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READERS' CHOICE david choi, owner of your favorite food truck and korean restaurant, seoul taco

S T. L O U I S ’ I N D E P E N D E N T C U L I N A R Y A U T H O R I T Y

Readers’ Choice 2018




Readers’ Choice 2018

Readers’ Choice 2018 I SAUCE MAGAZINE I 3


Readers’ Choice 2018

F i o r i A r r a b b i ata “I eat the fiori arrabbiata almost every day. The noodle has a great bite to it. The arrabbiata is a spicy tomato sauce, and we add a little mascarpone. It’s so simple.”

W i l d B oa r Pa p pa r d e l l e

chef of the year

KATIE COLLIER B l ac k S pag h e t t i “The black spaghetti is for sure [the most popular menu item]. It’s a squid ink spaghetti made in-house with a simple chili-lemon-butter sauce, plus clams, scallops and prawns, and then we top it with salmon roe.”

“I change the menu pretty intensively every year and get rid of a lot of stuff, but I’ve never taken off the fiori, the black spaghetti and the wild boar pappardelle. There are certain items that if we took them off, there would be some upset regulars. I want people to have something comforting that they always know they can get.”

Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria chef-owner Katie Collier has scaled the culinary heights by keeping things simple and letting her food do the talking. This less-is-more aesthetic has garnered her the title Chef of the Year for the second year in a row. “We like highlighting one specific ingredient and let it shine with good sauce or good pizza dough,” Collier said. “That’s how I like to eat.” Here are some of the go-to dishes that keep fans flocking to her restaurants. – Matt Sorrell 9568 Manchester Road, Rock Hill, 314.942.6555; 14171 Clayton Road, Town & Country, 636.220.3238,

T e d ’ s M e at b a l l Pizza


“Pizza-wise, the Ted’s Meatball Pizza is definitely our most popular. The meatballs have pine nuts and pecorino in them, then some San Marzano red sauce and fresh mozzarella.”

Prosciutto Spring Roll “From the original Clayton Road menu, we brought back the prosciutto spring roll – a piece of prosciutto wrapped around some vegetables and fresh mozzarella topped with balsamic. I forgot how popular those were. Every table is Readers’ Choice 2018 getting them.” I SAUCE MAGAZINE I 5


Readers’ Choice 2018

18,000 pizzas delivered daily

5 t o 15 average pounds gained by new employees (but who’s counting?)

100 million+ pounds of Provel used

yo u r fa v o r i t e p i z z a


When you want to grab a slice in The Lou, Imo’s Pizza probably comes to mind first – it’s your Favorite Pizza winner for good reason. The first Imo’s opened in the Shaw neighborhood in 1964. Now, the restaurant chain is one of the most prominent in Missouri, synonymous with St. Louis-style pizza. Here’s what it takes to produce all those Provel-topped pies, by the numbers. – Lauren Healey

the original imo's

what president Carl Imo wishes he got every time he had to explain what Provel is

7 minu t es 30 seconds is the Imo’s pizza cook time






toasted raviolis sold last year

5, 4 00 2 to 3 pizza ovens per store


5,000,000 deliveries and counting

Readers’ Choice 2018

Imo’s pizzas are baked at

4 30 degr ees


years in business I SAUCE MAGAZINE I 7








seoul taco, 6665 delmar blvd., university city, 314.863.1148; 46 four seasons shopping center, chesterfield, 314.548.6868; 8 I SAUCE MAGAZINE I

Readers’ Choice 2018

In 2011, David Choi booked a one-way ticket to the East Coast to buy a food truck. The guy wanted $40,000 for it. “$18,000,” Choi said. “$35,000.” “$18,000,” he repeated, explaining that was everything he had. “About 30 minutes to an hour into our ride back to D.C., the guy called and said, ‘My wife says she’s gonna kill me if this thing isn’t out of my driveway.’ I turned back around and drove the truck all the way home.” Seven years later, Choi stands atop Seoul Taco’s mini-empire, complete with two food trucks, five restaurants and enough Readers’ Choice Awards (Favorite Food Truck, Favorite Korean, second Favorite Tacos just this year) to prove a cult following. So, what’s happened since he poured every penny he had into that first truck, and what’s next for the 33-year-old restaurateur?


“At first, it was really just trying to create something where Korean food would be more accessible in St. Louis. At that time, Roy Choi was doing his thing in L.A. All my free time was traveling, eating and trying different cuisines. From there, it was missing those experiences and trying to cook them at home.”

