Feast on St. Louis: West County
Written by Bethany Christo
Photography by Jacklyn Meyer
Generally, most St. Louisans think of West County as the area west of Highway 270 and south of Highway 40 (Interstate 64). This large swath of land includes cities such as Chesterfield, Town and Country, Manchester, Ballwin, Ellisville and Wildwood, and is home to a wide variety of residents – and an even wider variety of restaurants to check out.
Although not as compact as neighborhoods within the city limits, municipalities across West County boast numerous attractions. Chesterfield is known for its many shops and shopping centers and a plenty of public parks and pathways, including Faust Park’s walking trails, carousel, playground and Butterfly House. Maryland Heights is often referred to as “St. Louis’ backyard,” and its central location 25 minutes from Downtown and 10 minutes from St. Louis Lambert International Airport means its amenities – Hollywood Casino, bustling and ever-expanding Westport Plaza, and the scenic 32-acre Creve Coeur Lake Park – are easily accessed.
Companion has long been a St. Louis-area stalwart for rewarding early risers with freshly baked artisan breads and pastries. The original bakery called Dutchtown home from 1993 to early 2016, when the company expanded to Maryland Heights. Delivering fresh bread to more than 180 accounts in the St. Louis metropolitan area and frozen bread nationwide, the West St. Louis Campus houses a new baking facility, baking school, teaching kitchen, event space and café. (There’s also a café in Ladue,Missouri.) Floor-to-ceiling windows inside the Maryland Heights café provide a glimpse into the production area where the magic of making bread and pastries happens.
“We’ve got 24 to 30 people out there all the time producing bread 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” says founder Josh Allen. “Folks can come into the café and be invited into the middle of the process. We’re really in the business of making bread and shipping it out the back door, but the lunch business has been really nice for being in touch with the community and, conversely, for our bakers to see the value of what we do.”
Along with the French dip on crusty Parisien – “Probably every other sandwich that goes out is a French dip,” Allen says – fresh and flavorful breakfast and lunch items include the Cinco de Mayo sandwich with roasted turkey, bacon, baby Swiss cheese, tomato and tarragon mayo on Rustic White, and the Prom Queen salad with roasted turkey, bacon, avocado, sliced hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese and creamy Cobb dressing. Don’t forget to end your meal with a sweet last bite like zucchinitea bread or a granola bar, gooey butter bar or cream-cheese brownie.
Another local institution is The Pasta House Co., founded in 1974 by J. Kim Tucci, Joseph A. Fresta and the late John P. Ferrara, which is known for its family friendliness, exceptional service and authentic Italian cooking. There are currently 20 locations in the St. Louis area, including multiple in West County, and a robust catering business. For 44 years, The Pasta House has been serving favorites such as pasta con broccoli and spaghetti with Nonna Tucci’s massive, juicy meatballs (among nearly two dozen additional pasta dishes), cheesy garlic bread and golden toasted ravioli, as well as pizza, burgers and sandwiches. The Pasta House Co. Famous Salad, as the name would suggest, has been nationally recognized and features artichoke hearts, pimentos, red onions and plenty of Parmesan tossed with its equally ubiquitous house dressing that is also sold on local grocery store shelves.
“We brag about it, and I’m not being overzealous when I say everyone loves The Pasta House,” says co-founder J. Kim Tucci. “It’s hard to find anyone in the St. Louis region who hasn’t eaten at at least one Pasta House Co. And [the] location in Creve Coeur is really centrally located – this area is probably the hub of West County.”
Just as The Pasta House is a go-to for Italian favorites, Wasabi Sushi Bar and Drunken Fish have become staples for sushi and seafood. Even in landlocked Missouri, both restaurants source fresh, high-quality fish for their menus.
At Drunken Fish, beautiful and elegantly plated sushi favorites include the eponymous Drunken Fish Roll, filled with shrimp tempura and asparagus and topped with bigeye tuna, Japanese mayo, eel sauce, masago, tempura crumbs and sprouts, or the most-ordered White Tiger Roll with calamari tempura, crab, avocado and masago, topped with white tuna, spicy mayo and eel sauce. Plus, the weekday and late-night happy hours are an easy and affordable way to taste your way through the menu.
“When we get tourists from the East and West coasts, they’re always very surprised about the quality and freshness of fish – we get shipments on an almost-daily basis,” says Drunken Fish marketing director MyongHi So. “I think that’s what makes us unique and a staple here. [Westport Plaza] was Drunken Fish’s original location, opening in 2003, so we’re really excited to see the new vibrancy in the Westport area.”
