BEST N W E
the margherita pizza at noto italian restaurant, one of the best new restaurants of the year, p. 22
R E S T aU R A N T S
December 2020 MAGAZINE I 1 ST. LO U I Sâ€™ I N D E P E N D E N T C U L I N A RY AUTH O R IT Y // S AU C E MAGA Z I N E .C O M // Fsaucemagazine.com R E E , D E C E MIBSAUCE E R 2020
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DECEMBER 2020 • VOLUME 20, ISSUE 10 What’s your favorite seasonal pie?
Allyson Mace potato pie Meera Nagarajan Liz Wolfson Lauren Healey Coconut Adam Rothbarth cream pie Lauren Healey Meera Nagarajan Michelle Volansky Julia Calleo, Virginia Harold, Lauren Healey, Izaiah Johnson, David Kovaluk, Greg Rannells, Adam Rothbarth, Carmen Troesser Pizza pie. Haha, CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Lauren Healey, Meera Nagarajan, Michael just kidding, it's Renner, Adam Rothbarth, Michelle Volansky, pecan pie. Liz Wolfson ADVERTISING SALES MANAGER Allyson Mace ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Angie Rosenberg EVENTS COORDINATOR Amy Hyde LISTINGS EDITOR Amy Hyde INTERNS Micah Barnes, Eva France, Blakely Gibeaut, Riley Mack, Greta Nagy PUBLISHER EXECUTIVE EDITOR MANAGING EDITOR DIGITAL EDITOR STAFF WRITER EDIBLE WEEKEND EDITOR ART DIRECTOR SENIOR DESIGNER CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS
Cherry a la mode
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St. Louis, MO 63103 December 2020
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contents D EC E M B E R 2 02 0
9 EAT THIS
Pupusas at El Guanaco Taqueria y Pupuseria
by liz wolfson 11 HIT LIST
BEST NEW RESTAURANTS OF 2020 The 10 restaurants that won our hearts this year
COVER DETAILS BEST NEW RESTAURANTS The one that started it all: the margherita pizza at Noto, one of the Best New Restaurants of 2020. Learn more on p. 22. PHOTO BY GREG RANNELLS
by meera nagarajan, michael renner, adam rothbarth, michelle volansky and liz wolfson
3 new places to try this month
by meera nagarajan, adam rothbarth and liz wolfson 15 DRINK THIS Sumpkin at Sump Coffee
by adam rothbarth
last bite 44 WHAT I DO Pastry chef Sharon Harter
by lauren healey
17 MEALS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE
Juniper executive chef Matt Daughaday
by adam rothbarth
Tune in to St. Louis Public Radio 90.7 FM this month when Sauce joins St. Louis on the Air.
Kemollâ€™s Chop House
by meera nagarajan
onion rings at perennial on lockwood
PHOTO BY IZAIAH JOHNSON
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PHOTO BY JULIA CALLEO
El Guanaco Taqueria y Pupuseria, 10633 Page Ave., St. Louis, 314.473.1027, Facebook: El Guanaco Taqueria y Pupuseria
After trying the pupusas (stuffed griddle cakes) at El Guanaco Taqueria y Pupuseria in North County, we understand why El Salvador has a national holiday celebrating the dish. The queso con loroco option was our favorite – the small, juicy buds of the loroco vine (found in Central America and Mexico) are a perfect textural counterpoint to the soft-yet-crispy corn cake’s gooey cheese filling. Tear off a piece and pile on some of the accompanying curtido, a piquant cabbage slaw, or dunk it in smoky tomato salsa. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more perfect bite.
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3 new places to try this month
PHOTO BY ADAM ROTHBARTH
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HIT LIST p. 2 of 3
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opposite page: baked goods and a cappuccino at the annex coffee and foods; clockwise, from top: dishes at diego's, the interior at khanna's desi vibes, dal with butter naan at khanna's desi vibes, pravin khanna, the patio at the annex coffee and foods
ANNEX PHOTOS BY LAUREN HEALEY; DIEGO'S PHOTOS BY ADAM ROTHBARTH; DESI VIBES PHOTOS COURTESY OF PRAVIN KHANNA
THE ANNEX COFFEE AND FOODS From the owners of Frisco Barroom and Civil Alchemy, the Annex Coffee and Foods offers far more than your morning cup. Locally roasted Coma coffee is available to go along with house-made pastries and breads. You can even sip on cocktails while you peruse the grab-and-go menu or shop the wide selection of specialty foods like tinned fish, preserves and fine olives. Try the light, fresh Moroccan chickpea salad, made with shaved carrots, pistachios and shallots in a lemon-cumin vinaigrette. It’s a great complement to the Cuban sandwich, which combines ham hock terrine, mojo citrusmarinated pork loin and sweet and sour shaved pickles and peppadew peppers on a house-made baguette. Though not entirely traditional, it’s a sandwich even a Cubano purist could love. Be prepared to leave the Annex with something from the cooler for dinner, like house-made duck and sausage gumbo or potato pierogis.
8122 Big Bend Blvd., Webster Groves, 314.731.6329, theannexstl.com
KHANNA'S DESI VIBES
DIEGO'S We’re happy to report that Diego’s, the long-anticipated Mexican cantina from the team behind neighboring Frida’s, was worth the wait. Co-owner and chef Natasha Kwan won us over with well-executed classics like creamy esquites (Mexican corn salad) and an incredible shrimp tostada with avocado mash, radish, tangy pickled onion and super fresh crema. Leftfield tricks included a flavorful and picturesque barramundi fish taco and the massive, cylindrical queso chicharrones, which wooed our resident cheese-lovers with its rich combination of queso Chihuahua, monterey jack and Parmesan cheeses along with roasted chiles. The University City restaurant’s prices may not make it the first stop for casual Taco Tuesday warriors – most tacos are $6 – but for those who can swing it, you’ll be glad you stopped in.