Readers’ Choice 2018

“Any Korean celebration where there’s a birthday party, holiday or whatever, we’re barbecuing something. Whether it’s rain, snow, sleet, whatever, we’re all out there doin’ it.” “I lived with a Puerto Rican family, so I learned how to cook rice and beans, a few chimichurris and things like – not what you’re typically accustomed to living in West County.” “We just opened up in Chesterfield. Knowing I was from that area, it was just the icing on top of the cake. I was like, ‘Bread Co.’s not there anymore.’ I used to skip class and go to that Bread Co. all the time!” “My parents and their friends came here with nothing. When you’re growing up, you don’t even realize the weight of that – how much people go through to open their businesses, to even see whatever success it is. Man, I see now how hard these people work, so I gotta work just as hard, if not more, to make it.” “Day-to-day’s changed a lot. It went from being every role in the restaurant to now it’s more coaching, leadership and instilling those practices from top to bottom. I would hope that every Seoul Taco has a reflection of my character and personality in it.” “I can open up three stores in three months, which I’ve done before, but that’s pretty crazy. Maybe spread that out a bit? That might have

helped a little bit. But then again, who knows. I might not have learned from that.” “I could go, I could wing it, I could improvise on the fly. But you can’t run a business with 100plus employees by doing that. Am I great at those things now? No, but I’m sure as hell a lot better than I was before.” “We have such a diverse crowd. You have students with backpacks, and then you have people with baby strollers. All of them, you see on their faces – they just enjoy the food. And then you hear Tribe Called Quest in the background, and to me, I think that’s so cool to see.” “Success would be maybe opening into a third market; I think that would be huge. I want to look into another market that has a similar feel to St. Louis and Chicago, down in Texas or Atlanta. Chicagoland has been really good to us. I think it makes sense to open up a few more there as well. And then possibly another concept; I would like to see that.” “I think it’s easy for restaurateurs and different owner-chefs to get bored of what they do, but I still love every minute of it. And I know that there’s potential, and I want to get it to where it needs to be in order to sort of fully let go and start another concept. I want to have that same type of attention to detail I did with Seoul Taco.” – Stacy Schultz I SAUCE MAGAZINE I 9


Readers’ Choice 2018


french toast at the shack

St. Louis has spoken; now it’s time to eat your way through the Sauce Readers’ Choice winners list. Luckily, from golden fried chicken to crisp veggie wraps, some favorites can be tried without breaking the bank. Everyone knows about Mission Taco Joint’s amazing $2 late-night tacos, which won both Favorite Tacos and Favorite Happy Hour. Here are 10 more favorites you can devour at a steal. Readers’ Choice 2018 I SAUCE MAGAZINE I 11

Lulu’s Local Eatery

Even the most ardent meat-eater can find something to love at this year’s Favorite Vegetarian/Vegan spot. Lulu’s on South Grand Boulevard serves imaginative, healthy eats in a minimal space accented by reclaimed wood, natural light and a community vibe. Pull up a seat on the dogfriendly patio and enjoy addictive Buffalo cauliflower bites, banh mi tacos and other fun dishes less than $10, like the sushi bowl made with compressed watermelon “sashimi.” Bonus tip: Ride your bike there, and flash your helmet at the counter for a cool 15 percent off. 3201 S. Grand Ave., St. Louis, 314.300.8215,

Aya Sofia

Aya Sofia, voted Favorite Mediterranean/Middle Eastern, will take you places you never knew existed with a blend of Turkish, Mediterranean and Lebanese flavors. Like the food, the digs have a Middle Eastern influence with large, cushioned chairs, a muted color scheme and classic geometric patterns to set the tone. Lunch is the way to go if you’re on a budget. The kofte, beef and lamb Turkish meatballs, are an absolute delight available in a less expensive wrap, or try your hand at the grilled swordfish and lemon kebabs. The lunch special is the best deal with a generous plate of hummus, tabbouleh, rice pilaf and your choice of a chicken or beef kebab for only $10. 6671 Chippewa St., St. Louis, 314.645.9919,

Three Kings Public House

Voted Favorite Beer Bar, Three Kings has the best of both worlds with a dynamic neighborhood pub menu and quality craft on tap. You can sample a wide array of local and national brews, crossing a few things off your Untappd list while enjoying wings and burgers built to satisfy. Pair


a half-off Logboat Flybye saison with house-made pub chips, barbecue pork sliders or one of the other $6 snacks on the happy hour menu. The Loop location offers a generous menu during a late-night happy hour starting at 10 p.m. with a kitchen that doesn’t close until midnight. Various locations,

