Broadway Oyster Bar
736 South Broadway, 314-621-8811
Broadway Oyster Bar may serve Cajun food, but its soul is entirely St. Louis. For more than 35 years, this restaurant and music venue has been serving up étouffée, jambalaya, gator and crawfish to hungry diners, washed down with the best hurricanes this side of NOLA. And you don't have to worry about eating too much — head outside to the live music stage and dance it all off to a zydeco beat.
Best New Restaurant
Cork & Barrel Chop House and Spirits
7337 Mexico Road, St. Peters; 636-387-7030
If you don't have the cash to buy your own Big Green Egg, Cork & Barrel Chop House and Spirits has you covered. The upscale St. Peters steakhouse is the only restaurant in the entire state to cook using these coveted cookers. After just one bite of its mouthwatering steaks and chops, you'll wonder why more places don't take its lead.
Best Late-Night Eats
4243 Manchester Avenue, 314-531-5700
If your idea of late-night dining means mediocre diner food and stale coffee, clearly you haven't been to the Gramophone. After an eight-year run as a music venue, this Grove eatery converted into a sandwich shop in 2015 and made St. Louis a tastier place. For proof, order the "Manchester Melt," a riff on the St. Louis classic gerber. It's magnificent any time of day but tastes so much sweeter at 2 a.m.
3153 Morganford Road, 314-772-9800
If it's Sunday in south city, there is only one place to be: brunch at Three Monkeys. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the seventh day, this beloved Tower Grove South bar and grill turns itself into a multi-room culinary extravaganza with everything from shrimp cocktail to made-to-order omelets, roast beef to pancakes to pasta. Add in a complementary mimosa or bargain-priced Bloody Mary, and there's no better place to be on a lazy weekend morning.
Beast Craft Barbecue
20 South Belt W, Belleville, Illinois; 618-257-9000
When you hear the word "beast," you might think it refers to the animals that pitmaster David Sandusky has on the smokers at his wonderful Belleville smokehouse. Ask him, however, and he'll tell you something different: "Beast is an adjective; it's how we do things around here." That intensity translates into what readers say is the area's best barbecue and possibly the best pork steak on the planet.
Jilly's Cupcake Bar & Café
Two locations, including 8509 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-993-5455
Long before the accolades, before winning Cupcake Wars (twice) and being selected as the best cupcakes in the entire state, Jilly's was a simple University City bakery with the singular mission of bringing St. Louis the biggest and best gourmet cupcakes it had ever seen. When you bite into one of its massive, buttercream-coated treats, you'll see it's achieved that — and so much more — even if there's nothing simple about it.
900 Barton Street, 314-773-1019
As if one juicy eight-ounce hunk of Angus beef wasn't enough, the folks at D's Place in Soulard take that, add a second, and then cover them both in bacon, cheddar and an onion ring. They call this behemoth "the Danimal," but they should simply refer to it as the best damn burger in town.
Best Burger, Non-Beef Division
622 North and South Road, University City; 314-727-6500
Frida's owner Natasha Kwan has said that people often tell her that the "Frida Burger" tastes like a Big Mac. It's the ultimate compliment — to the Big Mac. At this University City vegetarian and vegan spot, even the most dedicated carnivores enjoy sinking their teeth into this secret blend of Match Meat, beans, vegetables, herbs and spices, topped with tomatoes and tahini chipotle slaw. Whether you're vegan or meat-eater, it's no matter. We're loving it.
603 East Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-963-3232
For 40 years, Cyrano's has been bringing St. Louis not only the best desserts, but the most comprehensive dessert selection. From classic flambés to the city's best bread pudding, this Webster Groves mainstay harkens back to a time when you could grab a coffee and a slice of decadent pie after the theater — a treat that never goes out of style.
Two locations, including 300 North Euclid Avenue, 314-361-2828
Culpeppers may not have invented the chicken wing, but you wouldn't know that by the reverence with which St. Louisans treat this perennial favorite. Crisp, juicy, meaty, tangy and stinging with enough heat to make your eyes water — these wings have set the standard in St. Louis for more than 70 years. Here's hoping for 70 more.