Khanna’s Desi Vibes opened quietly this October in a warm and inviting space designed by owner Pravin Khanna and his cousin Bobby Jaggi. Familiar favorites like lamb rogan josh and butter chicken are offered alongside fusion dishes like paneer tikka quesadilla, a flour tortilla stuffed with mozzarella cheese, paneer and grilled vegetables. Start with the traditional vegetarian samosas served with a tamarind sauce and the tricolor paneer tikka: cheese marinated in either mint and cilantro, tikka masala spices or a spiced cream sauce, all cooked in a tandoor oven and served with mint and onion. Then be sure to order the standout entree: DV Veg Navratan Pulao, a rice dish cooked in cream scented with saffron, cumin, coriander and chiles. Studded with raisins, cashews and a mix of crisp-tender vegetables, the pulao was perfectly executed. The dal makhani, a popular north Indian dish made with black lentils in a tomato sauce incorporating ginger, garlic and cream, was also delicious, especially when sopped up with fresh butter naan and amritsari alu kulcha, a potato-stuffed flatbread.
13724 Olive Blvd., Chesterfield, 314.392.9348, desivibesstl.com
630 North and South Road, University City, 314.553.9906, diegosstl.com
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drink This Whether it’s a pumpkin beer, a pumpkin spice latte or any myriad seasonal “pumpkin”flavored foods, a perfectly balanced spice mix is always the difference between a great success and a horrible disaster. With Sump’s official entry into the PSL game, the Sumpkin, they nail their blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom and allspice, providing a subtle but delicious base for silky steamed milk (we love it with oat milk) and Sump’s powerful single-origin espresso. Don’t listen to the haters – there’s absolutely no shame in loving this wintry treat.
PHOTO BY JULIA CALLEO
Sump Coffee, 3700 S. Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, 917.412.5670, sumpcoffee.com
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Niche Restaurant, 2008 The first meal that I always go to – it set me on the path that ultimately brought me where I am today – is the first time I ate at Niche Restaurant. It was a first date situation, so I wanted to pick somewhere nice, and I’d always heard Niche was an awesome place to go. The meal I ended up having was sous vided pork tenderloin on top of Brussels sprouts; it had shiitake mushrooms, bacon, caramelized onion and a spiced carrot puree underneath. It was probably one of the best plates of food, hands down, that I’ll ever have. It didn’t seem fancy, it didn’t seem unreachable, it just seemed like one of the best things I’d ever tasted. It encapsulated everything that I thought food should be. It doesn’t have to be visually stunning; it just has to taste really good.
Eventide Oyster Co., 2014
ILLUSTRATION BY VIDHYA NAGARAJAN
MEALS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE
M AT T DAU G H A DAY
We initially met Matt Daughaday while he was working for Niche Food Group, first as a sous chef at Niche Restaurant and then as executive chef at Taste Bar. From there, Reeds American Table in Maplewood was his first solo venture, where he recruited some of the brightest stars the St. Louis food scene had to offer – sommelier Andrey Ivanov (now master sommelier), sommelier Alisha Blackwell-Calvert and pastry chef Summer Wright, to name a few. With Reeds now shuttered, Daughaday is applying his talent as executive chef at Juniper, John Perkin’s Southern-inspired restaurant that combines traditional flavors with solid technique to make dishes that shine, an approach that feels like Daughaday through and through. Here, he shares three meals that changed his life. – Meera Nagarajan
In Portland, Maine, there’s a restaurant called Eventide – they do these rolls, like plays off lobster rolls, and oysters with different ices and accompaniments. A simple, easy, casual place, but every bite of food I had there was pretty amazing. I recently made my version of those rolls at Juniper; we did a crab roll on a milk bun with preserved lemon aioli and Korean chile flake. Portland has the highest density of restaurants per capita or something like that, but it reinforces the idea that good food can happen anywhere if it’s just
representing where you are well. Simple can still accomplish so much.
U. City Quality Foods (Stan’s), 1995 Where Winslow’s Table is right now, [when I was] growing up, was U. City Quality Foods – we always used to call it Stan’s, it was a little market. My family had a running credit – it was a really old school sort of place; you could just go and sign for what you wanted. Stan, the butcher behind the counter, would make sandwiches, and his sandwiches were the greatest thing in the world to me. My sandwich that I got my whole life was just turkey and Swiss, and later I added mustard. And then I would eventually get iceberg lettuce. And then eventually I added Miracle Whip too. Sandwiches are better when somebody else makes it for you, because I’d buy all the same ingredients, I’d go home and make this sandwich, and I could never really figure out why his were better. I thought about it as I got older and I knew a little bit more about food; the way he put together a sandwich was different than how most people do. He’d do meat and then the cheese in the middle and then meat and then the lettuce stacked on top, so when you’d take a bite of the sandwich, it was the texture that was really different. I realized that the order of operations – how you put something together – makes a huge difference. You can have all the same ingredients, but if you’re not doing it in this order, you get something else entirely.
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SA FELY C ELEBR AT E T HE HOLIDAYS AT U N ION STATION a Christmas punch with citrus sugar, tropical fruit, spiced rums and orange-almond smash; Holiday Cheer featuring Old Tom gin with cranberry sauce and lime bubbles; and hot buttered rum, a seasonal staple with multiple rums, spiced sweet butter and toasted marshmallow whip served hot.
The halls are decked throughout the entire complex – which was built in 1894 and was once the biggest and busiest train terminal in the nation – but the Grand Hall, which is debuting a holiday pop-up bar this year that runs through Dec. 31, may be the star of the show with its Instagram-worthy tree, lights and other holiday décor. The Grand Hall features a light show on the stunning 65-foot, barrel-vaulted ceiling every hour.
Don’t miss out on Pancakes with Santa with seatings beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 10:45 a.m. on select weekend mornings in December. If you still need some extra holiday festivity, check out the a la carte lunch, Lunch Under the Lights, on offer in the Grand Hall from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 20. The Polar Express returns this year as a walk-through journey to the North Pole. The popular magical event runs daily through Dec. 30 with timed tickets to allow for ample social distancing.
