By most accounts, 2015 was a banner year for the St. Louis food scene — but we think 2016 might be even better.
Here are ten things we'd like to see in St. Louis in the coming year.
10. An Asian teahouse.
It's no surprise most teahouses focus on the black teas of our British heritage. Somewhere along the way, antiques also became inextricably linked to American teahouse culture. How about a spot focusing on Chinese and/or Japanese green teas in a setting that doesn't look like grandma's estate sale?
9. More great chefs moving to St. Louis.
We're so excited to see what Michael and Tara Gallina do in St. Louis
that we're already itching for more great chefs to move to the Lou.
8. An increase in cross-segment collaborations.
Restaurants working with distillers. Bakeries working with brewers. Chefs from different backgrounds collaborating for a menu or meal. We can't get enough of it.
7. A Bailey's Range for shawarma.
We want someone to do for the classic Middle Eastern shawarma/juice stand what Dave Bailey did for the classic American burger and shake joint. St. Louis needs an updated, localized, whimsical shawarma stand. Yes, we want a Shawarma Slinger with chicken, a runny egg, hash browns and chili hummus all wrapped in fried dough. Forget orange juice. How about a cardamom cocktail?
6. A truly hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant.
Sure we have a few fancy Indian places, and then a smattering of smaller to-go places offering authentic Indian cuisine, but what we're looking for isn't quite either of these things.
We want to be transported to a crowded side street in Mumbai. Menus and silverware are banned. Diners choose between the two or three offerings of the day, select rice or naan and eat with their fingers. A clanging ceiling fan is the only decor we are looking for.
5. A food trailer park.
St. Louis has plenty of empty lots. Why don't we place covered community picnic tables in the middle of one of them with eight to ten permanently parked food trailers?
Which brings us to No. 4 ....
4. A removal of hoops, barriers and paperwork for entrepreneurs.
Woven throughout many of the great restaurant stories of 2015 were difficulties related to licensing, permits, inspections and zoning, which led to fees, delays and barriers to entry. St. Louis should be more welcoming to restaurateurs who want to start or expand businesses.
3. More focused ethnic foods.
Instead of another Mexican restaurant, how about a restaurant focused on, say, the regional specialties of Michoacan — carnitas, tamales and stews? We would gladly exchange a dozen of the greasy, faux-Chinese chop suey houses for the soups and seafood of Shandong province or the fiery plates of Sichuan.
2. A no-holds-barred molecular gastronomy restaurant.
We see molecular gastronomy techniques and dishes here and there across the St. Louis food scene, but how great would it be to see someone fully commit to molecular gastronomy and take it to the extreme? We think the food scene is ready to support it. Is there an ambitious young talent working the line at Alinea in Chicago or Atelier Crenn in San Francisco? You could be the talk of St. Louis...
.... and our No. 1 wish for the food scene in 2016:
1. An even greater focus on local products.
Whether you come at it from a nutritional, political, economic or simple taste perspective, local, small-farm, grass-fed beef is far superior to pink slime.