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Our Guide to Restaurants in St. Louis

YOUR ULTIMATE GUIDE TO STL RESTAURANTS + FOOD

Article by City Lifestyle

Photography by Shutterstock

Are you ready to learn more about the culinary delights in the St. Louis area? Well pucker up your taste buds and let’s go for a gourmet ride to feast on what St. Louis restaurants have to offer.

We are going to go on a virtual tour of all the distinctive neighborhoods that have lip-smacking flavors worth sampling and see what we can find in downtown, near Union Station, on The Hill, near the airport, on the Southside, Westside, near the Fox Theater, at The Grove, and in the Westport Plaza.

Restaurants in St. Louis are a cornucopia of international cuisine.

They offer Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, German, French, and everything else which, of course, includes good ol’ American style. If you want to gorge yourself on BBQ, there are places where you can make a pig of yourself while eating pork ribs. If that sounds unappealing to you, there are vegan and vegetarian restaurants too. There are delicious seafood, steak, and chicken restaurants for those who want to partake of fish, beef, or fowl.

The goal of this guide is to get you up to speed quickly, with all the knowledge the locals possess from living in St. Louis for years. After you get the insider’s scoop from our guide, you will know all the famous places, where to take the family for kid-friendly fare, and which St. Louis restaurants are nice.

You will learn where to find good, cheap food, and where to take someone special for a romantic evening out.

Most of the restaurants offer take-out and non-contact delivery. Be sure to call ahead if you wish to dine in to understand if that option is available and the safety measures required.

Here we go. Unbuckle your belt one notch and get ready for a gastronomic extravaganza!

Downtown St. Louis Restaurants

Let’s start with the center of the eating action and head downtown. Downtown St. Louis is a great place to hang out. You can just go there without a guide and you will easily find plenty of Italian restaurants downtown and you can go bar hopping too.

There are lots of Mexican restaurants downtown too, which sets the theme for the rest of the metro area. In our thoughts, a city is judged by the quality of its Italian food and the availability of low-priced enormous plates of Mexican food that satisfies even a big eater on a tight budget.

In the downtown area, you can go bar hopping and start by having a pint at a local brewery. Then, take a walking tour or go for a stroll that stops for an appetizer (in Spanish called “tapas”), a snack, or a sweet at a restaurant or shop on the way between drinks.

Besides Italian and Mexican styles, you will find the superb flavors of tapas from Barcelona (Spain), curries from India, mango-sweetened dishes from Peru, and a French Brasserie. There is even private, shaded, outside dining that offers a traditional British-style afternoon tea, which is fit for royalty and priced accordingly.

The seafood in this area includes an oyster bar and hand-crafted sushi by top chefs. And then, there are the steaks that are cooked to perfection and so juicy that your mouth starts watering just by thinking about them.

The Hill St. Louis Restaurants

The Hill is a well-established Italian-American neighborhood.

In this neighborhood, there are many family-owned and -operated restaurants called “trattoria” in Italian. You will find cafés, pizzerias, and delis for abbondanza (abundant) sandwiches. One favorite sandwich is made with prosciutto (ham) with mozzarella cheese and tomato slices. Also, be sure to try the St. Louis-style pizza.

There are sausage and pasta “factory” restaurants for family-style meals. To relax, try the intimate cafés for a cup of freshly made dark espresso with a shot of Amaretto.

When you enter this neighborhood, the sound of Dean Martin singing “That’s Amore!” seems to start playing in your head. If you are too young to know that song, go find it on YouTube. Once you hear it, it becomes stuck forever in your brain.

The song captures the Italian spirit of romance and happiness with a beautiful carefree Italian attitude that is timeless.

This is the feeling of this Italian-American neighborhood. There is the smell of roasting coffee beans wafting in the air.

Garlic and onion mixed with robust tomatoes, Italian sausage, and spices create the smell of pasta sauce simmering somewhere on the stove. This is the neighborhood where charming rotund mamas and robust men have the same advice, which is, “Whatever life’s problems are, you gotta eat!”