Along with Westport Plaza, Drunken Fish has two popular locations closer to Downtown St. Louis, as well as a location in Kansas City. Wasabi Sushi Bar has seven locations in the St. Louis-metro area (plus one in Colorado), including two in West County in Warson Woods and Town and Country. It’s a go-to spot for Japanese cuisine and specializes in colorful and refined plates of sashimi and a wide variety of sushi like the Rainbow and Wasabi Special maki rolls.
Another ubiquitous restaurant with locations across the area, from Washington Avenue in Downtown St. Louis to nearby Washington, Missouri, is Sugarfire Smoke House. The flagship location is in Olivette, which is on the eastern edge of what many consider West County. And the nationally renowned barbecue destination has plans to head even farther east – the next location is planned to open in Indianapolis sometime this fall and marks the first outpost outside the St. Louis area.
“St. Louis doesn’t really have its own style of barbecue – we’re in the barbecue triangle of Kansas City, Texas and Memphis, so I like to pull the best from each region,” says chef-partner Mike Johnson. “I get all walks of life here, and that’s what barbecue is: Rich people, poor people, all ethnicities, businessmen, laborers, everybody likes it – or we try to come as close as we can.”
Expect a line when you arrive, and make sure to queue up early – Sugarfire routinely sells out of its barbecue sandwiches and staples. First-timers should try an order of the Meat Daddy, a four-person serving of Memphis-style ribs, Texas-style brisket, Kansas City-style pulled pork, smoked turkey and jalapeño-Cheddar sausage links, plus two sides. Regulars enjoy the off-the-wall, indulgent daily specials like the recent Mac Sabbath, a pimento cheese-stuffed and bacon-wrapped smoked burger that’s then beer-battered and fried with green tomatoes, cheese sauce and an egg.
If you’re somehow still hungry, head next door to sister restaurant Sugarfire Pie (the “sugar” of the Sugarfire brand), where owner and pastry chef Carolyn Downs’ signature pies, cookies and cakes stack up to any in town – literally. Its stack pies layer three different pies on top of one another, and its “pakes” are pies baked within a cake. The Southern-style desserts reinvent American classics, all made fresh daily in small batches in the retro-decorated shop. Other must-trys include the smoked chocolate-chip cookie, the Mississippi Mud pie – a gooey chocolate pie with graham-cracker crust – or the eponymous Sugarfire Pie, a brown sugar chess pie.
Stretching to the other side of West County is Llywelyn’s Pub (pronounced loo-well-ans) in Wildwood, Missouri, the same area that’s home to Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park for camping, picnics, historic architecture, and hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Llywelyn’s has seven locations in the greater-St. Louis area serving Celtic-inspired cuisine like The Double Dip pork-and-roast beef sandwich, beer-battered fish and chips, Pub Curry with chicken and shrimp over basmati rice or a seasonal brown-sugar pork chop with balsamic Brussels sprouts. Along with nearly 50 beers on tap, live music, more than a dozen big-screen TVs, happy hour, a game room and an expansive outdoor patio with a full bar, the Wildwood location is a family-friendly favorite for those looking for a fun time.
Just as with the city proper, St. Louis’ western suburbs boast plenty of noteworthy eateries and bars that are worth the short drive from Downtown. And while The Arch’s symbol as the “gateway to the west” was intended to extend much farther than West County, a trip to any of these communities can satisfy just about any craving you have.
Companion – West St. Louis Campus, 2331 Schuetz Road, Maryland Heights, 314.627.5262, companionbaking.com
Drunken Fish – Westport Plaza, 639 Westport Plaza Drive, Maryland Heights, Missouri, 314.275.8300, drunkenfish.com
Llywelyn’s – Wildwood, 2490 Taylor Road, Wildwood, Missouri, 636.821.3000, llywelynspub.com/wildwood
The Pasta House Co., multiple locations, pastahouse.com
Sugarfire – Olivette and Sugarfire Pie, 9200 Olive Blvd., Olivette, Missouri, 314.997.2301, sugarfiresmokehouse.com
Wasabi Sushi Bar; 1066 Town and Country Crossing Drive, Town and Country, Missouri, 636.230.7400; 9983 Manchester Road, Warson Woods, Missouri, 314.966.7786; wasabisushibars.com