The Grand Hall pop-up bar also offers a variety of new small bites and specialty cocktails, including the Coquito, a traditional, creamy coconut-based holiday drink similar to boozy eggnog; and a caramel hot toddy featuring salted caramel with cider and herbed bourbon served hot. There’s also Jingle Juice,
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After you’ve had your fill of the attractions, stop by Soda Fountain to try the holiday Freak Shake. It’s made with Clementine's peppermint ice cream and is served in a 20-ounce take-home reindeer mug
decorated with a gingerbread cookie man and a Christmas tree sucker and topped with reindeer corn. For more information, visit stlouisunionstation.com. “Even if you don’t buy a ticket to one of the attractions, it’s still a great place to have a hot chocolate and walk around,” said Union Station’s Todd Hotaling. “We’re excited to be able to have something where people can still celebrate the holidays in a safe and responsible manner.” In addition to the sleigh-fuls of fun at Union Station, Three-Sixty, the rooftop restaurant and bar at the Hilton at the Ballpark just a mile down the road, is featuring Up on the Rooftop, a snow globe-decorated pop-up daily from 4 to 11 p.m. If you’re leaving the kids at home, take the elevator up to Three-Sixty to sip on specialty cocktails while keeping warm by a fire pit on the patio 400 feet above downtown St. Louis and enjoying 360-degree views of the skyline. No reservations required. For more information, visit 360-stl.com.
PHOTOS COURTESY UNION STATION
The holidays may be quite a change of pace from years past, but Union Station in downtown St. Louis still has a slew of holiday attractions, events and other family-friendly fun lined up to make your holidays as merry and bright as possible while adhering to all recommended safety precautions.
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These are challenging times for our friends in the food and beverage industry and Sauce is doing all we can to help. From keeping St. Louis updated on all the industry news through our continued editorial coverage to lending a helping hand to restaurants, bars and more through our Sauce Supports initiative. Look up your favorite restaurants to see their current offerings on our Covid-19 Restaurant Guide - open dining rooms, curbside service, delivery, and more. Visit saucemagazine.com/restaurant-guide.
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FROM THE SAUCE TEAM The Best New Restaurants list is traditionally the subject of months of impassioned argument at Sauce Magazine. Each of us enters the process with our own sense of which restaurants are best, but after spending countless weeks sharing meals and debating feverishly, we compile a ranked list we all agree on. As per usual, our debates this year revolved around which restaurants most effectively executed an ambitious menu, which provided the most graceful service, which spots we couldn’t wait to return to. But this year also brought new philosophical issues that we’d never dealt with before, like how to safely undertake this process and how to measure what success looks like in an industry where it feels like simply remaining open for service deserves the highest accolades. More than anything, we wondered, what does going out to eat mean in 2020? When the Cares Act passed in March, it offered temporary relief, but it did not save St. Louis restaurants. With the $120 billion Restaurants Act stalled in the Senate, it is hard to predict when relief will reach the hands of St. Louis’ independent hospitality community. Meanwhile, as Covid-19 cases surged this fall, local governments issued further mandates to restaurants limiting hours and modes of service. In our ongoing coronavirus coverage, we’ve asked restaurant owners and employees to share their hardships with readers. Some are fed up with following the rules, some are doing everything they can to adapt and survive, and some have closed permanently. But all of them have tried to do their best, as have we. And in contemplating our own role in covering the St. Louis dining sphere in 2020, the highest service we feel we can offer is to continue doing what we’ve always done: serving our readership with honest recommendations about restaurants we believe you will love. Some restaurants were long awaited, like Tempus, while others were newcomers to the scene, like Love At First Bite. What all 10 have in common is that they make delicious food that is meaningful, memorable and leaves us hungry for more. It feels right to celebrate them and share them with you, our readers. We hope you enjoy. The Sauce Team
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REST December 2020
N W E
THE LUCKY ACCOMPLICE, THE BEST NEW RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR
THE 10 RESTAURANTS THAT WON OUR HEARTS THIS YEAR
aU R A N T S by meera nagarajan, michael renner, adam rothbarth, michelle volansky and liz wolfson
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There’s an old platitude that defines luck as what
happens when preparation meets opportunity.
The Lucky Accomplice pushes a similar line on its website, where an ultrastylish purple and black banner reads “make your own luck.” The curious
irony here is that, in light of the pandemic, the circumstances around the opening of chef Logan Ely’s newest restaurant could hardly be described as fortunate. “I really did not want to open it during this thing, but there’s no end in sight, so we’re going to have to make the best of a weird situation,” Ely told us
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shortly before his new spot went live. A second irony, revealed upon dining at the restaurant, is that The Lucky Accomplice is no supporting character, as its name may suggest – it’s the ultimate symbol of Ely’s journey to date. Starting with his Square1 Project pop-ups and then at his first restaurant,
Shift, which opened in 2018, Ely searched for ways to transform familiar ingredients like apples, onions and squash into brilliant and unique components of his small plate courses. Shift became a laboratory of sorts, where Ely could experiment in a controlled environment and diners could pop in
to observe and experience his work. “I think I opened a restaurant for a very selfish reason, and that was just to learn and to grow,” Ely says, reflecting on Shift and its lauded tasting menu. “It was the next evolution and the next challenge, the next big chance to learn a lot. The only thing I was trying December 2020
violette), while a featured Dreamsicle slushy found sweet marriage between a screwdriver and a vanilla dessert, complete with a head of foamy whipped cream. The smart wine program is full of hip naturals both by the glass and as bottles; draft beers include fresh brews from locals like 2nd Shift and Perennial Artisan Ales.
