The underrated St. Louis food scene demands a weekend getaway

There's far more to the Gateway City than barbecue. Here's how to plan a foodie weekend getaway to St. Louis.
Olio Restaurant in Saint Louis, MO.
Photograph: Greg Rannells Olio Restaurant in Saint Louis, MO.
By Lara Hayes |
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St. Louis may be best known for its regional foodsbarbecue ribs, gooey butter cake and toasted ravioli—but spend a little time in "The Lou" and you'll find that these traditional favorites barely scratch the surface. The city boasts a vibrant and thriving culinary scene characterized by inventive takes on old standards, thoughtfully presented with imagination and integrity. In recent years, the Gateway City's food scene has quietly established a reputation as a home to a wide variety of sophisticated, locally sourced fare, craft beer and unique restaurants and bars. Go now before this woefully underrated food scene gets discovered.

RECOMMENDED: Weekend getaways from Chicago

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Breakfast/brunch

Southwest Diner
Don't let the line at this sunny and charming Southwestern-themed diner(6803 Southwest Ave) deter you—it's well worth the wait. Southwest is the perfect spot for a low-key breakfast or brunch; stand-outs include enchiladas with chile sauce (try them "Christmas style"), carne adovada and the green chile cheeseburger.

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Lunch

Dressel's Public House
This Central West End stalwart (419 N Euclid Ave) offers an innovative take on farm-to-table gastro-pub dining in an appealingly traditional (and television-free) setting. The frequently changing menu features local, seasonal ingredients, and strikes a balance between creativity and comfort. If you can swing it, get a table near the bar, lock eyes with the authors whose portraits adorn the walls, and get started with some homemade potato chips with rarebit or deviled farm eggs. Some elements of the menu change daily, but the lamb burger topped with goat cheese and apricot chutney or the insanely rich truffled grilled cheese with tomato bisque are favorites.

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Dinner

Olio
Located in a rehabbed Standard gas station, Olio (1634 Tower Grove Ave) is an ideal stop for a light dinner or a nightcap. The eclectic and expertly curated wine list pairs perfectly with the Mediterranean-inspired menu. Whether you grab a spot at the bar or out on the patio, the casually elegant ambiance and warm lighting will make you feel like you're living out a scene in a classic Italian film. If you're struggling with a decision, solid recommendations by the keen and knowledgeable staff will steer you in the right direction.
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Snacks

Salume Beddu 
Salume Beddu (3647 Hampton Ave) brings old-world-meets-new-world charm to an unassuming mini-mall with some of the best artisan cured meats around. Having lunch in the cozy dining room will give you more time to decide what to grab for the road, and the well-informed staff are prepared to guide your selection from the variety of salumi and accompagnamenti with its excellent descriptions (and samples). The finocchiona salame, coppa rossa, and fig and olive tapenade are impressive, and the croccantini (wine crackers) are not to be missed. True pork lovers may not be able to resist a "Praise the Lard" T-shirt.

Tower Grove Farmers' Market
Stroll through the Tower Grove Farmers' Market on Saturday mornings from May through mid-November for a sampling of the best of local produce, food and artisanal goods. Feel better about stocking up on goodies for a picnic in the park by joining the free yoga class on the lawn near the market (9am), or grab a bite and hang out for the weekly Harvest Session featuring a rotating lineup of local musicians (10am–noon). Check the website for the updated list of weekly vendors and music. Saturdays 8am–noon at Tower Grove Park (4256 Magnolia Ave), west of the Whitaker Theater at the Pool Pavilion.

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Drinks

Fortune Teller Bar
The newly expanded Fortune Teller Bar (2635 Cherokee St) is a relatively recent addition to the Cherokee Street neighborhood, yet already seems like a fixture. Both menu and decor achieve a near-perfect balance between comfortable local spot and the latest craft-cocktail destination. If you're feeling adventurous, pick from the seasonal menu populated with creative housemade infusions, bitters and seasonal pickles, or go for the solid, year-round cocktail list.

Urban Chestnut
Stop by Urban Chestnut's Midtown Brewery and Biergarten (3229 Washington Ave) to sample its thoughtfully contemporary take on traditional European and American brews, and you might end up staying a while. If you're not a beer connoisseur, describe what you have a taste for at the bar, and try a sample to get things started. After a short while, your lost afternoon will start to feel like a great education in craft brewing. A light food menu is available to help keep your energy up.

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