8 Restaurants in 3 Days: My Culinary Tour of St. Louis
Meals that will make you book a flight
Top things to do in St. Louis? Eat.
I’d like to say I have a "refined palate." But honestly y’all, my taste buds are just spoiled. I'm from the South, where the food sings to your soul on the way down. It makes you dance at the dinner table, go back for thirds, and stash leftovers in your bag right next to the hot sauce (you didn't think Beyoncé was the first, did you?).
Here in New York, while the soul food pickings are slim, I can literally experience any cuisine in the entire world. So when I had the chance to hang out in St. Louis for a few days, I wondered why people said their food was so good. But I went in with an open mind (and an empty stomach) to see what my first Midwestern city had to offer.
Since Bogart's Smokehouse was listed as #5 of 2,398 restaurants in St. Louis, I kicked off my culinary tour with what the city is known for—BBQ and St. Louis ribs.
Y’all. I'm so embarrassed. I was all over Instagram Stories claiming these ribs couldn't possibly beat my Dad's (like, neck roll and all). But as soon as I closed my phone and actually tried them, I had to eat my words. While a lot of ribs rely on "special sauce," Bogart’s' dry rub had infused so much flavor in the meat, they didn't need any sauce! One of the managers proudly detailed their process, which includes an apricot glaze of some sort, but honestly I was waiting for him to finish talking so I could have another!
If you noticed, I ordered two whole platters. Why? Because one, I'm greedy, but also I figured if those reviewers on TripAdvisor were somehow seasoning-deprived, I'd have a backup plan. But everything was so good that I took my leftovers home to relive the experience all week long.
So if you haven't figured it out yet, St. Louisans love pork. This warms my southern soul, because I am a lover of all things pig. I actually wasn't going to order an appetizer at Gamlin Whiskey House, but when I saw "Three Little Pigs" on the menu, I had to try it. Turns out it's three different types of bacon: traditional bacon, sweet bacon, and Cajun bacon (which I'm convinced is served on the breakfast buffet in heaven.
Then this pork steak arrived at my table.
*Gathers thoughts and takes a deep breath*
"Holy hog heaven. What is this exactly, and how am I supposed to finish it?"
But as soon as my knife touched the surface, I knew the infamous St. Louis pork steak I had read about was going to be worth a shot. It was so tender the knife melted through the meat into the plate, and so juicy I wondered why they call it a steak? (Or maybe I need to get my steak life in order.) I can't compare it to any others in the city, but if you've never had a pork steak, Gamlin Whiskey House will not disappoint!
At The Peacemaker Lobster & Crab, I wondered where these oysters came from. Because the last time I checked a map, Missouri is land locked, hundreds of miles away from anybody's ocean.
Luckily, my super-nice waiter explained their origins (mostly the Northeast) and they were really good! Some of the best I've had actually. What set it off though was the Cajun mignonette sauce that comes with them. No clue what's in it, but it runs laps around that old watery vinegar stuff I usually get!
Now here's the plot twist. Have you ever gone to a restaurant excited about one thing on the menu, and are blown away by something completely different? That's exactly what happened with these fried green tomatoes. The savory cornmeal crust rivaled some fried catfish I've had in Louisiana, and balanced the tartness of the tomatoes perfectly!
Since my family is from Louisiana and I've been eating Cajun food all my life, I had my side-eye ready when I saw gumbo and a "poorboy" on the lunch menu. That said, this combo was legit. Gumbo and po' boys all have their own style, even in New Orleans, so I appreciated the way Peacemaker brought this tradition to life.
Yep, you guessed it. My fiancé M'Baku met me at Charlie Gitto's On the Hill for a surprise date night, to toast our engagement and my move to Wakanda this summer! Or maybe the booth across from me was actually empty, and the waiters in black ties and 5-star service had me daydreaming? Either way, everything about Charlie Gitto's feel like a special occasion!
Since I hadn't Googled "toasted ravioli" in advance, I totally was expecting a pan-seared version of Chef Boyardee. These are way better. Think mozzarella sticks meet ground beef meets a soul train line in your belly. Touché.
Normally pasta isn't my thing (because carbs and adulthood don't play well together), but I had to try their homemade tagliatelle to see if there's a reason to reconsider. Much lighter than any pasta I had ever eaten, and I could actually taste fresh tomatoes in the tomato sauce. Imagine that.
I could go on about my indulgent adventure through the restaurants of St. Louis, but you really have to try it for yourself. I ate at about eight different places, and nearly every meal left my taste buds overjoyed. Whether you're in STL for business, or visiting friends and family, treat yourself to a few meals around town. From the "Little NOLA" of Soulard to "Little Italy" in The Hill, the culinary scene of St. Louis is a destination everyone should experience at least once!