THE LUCKY ACCOMPLICE PHOTOS BY IZAIAH JOHNSON
to accomplish with Shift was trying to get better and learn and make mistakes and fix them.” After closing Shift’s dining room in the spring due to the pandemic, Ely and his team searched for a new paradigm, first doing barbecue, then to-go sandwiches under the name Shift Sausages & Sandwiches. Dishes like the smashed brat burger, which harbored an enormous tater tot within, and the french onion melt with yeast fondue, which harkened back to one of Ely’s beloved Shift courses, bridged utility and wild imagination. At the same time, though, Ely was also working on a mysterious new space called The Lucky Accomplice. At the end of September, he put Shift into hibernation as December 2020
he finally opened his new restaurant. With dishes named simply beets, grilled onions and chicken cooked in yogurt, the menu barely gestures toward how complex and intricate Ely’s flavors and textures actually are. Fluffy, almost-still-wet sweet potato bread is served alongside the most effervescent whipped quark with golden raisin gremolata. Together, they’re earthy and funky, full of bright citrus and sharp acid – a perfectly balanced starter likely to dominate any dip you’ve recently salivated over while scrolling Instagram. The eggplant and burrata carmelle, with its vinegar-packed tomatoes and impeccably cooked noodles, reminds us of how good pasta can be – and how often it falls short.
The gigantic toasted raviolo, which hovers over a basin of Parmesan foam and spills over the edges of a normal-sized plate, is not a mere gimmick but an inspired invention that urges us to think differently about a dish we’ve had a thousand times. The everything tater tot and its crispycreamy-cured combo of fried potato, cream cheese and salmon turns a brunch staple into an upscale revelation, the mutant sibling of something that could be a single-bite course on a Michelinstarred tasting menu. If you’re drinking at this restaurant, there’s a 100% chance you’re getting something extremely cool. The small cocktail list is full of classics like the Jungle Bird (rum, Campari, pineapple) and an Aviation spritz (gin, cava, creme de
Or, if you’re feeling the weight of 2020, for $5 you can order The Lucky Accomplice, a beer-anda-shot combo available as either a Busch with a shot of Jameson or a Logboat Snapper IPA with a shot of Comoz vermouth. The offering indicates with tongue in cheek that Ely and company aren’t taking themselves too seriously. They know you showed up for the confit carrots barigoule with black olive oil and walnuts but also recognize that you may just need a goddamn drink. From the combo’s name, we can infer that they probably do as well.
The Lucky Accomplice is not an endpoint for Logan Ely, but merely another stop on his quest to improve himself and his craft. In his journey from avant-garde cuisine to sandwiches and back again, Ely has figured out how to comfort us by taking dishes and forms we know and elevating them to a highly ambitious place that barely feels like fine dining. Sophisticated but approachable, The Lucky Accomplice is a complete thought and a full expression of our moment, a place where people can go to log off and experience something truly new, whether it be an eyeopening bite of fried egg with preserved sunchokes and broccoli gremolata or the gargantuan toasted raviolo of their dreams. In the end, this restaurant offers seriously creative food and drinks that could only have come from this team, at this restaurant, in this moment. That’s why it’s the most important restaurant of 2020. – AR
previous spread: from left, eggplant and burrata carmelle, chef and co-owner logan ely
opposite page: the lucky accomplice dining room
this page: from top, toasted raviolo, everything tator tot
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torta della nona
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In St. Peters, on the side of what feels like a highway, lies Noto Italian Restaurant, the hidden gem of the 2020 Best New Restaurants list. “It’s pretty much a bunch of fast food or chains, and I could tell people are starving for something different out here,” said co-owner Kendele Sieve.
PHOTOS BY GREG RANNELLS
Sieve and husband Wayne Sieve’s journey to restaurant ownership began with their first visit to Italy as a couple in 2010. “I just fell in love with Neapolitan pizza, and it was a constant pursuit of trying to recreate the pizza that I had there – I had an obsession with it,” Wayne Sieve said. That obsession led to buying a wood-fired oven for their home, to launching a food truck, and, eventually, to opening their first joint restaurant. Every aspect of the pizza pays homage to the tradition of the Neapolitan style. The oven was handcrafted by a family in Naples that has been building pizza ovens for over 100 years; the Caputo flour used for the crust is milled and shipped from Naples; the December 2020
sauce is made solely from San Marzano tomatoes; all in an effort to recreate and share that first experience. Wayne Sieve’s commitment to perfecting the dough resulted in a chewy, flavorful foundation that gets a crackling char from the flames in the oven. “The margherita pizza represents everything that I love about Neapolitan pizza, and I really like to start any guest that’s never had our pizza with a margherita – it’s the one I could eat every single day,” he said. The combination of the couple individual strengths is what makes Noto truly extraordinary. Kendele Sieve, who used to help run her father’s bakery, J. Noto Bakery, brings restaurant experience, a deep understanding of the clientele in St. Peters, and considerable pastry skills. These are most apparent in her ethereal torta della nona, featuring a cake-like tart shell filled with a delicate, lemonscented pastry cream and pine nuts. Finished with dollops of whipped cream and garnished with a pizzelle cookie, it
was dazzling, a dessert so memorable it rivaled the pizza. Luckily, you don’t have to choose; you can have both, and you should. The strength of the menu is that every section offers something special – there are no weak links. The Noto house salad, which includes artichokes, peppers and creamy Italian dressing, is the star of the salad section. The plump hazelnut-ricotta ravioli, bathed in brown butter, was a standout in the
house-made pasta section. The drinks menu features a smoked Negroni that was balanced and beautiful. While the Sieves knew what their St. Peters neighbors looked for in a restaurant, they didn’t expect the loyalty of patrons across the metro area as well. When you try the food at Noto, you can feel that this family operation has harnessed something special, making it a restaurant you cannot help but return to. – MN
clockwise, from left: smoked negroni, noto coowners wayne and kendele sieve, margherita pizza
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P E R E N N I A L If you ever wondered what would happen if a far-flung South City craft brewery and an upscale American restaurant in the suburbs joined forces, Perennial on Lockwood is your answer. By partnering with the team behind Olive + Oak and building out a beautiful new space in the old Auto Beauty Specialists complex in downtown Webster Groves, Perennial Artisan Ales has taken the best of both brands and produced a formidable new identity: an inviting, modern brewpub full of magical food and dapper charm.