John D. McGurk’s Irish Pub & Garden

St. Louis’ Favorite Pub and Favorite Patio this year, McGurk’s, has served up whiskey in the jar for 40 years in downtown Soulard. The patio can accommodate enormous groups, or step inside the classic pub to be transported to the Emerald Isle. A narrow platform at the end of the room serves as a stage for traditional Irish music that guarantees a foot-stomping good time. Between band sets and pints of Guinness, make sure to sample the famous whiskey bread pudding, topped with caramel and raspberry sauce and slathered in whiskey butter for just $6.50. Come up with another two bucks and get ice cream on top. 1200 Russell Blvd., St. Louis, 314.776.8309,

The Shack

When you walk into The Shack, the first thing you notice is the writing on the wall. Waitstaff encourage guests to make their mark with free pens and markers amongst all the couples’ names surrounded by hearts and notes about favorite dishes. The popular restaurant boasts seven locations across the state and has written its name on the hearts of St. Louis diners, who voted The Shack their Favorite Breakfast and Lunch Spot. Funky cereal milkshakes, omelets bursting at the seams and massive sandwiches are all served up with silly names and large portions. Try this month’s doozy of a breakfast special: $3.50 for one massive plate-sized pancake. Various locations,

House of India

It’s no surprise that House of India won Favorite Indian food in St. Louis. For over 20 years, the Delmar restaurant has been a favorite with food critics and novices alike, rarely deviating from its original strategy: offering solid, classic Indian fare with a variety of meat and veggie options and no American substitutions. It’s well understood in foodie circles that the restaurant’s $9.50 weekday buffet is the best way to spice up your lunch hour. There’s no shame in loitering until someone brings out a fresh batch of naan. One taste of the tikka masala or the chicken kabab and the uninitiated will wonder how the secret eluded them so long. 8501 Delmar Blvd., University City, 314.567.6850,


Fried chicken is still having a trendy moment in St. Louis, but Hodak’s is the city’s first love when it comes to deep-fried yardbird. The Benton Park restaurant was voted this year’s Favorite Fried Chicken with a menu so budget friendly, you might actually make money eating here. Sandwiches come stacked high and sides are copious, but we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the half golden fried chicken plate for $9.50. The dining room offers a relaxed, salt-of-the-earth atmosphere, but at peak dining hours, lines expand and available real estate dwindles. Hunker down at the bar and rub elbows with fellow fried chicken enthusiasts, washing down coleslaw and fries with a frosty mug of beer. 2100 Gravois Ave., St. Louis, 314.776.7292,

Chava’s Mexican Restaurant

For south-of-the-border flavors without packing your bags, head to St. Louisans’ Favorite Mexican, Chava’s. Start with a fresh fruit margarita, then take a deep dive into a hot plate of fajita nachos with chargrilled chicken and pico de gallo. There is no shame in lingering over the sizzling delights of the El Mierko

– dual, flash-fried chicken burritos topped with chile con queso. But for a deal, our money is on the steak torta, a fresh bun layered with white cheese, frijoles, marinated sirloin, guacamole, lettuce and pico de gallo, served with waffle fries for only $10. 925 Geyer Ave., St. Louis, 314.241.5503; 217 E. Vandalia St., Edwardsville, 618.692.8192;

King and I

King and I is never one to disappoint. That’s probably why St. Louis has voted the South Grand staple its Favorite Thai spot since the inception of Sauce Readers’ Choice more than 15 years ago. Step in and bask in the intoxicating smell of Thai spices, dark wood decor, soft lighting and soothing atmosphere. Dinner can be an elegant affair or a fast takeout jaunt, but the best time to enjoy The King and I on the cheap is daylight hours. Don’t miss the $10 dine-in lunch special: Choose your preferred hue of delicious curry (green or red) or a plate of pad Thai, accompanied by your choice of crab Rangoon or pot sticker and a beverage. 3157 S. Grand Ave., St. Louis, 314.771.1777,

Blues City Deli

They don’t call it Blues City Deli for nothing. Voted Favorite Deli/ Sandwich Shop, this neighborhood eatery hosts different live roots and blues music every week. The walls are cluttered with troubadour artifacts, but music isn’t the only thing that makes the joint hop every weekend. The sandwich board is unparalleled in town, offering everything from barbecue to New York-style pastrami to po’boys stacked high and ready to be devoured. While devotees swear by the Memphis Stax pulled pork and the muffuletta, you have to try the Cubano. Made with thick-cut ham and topped with a delectable pineapple glaze, it’s the Tuesday special and sells out almost immediately at $6. 2438 McNair Ave., St. Louis, 314.773.8225, Readers’ Choice 2018

king and i's lunch special: $10 Readers’ Choice 2018 I SAUCE MAGAZINE I 13


Readers’ Choice 2018

booth from left, fabian sosa, brian bethel, jason scroggins and ed diedrich; outside booth from left, beto castro, jhonetta phillips, adam pritchett, kaitlin bullota, john mordvar and maria ordonez Hi-Pointe Drive-In 1033 McCausland Ave., St. Louis, 314.349.2720,