Union Station St. Louis Restaurants

The restaurants near Union Station are a mixture of fast food for the lunch crowd and take-away places for those who are in a hurry. There are fine dining places for those who want to enjoy a three-hour business lunch or a nice dinner.

Inside the station, there is a good grill restaurant, which makes a delicious grilled cheese sandwich. There is a modern soda shop serving burgers, fries, and shakes. In the nearby surrounding neighborhood, you will find a breakfast/brunch place, Middle Eastern fare, and a tap bar/wine house.

Fast Food Restaurants near Union Station

If you are looking for fast food in this area, there are the usual suspects of a Subway, Taco Bell, White Castle and McDonald’s.

Restaurants near St. Louis Airport

The good restaurants near St. Louis Airport include popular barbecue joints, a vegetable-focused farm-to-table restaurant, authentic Mexican food, an ice cream fountain shop, a couple of steak houses, an oyster bar, a brewery, and a smokehouse.

The major hotels have an assortment of restaurants on their premises. This includes the Marriott, the Renaissance, and the Hilton. They offer upscale, American-style cuisine and usually have an elaborate Sunday brunch buffet.

Restaurants in South County St. Louis

Head down the I-55, along the west bank of the Mississippi River, and when you get to the I-255 intersection, you are in the center of South County St. Louis. The restaurants in south county St. Louis that are the nicest ones are found near the city center, all clustered around that area.

South County St. Louis restaurants offer Italian food and Mexican. You will find classic burger places, chicken wings places, sports bars, pizzerias, a bar and grill, and pub that offers gourmet food, which is in the unique category of a “gastropub.”

Asian food lovers will find sushi and a place that specializes in every kind of noodles and pasta dishes from macaroni and cheese to pad Thai. There is a bread company restaurant that bakes its bread fresh daily. Seafood lovers will delight in a visit to a seafood restaurant that specializes in crab dishes.

If you want to try Greek food, there is a nice place that makes gyros.

Central West End St. Louis Restaurants

Central West End St. Louis restaurants are found by heading west from downtown toward the beautiful Forest Park, an amazing green space with lakes, an art museum, a zoo, tennis courts, and a golf course. Right before you get to the park, you want to take the S Kingshighway Blvd exit going north.

Many of the nice restaurants the Central West End has to offer are clustered around the Forest Park entryway to the north of Forest Park Avenue.

The Central West End restaurants St. Louis locals enjoy include a barbecue saloon featuring barbecue with lots of whiskey, a chili tavern with craft cocktails, Vietnamese food, Asian-fusion style meals, sushi, Chinese wok-style and dim sum dishes, Hawaiian BBQ, pizzerias, Thai food, a wonderful deli, and a healthy smoothies shop.

Bagel lovers can enjoy a fresh bagel as a fried-egg sandwich.

At Forest Park, there is an Irish pub by the golf course near Jefferson Lake and another restaurant by the lake next to the zoo. There is also an ice cream shop near the zoo and a few nice takeout places.

Restaurants near Fox Theater St. Louis

The Fox Theater is a landmark that is over 90 years old. It was built in 1929. It is affectionately nicknamed “The Fabulous Fox.” It has been immaculately maintained and constantly refurbished while retaining its historic style.

The restaurants near Fox Theater St. Louis cater to those coming to see a performance, so they are packed before and after a show.

Assuming the theater is open, if you want the place to yourself, come at the times when the show is running and the restaurants will be nearly deserted. One clever trick is to come before the show ends and you can be on your third drink enjoying dessert when the place fills up after the show.

Then, you can hear the reaction of the crowd to the performance they just saw. This is a clever way to find out how good it is before you shell out for a pricey ticket to see it yourself.

