I love the excitement of eating at a restaurant I haven’t been to before. I usually have at least some idea of what to expect, but it isn’t until I walk through the door that it all starts coming together. I take in the decor, the music, the smell. I pay attention to how the servers and bartenders dress and talk to the customers. I love seeing how the food is plated. Every restaurant, whether it’s an upscale affair or a dive bar, has a personality.
This past year—2015—has been a good year for new restaurants in St. Louis, I think. I’ve compiled 12 of my favorites below, ranging from a hole in the wall taco stand to a Niche alum’s Maplewood hot spot. Okay, some of these aren’t new this year, but you probably don’t even know that a place called El Morelia Supermercado even exists, do you?
And, by the way, just because something is new doesn’t mean that it deserves mountains of praise. I will not bullshit you and tell you something that sucks is good. I don’t want you going to *restaurant* then tweeting at me that it blew and I duped you.
When something is good, I want you to know about it and I want you to get your ass there pronto. All 5 of the hidden gems I wrote about last year have continued to kill it this year. Hell, I’m not even sure most of them could be considered ‘hidden’ anymore. If you haven’t tried all the places on the list below, you best get to work.
El Morelia Supermercado
Located at 270 and St. Charles Rock Road, El Morelia is probably out of the way for most people, but don’t let that turn you off from going! The supermarket itself is the largest Mexican grocery in St. Louis, a labyrinth of spices and ingredients you never see anywhere else, plus a badass butchery and bakery. More importantly, they have a weekend taco stand that will absolutely wreck most of the other tacos in St. Louis.
There’s a huge variety available each week, but the spit-roasted al pastor, a sweet and smoky pork, is king. After you pick up your tacos, you go to the table covered in fresh toppings and salsas, load’em up, then feast.
12005 St Charles Rock Rd
Bridgeton, MO 63044
St. Louis Korean Bakery
In my eating adventures, there have been 3 bakeries in St. Louis that have really blown me away: Pint Sized, La Patisserie Chouquette, and St. Louis Korean Bakery (aka Kim Dokwon, Kim’s Bakery). I’m guessing you’ve heard of the first two, but you probably aren’t too familiar with Kim’s. Tucked away in a strip mall on the border of Creve Coeur and Chesterfield, Kim and her team are making a MASSIVE array of treats, ranging from cookies to ornate cakes like you see above. Almost all her treats have an Asian spin.
I recommend trying the matcha cake, the fistball (Korean bread pudding ball), and one of the filled buns, like the lemon cream or red bean.
13357 Olive Blvd
Chesterfield, MO 63017
Picking favorites is never easy, but at this point, I think I would give Tai Ke the award for my favorite new Chinese restaurant of 2015—and this was a good year for new Chinese spots. The restaurant is bright and clean, the staff is friendly, and the food has been consistently solid.
Tai Ke is St. Louis’ only Taiwanese restaurant, which means we’re getting some dishes that weren’t previously available, including Taiwanese “hot dogs” with sticky rice, and some that are just better versions than other restaurants around, like their Three Cup chicken. I’m hoping we’ll see more of the famed Taiwanese street snacks grace their menu in 2016.
8604 Olive Blvd
St. Louis, MO 63132
Another solid addition to the Olive Boulevard Chinese restaurant scene is Jia Xiang. I don’t know that it actually opened in 2015, but it’s certainly been renovated in the last year. When I first visited, the menu was only in Chinese, so we ordered by pointing at other tables and letting the waiter pick for us.
The food is on point. Dishes come out looking simple—braised duck, charred eggplant—but are immensely flavorful. My whole family was awed by the eggplant, specifically, with its wonderful wok hei. The food is primarily Shanghaiese, though it lacks the extreme sweetness you’ll find at Private Kitchen.
8235 Olive Blvd
St. Louis, MO 63132