RESTAURANT hi-pointe drive-in

Readers’ Choice 2018

Since opening in January 2017, Hi-Pointe Drive-In has become known for being over-the-top in every way, from the multicolor building that looks like it’s made from giant Legos, to the regular menu of massive burgers and sandwiches, to the kitchen’s penchant for putting out one-off crazy creations on special daily. It’s this focus on delicious fun and games that has garnered Hi-Pointe regular queues of hungry diners out the door and the title of Readers' Choice Best New Restaurant. Executive chef Adam Pritchett and his crew juggle the chaos like it’s just another day at the office. – Matt Sorrell

What’s the most food one person has ordered? “We had a ‘competitive eater’ come in once. We made him a 6-pound burger, a 40-ounce malt and 2 pounds of fries. He didn’t finish; we defeated him.” – Brian Bethel, manager What’s the best-selling menu item? “The Taco Burger, our joint venture with Mission Taco Joint, for sure. It’s been on the menu since the beginning. We sell hundreds a day.” – Brian Bethel, manager What’s the most outrageous special you’ve ordered? “I think it was called the St. Lunatic Burger. It had Imo’s pizza for buns, and Red Hot

Riplets and toasted raviolis in the middle. It was insane.” – John Mordvar, friend of the family

Melt. It’s got Thousand Island dressing, sourdough, meat and cheese. What more do you want?” – Ed Diedrich, cook

What’s one of the customer challenges you face on the regular? “Customers always come in, and they want to order something they saw on Instagram, and they don’t realize we change our specials daily. I think we’ve repeated only one or two in a year and a half. We always try to make them what they want if we have the ingredients in-house, though.” – Jason Scroggins, general manager

What makes this kitchen different than others you’ve worked in? “Definitely the creativity, especially with the specials, that and the quality of what we make. They’re really open to ideas.” – Jhonetta Phillips, cook

What’s your go-to order after work? “I usually get the Frisco

What’s been the busiest day at Hi-Pointe so far? “I think the Saturday we opened was the craziest day we ever had. It was upwards of $17,000 [in sales]. Figure the average order at $15 a head.” – Adam Pritchett, executive chef I SAUCE MAGAZINE I 15

favorite diner UNCLE BILL'S PANCAKE & DINNER HOUSE The diner – a uniquely American institution originally designed to look like a railroad dining car – continues to thrive by providing affordable, comforting food to the people. This year, Sauce readers have declared Uncle Bill’s Pancake & Dinner House, a joint known for its sprawling menu and round-the-clock service, their favorite diner in town. No one, not even morning breakfast regulars, appreciates a diner as much as those who stumble in at 2 a.m. Uncle Bill’s is there when you shut down a bar, work the graveyard or have a red-eye flight. It had been a good long while since my last visit to Uncle Bill’s and equally as long since I’d found myself out and about after

the witching hour. When I heard about the accolade, I knew I had to revisit this old haunt in the dead of night. As I drove south on Kingshighway Boulevard on a late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, I remembered just how desolate this stretch of road is after-hours. The car dealerships and strip malls were all dark; there were scant signs of life. Then the Uncle Bill’s sign appeared like an oasis, casting a pale light on the building’s incongruous, Alpinestyle architecture. A hostess dressed in an otherworldly white pantsuit guided me across the motel carpeting to a booth in the corner without saying a

word. The waitress called me “hon’” without a trace of irony when I ordered my usual: eggs sunny side up, a mound of hash browns, wheat toast instead of pancakes and a tomato juice. The restaurant was maybe halffull but bustling and lively on two seating levels with plenty of wood paneling and some stained glass windows to lend a little class. Like a casino floor, time seemed to have no meaning here. It was 3 a.m., but it could’ve easily been noon as servers in maroon Uncle Bill’s shirts worked the floor in constant motion, refilling coffee cups and delivering plates stacked three to an arm with balancing acumen as natural as breathing.

As I waited for the food, I loaded up my tomato juice with Cholula hot sauce and surveyed the scene. When I was still in the social whirl, Uncle Bill’s was best known as an excellent way end to a night out with plenty of greasy goodness to soak up the evening’s excesses. Perhaps longing for my misspent youth, I was hoping to witness some late-night debauchery. The crowd this morning, however, was surprisingly sedate – the vibe more coffee klatch than gritty Tom Waits ballad. Most diners seemed to be just off work or maybe fueling up for their next shift. Couples and small groups talked over stacks of pancakes and those endless cups of coffee like they were in breakfast nooks at home. Sure, a few guests were dressed in clubwear, rumpled and disheveled after a night out. Some were a little unsteady on their feet as they made their way to the register, but there was nary a sloppy “woo” girl or hammered bro in sight. No one made even a small drunken scene.

