Just wanted to check in to this thread and update with the results of our St. Looey mini-vacation this past week. Some of the places we ate that were noteworthy:
Pappy's Smokehouse, Central West End: OMG. Some of the best BBQ I've ever had. Ribs were not falling off the bone, and had such fantastic smoky flavor I didn't touch the sauce. Wife had the brisket sandwich, and it was also outstanding. This place was featured on Man v. Food, and you can tell: lines are out the door and they sell out of food some days by 4 PM.
Ranoush, The Loop: Excellent Mediterranean food. The falafel were very tasty, as was the hummus and the lamb kebabs. I think we have great Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food here in Louisville, but what we ate at Ranoush was just as good. The owner is apparently Syrian and does many of the dishes with a Syrian approach, which I understand means heavier use of particular spices like cardamom. They have a second location at the other end of the Loop that is a hookah bar and only serves non-alcoholic drinks. Went down there after dinner and introduced my wife to shisha for the first time, which was amusing and fun.
Kayak Coffeehouse, Clayton: Right on the edge of Forest Park. They serve coffee roasted by Kaldi's, which seems to be the major specialty-coffee company in St. Louis. I had a good pourover-brewed cup of Colombia Cauca Inza, and was pleased. Not quite up to the standard of Quills or Sunergos here, but very, very close. Kayak's Belgian waffles had been recommended by friends, and they were delicious. So was the cinnamon sugar roll.
Pi pizzeria, The Loop: Delicious pizza, almost as good as what we've had recently at Coals. We got The Hill, which had pepperoni, salami, kalamata olives, green peppers, onions, and banana peppers. Fantastic combo. The sourness of the olives and banana pepeprs set off the pepperoni and salami really well. I ordered the garlic bread, which came out as a hot loaf of bread with a side of butter and a whole roasted bulb of garlic to spread. Not what I was expecting, but it was still tasty.
Rigazzi's, The Hill: This is oldest Italian restaurant in a charming old working-class Italian neighborhood. The food was fine; nothing special, not really up to foodie standards. But given the setting, plain ol' unpretentious Italian food was fine. In retrospect, somewhat overpriced given the quality of the food. The Hill, incidentally, was a fascinating neighborhood to me: still has a solidly blue-collar feel, but well-kept and not run down at all. The people there clearly have pride in their neighborhood and keep it up well, despite being surrounded by shuttered factories and other urban blight. No hipster/popular/touristy influence at all, as far as I could see. I tried to think of a similar urban neighborhood in Louisville that wasn't hip like the Highlands but didn't have issues with crime like Portland, and I couldn't come up with one. Maybe I just need to get out more.
Rooster, downtown: Known for breakfast and specializes in crepes, both breakfast and lunch varieties. I had a great dish called the Rooster Slinger: toast with bacon, a lightly fried egg, and potatoes on top, all covered in a sausage gravy. It was delicious. My wife had the Smores crepe (yes), and said it was delicious as well. Service was a bit on the sluggish side, but we'd still go back. Oh, and a word to the wise: If you choose an outdoor table because it's in the shade, keep in mind that it may not stay shady as the sun moves. We got rather warm by the end of breakfast.
Imo's pizza: Imo's is one of the main pizza joints that does St. Louis-style pizza: thin, cracker-like crust with Provel (provolone/cheddar/colby blend) cheese. We'd heard mixed opinions on it from friends, but ended up really liking it. All the ingredients had good flavor. There are several locations all over the city.
Trattoria Branica, Kirkwood: We drove out to Kirkwood to explore, and ended up here. Good upscale Italian food, decent wine list. It was a beautiful evening, so we dined on the patio and listened to the live music. I had penne Arrabiata, which is one of my favorite dishes, and it was so spicy I had to take frequent breaks to drink water and dab my brow. And I'm not a wimp when it comes to spicy food. My dinner was the same price as I'd paid for manicotti/canneloni at Rigazzi's, but far tastier. TB seems to be popular with the older crowd - at 7:30 on a Saturday evening, my wife and I (late 20s/early 30s) were the youngest people there by a decade or more.
London Tea Room, downtown: Highlight of the trip for my wife, an Anglophile who loves tea. They have dozens of varieties of tea and okay coffee. Lots of pastries, including scones nearly size of softballs. The bacon, egg, and sharp cheddar breakfast sandwich was delicious. Imagine a place like Ghyslain, but with a British theme instead of French, and you'll have a very good idea of the decor and atmosphere.
We had a great time in St. Louis, saw most of the usual sights (The Arch, Cardinals game, zoo, art museum, Forest Park, City Museum, Anheuser-Busch brewery, Cathedral Basilica, etc.). Got a good deal on a hotel room downtown through Hotwire. We'd highly recommend St. Louis as a great place to spend a few days.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go spend a month or so in the gym to lose the weight I put on by eating my way across the city.