Hot for Summer Restaurants

For these five new and anticipated eateries, hometown pride is no. 1 on the menu.

 

YOU OFTEN HEAR that St. Louis is a great sports town, but it's an even greater restaurant town. From the smallest mom-and-pop storefronts to the chefs earning national recognition, there is much to celebrate about our region's food culture. In a brilliant stroke of serendipity, five talented teams are debuting eateries this summer, highlighting our collective culinary good fortune.

Alumni St. Louis

200 N. 13th St., Downtown
Now Open

THE CONCEPT After stints in Colorado and New York, Eric Brenner realized his heart was still in St. Louis. The former chef at Moxy and Chez Leon has returned to celebrate—and elevate—local food culture. His goal: “to take things people love universally and try to create them in such a way that it reminds you of what you love about the city.”

THE SPACE During a top-to-bottom rehab of the art deco Park Pacific building at Olive and 13th streets, Steve Smith of The Lawrence Group reached out to Brenner about heading up the centerpiece ground-floor restaurant. The feel is mid-century modern, taking inspiration from the legendary Eames design era, with a dash of St. Louis history in the mix.

THE MENU Classics—toasted ravioli, Provel-topped pizza, meatloaf, fried chicken, pork steak and mostaccioli—are the early lure for diners. Once they're hooked, Brenner reels them in with updated dishes like green bean casserole re-envisioned as a salad or a turkey “TV dinner” with sage risotto instead of stuffing. Alumni's mixology parallels the design, with bourbons from the “brown drink era” featured prominently in the cocktails alongside local beers on tap and local wines in the cellar.

MUST-TRY DISH Tomato bisque with grilled cheese (a signature item at Moxy).

Mike Shannon's Grill

871 S. Arbor Vitae, Edwardsville
Now Open

THE CONCEPT For more than 30 years, Cardinals broadcaster and former player Mike Shannon has had a home in Edwardsville. So, when his family was tossing around locations for a more casual version of the 27-year-old Downtown steakhouse, the Illinois side of the river beckoned. The comfortable venue, stocked with memorabilia from Shannon’s own collection, “is almost like [walking] into a lounge at Mike's house,” says his grandson, Gary VanMatre.

THE SPACE With its open ductwork, raised wood paneling and gym lights salvaged from Quincy University, the restaurant has the feel of a “vintage athletic club with some industrial aspects,” VanMatre says. Seventeen flat-screen TVs—including a 90-incher over the three-sided zinc bar—make it easy to catch Cardinals games throughout the 5,000-square-foot space.

THE MENU While borrowing a bit from Downtown's steaks, chops and seafood, Chef Ginger Humphrey has expanded into more budget-friendly fare like gourmet burgers, buffalo chicken sandwiches and fish tacos. Of the 16 signature cocktails, half are throwbacks, like mint juleps, and half are original—like the High Rise, featuring Buffalo Trace bourbon, St. Germain, vanilla bean simple syrup and a double applewood-smoked oversized ice cube.

MUST-TRY DISH Roast chicken infused with mushrooms, truffles and duck pate.

The Libertine

7927 Forsyth Blvd., Clayton
Projected Opening: Mid-May

THE CONCEPT Neighborhood restaurants are beloved, but often this is more for the ambiance than the food. Chef Josh Galliano is defying that convention. He believes creativity and affordability can co-exist happily in a kitchen that is free to experiment with high-quality ingredients.

THE SPACE What's right about neighborhood restaurants is the feeling that the art of conversation is alive and well inside their walls. Co-owner, mixologist and sommelier Nick Luedde says the “design goal aesthetically is to essentially place an English-style pub in the middle of a historic French salon.” The decor takes its stylistic cues from the 19th century, but uses rich lighting, exposed brick, hand- blown glass and industrial accents.

THE MENU Galliano, who says his creativity starts with the quality of his ingredients, is obviously sourcing top-notch stuff—because he's coming up with wonderful dishes like pan-flashed candlefish with vandouvan mayonnaise and grilled market mushrooms with miso butter, roasted sunchokes, dashi and cocoa-lardo puree under the four menu categories of vegetables, seafood, meat and dessert.

MUST-TRY DISH House-made terrine board with a chicken liver mousse, country fried foie gras, harissa and goat terrine, country pate and various pickles and preserves.

Table

1821 Cherokee St., Cherokee
Projected Opening: Early June

THE CONCEPT Chef Cassy Vires is utilizing Midwestern hospitality to the fullest at her upcoming venue, Table. Piggybacking on some of what has made Home Wine Kitchen so successful—familial sharing, togetherness and comfort—she is expanding her concept to embrace St. Louis' interactive community via communal dining and shared plates.

THE SPACE Historic and full of character, the building (a former stable for the Lemp brewery) is large and dark. Vires is adding color and “lots of things for people to look at, touch, read…” The dining room's communal tables encourage open conversation with the stranger sitting next you. At the bar, snacks and cocktails will encourage conversation in their own inimitable way.

THE MENU Unlike the tapas approach to small plates, Vires is designing her menu with sharing in mind. Want to try your friend;s roasted suckling pig with cornmeal crepes and pickled crab? Pick up your fork and ask. (Caveat: Vires recommends keeping the sharing within your own party as good communal dining etiquette.) Vires has drawn two of Home Wine Kitchen's staff, Alan Varner and Jessica Paddock, as sous chefs at the new venue. As for beverages, cocktails will have culinary influences, wines will be line priced, and beers will include the favorite local craft brews of Vires and her husband and co-owner, Josh Renbarger.

MUST-TRY DISH Rye whiskey French toast sticks.

Billy G's

131 W. Argonne Drive, Kirkwood
Projected Opening: Early June

THE CONCEPT For a third-generation restaurateur like Billy Gianino, paying tribute is important. In this case, the homage goes to Frankie Gianino, his grandfather, whose classic Italian eatery on Delmar laid the foundation for more than 40 years of Gianino Group restaurants—Bill Gianino;s, Frankie G;s, Joey B;s, Pepper’s Bar and Frankie Gianino’s.

THE SPACE Thanks to a gut rehab, the 7,100-square-foot former Massa;s space has hardwood floors, fewer walls and plenty of exposed brick and steel. Gianino is especially enthusiastic about the retractable windows that unite the indoor space with the 200-seat patio out back.

THE FOOD The tribute just wouldn;t be complete without American and Italian comfort foods. Pickups from other family restaurants include chicken spiedini, chicken modiga and the house salad with its sweet Italian cream dressing. Gianino has his own vision, too: more dishes from scratch, more local ingredients from the Kirkwood Farmers; Market and more barbecue from the smoker out back. Chef Vincent Hely heads up the kitchen.

MUST-TRY DISH Prime rib on Saturday nights.

 

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Alumni St. Louis

Alumni St. Louis

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Mike Shannon’s Grill

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Mike Shannon’s Grill

Mike Shannon’s Grill

 

Photo credit: Christopher Gibbons

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