Uncle Bill’s Pancake & Dinner House, 3427 S. Kingshighway Blvd., St. Louis, 314.832.1973; 14196 Manchester Road, Ballwin, 636.394.1416


Readers’ Choice 2018


I’m sure there are still plenty of nights at Uncle Bill’s when the crowd is lit, but I wasn’t too disappointed to miss that. It was nice to stretch out in my solo booth, savor breakfast and soak up the atmosphere. As I polished off the last of the hash browns – soft in the middle and perfectly crisp outside – it sunk in. Regardless of the building, or how good the coffee is, the best diners are beloved because they welcome people from all walks of life to gather and connect, no matter the hour or sobriety level. – Matt Sorrell

Readers’ Choice 2018 I SAUCE MAGAZINE I 17

YOUR FAVORITE PLACES TO EAT HI-POINTE DRIVE-IN 1033 McCausland Ave., St. Louis, 314.349.2720, 2nd: Grace Meat & Three 3rd: Nudo, Polite Society (tie) Honorable Mention: Westport Social, Vicia favorite restaurant

OLIVE & OAK 102 W. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves, 314.736.1370, 2nd: Cleveland-Heath 3rd: Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria Honorable Mention: Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co., Lona’s Lil Eats chef of the year

KATIE COLLIER, KATIE’S PIZZA & PASTA OSTERIA 9568 Manchester Road, Rock Hill, 314.942.6555, 2nd: Rick Lewis, Grace Meat & Three 3rd: Jesse Mendica, Olive & Oak Honorable Mention: Tyler Layton, Twisted Tree Steakhouse and Ashley Shelton, Sardella favorite barbecue

SUGARFIRE SMOKE HOUSE Various locations, 2nd: Pappy’s Smokehouse 3rd: Salt & Smoke Honorable Mention: Beast Craft BBQ Co., Bogart’s Smokehouse favorite breakfast and lunch

THE SHACK Various locations, 2nd: Southwest Diner 3rd: Rooster Honorable Mention: The Clover and The Bee, Half & Half

favorite brunch

HENDEL’S RESTAURANT 559 St. Denis St., Florissant, 314.837.2304, 2nd: Rooster 3rd: Half & Half Honorable Mention: Brasserie by Niche, SqWires Restaurant & Annex, Reeds American Table favorite burger

HI-POINTE DRIVE-IN 1033 McCausland Ave., St. Louis, 314.349.2720, 2nd: Stacked STL 3rd: Mac’s Local Eats Honorable Mention: O’Connell’s Pub, Carl’s Drive In favorite cajun/creole

BROADWAY OYSTER BAR 736 S. Broadway, St. Louis, 314.621.8811,

2nd: Gulf Shores Restaurant & Grill 3rd: Sister Cities Cajun Honorable Mention: Evangeline’s Bistro and Music House, Boogaloo favorite chinese

LONA’S LIL EATS 2199 California Ave., St. Louis, 314.925.8938, 2nd: Wang Gang Asian Eats 3rd: Lu Lu Seafood Restaurant Honorable Mention: China King, Yen Ching favorite deli/sandwich shop

BLUES CITY DELI 2438 McNair Ave., St. Louis, 314.773.8225, 2nd: Gioia’s Deli 3rd: Mom’s Deli Honorable Mention: Union Loafers Cafe and Bread Bakery, The Gramophone favorite diner

UNCLE BILL’S PANCAKE AND DINNER HOUSE 3427 S. Kingshighway Blvd., St. Louis, 314.832.1973; 14196 Manchester Road, Ballwin, 636.394.1416 2nd: Benton Park Café 3rd: Courtesy Diner Honorable Mention: Chris’ Pancake & Dining, Eat-Rite Diner

SEOUL TACO, Twitter: @seoultaco 2nd: Mission Taco Joint 3rd: Guerrilla Street Food Honorable Mention: Balkan Treat Box, Gioia’s Deli Food Truck favorite fried chicken

HODAK’S RESTAURANT & BAR 2100 Gravois Ave., St. Louis, 314.776.7292, 2nd: Southern 3rd: Byrd & Barrel Honorable Mention: Grace Meat & Three, Gallagher’s Restaurant favorite frozen dessert

TED DREWES FROZEN CUSTARD 6726 Chippewa St., St. Louis, 314.481.2652; 4224 S. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, 314.352.7376; 2nd: Ices Plain & Fancy
 3rd: Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery
 Honorable Mention: Fritz’s Frozen Custard, Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream favorite greek



