As a STL native who left about 10 years ago, my trips home are usually filled with nostalgic meals, old favorites that are less about food and more about memories. This time, I decided to eat at only places I've not tried before. All in all, a great strategy. The overarching theme for me is that STL has great food at unusually reasonable prices. STL's always been a good food town, but it's really impressed me these last few visits.
I had lunch w/ friends at Pi (Loop location). Knowing that Salt would be extravagant later, I tried to go w/ lighter choices. Had the K2 salad (greens, beats, goat cheese, pine nuts w/ house vinaigrette) and shared the small, thin crust Lincoln Park pizza. Perfect lunch. The veggies on the pizza (tomatoes and zucchini) were fresh and aggressively seasoned. The cheese, not too heavy. The crust was crisp and added to the flavor of the pie while playing a supporting role. Wonderful salad. Again, fresh veggies, well balanced, light on the cheese as I requested. I'll try the deep dish pie next visit. I can see why the President likes this place so much!
Dinner at Salt with 5 others, an outstanding meal with a surprisingly low price point. Such a lovely room, and I'd never been inside despite living in the West End. We started w/ the hallowed duck fat fries. As someone who hadn't eaten fried food for a few weeks (detoxing from a long trip to NOLA), these fries were everything I'd hope they would be -- crispy, thin, dark, salty, flavorful. Totally lives up to the hype. After that, I had the roasted mussels. Not the best I've ever had, not the worst. The chorizo was the best part of that dish. Several friends had the pork belly. Damn. Just delectable. My entree, the duck fat fried chicken, won the best meal of the night. This hangs with some of the best fried chicken I've had anywhere, and that's saying something as I recently did a fried chicken tour of New Orleans. Crispy, flavorful, juicy, hot -- everything fried chicken should be. And the sides of mashed potatoes and pickled watermelon ride were equally outstanding. For dessert, we had the cookies and cream (choc cream brulee, white choc sauce w/ a little cookie), the rustic apple tart w/ cinnamon ice cream, and a cheese plate. Fantastic meal, and I'd go again anytime. The price was great as well -- 3 courses, tons to drink for about $300 including tip.
Had brunch the next morning at Bixby's in the History Museum. This was a real treat. Three of us needed to be at Wash U's campus in the afternoon, so we went to the nearest place for brunch. What a lucky choice! The buffet, not something I'd usually choose, was fresh, interesting, manageable, and well-tended. The serving dishes were small and frequently replaced with new platters, ensuring the food was fresh. The first table featured salads, smoked fish and cheese. The salads were especially nice. The middle table featured desserts and pastries, and the best biscuits and gravy I've had outside my grandmother's house. The hot selections included flank steak, breakfast meats, chimmichuri chicken and veggie lasagna. Personally, I preferred the salad and dessert tables, but my friends raved about the hot selections. AND, you get to order off of a menu of hot items made to order, included in the price. My friends loved the eggs benedict, while my waffle was good. I would have been very happy sticking to just the buffet items. Again, the price was very reasonable -- only $22/person. Such a great setting as well. The room overlooks Forest Park, which was stunning w/ changing leafs.
Last meal was a leisurely graze over several hours at Sasha's, a wine bar in DeMun, where several friends rotated in and out. What a lovely neighborhood and place to spend a glorious fall afternoon. We sat outside and had beers with a constant flow of munchie foods. The crab, avocado, asparagus salad was so good that we ordered it twice. (It was so good that i just recreated it for my lunch in Dallas today.) A cheese platter was welcome, and we all enjoyed the prosciutto and parm plate too. Over the course of time, we tried three crepes -- the veggie, the prosciutto and fontina, and the nutella w/ banana. All were excellent.
As I headed to the airport, I picked up a bag of Dad's Oatmeal Cookies, which served as my dinner. It was also the only bite I'd had in STL before this trip. Upon leaving, I didn't regret missing my familiar haunts and really appreciated trying so much new this time. I'm looking forward to my next trip home when I'll continue to try the latest STL has to offer.