Feast on St. Louis: South City and South County

Sunday June 3, 2018

Written by Bethany Christo
Photography by Sherrie Castellano

As with most St. Louis neighborhoods, it’s hard to sum up the cuisine of South City and South County in a sentence or two, but suffice it to say, you won’t leave hungry.

Along with great places to eat, attractions in the area include Grant’s Farm, a 281-acre family-friendly park, petting zoo and historical site, and Jefferson Barracks Park, with a museum, disc-golf course and trails.

One, the Mississippi River Greenway Trail, can take you right to another popular attraction in South City, River City Casino. Located on the Mississippi River, the casino is also a 200-bedroom, four-diamond hotel and host to numerous dining establishments, including Cibare Italian Kitchen.

Cibare is a destination in and of itself. Helmed by chef Pierpaolo Pittia, who hails from Udine, Italy, the restaurant takes the traditions of authentic Italian heritage and cuisine seriously – from using only Caputo flour from Naples in its Neapolitan-style pizzas to extruding fresh pasta daily to serving dishes made with Pittia’s own family recipes. For Steve Peate, River City vice president and assistant general manager, the hands-down favorite is the rigatoni Bolognese, made with fresh rigatoni noodles infused with black pepper and Pittia’s secret family recipe for the marinara meat sauce.

“The great thing about our chef Paulo is that a lot of the food at Cibare is produced through the love that he had as a young child growing up in Italy,” Peate says.

Taste the love yourself in best-selling dishes including Chicken Scaloppini Sofia and canestri al funghi pastas, The Cibare pizza and the Taste of Cibare appetizer with fried calamari, toasted ravioli, and house-baked Neapolitan-style garlic cheese bread. Stop by the bakery counter for a fresh Lavazza espresso, Italian sweet treat, or scoop of housemade gelato or sorbet.

Another popular spot for Italian is Bartolino’s South off South Lindbergh Boulevard, which also has an outpost in Clifton Heights. Owner Michael Saracino recommends the grilled salmon entrée with fresh tomato relish and pine nuts; pork chop with lemon, honey and soy sauce; and linguine tutto mare with shrimp, crab, clams, squid, fish, butter, mushrooms and garlic in a light cream sauce.

If you’re craving fried chicken, Hodak’s is at the top of the list for many locals.

“A lot of the cab drivers and hotels Downtown recommend us as a place to go if you’re from out of town because we’re a tradition,” says longtime bartender Steve Connors.

And for good reason. Located in the Benton Park neighborhood of South City, the best-selling ½ Golden Fried Chicken – “probably nine out of 10 dinners are the fried-chicken dinner,” according to Connors – offers the signature family recipe for breaded and deep-fried chicken as a wing, breast, leg and a thigh, along with two sides. Hodak’s serves five different types of wings – Sammie’s Hot, Spicy BBQ, Momma’s Sticky, Amaya’s Seasoned and regular – as well, and no order is complete without an appetizer of the hand-battered, piping-hot breaded mushrooms.

Ten minutes south of Hodak’s is Stacked, located on the edges of the Carondelet and Patch neighborhoods locally dubbed “the triangle” for the three-sided green space anchored by the Ivory Triangle Theatre (a rehab of the St. Boniface Catholic Church). Stacked joins a half-dozen old-school drinking establishments in the area, and what goes better with a beer than a loaded burger? As the name implies, Stacked serves 12 mile-high specialty burgers, including the Bella Blues with blue cheese crumbles, a mushroom medley and honey-thyme balsamic glaze. Plus, there’s a burger of the month (in May, it was the Greener Pastors, a ground-chuck patty topped with pork al pastor, salsa verde and pineapple pico de gallo), or diners can opt to build their own using the pad and pencils on every table. Pick your patty – from local grass-fed beef to black bean – bun and cheese, choose from 10 types of sauces and “stack it” with everything from bourbon-bacon-maple jam to hummus or a bratwurst.

“One of the things that sets us apart and is the most fun about Stacked is that I’ve created all of these [toppings] – be it a jam, a chutney, a sauce, a fried pickle – for people to create their own masterpiece,” says chef and co-owner Laura Windisch.

Windisch recommends pairing your burger with a side of fried guacamole bites and capping the meal with its warm chocolate brownie drizzled with bourbon-bacon-caramel sauce and topped with a scoop of housemade Udder Shock ice cream in collaboration with Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream.

The city of Kimmswick, Missouri, located 30 minutes south of Downtown, deserves an entire day trip itself, with its quaint antique shops, picturesque views of the Mississippi River and charming restaurants – the most popular of which is The Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery. On any given day around lunchtime, you’ll see longtime owner Mary Hostetter, donned in a floor-length blue apron, commanding the bustling dining room and breezy covered veranda. Along with country-style breakfast, The Blue Owl serves a delightful lunch menu including a tossed strawberry salad, white chili soup, daily quiches, a chicken salad croissant, a baked chicken salad pie and much more. And you absolutely cannot walk out of The Blue Owl without having dessert – Hostetter practically insists. The restaurant is most known for its Levee High Caramel Pecan Apple Pie (made with 18 whole apples and receiving nods from Oprah to The Food Network), but really, you can’t go wrong with any of the fresh-from-scratch, housemade options, including chocolate-chip gooey butter cheesecake, coconut cream pie, sugar cookies and more.

Another favorite for baked goods and homestyle breakfast and lunch is The Barn in Crestwood. The cozy and quaint café opens at the crack of dawn, and owner and longtime industry veteran Karen Mott says love is the main ingredient, stemming from her Southern roots growing up in South Carolina. Try out the best-selling Cajun crawfish Benedict, this week’s selection in the Risky Biscuits Battle or The Ranch Hand Breakfast early in the morning, or stop by at lunch for an egg salad BLT, Rancher’s Brisket Sandwich and The Barnyard Chopped Salad. Make sure to pick up a dessert from the Barn Buster Bakery before you go, including goodies such as a baker’s dozen of gooey butter cake flavors, sweet and savory scones, cheesecakes, pies and more.

From mile-high burgers and pies to finger-licking fried chicken and true Italian pasta and pizza, the food destinations in South County and South City offer something for everyone.

The Barn, 1015 S. Sappington Road, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.966.8387, crestwoodbarn.com

Bartolino’s South, 5914 S. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, Missouri, 314.487.4545, bartolinosrestaurants.com/south

The Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery, 6116 Second St., Kimmswick, Missouri, 636.464.3128, theblueowl.com

Cibare Italian Kitchen at River City Casino, 777 River City Casino Blvd., Patch, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.388.7777, rivercity.com/dining/cibare-italian-kitchen

Hodak’s, 2100 Gravois Ave., Benton Park, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.776.7292, hodaks.com

Stacked, 7637 Ivory Road, Patch, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.544.4900, stackedstl.com 

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