1543 McCausland Ave., St. Louis, 314.781.1299, 2nd: Spiro’s Restuarant 3rd: Anthonino’s Taverna Honorable Mention: Michael’s Bar & Grill, Momos Ouzaria Taverna

favorite fine dining



favorite food truck

favorite doughnut 2709 Sutton Blvd., Maplewood, 314.932.5851; 107 E. Argonne St., Kirkwood, 314.394.2323; 2nd: Vincent Van Doughnut 3rd: Old Town Donuts Honorable Mention: Donut Drive-In, John’s Donuts

bucatini all’a amatriciana from your favorite italian restaurant, pastaria

2nd: Olive & Oak 3rd: Tony’s Honorable Mention: Farmhaus, Vicia

2000 Sidney St., St. Louis, 314.771.5777,

favorite indian

HOUSE OF INDIA 8501 Delmar Blvd., University City, 314.567.6850, 2nd: Himalayan Yeti 3rd: Everest Cafe & Bar Honorable Mention: India’s Rasoi, India Palace

Readers’ Choice 2018


favorite new restaurant of 2017

Readers’ Choice 2018 I SAUCE MAGAZINE I 19


Readers’ Choice 2018


PASTARIA 7734 Forsyth Blvd., Clayton, 314.862.6603, 2nd: Charlie Gitto’s 3rd: Trattoria Marcella Honorable Mention: Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria, Acero favorite korean

 6665 Delmar Blvd., University City, 314.863.1148; 46 Four Seasons Shopping Center, Chesterfield, 314.548.6868, 2nd: Oriental Spoon 3rd: Seoul Garden Korean BBQ Honorable Mention: Kimcheese, K-Bop Food Truck, U-City Grill favorite mexican

CHAVA’S MEXICAN RESTAURANT 925 Geyer Ave., St. Louis, 314.241.5503; 217 E. Vandalia St., Edwardsville, 618.692.8192, 2nd: Mi Ranchito Mexican Restaurant 3rd: Hacienda Mexican Restaurant Honorable Mention: Rosalita’s Cantina, Nixta, Pueblo Solis

Honorable Mention: Pi Pizzeria, Sauce on the Side favorite pub

JOHN D. MCGURK’S IRISH PUB & GARDEN 1200 Russell Blvd., St. Louis, 314.776.8309, 2nd: The Scottish Arms 3rd: O’Connell’s Pub Honorable Mention: Dressel’s Public House, Seamus McDaniel’s favorite ramen

NUDO 11423 Olive Blvd., Creve Coeur, 314.274.8046, 2nd: Vista Ramen 3rd: Robata Maplewood Honorable Mention: Ramen Tei, Nami Ramen favorite romantic spot

BAILEYS’ CHOCOLATE BAR 1915 Park Ave., St. Louis, 314.241.8100, 2nd: Sidney Street Cafe
 3rd: Sasha’s Wine Bar Honorable Mention: Cyrano’s Café, Bar Les Frères

your favorite doughnut shop, strange donuts

favorite soul food/southern favorite mediterranean/ middle eastern 6671 Chippewa St., St. Louis, 314.645.9919, 2nd: Olio 3rd: The Vine Cafe Honorable Mention: Layla, Cafe Natasha’s

4270 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314.533.2700, 2nd: Southern 3rd: Sweetie Pie’s The Upper Crust Honorable Mention: Juniper, Mom’s Soul Food Kitchen & Catering

favorite patio

favorite steakhouse



1200 Russell Blvd., St. Louis, 314.776.8309, 2nd: Billy G’s Kirkwood 3rd: Broadway Oyster Bar Honorable Mention: Vin de Set, Molly’s in Soulard

Various locations, 2nd: Annie Gunn’s Restaurant 3rd: 1818 Chophouse Honorable Mention: Citizen Kane’s Steak House, Twisted Tree Steakhouse




favorite pizza


favorite sushi

Various locations, 2nd: Peel Wood Fired Pizza 3rd: Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria

Various locations,

Readers’ Choice 2018


2nd: Wasabi Sushi Bar 3rd: Café Mochi Honorable Mention: Sushi Ai, Nippon Tei, BLK MKT Eats favorite tacos

MISSION TACO JOINT Various locations, 2nd: Seoul Taco 3rd: Taco Circus Honorable Mention: Chava’s Mexican Restaurant, Taqueria El Bronco

favorite thai

KING AND I THAI CUISINE 3157 S. Grand Ave., St. Louis, 314.771.1777, 2nd: Fork & Stix 3rd: Pearl Café Honorable Mention: Tei Too, Pad Thai Kitchen favorite vegetarian/vegan

