Some say that the county is a depressing wasteland full of chain restaurants, McMansions, and white women who inexplicably voted for Donald Trump. Those people are…not really wrong. But as a county resident, I can tell you that there are a fair number of ‘hidden gem’ restaurants, especially on Olive Blvd. and Manchester. Here’s my guide to eating on Olive, driving West to East, starting right along the Chesterfield/Creve Coeur border.
Start your journey down Olive with a visit to St. Louis’ most delicious Korean-Mexican fusion. It’s just like the one in the Loop, but substitute college students for high schoolers and the elderly. If you’re looking to treat yo self/eat your feelings, I recommend the nachos with spicy pork. Chesterfield now sucks 3% less.
This is a confusing restaurant. For something like 30 years, it was a Classic Red Hots, serving typical Chicago foods like hot dogs and Italian beef. It still does that, but it’s also an Arab restaurant, serving dishes like shish kebabs, schwarma, and kefta . Don’t let the untouched 90s interior scare you off—the Arab food (especially the kibbeh) is solid. I can’t speak for the Colossal Dog.
Another Korean-Mexican fusion spot with the bonus of a drive-thru window. Dishes range from healthy, like their bibimbap bowls, to gluttonous, with their football sized extra-large burritos. Stick with the spicy pork or bulgogi beef.
Some nights you’re just too lazy to drive out to Fork & Stix for your curry fix. Addie’s isn’t on the same level, but pretty much anything cooked with coconut milk and curry paste is going to be tasty.
Kim’s is St. Louis’ only Korean bakery and goddamn is it tasty. Aside from their cakes and a few other more ornate desserts, everything is individually packaged and set out on a shelf so you can just grab and go. Anything made with their buttery, pillowy dough is worth buying. And the hilariously named “fistball,” which is like breadpudding and a baseball had a baby.
I have had the same conversation with the owner of Pita Plus since I was in high school. “Hello, what you want? Falafel very good. Israeli salad. Hummus. You like? Okay. Pita, white or wheat? You want burreka? Made fresh. Here. Very good. Spinach, good for you.” Do what he says. Get the falafel (I’ve found none better in St. Louis), and treat yourself to a flakey burreka too. You’re worth it.
For traditional Korean food, you don’t have a ton of options. Basically here, Joo Joo Korean, and Asian Kitchen Korean Cuisine. Both are on Olive. Both are sparsely decorated. Both have a staff that doesn’t really care about your wants and needs. Joo Joo is bigger and a little nicer, plus it has a gigantic shrine to former Cardinal pitcher Seung-hwan Oh. Bonus: it has karaoke rooms.
With the demise of Seoul Q (I’m still broken up about this), I worried it would be years before St. Louis got another contemporary K-BBQ spot, but then Wudon came out of nowhere. I didn’t have high hopes because every other restaurant that’s opened in that spot has been garbage, but this is one of those rare occasions where I was wrong. It’s good, especially if you’ve got no self control.
Not a restaurant, but a small wonderland of…stuff. The shop is like a tiny Seafood City, minus the seafood, but it’s solid if you’re in a pinch for Asian ingredients and don’t feel like driving into UCity. A third of the shop seems to change with the seasons; sometimes it’s full of winter coats, sometimes it’s full of pans, and sometimes it’s just empty.
If you like smoked poultry, this is the place for you, since that’s pretty much all they have. Get a plate of turkey ribs for yourself and some chicken wings for the table. Service can confusingly slow (isn’t the turkey already smoked? what’s taking so long to get it from the kitchen to my mouth?), but that’s the punishment you get for trying to be healthy.
Often overlooked, Dave & Tony’s has all your typical American restaurant favorites, like hot dogs, nachos, beer, and, most importantly, tasty burgers for a reasonable price. Most things are made in-house using high quality ingredients. A good lunch choice.
I have been going to Ani’s for years and still have no idea what the hell is going on in this restaurant. The TV is usually blaring Indian films or soap operas, the menu has 10,000 things on it without any descriptions, they straight up don’t make huge chunks of said menu, and yet I return. Why? Because the food is good.
Good sushi is hard to come by in St. Louis, period. I’ve been going to Oishi since my high school days—the family the owns it also has United Provisions, Global Foods, and The King & I—because the fish is always fresh and they have one of the best pad thai’s in town. Also, no rolls are lit on fire or serve in a sexy tinfoil canoe, which is always a positive.
This isn’t really a hidden gem, but I wanted to make sure this soon-to-open Gioia’s location was on everyone’s radar. Say no to Potbelly’s, Jimmy John’s, and so on, and yes to hot salami. Tell your office to have them cater. No one wants that Subway 6′ long sub.
The same 5 Star Burger that you know and love from Kirkwood (RIP) and Clayton. Burgers. Fries. Beer.
Nudo House is Qui Tran’s all-encompassing quick service Asian restaurant. The ramen bowls are the star (especially the shockingly good Shroomed Out vegetarian bowl), but the restaurants menu offers pho, banh mi sandwiches, soft serve ice cream, and tons of specials.
Everyone knows that St. Louis has garbage bagels. At the top of garbage bagel mountain sits Bagel Factory, though I wouldn’t go out of your way to get them.
The well-respected St. Ann Korean BBQ restaurant has opened a second location right by AMC Creve Coeur theatre. It’s good.
Not my favorite pho in town, but certainly not a bad bowl. If you work or live nearby and are craving spring rolls and some hot soup, it’s worth a visit.
Hell yeah, Tai Ke. My favorite casual Chinese/Taiwanese restaurant in town. There’s a good reason that it’s hard to get a seat in here for lunch and dinner: the flavors are bright, full of lots of fresh herbs, there are daily specials, and the menu ranges from small, wonderfully unhealthy street snacks to shareable entrees. The Three Cup chicken is my go-to.
You know when you go to a Korean restaurant and they give you those little plates of snacks called banchan? Asian Kitchen gives you somewhere around 350 different ones. I can guarantee you will not leave hungry. It’s a little rougher around the edges than Joo Joo, but I’d argue the food is better, overall.
Go for the roasted meats, skip everything else.
Formerly known as Jia Xiang, it’s a small spot across the street from LuLu’s Seafood. The kind of place where you look at what the old ladies next to you are eating and just say, “I want that.”
The sexy newcomer to UCity’s Chinese restaurants. A good deal of Szechuan dishes, but much more refined than what you’d find at Famous Szechuan Pavilion back in the day (not to mention much cleaner). Go with a group so you can try more things; a lot of menu items are too big for one person.
Are these pizzas underrated? I don’t know. No one talks about Frank and Helen’s. I think they’re pretty good. They’ve been open for like 60 years, so they must be doing something right.
Weekend dim sum. ‘Nuff said.
Everyone liked Private Kitchen’s soup dumplings, so they decided to open a soup dumpling shop next door. The menu is extremely limited, so if you don’t like soup dumplings, don’t go.
The most high-end Chinese restaurant in St. Louis. Reservations are required, and you need to pre-order your meal (see their Facebook page). Food and service are both casual, though, so don’t come thinking you’re in for a romantic evening
Get your hands dirty and eat a mountain of crabs, crawfish, shrimp, or pretty much any other type of seafood. You pick the sauce, you pick the heat level, then you go to town.
Two of the best and largest Asian markets in town. Both have similar offerings, though Olive Supermarket has the advantage of selling some freshly made pastries, too.