Executive chef Evan Buchholz’s confident menu is full of powerful flavors and creative, refreshing execution, reminding us that food doesn’t have to be an afterthought at breweries. The autumn panzanella, with its tender roasted squash and beets, pretzel croutons and brown butter-goat cheese, made for a truly great salad; the whipped feta starter recalled sister restaurant The Clover and the Bee’s elegance without feeling lifted. The onion rings
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with “umami sauce” found an awesome nexus of fried, tangy and creamy. The veggie melt managed a vibrant current between its bitter braised greens, roasted cauliflower and creamy Thousand Island dressing, while the crispy chicken thigh with Sichuan spice offered a showstopping punch to the taste buds. (Luckily, we had a table full of beer.) It’s not even that this is great brewery food – it’s just great food, period. This is the kind of place you’re always
excited to go, even if you just ate there. We already knew Perennial’s beer was excellent, but Perennial on Lockwood is taking it to the next level. The hits are here, from the Southside Blonde and the Saison de Lis to their Pils, but what’s really exciting is the fact that Perennial will be doing new and experimental beers exclusively for this location; at any given time, anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of the beer selection will be made on
site. Head brewer Chris Kinast is running that program, and he plans to indulge his wildest dreams: sessionable Belgian beers, new hazy IPAs, maltforward pub beers and more. We can’t wait to see what he does. Perennial on Lockwood is much more than a beerdrinker’s paradise; it’s a thoughtful marriage of two already-great institutions that offers plenty of room to grow. They couldn’t have found a better starting point. – AR
Perennial on Lockwood’s aesthetic achieves the perfect urban-rustic balance. Sleek, dark wood, glass, mirror and leather give the dining room an old-school pub feel; comically large refurbished speakers whisper folk-rock tunes into every corner of the space. Next door, a stunning, sunlit galley offers diners shelter from the elements while still giving them room to breathe. The space is cozy and accessible, offering a sanctuary for beer nerds, families looking for a satisfying meal and everyone in between – it’s the ethos of Webster Groves in the form of a restaurant.
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opposite page: veggie melt at perennial on lockwood
this page, clockwise, from top left: autumn panzanella, onion rings, chef evan buchholz, the bar, crispy chicken thigh sandwich and perennial beers all at perennial on lockwood
TOP DISHES OF THE (SORT OF) YEAR This year’s Top Dishes column is like no other. It is “unprecedented,” as we say about everything now. I’ve chosen my favorite pre-pandemic dishes from the restaurants I reviewed between December 2019 and March 2020. All of them make me long for the full reopening and survival of St. Louis’ dining scene.
THE BELLWETHER’S CHICKEN PAPRIKASH
Braised with sweet vermillion-hued paprika and served on a bed of aromatic, nutmeg-infused spaetzel dappled with dollops of lemon crema, executive chef Thomas Furtell’s transformative interpretation of the humble Hungarian dish proved lighter but no less comforting.
TURMERIC’S CHARGRILLED MASALA HALIBUT
Roasted in a banana leaf, the firm fish was finished on the grill and served on a bed of spinach poriyal with a creamy yogurt-fenugreek sauce so delicious I’d pour it on toast.
IL PALATO’S CAPESANTE
This dish captured the fading winter season by intermingling meaty diver scallops and seared parsnips on a pillow of creamy parsnip puree, while a gentle douse of bright and tart salsa verde signaled a glimpse into the impending spring.
CHAO BAAN’S WHOLE POMPANO FISH
PHOTOS BY IZAIAH JOHNSON
The deep-fried whole pompano served in a pungent chilegarlic-tamarind sauce and garnished with a colorful array of cilantro, lime and bird’s-eye chiles is the restaurant’s showpiece. Further excavation revealed the best part: sweet and tender cheek meat.
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cH AN g i
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Chiang Mai pays homage in name and spirit to chef-owner Su Hill’s hometown in northern Thailand and shares with us a rare taste of the region’s food. The friendly staff aren’t there to judge your lack of familiarity with the cuisine; rather, they’re excited to teach you just when to take tiny bites of fresh Thai chile pepper and how to quell the heat with crisp lettuce and fresh cilantro. The menu is a confident, straightforward list
of regional signature dishes that make those lucky enough to already know them raise their eyebrows in excitement. House-made sakoo sai moo? In St. Louis? Sure enough, the tricky-tomaster tapioca dumplings filled with minced pork, preserved white radish and peanuts are beautifully round with a satisfying texture combination of soft, chewy and crunchy. Larb khua, a type of ground meat salad, is laid out like you’re a guest in
Hill’s home with fresh herbs, vegetables and sticky rice; lettuce and pork rinds come on the side for scooping. While you may be familiar with the more common Lao larb, which is sweet and sour with plenty of fish sauce, Chiang Mai’s version focuses on dried spices like cloves, cumin, long pepper, star anise, cinnamon and ground chiles. Even the khao soi, a chicken and curry noodle dish commonly found on Thai takeout menus, has its own
distinct personality, with a darker, burnt orange color and nuanced spice mix. There are no trendy cocktails, slickly designed dining spaces or “innovated” fusion menu items at Chiang Mai, the building blocks you might pessimistically assume make up these end-of-year best-of lists. Its strength is skillfully prepared food that isn’t interested in compromising itself to be easy – and we’re ready to learn. – MV
opposite page: chefowner su hill
PHOTOS BY GREG RANNELLS
this page: from top, sakoo sai moo and khao soi
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chef-owner tommy andrew
Before trying Tommy Andrew’s pastrami at Nomad,
PHOTOS BY IZAIAH JOHNSON
we thought we knew pastrami.
We’ve always been in love with the giant wads of peppery beef served between slices of rye bread served at delis here in St. Louis and in other cities across the country. But after eating at Nomad, all our assumptions about what pastrami even is flew out the window.