Kalbi Taco Shack
2301 Cherokee Street, 314-240-5544
If Korean-style short ribs, sweet and spicy jackfruit and teriyaki chicken don't come to mind when you think of tacos, Kalbi Taco Shack shows why you've been missing out. At this Cherokee Street fusion taqueria, Mexican-style staples are infused with Asian flavor, proving that good tacos have no boundaries.
1023 S. Big Bend Boulevard, Richmond Heights; 314-644-2000
What's better than Pointer's delectable, hand-tossed crust topped with its signature tangy tomato sauce, gooey cheese and a host of toppings? Why, the 28-inch version, of course! It may be impossible to eat the behemoth "Pointersaurus" in one sitting (go ahead and try with a friend), but we wouldn't mind making the attempt.
Best Fried Chicken
3108 Olive Street, 314-531-4668
Nashville may have given this style of hot chicken its name, but St. Louis' Southern has given it its soul. At this restaurant co-founded by Pappy's Mike Emerson and Rick Lewis (now of the newly opened Grace Meat + Three), the chile oil-dipped chicken is so fiery you'll break a sweat, but so crisp, juicy and full of flavor, you won't even notice. It's worth the burn.
Taqueria El Bronco
2817 Cherokee Street, 314-762-0691
These days, you'll find everything on Cherokee Street from ramen to records, Saudi cuisine to tea. At its heart, though, the vibrant neighborhood remains the center of St. Louis' Mexican cuisine, and no restaurant represents this better than Taqueria El Bronco. Whether feasting on authentic tacos, massive tortas or overstuffed sopes diners at this neighborhood mainstay, you'll taste why this beloved taqueria is the heart of Cherokee Street.
6836 Gravois Avenue, 314-353-1488
Apollonia may be located in the heart of south city, but its authentic Greek food will make you think you're in the Mediterranean. For more than a decade, this delightful taverna has been serving St. Louisans classic Greek delicacies like saganaki, dolmades and moussaka, as well as what's arguably the best gyro in town. It's enough to make you want to shout "Opa!"
Cunetto House of Pasta
5453 Magnolia Avenue, 314-781-1135
If you haven't had the pleasure of being a guest at an Italian wedding, head down to Cunetto House of Pasta on any given weekend night. It's basically the same thing. At this Hill mainstay, the lively yet sophisticated atmosphere and perennial favorites like veal saltimbocca and chicken cardinale make every meal feel like a celebration.
9720 Page Avenue, Overland; 314-423-7300
When you pull up to Haveli, which is located in an industrial part of north county, you might question whether you have the right spot. One taste of its northern Indian cuisine, however, will erase any doubts. Under the guidance of owner Hema Patel, Haveli is responsible for the best vindaloo, curry and masala in town. The building may be a former Shoney's, but Patel has turned it into the Taj Mahal.
8116 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-567-9997
Olive Boulevard, University City's unofficial Chinatown, is crowded with good Chinese food, but one restaurant consistently stands out from the rest. For years, Wonton King has been wowing diners with its Hong Kong-style cuisine, best-in-class Peking duck and specialties like the "XO Seafood Rice" — so good it's developed a cult following. Then there's the dim sum, a selection of authentic small-plates goodies so delightful you'll be glad they offer it seven days a week.
8416 N. Lindbergh Boulevard, Florissant; 314-831-3701
From a storefront in the heart of north county, Pearl Café consistently offers the area's best Thai food, but that's only part of the story. Sure, Scott Truong knows how to cook amazing pad Thai and yellow curries, but the innovative chef/owner is always looking for ways to reimagine Thai cuisine through dishes like the "Phorito" or his forthcoming "Thai Burger." Add in the extensive beer selection and 150 different types of whiskey and you'll see why Pearl Café is so much more than your usual Thai spot.
Best Middle Eastern
3171 South Grand Boulevard, 314-776-0991
You might go to the Vine because of its impossibly succulent chicken shawarma. You could be partial to its shish kafta, its falafel or even a simple plate of hummus. Whatever Middle Eastern delicacy you crave, chances are this Lebanese gem not only has it, but has the best version this side of the Levant.
