The Best New St. Louis Restaurants of 2018
Nudo House on the cover of Food & Wine. Zoe Robinson in Vogue. Travel and Leisure touting St. Louis as America’s next great food city. 2018 again saw the national spotlight cast its glow on the St. Louis food scene, and the city did not disappoint.
Credit for St. Louis’ ascent into the pantheon of great American food cities goes to the pioneers and innovators who have spent the last decade (and more) elevating its profile. This year, many of them continued their run with thrilling new restaurants, their most personal concepts yet. At the Benevolent King, Ben Poremba found himself back in the kitchen, often alongside his mother, exploring the cuisine of his youth. Gerard Craft’s Cinder House is a sleek, trendy hotspot in the Four Seasons Hotel; it’s also an earnest homage to the woman who taught him to love food. Anthony Devoti, a supremely talented chef who spent twelve years quietly running one of the city’s best restaurants, turned that concept into a celebration of his Italian roots. And of course, there is the inimitable Zoe Robinson, whose dazzling Billie-Jean feels like the restaurant she was born to run.
You cannot talk about St. Louis restaurants in 2018, however, without noting a slate of prominent closures, two of which would have made this list. Mike Randolph’s Privado would have likely topped it, but Randolph shuttered the restaurant not yet a year into its run. And if the Privado news was surprising, Randolph shocked the city when he announced that he would also close his acclaimed Público by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Squatters Café was always conceived of as a temporary project for chef Rob Connoley while he worked to open Bulrush, but coupled with the closures of beloved and well-received spots including Quincy Street Bistro, Parigi, Vista Ramen, Element and Porano Pasta, it stung. Add this month’s closure of the landmark Cardwell’s at the Plaza, and the scale of loss starts to feel significant.
These closures have made me question whether we’re less coming into our own as a food city and more in the midst of a bubble that is bursting. But then I look at the restaurants on this list, as well as the other worthy new spots that did not make the top ten, and I’m convinced the present and future are bright.
It’s not the national spotlight that is making them shine; that brightness comes from within. St. Louis has more good restaurants today than it’s had at any point in recent history, and it’s regularly adding even more, including the promising Savage, which opened in the fall and wasn’t reviewed in time to make this list.
With that sort of growth, there are bound to be fits and starts along the way — not a bubble, but an evolution. And now that we’ve tasted what these chefs have to offer, there’s simply no going back.
- Cheryl Baehr
Photos by Mabel Suen