The family and I try not to eat out too often, so when we do the food has to be delicious and memorable. Chains offer reliability and some tempting food, but there is something special about visiting a local business that is unique to St. Louis. Each month I plan to feature three St. Louis casual dining establishments that wowed me and told a story I wanted to be part of!
When I heard there was a restaurant serving burrito sized sushi, I knew I had to try it! We headed out to BLK MKT’s near Saint Louis University and IKEA on a weeknight with much excitement. We were not disappointed by a menu full of creatively named rolls including: OG Fire, Holy Shiitake, and Tasty as Cluck, along with Poke Bowls and nachos featuring Asian flavors. Personally, I had to try OG Krilla, not just because I have often been Mrs. OG in my teaching career (long story), but I had to have the promised tempura shrimp and spicy salmon.
The crunch of the shrimp and peanuts, added texture to this messy, one of a kind burrito and the sauce brought the sweetness with a hint of heat. My husband has similar praise for the OG Fire, which is comparable, but foregoes the tempura shrimp for tempura crunchies. For those who are not seafood fans, there are the chicken options The French Connection and Tasty as Cluck, which my girls went with (luckily they did not get the reference) as well as the Holy Shiitake vegetarian option.
I was impressed by the concept and flavor and look forward to going back and trying the less messy Poke Bowls and inventive nachos.
Don’t let the name fool you, Rooster is not a fried chicken joint. For a little over fifteen years, Rooster has been serving up locally sourced brunch food downtown and now they have a second location in the Tower Grove neighborhood. They make everything in-house, from the bread to the ice cream and their meat can be traced to specific farms in the St. Louis area. I visited on a busy day and had to get it to go (hence the Styrofoam), but normally I would suggest a leisurely dining experience, in the eclectically decorated, restored restaurants.
I am a sucker for crepes in all forms and decided to go with my German roots for The mo.made german style sausage #2, which is filled with thinly sliced sausage, shredded white cheddar cheese, and spiced apples. Even more than the flavor punched fillings, the sauces really made the dish. One was thick and creamy with a spicy kick, while the other sauce was thin and tasted of apple cider vinegar. I liked to get a little bit of both on every bite and enjoy the salty, sour, tangy result. They have a large variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, but I just ordered a simple lemonade. It was simple, but done right without being watered down or too sweet. There are so many things to try here, I can’t wait to come back for a crepe with strawberries and basil, or blueberries and mint and maybe wash it down with a sunburnt white russian. With so many daring combinations I could come back and never order the same thing twice.
Nudo is probably the newest restaurant on this list, although its sister restaurant, Mai Lee, has been around for decades. Nudo is outside of the downtown area and located in a strip mall in Creve Coeur. Owner and chef Qui Tran is a Vietnam refugee whose enterprising mother started Mai Lee in 1985 when she recognized there was no Vietnamese food being served in the St. Louis area.
Nudo focuses on Ramen, although Pho and Banh Mi are available. I suggest the Curry Up Ramen, which had me at “tempura chicken” and “coconut milk.” As you would hope, the Ramen has highly developed flavors and is definitely not one note. The vegetables and coconut milk add sweetness, while the seasonings add a touch of heat and interest to the dish. The chicken (you can also order pork or japanese squash) is lightly fried and holds up to the broth. The portions are definitely worth the money. My husband was able to finish his bowl, but I ate mine for two meals and was full both times.
While you’re there make sure to check out all the photos that tell even more of Qui Tran’s story, including this awesome baseball jersey signed by Cardinal’s second baseman Kolten Wong. And if you need some reading material there is an abundance of comic books, including some Voltron, to keep you occupied.
I hope you get out and enjoy one of these unique St. Louis restaurants and I will have three new picks next month!