by Cheryl Baehr
Lona Luo's handmade dumplings garnered quite a following for her Soulard Market food stall -- so much of one, that it allowed her and husband Pierce Powers to open a brick-and-mortar operation. The digs at Lona's Lil Eats (2199 California Avenue; 314-925-8939) may be different, but the dumplings remain as good as ever.
Luo's dumpling wrappers are thin and supple, but sturdy enough to hold their mouth-watering beef filling. It's a mix of peppery minced steak, smoked mushrooms and onions. The secret pop of flavor comes from finely chopped house-fermented pickles -- a nod to Luo's tiny village in southwestern China, where pickling is a big part of the culinary culture. The dumplings are fried to a crispy golden brown and served with a chile-sesame vinaigrette layered with flavors of smoke, salt and tanginess. Storefront? These dumplings are good enough to earn her a culinary empire.
Previously: #93: A St. Louis-Style Pizza from Frank & Helen's Pizzeria #94: Singapore Mei Fun at Bek-Hee #95: The Monte Cristo at Three Flags Tavern #96: The Meatloaf Blue Plate Lunch at Farmhaus #97: Comet Coffee's Chocolate Chip Cookie #98: Canestri Cacio e Pepe at Pastaria #99: The Granola Pancakes at Whitebox Eatery #100: Chicken Noodle Soup at Grove East Provisions