Special Issues » Restaurant Guide

RFT Readers' Favorite Restaurants in 2017

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This year, we've chosen the 40 restaurants we love -- and even more places we adore. But it's not all about us. We've also turned over to the selection to our readers in 40 categories. Here are the places you've chosen.

FAVORITE BREAKFAST

FAVORITE COFFEE

Kaldi's

Multiple locations including 700 De mun Avenue, 314-727-9955

Kaldi's flagship is located just across from the Concordia Seminary Park in De Mun, arguably the most adorable neighborhood in Clayton. The 23-year-old cafe is busy nearly all times of day, with small tables and cozy corners for reading inside, as well as several patio tables outside. Kaldi's serves a small menu of baked goods and vegetarian items like quiche, salads and breakfast burritos, and of course the main attraction: coffee. The homegrown company specializes in sustainably sourcing and roasting the finest coffees from around the world. A rotating selection of drip coffee is supplemented by seasonal lattes. Kaldi's has six other locations in the St. Louis area, plus outposts in Columbia and Kansas City, and has even expanded south with three locations in Atlanta — giving the rest of the country a chance to sip St. Louis' favorite cup.

PASTRIES/DONUTS

Vincent Van Doughnut

1072 Tower Grove Avenue and 40 North Central Avenue, Clayton; 314-899-9500

Yes, the original "Square Beyond Compare" is a cracker-thin crust topped with Provel and tomato sauce, but we can't help but think the slogan could apply equally well to another St. Louis-based delicacy — Vincent Van Doughnut. The donuts at this local favorite are soft, square and at least twice as big as any others in town, which is fortunate, since it's simply impossible to stop eating them once you've had a bite. Originally a food truck, Vincent Van Doughnut put down roots in Clayton in 2015 and opened a second outpost in the city's Grove neighborhood in February, offering not only its signature doughnuts but also breakfast kolaches, doughnut ice cream sandwiches and affogato. Owner Vincent Brian Marsden says the next step will be obtaining a liquor license, in order to add a line of boozy shakes. As if the shop wasn't already deliriously tempting!

BRUNCH

Eclipse

6177 Delmar Boulevard, 314-726-2222

The Moonrise Hotel isn't just a great spot to drink under the stars, although its rooftop bar will always be one of our favorite places to do just that. You can also greet the morning with its brunch offerings — whether you're rising at 6:30 a.m. and starting your day with a spinach salad or rolling out of bed at 11 a.m. to take down a plate of steak and eggs and a bloody mary. On the weekends, Eclipse serves its brunch menu all the way til 4 p.m., so it's impossible to sleep through this one. And hey, guess what? The rooftop opens again at 5 p.m. So fuel up on a "Brunch Burger" — eight ounces of meat, cheddar, a fried egg and "Comeback sauce" — and get ready to start the party all over again.

City Diner: readers' choice for best diner. - PHOTO BY ERIC FRAZIER
  • PHOTO BY ERIC FRAZIER
  • City Diner: readers' choice for best diner.

DINER

City Diner

3139 South Grand Boulevard, 314-772-6100

In the heart of South Grand's international district, City Diner stands as a celebration of nostalgic American dining. Opened in 1992 by Peter Spoto as an inclusive place with "something for everyone," the restaurant has built a reputation as the go-to breakfast spot for south city residents in search of classic American fare. Pancakes, slingers and hash browns abound, but it's the creative touches that make City Diner stand out from the other old-timey diners that populate St. Louis' dining landscape. Omelets aren't merely "Denver" or ham and Swiss; why not try one filled with meatloaf, mashed potatoes and milk gravy? And why settle for any old bacon and sausage when you can head to City Diner and pair your eggs with a pork chop or spicy salsiccia? And City Diner doesn't just have you covered for breakfast. This readers' favorite follows in the footsteps of classic New Jersey diners with blue plate lunch and dinners that are every bit as tasty as the breakfast fare. Or you could just order them both at the same time — say, mozzarella sticks with a side of pancakes at 3 a.m. on a Saturday. Does it get any better than that?

