beef melt and Polish dill pickle soup are two things you should try, along with an egg cream. Between the art deco murals and diner counter, it’s hard to tell which era The Fountain belongs in. But regardless, it’s worth checking out.
Obama liked Pi Pizzeria so much that he invited the owners to cook at the White House, and while you might not have a mansion to show your affection, Pi is still worth checking out. There are a few outposts around St. Louis, but the Delmar Loop location is the only one with outdoor seating and it’s a good place to start a night out on Delmar. You can choose between the cornmeal crusted deep dish and the thin crust, or just try one of each if you come with friends. The Delmar, which includes barbecue sauce from Pappy’s, and the meatball-topped Kirkwood are both great options, but you can’t go wrong.
Between the classic comfort food, little patio, and friendly service, eating at The Piccadilly feels a little like eating in someone’s house, minus having to do any dishes afterward. This neighborhood spot in Ellendale serves classics like meatloaf, ribs, and fried chicken, and has been owned by the same family for more than three generations. It might not be the first restaurant you think of in St. Louis, but when you want to eat somewhere that feels a little like home - minus your family asking you to explain Twitter - The Picadilly is the answer.
With its dark lighting, pinball machines, and rotating beer specials, the Crow’s Nest in Maplewood is the perfect place to go on a first date, or to just stop by with your friend who moved here for college and never left. Play some arcade games over a few beers, and if talking about your job and your favorite constellation develops into an actual connection, you can get a burger and some chili cheese fries to share. But if instead your date can’t stop talking about his or her podcast about their cat, hope that the bar turns on the large projector they use to play old movies so the two of you can take a break from talking.
This bar in Central West End looks like a standard ice cream shop, but instead of soft serve, the machines are full of boozy slushies with names like Thai Collins, Rhubarb Paloma, and Hurricane Tony. You can also grab a “Flight of the Narwhal,” which comes with three different flavors on a wooden platter and deserves a medal just for the name alone. Or commit to a fishbowl if you’re feeling ambitious before their Tuesday trivia night. And since downing boozy slushies without food might not be the best idea, grab something from BLK MLT Eats next door or order delivery and eat it on their patio.