Around the theater area, you will find various grills, steak houses, Mexican food, a cabaret serving American-style dishes, a bistro and wine bar, a tavern, a Victorian-style pub serving Scottish food, a Chinese restaurant, and a Southern-style restaurant that serves spicy fried chicken.

In this area, there is an eclectic mix of fun places with something to please any palate.

The Grove St. Louis Restaurants

The Grove St. Louis restaurants are near Tower Grove Park on its south side. Many of them line up along South Grand Avenue toward the southeast corner of the park. You will find plenty of Asian and Asian-fusion restaurants in this area including those that serve sushi and delicious potstickers that many find addicting.

You will find soup bowls chock-full of delicious meats, seafood, vegetables, and noodles in the Vietnamese style called Pho.

Vegans and vegetarians will be delighted with a restaurant that focuses on their tastes. All vegetable dishes they offer are made from tasty international recipes. Of course, there are also pizzerias, Italian restaurants, and Mexican restaurants. There is almost no place in St. Louis that does not have a few of those.

A specialty restaurant in this area serves Persian food and makes a scrumptious hummus (a paste made from mashed chickpeas, olive oil, and garlic) that it offers for an all-you-can-eat special with pita (pocket) bread during happy hour. Meat lovers will be enchanted by the Brazilian-style grill that features artwork from Brazil to create a colorful, authentic atmosphere.

Westport Plaza Restaurants St. Louis

The finest Westport Plaza restaurants St. Louis has to offer include a social hangout with small dishes of food to snack on while having drinks and a salon that is a Western-themed bar and restaurant.

There is a lovely European-style restaurant with a spectacular view of the city and the world-famous St. Louis Arch. One Japanese style place offers Kobe beef, which is the most tender beef in the world because workers feed the calves beer and give them daily massages to keep their muscles soft. If you had to go to the slaughterhouse, that is the way to go.

Baja California is a part of México, and it has a surf-style fish taco that is the recipe for the type of tacos sold at a Mexican restaurant in this area. Delicious! There is also a crazy sushi restaurant that is fun. During nice weather, you can enjoy the outdoor beer gardens.

Rounding out the offerings of restaurants in this area are, of course, more Italian restaurants, seafood grills, a bread company, and the national chains like Hardees and Hooters.

Italian Restaurants St. Louis

There is a bonanza of Italian restaurants to choose from in St. Louis. They are all over the place, from Italian restaurants downtown to the Italian-American neighborhood of The Hill that has family-style places and Italian buffet restaurants too.

Traditional Italian food goes way beyond pasta dishes.

The pasta is just a warm-up for what comes next. Pasta is a shape you choose and to have cooked “al dente,” which is how soft you like it. This determines how long it is boiled. However, there are many flavors of pasta sauce and that is what makes a pasta dish special. Most of them are named from the regions where the recipe came from, like Milanese (Milan), Bolognese (Bologna), and so forth.

Don’t talk about a simple red, white, or green sauce; instead, ask for a sauce based on a region’s recipe and the waiter will be impressed.

Try involtini, which is the Italian word for “roll-up”. Involtini is made with eggplant or beef rolled around and stuffed with delicious ricotta cheese and prosciutto ham with a touch of sage in the middle. They are scrumptious.

One test of an Italian restaurant is trying the fried calamari appetizer. It must be breaded ever so slightly, fried and cooked through, without being tough, and matched with a delicious spicy red marinara sauce and fresh lemon juice. It is not easy to get this dish cooked properly. However, when it is done to perfection, it is tender and delicious.

For the main course, try the osso buco. It is a meat dish made from pork, and it is so tender it will melt in your mouth.

Enjoy it with herb-infused polenta (cooked cornmeal) or go for bruschetta (toasted bread topped with tomato and anchovy) as a side dish with the spicy cioppino (fish and crab soup). For dessert, have a tiramisu with a cup of espresso. That is just one example of a menu from the many wonderful choices.