Mind-blowingly juicy but also speckled with crunchy bits, Andrew’s pastrami melds the best aspects of the urbane deli counter and rugged barbecue. “I was really big on the bark,” Andrew explained, recalling the four months he spent developing his method. “It’s very heavy spice, with black pepper and coriander, and you want to get that bark on
there – it soaks up all that smoke, so it gets crispy. We literally could hear it crack sometimes.” Whether you bite into it on the pastrami sandwich, on the Double Deuce burger (a burger-pastrami sandwich mash-up) or served atop a mound of poutine (made with Provel, naturally), the complexity Andrew has so carefully cultivated shines through. A veteran of some
of St. Louis’ finest kitchens including Monarch, Randolfi’s and Cinder House, Andrew was named a Sauce One to Watch in 2015. It’s not surprising that he has the imagination and skill to take a favorite old standard and push it further, transforming it in unexpected and gratifying ways. While the pastrami is the standout item,
it’s hardly the only great thing at Nomad. Specialty burgers like the unctuous, double-pork patty Dumpter Fire! and outstanding sides like the grainy Creole mustardforward potato salad and funky, sour kimchi Brussels sprouts make for a well-rounded menu that balances reliable excellence with surprising pops of creativity and innovation. – LW
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PHOTOS BY GREG RANNELLS
WINSLOW TABLE â€™S
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BEST NEW RESTAURANTS OF 2020 1. THE LUCKY ACCOMPLICE
2501 S. Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, 314.354.6100, theluckyaccomplice.com
2. NOTO ITALIAN RESTAURANT
5105 Westwood Drive, St. Peters, 636.317.1143, notopizza.com
opposite page: winslow’s table
3. PERENNIAL ON LOCKWOOD
216 W. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves, Facebook: Perennial On Lockwood
this page: from top, oyster and shiitake mushroom pizza at winslow’s table
4. CHIANG MAI
8158 Big Bend Blvd., Webster Groves, 314.961.8889, chiangmaistl.com
and Michael Gallina took over
cherished University City brunch mecca Winslow’s Home last November, relaunching it as Winslow’s Table, they infused the beloved spot’s old vibes with the vegetable-forward, farmto-table style they’ve found so successful at their first restaurant, Vicia. “Winslow’s Home was a place, for Michael and me, that we always loved coming to,” Tara Gallina said of their decision to take over the restaurant. “We felt an instant connection with their ethos and with Winslow’s Farm.” With Vicia veteran (and 2018 Sauce Magazine One to Watch) Alec Schingel December 2020
in charge of the kitchen, the team strove to keep the breakfast and lunch offerings familiar, but with a few “Vicia-esque touches,” including a more elevated dinner menu. “We wanted to be different, but not too different for the folks who had loved coming there for a long time,” Gallina explained. We could go on for paragraphs about why the pillowy oyster and shiitake mushroom pizza is one of the best white pies we’ve ever had, how the creamy-savory grain salad with herb pesto finds real voltage between its bitter herbs and roasted root vegetable flavors, or why the marinated radish and turnip tartine with whipped mushroom ricotta on fresh bread
nearly made us emotional. But what’s ultimately so impressive about Winslow’s Table is how it succeeds in honoring the Winslow’s Home tradition and culture while bringing just the right number of
fresh ideas into the mix. Between its dynamic menu, awesome produce and prepared foods market, and fantastic pastry program, this concept is a slam dunk by any standard. – AR
1221 Tamm Ave., St. Louis, 314.696.2360, Facebook: Nomad STL
6. WINSLOW’S TABLE 7213 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314.725.7559, winslowstable.com
7. LAZY TIGER
210 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, lazytigerstl.com
4370 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314.349.2878, tempusstl.com
9. ORIGINAL J’S
7359 Forsyth Blvd., University City, 314.202.8335, originaljs.com
10. LOVE AT FIRST BITE
10479 St. Charles Rock Road, St. Ann, 314.695.5440, loveatfirstbitestl.com
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PHOTOS BY CARMEN TROESSER
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Lazy Tiger may be small in stature – the space seats just 22 while the food menu features about a dozen items – but everything about it, from decor to flavor, is styled for maximal effect. The bar’s interior feels like the inside of a jewel box: The walls are a dark, lush green; the seating is covered in black leather; dark red carpets drape the wood floors.
on its own and was even better when chased with a sip of the sharp Street Legal martini. The grilled octopus toast is similarly well-designed: Served on grilled baguette slices with stewed eggplant and toasted pine nuts, the toothsome octopus balances well with the eggplant’s smoothness.
Lazy Tiger’s food and drink menus fit together like puzzle pieces; both feature aggressive flavors, so anything you order pairs fantastically. While a dish like the chicken pibil taquitos could easily have been a greasy bar food afterthought, instead their creamy, smoky flavor was a delight to consume
So many big gestures in such a tiny setting run the risk of drowning each other out. That the Lazy Tiger experience is so cohesive is a testament to an ownership with razor sharp vision and a staff skillful enough to wrangle these many strong pieces into a harmonious whole. – LW
opposite page: lazy tiger, humble brag and stutter step cocktails
this page: from top, chicken pibil taquitos and grilled octopus toast
from left, bartender seth wahlman, bartender jack mcginn, coowner and bartender tim wiggins, lead bartender david greteman
PHOTOS BY CARMEN TROESSER
The bold visuals translate to the food and drink menus, which are similarly full of attention-grabbing ingredient blends and flavor combinations. The eponymous Lazy Tiger packs a serious
punch; made with mezcal, honey, serrano pepper and Tajin, it’s sweet, sour, and spicy, all at once. Even poured from an I.V.-like sack into a glass at home and drunk on the couch, it still delivered the kind of genuinely special experience we expect from our best bars.