Tani Sushi Bistro
7726 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-296-8069
If you judged the quality of a sushi restaurant by its atmosphere, the stylish Tani Sushi Bistro would take the grand prize. But it also takes top honors for what's really important: impossibly fresh and impeccably presented sashimi and a collection of unique offerings that go far beyond spicy tuna and California rolls. This sleek Clayton eatery is the total package.
622 North and South Road, University City; 314-727-6500
The true mark of a quality vegetarian restaurant isn't whether it's perfected the art of cooking seitan or can properly prepare tofu. Those are important, of course, and Frida's has them down, but the most telling thing about this lovely University City cafe is just how many non-vegetarians frequent it on a regular basis. Full flavors make Frida's feel complete — and delicious — even to the most dedicated carnivore.
3139 South Grand Boulevard, 314-772-6100
For the past 25 years, City Diner has been a staple of the south city restaurant scene, serving hungry patrons breakfast, lunch or dinner into the wee hours of weekend mornings. But the extended hours are only part of its allure. Those fluffy pancakes, overstuffed sandwiches and blue plate-style entrees are crave-worthy any time of day.
Multiple locations, including 2117 South 12th Street; 314-772-5977
Tucker's Place is not the fanciest steakhouse in town by a long shot — that pomp and circumstance is for the out-of-town chains. At this friendly Soulard institution and its offspring, you can wear jeans and a t-shirt while feasting on humongous, shockingly juicy steaks that come (gasp) with a baked potato and a salad. This beloved spot proves that spending more isn't the only way to attain high quality.
Best Ice Cream
Ices Plain & Fancy
2556 South 39th Street, 314-601-3604
Part of the novelty of getting ice cream at Ices Plain & Fancy is the show: Nitro ice cream, frozen to order in a cloud of cold smoke, is a sight to behold, one that's worthy of a visit in its own right. However, one taste of this silken cream will leave you convinced that the best part of Ices Plain & Fancy is eating it.
Best Coffee Shop
2 Maryland Plaza, 314-454-0000
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, Coffee Cartel serves as the Central West End's unofficial meet-up point, a place to see and be seen. If you need further proof, consider that there's a live web-cam of its patio so you can monitor the goings-on even when you're not there. Impossibly decadent coffee drinks in every flavor under the sun fuel the conversation all night long.
Multiple locations, including 20 North Central Avenue, Clayton; 314-862-2224
You could say that Pickleman's Deli is the quintessential sandwich shop, and you wouldn't be wrong. Its classic toasted subs embody everything that is great in a deli sandwich: crusty bread, fresh toppings, hearty meats. However, Pickleman's is so much more than sammies. Mouthwatering soups, fresh salads and even pizzas make this boutique chain stand out from the crowded field.
2001 Menard Street, 314-833-6686
Located in the former home of Clementine's in the heart of Soulard, Duke's isn't fancy and it isn't pretentious. It's just a fun spot to catch the game or have a stiff drink with a bunch of people who know how to have a good time. In other words, it's a classic Soulard bar. Duke's has a host of high-definition TVs playing whatever game you care most about, a patio that's perfect for a smoke break or outside day drinking and a full menu of bar fare.
Best Place to Sing Karaoke
Good Times Saloon
200 North Main Street, Dupo, Illinois; 618-286-9693
"The best patio bar around," Good Times Saloon has drawn raves from readers under its new owners. While the big patio is a hit for day drinking, you'll want to come back at night when aspiring Lady Gagas and Michael Jacksons strut their stuff — making this bar a draw for readers on both sides of the river.
Best Wine Bar
4659 Maryland Avenue, 314-497-4449
A stylish three-story hangout in the Central West End, Brennan's is far more than just a wine bar — it's also got a terrific selection of whiskey and bartenders capable of mixing a great cocktail. But its wine list is definitely top-notch, and it offers just the vibe you want when you're lingering over a great pour — sophisticated without being snotty, laid-back without being lazy. Come for the cigars and the great vibe; stay for a glass of pinot.