LULU’S LOCAL EATERY 3201 S. Grand Ave., St. Louis, 314.300.8215,

2nd: Lona’s Lil Eats 3rd: Treehouse Honorable Mention: SweetArt, Pizza Head, Small Batch, Wicked Greenz favorite vietnamese

MAI LEE 8396 Musick Memorial Drive, Brentwood, 314.645.2835, 2nd: Pho Grand 3rd: Lemon Grass Restaurant Honorable Mention: Banh Mi So No. 1, Little Saigon Cafe I SAUCE MAGAZINE I 21


jesse mendica, executive chef at olive & oak


Readers’ Choice 2018

F A V O R I T E R E S T A U R A N T olive The executive chef of your Favorite Restaurant didn’t originally want to be executive chef of any restaurant. The media-shy chef took a chance jesse mendica during her “year of yes” and has been quietly turning out some of most innovative, perfectly executed food in the St. Louis area ever since. We sat down with Jesse Mendica to talk Webster Groves, Olive & Oak’s ever-changing menu and her very first restaurant job. – Catherine Klene

How did the re s t a u ra n t i n d u s t r y hook you?

“I got the job [at Two Nice Guys] and just being a part of a kitchen and the camaraderie of it – it charmed me right away. It wasn’t even about the food. I’m the pickiest eater there is. I started out so picky, I wouldn’t eat anything.”

L i k e wh a t ?

“Oh my God, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, onions, salad dressing, tomatoes … I wouldn’t

eat fish, shellfish, nothing. I ate nothing. I ate dry salads.”

How much does We b s t e r G r o v e s l o v e Olive & Oak?

&oak think my job is to be the person who has the answers, to be the person who makes the decisions, but it’s not any more important than anybody else.”

“We always said at the beginning, ‘We hope we’re as good for Webster as Webster is for us,’ and I think that relationship has worked out great so far. We had somebody write an email to us that said, ‘I think since Olive & Oak moved in, our property value has gone up 25 percent.’ I know it’s a joke, but just the idea that we’ve been so good for the community and people feel like their house is more valuable being near us? That felt great.”

Wh i c h c h e f s d o y o u a d m i re ?

Ho w’s your first executive chef gig going?

“I eat a big salad out of a huge bowl. It’s not even necessarily a big salad, but it’s definitely a big bowl. I know that it will be easy to clean later, and I can really toss it. … And a beer. Civil Life Brown is my absolute favorite. Beer or a rosé. You can’t get away from rosé here, and I don’t mind that one bit. We are a yes way rosé place.”

“It’s super challenging and super scary and overwhelming at first, and then it just becomes the house you’re running. You feel like the mom of the house. I had two dishwashers call me mom on two separate occasions: ‘Mom, do you know – Oh, Jesse! Sorry!’ … I

“Big-time chefs that I like to watch and listen to and learn from a lot? Jacques Pépin. ... He’s so great to watch. To watch him bone a chicken with only two cuts is incredible. He makes it easy and drinks wine the whole time and he’s like, ‘Don’t even worry. This is easy. The chicken wants you to do it.’”

Wh a t ’ s y o u r p o s t shift meal?

Wh a t ’ s y o u r l e a s t favorite part of the job?

“The attention and having to be interviewed by people about myself – that’s probably the worst part of all of it, no offense. It’s the worst. People come in here and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, we’re meeting you!’ Yes, I’m just another person in the room with you right now; this is not a big deal. The weird big deal that people put on it is probably the hardest thing for me to get used to.”

Wh a t ’ s t h e n i c e s t compliment a customer has given you?

“One person said, ‘I don’t even eat cauliflower. I don’t like cauliflower, but I know I’ll get it because everything has surprised me.’ To know that people trust me enough to try something they have verified they don’t like – that’s pretty incredible.” olive & oak, 102 w. lockwood ave., webster groves, 314.736.1370,

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Readers’ Choice 2018

favorite brunch



Anyone who has tried to get into Hendel’s Restaurant on a Sunday morning already knows it’s St. Louis’ Favorite Brunch spot. From the crabcakes eggs Benedict to the Southwestern omelet to the “Zing Zanged” House Bloody Mary, Hendel’s proves that when it comes to brunch, classic makes perfect. – Heather Hughes 559 St. Denis St., Florissant, 314.837.2304,

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St. Louis Board Game Bar & Café, Parlor

bartender of the year

Various locations, 2nd: 1818 Chophouse 3rd: Three Kings Public House Honorable Mention: Taste Bar, Syberg’s An Eating & Drinking Co.