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N . O
TEMPUS McChicken clone. Polenta
Bolognese is followed by black cod with kombu clam broth, potato and trout roe. A gin cocktail with oleo-saccharum, milk-washed Earl Grey and dehydrated lemon is listed alongside one with bourbon, vermouth and bitters. Tempus’ menu is all about combining the familiar with the unknown, the comforting with the contemporary. It really works. “I see Tempus as a place for all,” said chefoperator Ben Grupe of his first solo restaurant. “It’s an inclusive environment.”
clockwise, from top left: chefoperator ben grupe, a selection of takeout items, chicken sandwich all at tempus
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While Grupe, who was nominated for a James Beard Award during his time as executive chef of Ben Poremba’s Elaia, worked for years to build out the perfect restaurant and plan a thoughtful menu full of unique dishes, he did not anticipate the kind of environment he’d be opening to. So, he and his team pivoted. “It’s been an exciting challenge
to get across what we’re trying to do. The menu is designed for takeout - it’s designed to go in a box. We can’t really do these refined plateups,” he explained. “Our philosophy and ethos are still the same, but it’s different than what the original vision was.” That said, the rich, balanced bacon sandwich (the restaurant’s take on a BLT), the creamy gnocchi blanketed with maitake mushroom and zesty preserved lemon, and the beautiful olive oil cake with strawberry preserves, pink peppercorn and yogurt prove that Tempus is already a serious restaurant full of radiant ideas, surgical execution and, most importantly, delicious food. “The menu is going to evolve as we evolve,” Grupe said. “We’re starting small, but we’re looking to grow.” Though we’re already well on board, we anxiously await Tempus’ next transformation, whatever it will be. We know that Ben Grupe is just getting started. – AR
BEN GRUPE PORTRAIT BY R.J. HARTBECK; FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY BY VIRGINIA HAROLD; IMAGES COURTESY OF TEMPUS
A char siu lamb belly bun sits next to a
from top: brisket tacos
chef and chicken master andrew enrique cisneros works on his brasas de pollo, a peruvian rotisseriestyle chicken
and Liz Randolph
opened Original J’s
PHOTOS BY CARMEN TROESSER
last November, diners found many of the flavors Mike first explored at his high-concept, pan-Latin restaurant Publico applied to fit a Tex-Mex-meetsbarbecue theme. Meats like his fantastic smoked brisket and the sweet carnitas-style pork are fabulous on their own or as tacos. Fresh flour tortillas are the perfect vehicle for the succulent meats, ensuring minimal loss of delicious juice on the way from plate to mouth. Brightly hued, housemade sauces and salsas are so good you’ll find
yourself scraping every drop with your tortilla (or maybe a finger). In a remarkable feat of flavor mimicry, the smoked tomato jam on the brisket tacos imparts all the smoky sweetness of barbecue sauce without the stickiness. The aji verde salsa that laces the pork tacos combines the flavors of salsa verde with the texture of thinned aioli. Creamy, herbaceous and mildly spicy, it pairs perfectly with the luscious pork. Randolph’s leadership style is collaborative; he sees the best chefs have to offer and lets their work shine. After a pop-up in the fall spearheaded by Andrew
Enrique Cisneros, Randolph’s former chef de cuisine at the shuttered Privado, featuring brasas de pollo (a Peruvian rotisseriestyle chicken) was a smash success, Randolph made it a permanent menu fixture. The chicken, which is brined and marinated for hours before being roasted whole, is extraordinarily moist and encased in crispy, juicy skin. The steak fries it’s served with are truly superlative – oversized but not massive, they perfectly blend the crispiness of a standard fry with the steak fry’s boosted potato flavor and cushy bite. With frozen margaritas and desserts like flan and sopapillas on the horizon as well, it’s clear that Original J’s menu is constantly evolving, whether because they’re adapting or just experimenting. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next. – LW
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LOVE AT FIRST
BI E T
The St. Paul sandwich is a St. Louis food tradition that Love at First Bite has made completely its own. Here, the sandwich, which typically features an egg foo young patty tucked between two pieces of white bread slathered with mayo and topped with pickles, tomato and lettuce, is vegan. The flavor is remarkable – salty with textural elements from cauliflower, onions and peppers. The egg substitute, made from mung beans, is prepared in a wok, maximizing crisped surface area. It’s then folded over a few times, creating alternating layers of crispy and tender bites. It is utterly craveable, and you would never know it was vegan. Love at First Bite’s executive chef and coowner Jason Lamont is putting his twist on dishes
we love. “I wanted to mix soul food with smoke with fine dining with fast food. I love vegan food – when it’s done right, it can be delicious,” Lamont said. Options like low-carb fried rice (in the form of riced cauliflower) with notes of sesame oil, soy and onion, offers a little something new, while Lamont’s smoked brisket shows his technical skill. Lamont’s had a career of cooking in other people’s kitchens. “At Three Kings, I learned to move with a sense of urgency. Chef Brian Hale at Table Three showed me how to cook with alcohol. At Basso, chef Patrick Connolly – a James Beard Award-winning chef – taught me about fine dining,” he said. He recalled learning from Connolly how to poach pears in red wine, a technique he’s applied
to his Lobster On My Spuds, where lobster tails are poached in white wine and butter until perfectly sweet, then unexpectedly placed atop french fries mingled with a Grand Marnier cheese sauce, shallots and chives. Drawing from his experiences, Lamont adds his own ingenuity to make dishes sing. “I’ve come a long, long way, and I know what my
lane is now. I’ve figured it out, and it’s a blessing,” Lamont reflected. His kitchen, nestled behind a modest storefront on an unassuming block of St. Charles Rock Road, is the kind of place you root for, the kind of place that wants to make a small corner in St. Louis its very own by doing something that’s uniquely itself. Try it and you’ll find, like us, that you love it at first bite. – MN
PHOTOS BY GREG RANNELLS
opposite page: from left, customer service manager shaye gross, co-owner monica hodges, executive chef and co-owner jason lamont
this page: from top, the st. paul sandwich and lobster on my spuds
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Gift a taste of home
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L A S T B I T E // W H AT I D O
Facebook: Sharon Asher-Harter Instagram: sharonmharter
like, ‘Yeah, as of right now, just plan on not working for eight weeks.’ I’ve never just been let go like that.”
“ I wa s i n t o t a l s h o c k . I started making soups and selling them because I was having trouble getting unemployment. I started selling meals and baked goods out of my home, and I was able to live comfortably and pay my bills.”
“ M y r o o m m a t e [Hannah Kerne] and I came up with Bakers for Black Lives standing in line at Whole Foods. We asked all the pastry chefs we knew. The event was insane at Vino Gallery. We had something like a couple thousand desserts, and we sold out in an hour and a half. We ended up raising like $14,000 and donating it to St. Louis Mutual Aid. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. Everyone had a great attitude – no one was complaining. We were walking up and down the line handing out waters. Even once we ran out, people were waiting in line because they wanted to donate money.”