BARBECUE

Sugarfire Smokehouse

Multiple locations including 9200 Olive Boulevard No. 114, Olivette; 314-997-2301

Sugarfire Smokehouse is relatively new on the St. Louis barbecue scene, but it has quickly made its presence known with six locations throughout the area, and counting. Known for its outrageous how-do-you-eat-that specials, Sugarfire offers a wide menu of smoked meats, sandwiches, sides and desserts, including options for vegetarians. The chefs make most of the condiments in house and work with local ingredients whenever possible. The genius behind the growing Sugarfire empire, Mike Johnson, worked in restaurants from New Orleans to Chicago to France before making his way to St. Louis. He's always coming up with new barbecue concoctions that aren't to be missed. Where else can you find brisket rangoon or a brisket and gravy sandwich with cheese curds? Starters, too, excel, with options including smoked fried artichokes and pork belly hush puppies. No wonder readers say it's No. 1.

MAC & CHEESE

Salt + Smoke

6525 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-727-0200

Salt + Smoke is a bit more elevated than your average barbecue joint — you won't find disposable plates here, and there's a server to assist you rather than a long line snaking out the door. The Loop location is elegantly rustic, with a menu that features both the classics (brisket, pulled pork) and inventive surprises, like a falafel burger or the fried jalapeño and cheddar bologna. While you can't go wrong with just about anything on the menu, the "white cheddar cracker mac" is both the signature side and readers' favorite in the whole damn city, for good reason. Made with white cheddar cheese and sprinkled with oyster crackers that provide a nice crunch amidst all that gooey, cheesy deliciousness, this addictive version of macaroni and cheese bears little resemblance to the orange stuff in a box that you grew up with — and you'll be very glad that's the case. Wash it down with bourbon and feel pure bliss.

Blues City Deli: readers' choice for best deli and best sandwiches. - PHOTO BY MADELINE AZAR
  • PHOTO BY MADELINE AZAR
  • Blues City Deli: readers' choice for best deli and best sandwiches.

DELI/SANDWICH

Blues City Deli

2438 McNair Avenue, 314-773-8225

For residents of Benton Park, Blues City Deli is a corner sandwich shop — the sort of place you walk to with your dog, run into friends and where the owner knows your order by heart. For the rest of St. Louis — well, it sort of feels that way too. Owner Vince Valenza and family have somehow managed to make Blues City Deli the neighborhood sandwich shop for all of St. Louis. Part of this is the sandwiches themselves: the best muffulettas and po' boys this side of NOLA, a glorious homemade meatball sandwich, Italian beef topped with piquant giardiniera and everything in between. No one disputes that Blues City Deli is serving the best thing between bread in town. But a lot of the deli's appeal has to do with its atmosphere. It's welcoming, friendly, efficient, and it always seems like there's a party going on. This is especially true on Thursdays and Saturdays when live blues music fills the space and turns this corner of McNair and Victor Street into a street party. This place is the total package. No wonder readers voted it to the top of two key categories.

Pi Pizzeria: readers' choice for best pizza. - PHOTO BY JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • PHOTO BY JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Pi Pizzeria: readers' choice for best pizza.

PIZZA

Pi Pizzeria

Multiple locations including 400 North Euclid Avenue, 314-367-4300

We've forgotten most of what we learned in math class — but we have no problem remembering how delicious a circle can be. Mathematically named Pi Pizzeria proves this to the nth degree over and over and over again. Whether you're going thin-crust for a decidedly non-St. Louis-style pizza pie (or pi, as it were) or tucking into a delightfully deep-dish cornmeal-crust extravaganza, you'll be filling up on incredibly fresh toppings that pack flavor into every bite. Maybe the all-veg Lincoln Park is your scene, with thin crust, zucchini, tomato, feta, basil, garlic olive oil and mozzarella. Or perhaps you're a bit of a traditionalist and go for the South Side Classico, a deep-dish pie with Berkshire sausage, mushrooms, green pepper, onions and mozzarella, all topped with a chunky tomato sauce. No matter your selection, no matter your dining location, Pi will leave you plenty full, very happy and better at math (no guarantees on that last one).

FRIED CHICKEN

Hodak's

2100 Gravois Avenue, 314-776-7292

Thirty years ago, people were lining up to get a taste of Hodak's crispy fried chicken. Five years ago, every hip restaurant in town was clamoring to serve fancy fried chicken as the trend du jour — and Hodak's still had a line. These days, that fad has come and gone and, you guessed it: There's still a line out the door at Hodak's. Since 1962, when the former owner's wife made chicken to feed hungry patrons at their little tavern, people have been flocking to this no-frills restaurant on the south side for its deep fried bird, makings Hodak's as much a St. Louis food icon as toasted ravioli and Ted Drewes. And what's not to love? For less than nine bucks, you get slaw, half a fried chicken, and fries served piping hot out of the deep fryer (like a place this busy has time to let the food sit around!). It's nothing fancy: Just succulent meat, crispy skin and a lighter-than-most batter that's seasoned with just a little salt and pepper, but what it lacks in culinary innovation it more than makes up for in staying power. 

