Dining out: What do you recommend?

Compiled by Jewish Light staff

How do we go about finding new restaurants and new dishes to try? Restaurant reviews? Advertising? Sure. But one of the tried-and-true methods for selecting a new spot is recommendations from our circle of friends, family and acquaintances. 

With that in mind, the Jewish Light reached out to our “circle” inside the Jewish community, and asked for recommendations for a few common categories. Each query had seven fairly common restaurant categories — and respondents were encouraged to fill out at least three. 

So here are the responses we received. Happy eating — and here’s hoping you discover some new dishes and restaurants that please your palate.



Aura Kavadlo, culinary instructor and food writer (her blog is pomegranatesandhoney.wordpress.com)

Favorite pasta dish: My favorite pasta dish is, believe it or not, at Yaya’s Euro Bistro in Chesterfield. It is the shrimp linguini, which has oven-roasted tomatoes, spinach, garlic and sweet vermouth-sage sauce. And the noodles are made on South Grand — they don’t use Italian style pasta for this dish. The texture of the noodles gives this dish a surprising flair.

Favorite Chinese: Lulu Seafood on Olive Boulevard in University City is my favorite place. I love the chow fun, which are wide rice noodles and are hard to find in St. Louis, but Lulu’s has them. I also love their dim sum, especially the shrimp and chive dumplings and the scallion pancakes.

Favorite ethnic spot (not Chinese): Thai Sawadee in Chesterfield, when I like to stay close to home. I’ve eaten pretty much everything on the menu — and love everything — so it is hard to narrow down my favorite thing on the menu. The curry pot stickers and crispy spring rolls are great. All of the curry dishes are delicious, the yellow curry, the red curry, and the panang. The garlic scallop fried rice is amazing. And all of the stir-fried noodles are great. If I am in a spicy mood I get the pad khi mao/spicy noodle beef and if not, then the pad Thai and pad see yu are really great, too.

Favorite dessert:  I love the bread pudding at Harvest (in Richmond Heights), which is completely over the top. Very rich and decadent. I also love the salted caramel gelato at Pastaria (in Clayton) and sometimes go there just for that.

Mark Richman, St. Louis singer and entertainer (he notes that his vote for “Best In-Store While You Shop Entertainment” would be himself — and he performs at many local Schnucks stores) 

Favorite ethnic spot (not Chinese):  Nick and Elena’s Pizzeria on Woodson Road in Overland.  It’s family owned and 110 percent authentic Sicilian. They have a house salad dressing made in their kitchen and it’s like nothing you have ever tasted in your life…and probably the best pizza anywhere.

Another favorite ethnic restaurant is Taqueria Durango Mexican restaurant on Page Avenue in Overland. My neighbor is the owner, and his food is very authentic. 

Favorite in-no-way cheap eats: Kreis Restaurant on Lindbergh Boulevard (in Frontenac). It’s the standard for prime rib.

Favorite sandwich: Carl’s Deli on Clayton Road across from St. Mary’s Hospital. Matt’s corned beef sandwich truly gives new meaning to the term “over-stuffed” It’s also probably the best sandwich bargain anywhere.

Favorite cheap eats: The $1.62 (including tax) all-beef hot dog and drink at Costco.

Ericka Zoll, Director of Development for the Jewish Community Center

Favorite cheap eats: Snarf’s in the Loop has great sandwiches, salads and I’m partial because it got its start in Boulder, Colo. (which is where I went to school and is still my favorite place!).  I think my kids and I will be spending a lot of time there this summer.

Favorite in-no-way cheap eats: Tavolo V on the east end of the Loop, across from the Pageant, tops my list these days — we love the atmosphere and always run into to people we know.  The roasted cauliflower is amazing as a starter, and every entrée I’ve had is delicious.

Favorite pasta dish:  Zia’s on the Hill has a great cavatelli broccoli.  I know I get stuck in a rut, but I get it every time.

Favorite Chinese: I recently moved back to University City and discovered that House of Wong in Clayton delivers.  The pot stickers are really good.  So is the Mongolian beef.

Favorite ethnic spot (not Chinese): Rasoi in the Central West End is our favorite spot for Indian food.  My kids get a kick out of it because we have no idea what we’re ordering but it’s always great. 

Favorite dessert: The bread pudding at Remy’s is the best.  I’m not a big dessert eater, but whenever I’m there, whether it’s lunch or dinner, I have to have it.

Susan Balk, author and editor, as well as founder and chair of local nonprofit HateBrakers

Favorite cheap eats: Family faves include Sun Restaurant (in Hazelwood) for their bum bum chicken (wings). We haven’t seen anything else like it around town.  Best to get it to go — not a place to dine in. Call ahead or be prepared to wait. The place is also known for their gizzards. 

Favorite sandwich:  Grilled veggie sandwich at Cardwell’s in Frontenac. Don’t ask, just try it. I don’t know how they herb their mayo, but it carries the combo of a potentially predictable sandwich. 

Favorite pasta dish: Linguettini con escarole at Frank Papa’s on Brentwood Boulevard. Just the right kiss of garlic.