Best Sports Bar
2001 Menard Street, 314-833-6686
Duke's isn't just our readers' choice for best bar; it also notched a win in the hotly competitive best sports bar category. Feast on wings, bruschetta or a sirloin steak sandwich while watching the game. Whether it's hockey, baseball or the NFL (damn those Rams!), you'll find a crowd that's eager to have a good time and a welcoming atmosphere.
Best New Bar
1000 Clark Avenue, 14-240-5400
The downtown St. Louis outpost of a Nashville-based chain, Tin Roof offers Southern-influenced food, Southern-style hospitality and the kind of party-hearty good-time vibe that would be totally at home in the Music City. Grab some food, get a round of shots and listen to a cover band or a DJ — but no matter where you start the night, you'll want to close it down on the dance floor.
Best Gay Bar
4112 Manchester Avenue, 314-371-1333
This massive bar in the Grove neighborhood offers two patios, an outdoor bar and a stage for karaoke and drag shows. The roster of clever nightly specials includes "homo bingo" on Monday and Sunday showtunes, with happy hour prices all night long, as well as karaoke on both Tuesday and Thursday. Open til 3 a.m. six nights a week (and until 1 a.m. on the seventh, Sunday), Just John is always a great time.
Best Dive Bar
2600 South 11th Street, 314-776-8617
Fake dive bars may come and go, but the Cat's Meow lives forever. This wonderful Soulard dive offers cheap prices, truly stiff pours and an incomplete but vivid history of the neighborhood's Mardi Gras festivities on its weathered walls. Put down that fancy craft brew and come see how the real drinkers pass the time.
Gamlin Whiskey House
236 North Euclid Avenue, 314-875-9500
It's no surprise that you'll find the best whiskey selection in town at a bar whose entire raison d'etre is the brown spirit. What is a surprise, however, is that Gamlin Whiskey House is also the top spot to grab a cocktail. Everything on its list is whiskey-based, but that doesn't mean they're boring — at this Central West End hot spot, they've developed an endless list of delicious concoctions.
Best Beer Selection
Three Kings Public House
Multiple locations, including 6307 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-721-3388
With 30 beers on tap, 40 craft beer bottles and a cellar list that consists of unique finds, Three Kings Public House is the embodiment of the modern pub. With a selection this impressive — and a knowledgeable staff to guide you along the way — you're guaranteed to find something you like, even if you didn't know you were looking.
The Famous Bar
5213 Chippewa Street, 314-832-2211
Drink trends can disappear faster than an ice cube in room-temperature whiskey. In recent decades we've seen pre-Prohibition cocktails, sloe gin fizzes, tiki concoctions and choco-tinis. Then there's Famous Bar, which eschews trends in favor of a timeless excellence. Sure, you can get different varieties of martinis at this south city gem, but its classic gin version, chilled until ice crystals form in the glass, shows that some things never go out of style.
Hacienda Mexican Restaurant
9748 Manchester Road, Rock Hill; 314-962-7100
On Cinco de Mayo, Hacienda gets so packed that it has to shuttle in patrons from far-off parking lots. You don't have to wait until the fifth of May to experience a fiesta at this nearly 50-year-old Rock Hill institution. Order one of its refreshing "Hacienda Margaritas," throw in a little mango or raspberry puree and let the festivities begin.
Best Irish Pub
John D. McGurk's
1200 Russell Boulevard, 314-776-8309
Maybe you go for the Guinness. Or the Irish music. Or the corned beef and cabbage and the lush outdoor garden. For nearly 40 years, this Emerald Isle in the midst of the city's French district has been giving guests from all walks of life a million reasons to love it. It's no wonder that the rest of the country has taken notice, deeming McGurk's one of the best bars in the U.S. This one is obvious.
Best Bloody Mary
The Slider House
9528 Manchester Road, Rock Hill; 314-942-6445
No, you haven't had one too many. If you're at the Slider House and having a bloody mary, there is indeed a mini-burger hanging off the side of your glass. Even without it, this is a fantastic version of the cocktail, with fiery mix, a healthy dose of Picker's vodka and garnishes of celery, bacon and a stuffed peppadew. But the fact that you can have a meal and a cocktail all in the same glass makes this one take the prize.Turn the page for 40 more winners in shopping, goods, arts and culture, recreation and city life.