Best Coffeehouse (Up-and-Coming)

Rhythm & Brews

At the tender age of nine months, Rhythm & Brews is already everything a strapping young coffeehouse should be -- including, for the time being anyway, largely undiscovered. It's got free wi-fi, local artists' work for sale on the walls, and a funky, chic, unpolished look to its stone floor and loftlike ceiling. It purchases its joe locally, from Northwest Coffee Roasting Works in the Central West End, and serves up a pared-down menu of baked goods and sandwiches that taste as gourmet and fresh as what you'd find for twice the price at fine-dining spots. Sitting smack-dab in the middle of Grand Center -- with those caffeine-crazy SLU kids a couple blocks south and the Fox Theatre a stone's throw away -- Rhythm & Brews should be standing-room-only. Instead it makes do with swell pre-concert Fox crowds and a cadre of regulars. Owner Jeff Foster isn't resting on his laurels -- he's buttressed his business with a liquor license, offering a small array of beers (Fat Tire, Schlafly, the German lager Paulaner), wines by the bottle or glass (including good Chilean and Australian varietals), plus Baileys and Kahlúa for mixing into mugs of coffee. Rhythm & Brews has found its rhythm. Now it's up to us to follow its beat.

Best Mall Dining When the ladies who lunch go shopping, the Zodiac at Neiman Marcus is where they lunch. With good reason: linen tablecloths, weighty silverware, courteous, attentive table service, chic white-on-white décor -- oh, and the food's topnotch. The lunch-only seasonal menu might feature a velvety bisque, a decadent chocolate soufflé cake or the lobster cobb salad, a vertically presented triumph in classy Atkins cuisine, which of course made it a runaway hit here last summer. (Shopping makes for great cardio, but a gal needs all the waistline-trimming help she can get.) It's pricey, yes, with many main courses up in the teens -- but then again, it is the Plaza.

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