The Gut Check One Hundred is our accounting of the 100 dishes in St. Louis that you must eat right now. These are the best dishes at the newest restaurants and the newest dishes at the best restaurants. These are the 100 dishes that define St. Louis dining in 2013. Our list culminates this fall when the Riverfront Times Best of St. Louis 2013 names the "Best Dish" of the year.
When owners Zahid and Shaheena Khan closed Spice-n-Grill (6800 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-721-2421) "for renovations" in October of last year, less than twelve months after it opened, I suffered the worst sort of déjà vu.
In 2010 the Khans shuttered their restaurant Indian Food, where I'd fallen in love with the Pakistani beef stew called nihari.
Spice-n-Grill had marked the return of both the Khans and their nihari. I couldn't stand to lose that dish again.
Fortunately, Spice-n-Grill's closure was temporary. It returned in December. I learned my lesson. I won't take nihari for granted. Neither will you once you've tried it.
If you've never eaten nihari, while "beef stew" is a handy basic description, it undersells the dish. The flavor is rich, yes, but also bright, with notes of ginger, lime and cilantro. The finish lasts until the very moment before you can put your finger on exactly what its mysterious spice is.
Even as you bite into a tender hunk of beef shank (or lamb, should you prefer), nihari is more likely to remind you of Vietnamese pho than beef Bourguignon.
Is there a dish that you think belongs among the Gut Check One Hundred 2013? Let us know!
The Gut Check One Hundred 2013 (So Far)
- Kim Cheese's "Kim Cheese Burger" - The Shack Pubgrub's "Shack-Which" - Sameem Afghan Restaurant's Muntoo - Local Harvest Cafe & Catering's "Organic Banh Mi" - Sugarfire Smoke House's Beef Brisket - Mad Tomato's Cavatelli with Spring Lamb Ragù - A Good Man Is Hard to Find's "Pork-n-Beans" - The Kitchen Sink's Corn Fritters - Chop Shop's "El Camino" Roll - Quincy Street Bistro's BLT
- Home Wine Kitchen's Fried Chicken - Riverbend Restaurant & Bar's Red Beans and Rice - Fork & Stix's Sai Oua with Naam Prik Nuum - Gobble Stop Smokehouse's Turkey Tips - Seoul Taco's Burrito - Five Star Burger's Green Chile Cheeseburger - Olio's Octopus Salad - Dressel's Porchetta "Louie" - Cleveland- Heath's Seared Beef Tongue
- Cleveland-Heath's Cauliflower Soup - Pastaria's Italian Ramen - Pi Pizzeria's "Grove" Pizza - Famous Szechuan Pavilion's Spicy Wonton Soup (Novice) or Yu Shan Pork (Advanced) - La Tejana Taqueria's Goat Soup - Hendricks BBQ's Ribs - Sauce on the Side's "Costanza" Calzone - Siete Luminarias' Guanajuato-Style Carnitas - Fork & Stix's Khao Soi