Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Three new eateries focus on fine food and a neighborly feel.
An abundance of new restaurants have joined the scene of late, and while some are high-profile eateries garnering plenty of press, many others are more modest, casual joints that are quietly building up their followings with quality food and neighborhood vibes.
The Dam This newest project from Michele Coen Racanelli has been getting a lot of love for its burgers, as well as its hand-cut and -peeled Belgian fries paired with eight to 10 different dipping sauces. The kitchen has a decidedly local emphasis—using as many area-centric ingredients as possible, from meat to produce to bread—and most everything is made in-house. Not in the mood for a burger? Order the Ploughman's Plate, chock-full of local cheeses and sausages that change daily, as well as a featured sausage and a vegetable of the day. (Fried green beans, anyone?) The Dam is located in the same building as Amsterdam Tavern and, thanks to a connecting pass-through window, can serve your food on that side if you want to nosh on something while hoisting a pint and catching the latest soccer match. Takeout is offered and delivery is available via GrubGo. 3173 Morgan Ford Road, 314.771.3173, thedamstl.com.
Spare No Rib From the folks who brought us Bar Italia comes Spare No Rib. This restaurant, situated on Gravois Avenue just east of Jefferson, in the space previously inhabited by Bittersweet Bakery, offers diners a unique combo of St. Louis-style barbecue and Mexican cuisine. “I love the taste and variety of Mexican food and how versatile it is,” says co-owner Lassaad Jeliti. That versatility can be found in dishes like beef cheek tacos and pulled pork tacos, filled with meaty goodness from the restaurant's smoker. For traditionalists, there are plenty of barbecue standards, like ribs and brisket, as well as familiar sides like coleslaw. Spare No Rib is open seven days a week and is within walking or biking distance of several neighborhoods, including Benton Park, Soulard and Cherokee. Early birds, look for breakfast service coming soon. 2200 Gravois Ave., 314.202.8244, sparenorib.com.
Jax Cafe Jax is the latest venue for chef Brian Hale, who's led such esteemed local kitchens as Monarch and The Chase Park Plaza. Jax is a bit more casual, an eclectic neighborhood spot where folks can drop in for high-end fare in a cozy environment filled with local art, a bar top paved with 30,000 pennies, and even some treasures from Hale's personal Pez dispenser collection. “It's a labor of love,” Hale says. “What we're trying to do is provide a comfortable place with comfort food done in sort of a whacked-out way.” For example, the Jax version of grilled cheese—with tomato jam, Cotswold cheese, bacon and chives—and the high-falutin' lobster mac 'n' cheese. Currently, Jax is open for breakfast and lunch Tue.-Sun. and serves until 6pm for the happy-hour crowd during the week. 2901 Salena St., 314.449.1995, jax-cafe.com.
Photo credit: Christopher Gibbons