Mexican Restaurants St. Louis

The second most popular style of restaurants, after Italian, is Mexican, which you find downtown and scattered all over the place. If you like tacos, try the Baja California-style fish tacos with mango sauce. Wash them down with flavored margaritas.

Crowd-pleasers include burritos so massive you cannot pick them up, filled with a variety of meats or veggies with just black beans, sour cream, rice, guacamole, and pico de gallo.

Also, there are quesadillas, fajitas, tamales, and chimichangas. While you are waiting for your dinner plate, snack on the freshly made tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole. Set your mouth a bit on fire with marinated jalapeño peppers, and don’t be surprised to see pint-sized bottled of hot sauce on the tables. Authentic Mexican food is hot and spicy. Cool off at the end of the meal with a nice dessert of flan.

Chinese Restaurants in St. Louis

There are many Chinese restaurants downtown for those who work there to enjoy lunch at a reasonable price.

All over St. Louis, Chinese restaurants that deliver are a lifesaver for those who want to eat safely at home. There is a trend now of offering no-contact delivery. If you pay using a bank card online or over the phone, they bring the food to your place, ring the bell, wait to hear you through the door, and leave your delivery outside. Then, you can open the door after they leave to get your delivered Chinese feast. When you pay, don’t forget to add a tip to the bill for the delivery person.

There are many items on Chinese menus, including favorites like won ton soup, chop suey, sweet and sour pork, Peking barbecue duck, and chicken fried rice. Enjoy your meal with hot oolong or jasmine tea, and discover your fortune at the end of the meal hidden inside a crunchy cookie.

Seafood Restaurants in St. Louis

For seafood restaurants, you have the choice of many American-style “surf and turf” steak and seafood restaurants that are combination grills.

Be sure to try the sake that goes well with your meal of sashimi, delicately sliced raw fish on a bed of a hand-formed rice ball, wrapped with a piece of dried seaweed, and dipped in a bit of wasabi mixed with soy sauce. If you cannot manage the chopsticks, it is OK to use your fingers to eat, after you have cleaned them with a hot towel that you are offered when you sit down.

Traditionally, sake is served hot to men in tiny porcelain cups, at a temperature close to body temperature so it goes down smoothly. For women, sake is served in a hand-sized wooden box and is cold. Non-alcohol drinkers will enjoy the non-stop pouring of delicious Japanese green tea that is very good for your health.

Be sure to snack on edamame, which are cooked green soybeans. Don’t eat the skin; just pop them open to get to the delicious beans inside.

Vegan Restaurants St. Louis

The choices for vegan restaurants in St. Louis include vegan-friendly restaurants, restaurants with vegan options, and a few spectacular vegan restaurants that only serve vegan food. Some of them are farm-to-table operations that use organically grown local produce and make delightfully savory dishes from locally grown vegetables.

There is always a special dish on the menu that depends on the growing season. Summer is an especially abundant time.

St. Louis BBQ Restaurants

At the opposite end of the food spectrum is the carnivore’s delight of the world-famous St. Louis barbecue restaurants. You can get pork ribs, beef ribs, chicken, and pulled pork with a spicy vinegar sauce that is served on a bun or on a plate. Add corn on the cob, some greens, fried or mashed potatoes, and mugs of frothy beer to wash it all down.

People come from all over the world just to get a taste of St. Louis-style barbecue. The delicious taste comes from the way the meat is prepared with hours of marinating in a sauce made from a secret recipe and then it is cooked until super tender. Make a mess when eating it and get the barbecue sauce all over your face. That is part of the fun.

Indian Restaurant St. Louis

If you are hankering for a hot curry and want the authentic taste from Mumbai, India, you will need to hunt for an Indian restaurant St. Louis is famous for where there are many vegetable dishes for a vegetarian to enjoy.

Besides the curries, there is a spicy chicken tikka masala dish that is bright orange from the spices and super tasty. Enjoy all the flavors by spooning a bit of each one on your bowl of jasmine rice and with flatbread, called naan, baked with garlic and served with olive oil.

