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Jordana Rothman
June 05, 2018

American food lovers owe the Gateway City a debt of gratitude. After all, it gave us restaurateur Danny Meyer and, by extension, his growing hamburger empire, Shake Shack. But that’s only one reason to care about the culinary scene in St. Louis. Now young chefs are shaking up the local dining scene, too.

Chefs at Vicia turn fruit pulp into tender falafel.
Ashley Giesking

Michael Gallina, veteran chef of New York’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns who brought an infusion of culinary cred to his hometown when he moved back in 2015, opened Vicia last year (entrées $12–$16). His veg-driven dishes, like tacos that swap paper-thin kohlrabi slices for tortillas, feel almost subversive in a city once known mostly for its saucy barbecue.

Also in 2017, Qui Tran, whose family opened Mai Lee, the city’s first Vietnamese restaurant, in 1985, debuted his own offshoot, Nudo House (entrées $6–$13), which merges Vietnamese traditions with Japanese, American, and European ideas. One particularly delicious example of cross-cultural ingenuity, the bánh mì pho dip, finds the sweet spot between the Vietnamese sandwich and a French dip.

The city’s Bosnian population, the largest outside Europe, is represented by Loryn and Edo Nalic’s Balkan Treat Box, a roving truck outfitted with a wood-burning oven that draws a lunchtime crowd. Try the oblong pide bread topped with ground beef or cheese, served with tangy ajvar, a red-pepper paste.

Of course, a city famous for its frozen custard and pork steaks still has room for a taste of Americana. That’s where chef Rick Lewis comes in. His new counter-service spot Grace Meat + Three (entrées $6–$28) earns its devoted following thanks to showstoppers like a super-moist turkey leg brined in sweet tea, confited, and topped with a bright, herby sauce.

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