871 S. Arbor Vitae, Edwardsville, 618.655,9911, 2nd: Charlie Martin, Olive & Oak 3rd: Ted Kilgore, Planter’s House Honorable Mention: Tim Wiggins, Retreat Gastropub and Terry Oliver, Frazer’s favorite beer bar

THREE KINGS PUBLIC HOUSE Various locations, 2nd: International Tap House (iTap) 3rd: Global Brew Tap House Honorable Mention: The Side Project Cellar, Tapped favorite brewery

URBAN CHESTNUT BREWING CO. 3229 Washington Ave., St. Louis; 4465 Manchester Ave., St. Louis; 314.222.0143, 2nd: 4 Hands Brewing Co. 3rd: Schlafly Beer Honorable Mention: Civil Life Brewing Co., Ferguson Brewing Co. favorite coffee shop

KALDI’S COFFEE Various locations, 2nd: The Mud House 3rd: Sacred Grounds Cafe Honorable Mention: Sump Coffee, Park Avenue Coffee favorite cocktails

PLANTER’S HOUSE 1000 Mississippi Ave., St. Louis, 314.696.2603, 2nd: Narwhal’s Crafted 3rd: Olive & Oak Honorable Mention: Taste Bar, Blood & Sand favorite games bar

WESTPORT SOCIAL 910 Westport Plaza Drive, Maryland Heights, 314.548.2876, 2nd: 4 Hands Brewing Co. 3rd: Start Bar Honorable Mention: Pieces the



favorite sports bar

SYBERG’S AN EATING & DRINKING CO. Various locations, 2nd: Amsterdam Tavern 3rd: Blueberry Hill Honorable Mention: The Post Sports Bar & Grill, Joey B’s Food & Drink favorite wine bar

SASHA’S WINE BARS 706 DeMun Ave., Clayton, 314.863.7274; 4069 Shaw Blvd. St. Louis, 314.771.7274; 2nd: Robust Wine Bar 3rd: Cork Wine Bar Honorable Mention: 33 Wine Shop & Bar, Louie’s Wine Dive

favorite butcher shop

BOLYARD’S MEAT & PROVISIONS 2810 Sutton Blvd., Maplewood, 314.647.2567, 2nd: Kenrick’s Meats & Catering 3rd: G & W Meat & Bavarian Style Sausage Inc. Honorable Mention: LeGrand’s Market & Catering, Mannino’s Market favorite cakes/pastries

JILLY’S CUPCAKE BAR & CAFE 8509 Delmar Blvd., University City, 314.993.5455; 222 E. Park St., Edwardsville, 618.307.9545; 2nd: Nathaniel Reid Bakery 3rd: La Patisserie Chouquette Honorable Mention: The Cup, Pint Size Bakery & Coffee

favorite catering

KENRICK’S MEATS & CATERING 4324 Weber Road, St. Louis, 314.631.2440, 2nd: Russo’s Catering 3rd: Butler’s Pantry Honorable Mention: Seed Sprout Spoon Catering & Events, The Art of Entertaining favorite specialty shop

CROWN CANDY KITCHEN 1401 St. Louis Ave., St. Louis, 314.621.9650, 2nd: Bob’s Seafood 3rd: Kakao Chocolate Honorable Mention: Bissinger’s Handcrafted Chocolatier, Parker’s Table favorite farmers market

SOULARD FARMERS MARKET 730 Carroll St., St. Louis, 314.622.4180, 2nd: Tower Grove Farmers’ Market 3rd: Kirkwood Farmers’ Market Honorable Mention: The Land of Goshen Community Market, Ferguson Farmers’ Market favorite local grocery

favorite local winery

CHAUMETTE VINEYARDS & WINERY 24345 State Route WW, Ste. Genevieve, 573.747.1000, 2nd: Stone Hill Winery 3rd: Montelle Winery Honorable Mention: Cedar Lake Cellars, St. James Winery


DIERBERGS MARKETS Various locations, 2nd: Schnucks 3rd: Straub’s Honorable Mention: Jay International Food Co., DiGregorio’s Italian Market your favorite cakes / pastries shop, jilly’s cupcake bar & cafe

favorite bottle shop

RANDALL’S WINES & SPIRITS Various locations, 2nd: Bin 51 Wine & Spirits 3rd: The Wine & Cheese Place Honorable Mention: Saint Louis Hop Shop, Intoxicology PHOTO BY JONATHAN GAYMAN


favorite happy hour

2nd: Companion Baking 3rd: 222 Artisan Bakery & Cafe Honorable Mention: Missouri Baking Co., Amighetti’s Bakery & Café

favorite bread

UNION LOAFERS CAFE AND BREAD BAKERY 1629 Tower Grove Ave., St. Louis, 314.833.6111,

Readers’ Choice 2018

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Readers’ Choice 2018

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Sauce Magazine // Readers' Choice 2018  
Sauce Magazine // Readers' Choice 2018