Lauded St. Louis pastry chef Sharon Harter didn’t start baking until well into her 20s. In fact, she didn’t do much cooking at all until she got married at 24. “I got super domesticated when I got married, and I realized that I really loved cooking and baking,” she said. Without any formal training or schooling, Harter landed the pastry chef position at Bar Italia and made it her own for over a decade before moving on to work for places like Scape, Polite Society and even the St. Louis Blues. Then the pandemic hit. Here, Harter shares why she loves what she does, how she helped found Bakers for Black Lives and what it took to get back on her feet after losing her job to Covid. – Lauren Healey
“ I ’ m d e f i n i t e ly a b e h i n d t h e - s c e n e s p e r s o n , and it’s
been hard for me because I’m the one who should be speaking – I am the person of color [at Bakers for Black Lives]. Maybe people don’t know that I’m half Black and they just think that I’m some Italian girl doing some kind of white savior thing. Being judged because I might not look Black enough triggered all of these feelings of ‘where do I belong’ from middle school. I’m trying to leave that out of it. It feels good to make money for good causes and actually help people. So we’re going to keep doing it.”
“ I s ta r t e d o f f m a k i n g t h e s e a m a z i n g b i r t h d ay c a k e s and throwing huge parties for my
kids and just baking for friends and family. They all had blowout birthdays. … Cooking and baking are my love language. It’s my self-care.” “ M y s i s t e r wa s d at i n g [ M e n g e s h a Yo h a n n e s ] , t h e o w n e r o f B a r I ta l i a . … They
didn’t have anyone doing desserts. It was so informal. My sister was like, ‘I told Mengesha you like to bake, so he wants to meet with you.’ He knew I didn’t have experience. … I ended up staying about 15 years. My kids grew up there.”
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“A s s o o n a s I l e f t B a r I ta l i a , I started to get noticed. I even
had Food Network reach out for me to try out for one of their shows, but I chickened out. I know [Tyler Davis], who had done it, and he was like, ‘Girl, it is so stressful.’” “A n d t h e n I g o t p o a c h e d a g a i n , working for the Blues. In the off
season, I got to travel for support trips. I did food for a PGA tournament. It was very
hard work – it was good money, but insane hours. It’s like you don’t get any sleep. They just threw me in – I had never done anything like that before.” “ I s ta r t e d d o i n g t h e d e s s e r t s for Polite Society and The
Bellwether. Then, when everyone was told to shut down, [co-owner] Tom [Schmidt] sat us down. For some reason, I thought I’d be able to work a little bit. And he was
“ I t ’ s q u i t e l i b e r a t i n g making
my own schedule. At first, it was a lot of comfort food, but now it’s all healthy: very low-carb, lots of vegetables. I make these cute little menus every week. And I started doing private dinners and popups, which I love. Right now it’s all just on social media, but I need to make a webpage and LLC because eventually I’m going to open a cafe.” December 2020
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L A S T B I T E // L A N D M A R K
KEMOLL’S CHOP HOUSE BY A DA M R OTH BA R TH
House and taking a new focus on dishes like steaks, chops and grilled lobster tails. “It’s hard to believe this, because we were an Italian restaurant for 90 years, but the No. 1 selling item was the 10-ounce filet mignon,” Cusumano said. “So, there’s a little method to our madness.” Many of the Italian classics are still there; other customer favorites have been the cannelloni, veal parmesan and chicken spiedini, while Cusumano’s personal favorites are the lamb shank and the lobster ravioli.
Restaurants love to say that they were the first in town to do something, but in the case of Kemoll’s, it’s usually true. With its deep Sicilian roots – original owner Joe Kemoll and his wife Dora Kemoll’s parents hailed from Sicily – the restaurant has been serving bona fide Italian classics since it opened in 1927. Inheriting cooking skills (and recipes) from her parents, Dora introduced dishes like cheese bread, fried artichokes, manicotti and spaghetti alla carbonara not only to her menu but also to St. Louis’ dining scene. Many of those dishes are still served at the restaurant today in their original forms. “My great-grandmother worked
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there for years and years,” said owner and fourth-generation family member Mark Cusumano. “They developed this cheese bread with seven different cheeses and I don’t know how many spices. When you put it on that bread and it cooks … it’s just one of those things. We’ve been serving that cheese bread for 90 years.” But what makes Kemoll’s special isn’t just the cheese bread or the artichokes, which, when served as a special, bring diners from far and wide. “The reason we’ve lasted almost 100 years is because I do what my father did, what my grandmother did, which is just stick to the
basics of trying to make great food and [provide] great service,” Cusumano said. “It doesn’t always work out, but every day, that’s what your goal is.” Traditions have stayed the same, but the restaurant itself hasn’t at all; the original location was on North Grand, near the old Sportsman’s Park. Then, for over 30 years, it occupied the 40th and 42nd floors of the Metropolitan Square building downtown. There, the eastern side of the dining room overlooked the city and the Arch, with the other side offering unobstructed views straight west to Clayton. Kemoll’s moved to Westport Plaza in 2018, rebranding to Kemoll’s Chop
Some of the staff has been in the game nearly as long as the customers. “The manager started when he was 18. He’s almost 60 years old now,” Cusumano explained. “We have waiters that have been there for 35 years. We have the greatest crew of employees that you could ever imagine. I wouldn’t want to see one of them leave.” Luckily for Cusumano, it seems they rarely do.
323 Westport Plaza Drive, Maryland Heights, 314.421.0555, kemolls.com
PHOTO BY DAVID KOVALUK
from left: the dining room at kemoll's chop house, the original j. kemoll's cafe location on north grand blvd.
The food isn’t the only thing that’s been around for a long time. Cusumano loves sharing stories of meeting people who have eaten at Kemoll’s their entire lives. “I remember my first trip to Kemoll’s. It was in 1938,” a customer recently told him. Two other patrons Cusumano talked to this year said they have been coming since they were 5 and 6 years old; now, they’re 85 and 86. Another couple recently celebrated their anniversary at Kemoll’s after having been married there 50 years earlier.
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