The February issue’s cover story highlights some of the region’s top takeout spots, from fine dining to food trucks, drive-thrus to drinks. Now we want to hear from you! We’ve created a “Top Takeout” bracket by narrowing the list of establishments highlighted in the feature to just 32 restaurants. (Of course, there are countless more quality options, including popular pizza places, sandwich shops, burger joints, and businesses specializing in prepared meals.) From February 9–March 1, pick your favorites to help crown the winner!
Keep On Truckin’
St. Louis food trucks have somehow found a way to keep moving forward during the pandemic. One significant boon fueling their continued success: 9 Mile Garden, the state’s first food truck garden, located in Affton. Managing partner Brian Hardesty, co-owner of Guerrilla Street Food (and its food truck), has not only kept an initial roster of 30 trucks busy at lunch and dinner, but he’s also kept the site’s event calendar full. Concurrently, the pandemic has prompted some neighborhoods to hire food trucks to visit for an evening, further increasing exposure. Not surprisingly, several new trucks, trailers, and carts appeared on the roads in 2020. Among the noteworthy trucks to roll down the pike: Clara B’s Kitchen Table (breakfast and brunch sandwiches), Cluck Oink Moo (sliders), Crooked Boot (with Louisiana Creole cuisine), Crescendo (street food), Curry Club Express (Indian fusion), Havana’s Cuisine (Cuban), Izumi (Japanese konbini-style sandwiches), Red Dirt Revival (Southern fare), Sando Shack (katsu sandwiches), and Tuk Tuk Thai (Thai). Chef Chris “Mac” McKenzie is also planning to roll out a new food trailer, serving up his renowned super-smashed burgers. The trailer’s clever name: The Patty Wagon. 9 Mile Garden is scheduling 50 trucks in 2021—and planning additional locations.
A Fluid Situation
“CREATIVE COCKTAIL” HAS FOUND NEW MEANING AS EATERIES OFFER TO-GO DRINKS IN A VARIETY OF DELICIOUS OPTIONS.
From the team at 4 Hands Brewing, 1220 has worked on pre-batched cocktail collaborations with a number of bartenders and restaurateurs over the past year, most recently acclaimed chef Ben Poremba and the team at Lazy Tiger. Owner Kevin Lemp’s go-to is the Vesper.
Baileys’ Restaurants has pulled some of the greatest hits from its restaurants into one online store, where customers can order 32-ounce Bloody Marys from Rooster, 20-ounce Boozy Lemonades from Baileys’ Range, a French 75 kit from POP, and bottles of Manhattans and 007’s favorite Vesper cocktail from Small Batch. The restaurant group also offers a line of whiskey and bourbon tasting flights and “beer tour” packs.
Brennan’s ships seven 16-ounce cocktails, $26–$32, that include classics (Aviation, Old Fashioned, Manhattan) and twists on classic preparations (a jalapeño margarita, a lavender Sidecar). The bar also delivers a range of spirits and snack boxes, including beer and wine, alongside cold cuts, cheese, and cigars.
Among six $10 drinks served in 10-ounce bottles, Chao Baan offers a tamarind-enhanced whiskey sour, a Plum Old Fashioned with Akashi Ume Japanese whisky, and the Napple Daiq (made with pineapple rum, cachaça, lime, and palm sugar syrup). Owner Shayn Prapaisilp’s pick is the Smoky Hot Thai Boi—named, incidentally, by the Chao Baan staff in honor of Prapaisilp himself—and its combination of Banhez Mezcal, Thai chili–infused Cimarrón tequila, and lime.
Everything on Cobalt’s list of intricate, thoughtfully composed cocktails can be ordered for pickup in single servings. Recent entries include the Chai Tai, a Mai Tai–style drink made with chai tea–infused rum. Each limited-edition run of the Whiskey Box series contains five whiskey samplers, and Cobalt also offers customizable holiday gift boxes.
General manager Kira Webster’s cocktails can be ordered for curbside pickup in pouches that serve two. The drinks reflect and expand on the restaurant’s diverse Asian influences, from the use of Korean soju and Japanese whisky to such ingredients as wasabi orgeat, togarashi, and tom yum port.