Anthonino's: readers' choice for best toasted ravioli. - PHOTO BY ERIC FRAZIER
  • PHOTO BY ERIC FRAZIER
  • Anthonino's: readers' choice for best toasted ravioli.

TOASTED RAVIOLI

Anthonino's Taverna

2225 Macklind Avenue, 314-773-4455

Many restaurants claim to be the originator of St. Louis' iconic toasted ravioli. Perhaps they argue for those bragging rights because one place in town has already shored up the title of "best." The beloved Italian-Greek tavern Anthonino's on the Hill has perfected the art of the city's legendary finger food. Here, the chefs make the ravioli fresh in-house, beginning with an egg and semolina shell that is filled with ground beef, spices and pecorino cheese. The secret, however, is the addition of ricotta into the mixture, giving the filling a rich, creamy texture. These golden beauties are deep-fried so that the outside gets crispy and the interior cheese gets molten and gooey. Fresh grated cheese is sprinkled over the top when they're hot, forming a second coating, and tangy marinara sauce adds a zesty flavor that cuts through the richness. Who cares who did it first when you can eat the very best?

SOUP

Pickles Deli

701 Olive Street, 314-241-2255 and 22 North Euclid, 314-361-3354

At a place known for such fantastic sandwiches as Pickles Deli, you'd expect soup to be an afterthought — an offering on the menu in case someone wants a heartier side than chips to go with their reuben, but not the star of the show. However, Pickles is also quietly serving up an ever-changing array of unique, from-scratch options that would make you think you've wandered into a place dedicated to soup, not sandwiches. This is not your standard chicken noodle sort of place (though when it's on the menu, it's outstanding). Pickles serves everything from curried lentil to white bean with chicken sausage to cheesy smoked poblano. And who would've thought that the best lobster bisque in St. Louis might be served out of a to-go container from a sandwich shop? You may go into Pickles for a ham and Swiss on rye, but there's no way you'll be able to resist a side of its outstanding soup. Heck, maybe you'll even skip the sandwich.

APPETIZER SELECTION

Retreat Gastropub (tie)

6 North Sarah Street, 314-261-4497

Blueberry Hill (tie)

6504 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-727-4444

Retreat Gastropub, the stylishly rustic spot on the edge of the Central West End, offers a wide range of small plates, perfect either for starting your meal or for fueling up while you're having a drink at the bar — from killer french fries to savory pork toasts to cedar-smoked trout. Readers rave about the experience at Retreat, from the modern cocktails to expert service, but if you can't manage to score a table (an all too common occurrence at this popular spot), readers also love the more traditional bar eats on offer at Blueberry Hill. Nosh on pretzel sticks with nacho cheese, fried pickles with a side of ranch, or cheddar cheese balls, fried and served with a side of salsa, and remember why this oldie is always a goodie. Whether you like your appetizers with a side of rock & roll nostalgia or as a prelude to one of the city's hottest-ticket dining experiences, one of these spots will always have you covered.

Culpepper's: readers' choice, once again, for best wings. - COURTESY OF CULPEPPER'S
  • COURTESY OF CULPEPPER'S
  • Culpepper's: readers' choice, once again, for best wings.

WINGS

Culpepper's

300 North Euclid Avenue, 314-361-2828 and 3010 West Clay, St. Charles; 636-916-3102

The wings at this popular restaurant are a perennial winner on our readers' choice list, and it's easy to see why. Crispy on the outside, incredibly moist on the inside, they're so delicious that it's impossible to stop gobbling them up once you've tried one. No wonder Culpepper's sells them in batches as big as 50! Try the original hot, gold, chipotle BBQ, sweet and spicy, or honey mustard sauce — and, to really mix things up, pair any of the above options with a boneless version. Either way, you can dip them in your choice of ranch or bleu cheese. Readers will happily attest to the fact that you'll leave sated.

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