German Restaurant St. Louis

Some of the best German restaurants St. Louis locals patronize are located downtown. Make sure you have a big appetite for huge plates full of bratwurst, Wiener schnitzel (veal cutlet), kartoffeln (pan-fried potatoes), spargel (white asparagus grown in the dark), sauerkraut, and huge steins of German beer.

French Restaurant St. Louis

French food is la crème de la crème made with butter, cheese, and things that will put your cholesterol off the charts!

An absolute favorite of French restaurant patrons is French onion soup that is covered with baked cheese. The adventurous can try the escargot, which are garlicky cooked snails in butter. Try the quiche Lorraine (baked casserole), duck à l'orange (citrus-infused sweet-tasting duck), or cordon bleu (cheese- and ham-covered chicken cutlet). And don't skip the tasty dessert of a crème brûlée made with egg yolks, vanilla, sugar, and cream, and then, broiled to give the surface a crunchy crust.

American Restaurant St. Louis

You can find many American restaurants St. Louis has all over the place. The American restaurants range from simple diners to fancy steak houses. An American food restaurant can be hamburgers and fries or porterhouse steaks and everything in-between.

Try the Southern-style cuisine and get a taste of the old South. If you order iced tea, make sure you know how sweet the “sweet tea” is because it is loaded with sugar. For dessert, be sure to have a slice of pie with a dollop of ice cream on top.

New Restaurants St. Louis 2020

A lot of things are changing, and restaurants come and go, so there is a constant supply of new places to try out. Just check out our guide to read the reviews of the newest places to see which ones are the most exciting.

Kid-Friendly Restaurants St. Louis

St. Louis is a family-oriented city. It is full of family restaurants and fun restaurants that have Western themes and other unique attractions that kids enjoy. There are kid-friendly restaurants downtown that offer kid-sized meals with classic kid’s foods like mac and cheese, mini-sized hamburgers, pizza, or spaghetti.

Romantic Restaurants in St. Louis

The romantic restaurants St. Louis has to offer are the somewhat pricey ones that have fantastic views of the skyline and the world-famous St. Louis Arch. You can enjoy an intimate meal in a romantic setting and the beautiful view will set the proper mood.

Nice Restaurants in St. Louis

Locals like to brag that there are many nice restaurants in St. Louis. If forced to make a choice of the nicest restaurants St. Louis has to offer, we would say The Hill area has the nice Italian restaurants and the downtown area has the nice steak restaurants. If you follow the reviews in our guide, you will find many other nice restaurants in each category.

FAQ

Here are the top three most commonly asked questions:

  1. Where do locals eat in St. Louis? The answer is everywhere. The top 10 list changes frequently because there are so many good choices. In general, many restaurants with trattoria in the name or found on The Hill area will offer good Italian food. Bars and grills are popular. The seafood/steak houses are usually good choices. The Mexican restaurants offer good value with filling meals for a low price, and the barbecue is out of this world.
  2. What food is St. Louis famous for? Barbecue, St. Louis-style pizza, gooey butter cake, and toasted ravioli.
  3. What are the must-eat or must-try restaurants in St. Louis?
  • Concrete (ice cream custard with a choice of dozens of mixed-in ingredients that is frozen solid) at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.
  • Gerber Sandwich (open-faced sandwich with garlic butter, ham, provolone cheese, sprinkled with paprika, and then toasted) at Ruma’s Deli.
  • Gooey Butter Cake
  • Pork steak at Smoki O’s Barbeque.
  • St. Louis Slinger (hamburger patty, hash browns, and two eggs sunny side up) at Courtesy Diner.
  • St. Louis-style pizza at Imo’s Pizza.
  • St. Paul Sandwich (egg foo young patty with dill pickle, lettuce, tomato, and mayo, on white bread) at most Chinese takeout restaurants.
  • Toasted ravioli at Mama Toscano’s Ravioli.

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