Favorite Chinese:  Mai Lee. When it moved from its old home on Delmar and McKnight to its larger, fancier spot next to the Brentwood MetroLink stop, we worried that it would lose its family touch. Not to worry. Best pad Thai and chicken salad in town.  Their combo of green beans, mushrooms and scrambled eggs sounds dull, but its texture (sumptuous) and seasoning make it, um, exciting.

Favorite ethnic spot (not Chinese):  Grbic, the amazing Bosnian restaurant on Keokuk Street in south St. Louis, serves first-rate European standards like weiner schnitzel, goulash, stuffed cabbage. Plus new-to-me delicacies like cauliflower or spinach schnitzel. The atmosphere is exotic and welcoming.  It looks and feels like another country.

Favorite dessert:  Rasmalai, at Gokul, the vegetarian Indian restaurant in the Delmar Loop. Rasmalai is a Bengali dessert — balls of white cheese swimming in ice-cold, cardamom-infused milk, with a tease of cardamom, pistachios and almonds. 

And may I add that the crispy kale at Big Sky (in Webster Groves) is fabulous and impossible (at least for me) to reproduce.

Margi Lenga Kahn, cooking instructor at the Kitchen Conservatory and food columnist for the St. Louis Jewish Light

Favorite cheap eats: The Gogi Bowl ($7 for rice, fresh veggies, fried egg, pepper sauce, and choice of chicken, steak or tofu) at Seoul Taco in the U. City Loop. A sight to behold, it’s so tasty and filling, and the quality of the ingredients is evident with the first bite.

Favorite in-no-way cheap eats: The tasting menu at the Crossing in Clayton. I have yet to have anything there that wasn’t spectacular. My two favorite dishes: the beet and goat cheese salad and the egg raviolo — a farm-fresh egg wrapped in a light pasta dough and cooked so that the egg yolk is still runny when you cut it — magnificent!

Favorite sandwich: The sweet burger at SweetArt on 39th Street in South City. Believe it or not, this is a plump and juicy vegan burger packed with flavor, served on a really good bun with crisp lettuce, tomato and the bakery’s vegan magic spread. I make mine a vegetarian treat by adding a slice of dairy cheese. The burger is accompanied by fresh fruit — such a virtuous lunch. Of course, you don’t want to walk out without having one of their cupcakes for dessert — OK, maybe not so virtuous a lunch!

Favorite pasta dish: The canestri cacio e pepe at Pastaria in Clayton, a fat elbow macaroni pasta prepared al dente, with pecorino, Grana Padano and black pepper — comfort food at its best.

Favorite Chinese: I say skip the Chinese and head for great Thai — at Fork and Stix, in the U. City Loop (east of Skinker on Rosedale). I love the khao soi, a sumptuous curry noodle soup with crunch; or Korean — at Asian Kitchen, just east of McKnight on Olive Boulevard. An order of anything, including yummy bibimbap (mixed rice), is accompanied by at least a dozen small tastes of Korean side dishes ranging from the classic kimchi to fish cakes to marinated sprouts to a glorious seaweed salad.

Favorite ethnic spot (not Chinese): Ranoush, on Delmar in the U. City Loop. My mouth waters every time I think about the chicken shawarma, chopped chicken marinated in Middle Eastern spices served on a tender pita to dip into a never-enough helping of potent garlic sauce — oy vey! 

Favorite dessert: Harvest’s bread pudding — brioche, sugar, cream, eggs and a sinful caramel sauce. Need I say more?

Phyllis Weiss, Partner with MSW Marketing

Favorite cheap eats:  Hodak’s (known` for its fried chicken). Long before it became so well known, a relative of my mother found it. Over the years it doubled in size but the same south St. Louis tavern atmosphere that gives it charisma remains.

Favorite in-no-way cheap eats: With all the wonderful not-so-cheap restaurants in St. Louis, Annie Gunn’s is my pick. It may have been the first of its kind — combining a great steak dinner on the same menu as a fabulous burger. But the key is amazing food no matter what you pick. The ambiance is perfect — so not stuffy.  Others have followed its lead, but since this is the first of its kind that I know of, I give it my vote.  When I get to splurge, that’s where I like to go.

Favorite pasta dish: My all time favorite, pasta puttanesca, was introduced to me at the now shuttered Brandt’s in the Loop. My current favorite is the garganella at Pastaria, a braised beef pasta that can also be found at Basso (in the new Cheshire Inn) under the name of mafalda, which ties with the mezzi rigatoni, also at Basso.

Favorite Chinese: LuLu Seafood is my favorite Chinese restaurant. The menu is huge, and the offerings are the closest to those of the restaurants we went to in China.

Favorite ethnic spot (not Chinese): Modesto (in the Hill) stands out as my favorite.  And it does stand out. When you think of Indian, Mexican or Vietnamese, you can name many for each category. But for Spanish, Modesto is the first and only that comes to mind. And tapas-style lets me try a bunch of things because it is so hard to narrow down the choices. 

Favorite dessert: Anything at all at Crown Candy Kitchen (in the near north side of St. Louis).

Favorite sandwich: The Amighetti sandwich at Amighetti’s (in the Hill). It is a St. Louis icon like toasted ravioli.