Stepanie and I have, since very early in our courtship, always cooked together a lot. Neither of us ever has too much money, so we don’t eat out terribly often, but still we have a number of places that we would clearly recommend, and from which we have many fond memories. For this list, I didn’t include any chains, though St. Louis Bread Company, Starbucks and Qdoba would have to rank highly in any honest accounting of where we actually spent our food budget.
Dewey’s Pizza – Right off the bat, I am breaking the “No Chain” rule, but Dewey’s doesn’t really feel like a chain. Stephanie and I had our first dinner date here. They have wonderful pizzas, with crusts that are just the right mix of thick and chewy and thin and crunchy.
Blackthorn Pizza & Pub – There is nothing balanced about Blackthorn’s pizza. It is Chicago-style deep-dish, bubbling over with cheese and chewy crust, spicy sauce and generous helpings of toppings. This place is clearly a pub that also serves delicious pizza – there is little space in the ovens, and the wait for a pizza (which you have to order at the bar) can be well over an hour. There are many pub games (shuffleboard, air hockey, darts, etc.) to keep you occupied while you wait. When they call out your name, and you grab your enormous pizza and paper plates, it is all worth it.
Schlafly Tap Room & Bottle Works – These are clear favorites. We have been to each a number of times. We went to the Tap Room after Tom Peteet’s speech at the Old Post Office, which was the first time we went together. Notably, we went there for Burn’s Night, and, of course, we will have our reception there. It is an old converted mill building, with an English Pub theme. The Bottle Works is in a converted grocery store. It is much more sleek and modern in decor, with a menu heavy on locally grown vegetables. My parents first met Stephanie at breakfast here.
Dressel’s Pub – This is just solid comfort food. We love the rarebit here, and the chips with malt vinegar, and they have some of the best fish and chips I have ever had. We have eaten here together several times. I fondly remember eating with Bob and Beth on the patio out front, and eating with Chris before Tom and Mya’s wedding. The downstairs is decorated on one side with poets and writers, and on the other with composers and musicians, and I have a favorite photo of Stephanie in front of their portrait of Herman Melville.
Mangia Italiano’s – This is a wonderful Italian place on Grand. I’ve only eaten there twice, both with Stephanie, Bob and Beth. The first was just a chance for us to meet up with them, and the second was downstairs at the reception for their wedding. Both times, the food and atmosphere were great.
Pho Grand – This was an old standby for me. I would sometimes get it from work, sometimes I’d get takeout to carry home. Stephanie and I ate here several times, once we met Bob and Beth here, and I fondly recall sitting on the floor of my apartment eating takeout and watching Horatio Hornblower in the wintertime. They are cheap and very tasty – Vietnamese food, specializing in soups and noodle bowls.
Fitz’s – This is a really cool place. Fitz’s is a popular root beer brand in the St. Louis area, and they have a diner-style restaurant with a glass wall to see their bottling process. They have great desserts and solid food.
McGurk’s Irish Pub & Garden – I’d been here once before Tom Peteet’s birthday, when I was called on a school night to come out and join a gathering where I was fortuitously (through intricate unspoken maneuverings) seated next to Stephanie. We talked well past my normal school night bedtime, and the next day we began to e-mail each other, quickly getting to a two- or three-a-day rate. McGurk’s is very close to my old apartment, so we went here often afterwards. I particularly remember meeting Larry and Crystal here a couple of times. The food is really good, and the outdoor seating in the garden is lovely.
MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse – This isn’t really a restaurant, and their coffeehouse food is all pretty basic, but it is right by Tower Grove Park, and we went here several times for a little nibble and some coffee after or before walking around the park.
Soulard Coffee Garden – This is a short walk from my old apartment, and they have a nice breakfast menu. The upstairs room is nice, with murals on the walls and mismatched furniture. Another place we would stop by when out walking.
Blueberry Hill – This is a St. Louis landmark. Chuck Berry plays here monthly, and the owner of Blueberry Hill is the driving force behind the U-City Loop. The restaurant is decorated with his collectibles and souvenirs, mostly from the history of rock and roll and pop culture. The food is good, but it’s not what I remember of the place. It is just a good place to sit and look around and soak it all in.
India’s Rasoi – Stephanie’s favorite Indian restaurant, we went here once or twice together. The food is good, even the buffet (which I am normally not a fan of). They recently moved, and Stephanie says the new place is fantastic looking.
Crown Candy Kitchen – I already wrote about Crown Candy, but it clearly belongs on this list.
The Google Map, showing these locations, together with pins for my old apartment and the infamous Essex House.