by Bryan Peters
Downtown St. Louis isn't exactly a vegetarian's paradise, but Lucas Park Grille (1234 Washington Avenue; 314-241-7770) keeps it real for the herbivores with one of its menu's staple entrées: Vegetarian Meatballs. We've embarrassed ourselves countless times while greedily polishing off the saucy remains with chunks of bread, and sometimes, with our fingers.
There's a delectable bed of smoked tomato ratatouille beneath the plump meatballs, and the melted mozzarella is house-made. But the meatballs are undoubtedly the centerpiece -- never dry, always hearty and seasoned to perfection. Executive Chef Kyle Patterson had the good sense to use Match meat as the key component, a choice that not only supports a local business, but lends to a texture that's as close as you can get to the real thing, without actually eating cow. We've surprised even the most carnivorous of dining companions by offering them a bite; the reaction is a mix of delight and surprise when we inform them that those "meatballs" are actually meatless. With such widespread appeal, don't be surprised if you end up lickin' your plate clean, too.
Beginning last year, RFT restaurant critic Ian Froeb counted down -- in no particular order -- 100 of his favorite dishes in St. Louis. Now Gut Check has taken up where he left off. Check back frequently as we detail our 100 favorites, and don't hesitate to send us yours, too, either via the comments thread or at email@example.com.
#73: Sizzling Rice Soup at Hunan and Peking Garden #74: Straw and Hay Pasta at Trattoria Marcella #75: Spaghetti Pomodoro at Babbo's Spaghetteria #76: Shrimp Fajitas at El Matador #77: Vegetable Quesadilla at Chava's #78: Companion Rustic Olive Bread #79: Salt and Pepper Shrimp from Wei Hong #80: Ba-Mee Mhoo Dang at Basil Spice #81: Catfish Platter at the Gumbo Shop #82: Shrimp & Andouille Flatbread at the Shaved Duck #83: Vegetarian Pasta at Terrene #84: Seafood Stuffed Mushrooms at Zia's #85: Legend Club at LeGrand's Market & Catering #86: City Coffeehouse & Crêperie's Nutella-Banana Crêpe #87: Raw Vegetable Lasagna at Scape #88: Quesadilla Azteca from Tower Tacos #89: The Perfect Pear at Foundation Grounds #90: Banh Mi Sandwich from Sweet Art #91: Chicken and Dumplings at Yummies Soul Food Cafe #92: Cuban Sandwich from La Tropicana #93: The Prosperity at Ruma's Deli #94: Cherry Cheese Danish from Missouri Baking Company #95: Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse #96: Egg Salad Sandwich at Township Grocer #97: Cheeseburger and Fries (Extra Crispy) at O'Connell's Pub #98 Mussels & Fries at Brasserie by Niche #99: Beef Taquitos Mexicanos at El Indio #100: Spinach Artichoke Dip at Cafe Eau