Bourbon features prominently among the six to-go cocktails at John Perkins’ popular restaurant. You’ll find such classics as the Manhattan and Old Fashioned, as well as the Kentucky Bramble. Most of the cocktails are single-serving drinks, retailing around $10. The exception is the two-serving Put It In Your Purse ($20), a gin cocktail with grapefruit, rosemary, lime, and bubbles.
Whatever the occasion, co-owner Adam Tilford points to Mission’s line of margaritas, including ready-to-drink margs in various sizes and a margarita kit with Una Vida tequila and Mission’s own mix. Have your margarita spicy, made with mezcal, or topped off with a top-shelf tequila. Other Mission favorites include the Paloma, Zombie, and El Diablo, along with a selection of to-go shots. Single-serving cocktails are around $10; the margarita kit costs $80.
Offering a broad range of to-go options, Narwhal’s serves up trademark frozen drinks ($8–$23) that alternate between dessert-style indulgence (blueberry gooey butter cake) and tropical refreshment (strawberry basil lemonade). Narwhal’s also has cocktails on draft and hot drinks such as Irish coffee and Mexican hot chocolate. Take home Silipint cups or a 40-ounce fishbowl.
The Webster Groves favorite has four batched cocktails to take home at $50 each. The #330 is tequila and mezcal mixed with orgeat, raspberry, lime, and wormwood spirit Bësk; the #78 features rye, amaro, tart cherry, and cocoa-spiced bitters. Or try a whiskey sampler, selected by the O+O staff, comprising three 2-ounce pours of fine spirits.
The barrel-aged Unusual Negroni is a longstanding favorite not just of owner Gerard Craft but also of his parents, who’ve had the drink shipped to Washington, D.C., throughout the pandemic. Pastaria offers two additional Negronis (one made with mezcal and an Italian rhubarb bitter) and the Brasserie Old Fashioned, each $28 for a 12-ounce serving. In December, Craft launched La Verita Distilleria, a line of seasonal small-batch amari, liqueurs, and nonalcoholic cordials, currently exclusive to Pastaria Deli & Wine.
4 Hands’ and 1220 Spirits’ Kevin Lemp teamed up with Chef Ben Poremba to create this line of five jarred infusions, each yielding up to eight 2-ounce bar-quality cocktails when steeped for three days in 16 ounces of a given liquor (instructions provided on the label). One infusion costs $18.
Owner Tom Schmidt calls the oak-aged Manhattan his favorite, but Salt + Smoke has a total of six to-go cocktails, each served in a 16-ounce bottle yielding six to 10 pours. Options include the oak-aged Salt + Smoke, made with Amaro Casoni and peaty Laphroaig, and the Lexington Negroni. Prices range $27.99–$34.99.
Apart from the tequila-based Havana Nights, rum drinks dominate the to-go cocktails ($26–$30), from the Mai Tai to the 314 Swizzle. Each is served in a 16-ounce Mason jar that yields four to six pours. Completing the vibe are six colorful tiki mugs ($25 each) in octopus-, volcano-, and unicorn-inspired designs.
The to-go cocktail lineup reflects the ethos of Michael and Tara Gallina’s acclaimed Central West End restaurant, with $20 bottled drinks made from herb-infused gins, fresh fruits, lots of floral notes, and top-shelf spirits and liqueurs. Vicia also offers wines to go—including a mystery bundle of six bottles for $60—and home bartenders can subscribe to Vicia’s cocktail club to receive a monthly kit that makes six drinks.
CHAO BAAN’S SHAYN PRAPAISILP BRINGS A TASTE OF THAI CUISINE TO ST. LOUIS HOMES.
Growing up in the restaurant industry, Prapaisilp wasn’t sure that the business was for him. His parents, Sue and Suchin Prapaisilp, have operated restaurants and groceries in St. Louis, including The King & I and Jay International Food, since the late 1970s. After Prapaisilp finished graduate school, though, his parents asked him to help open United Provisions in the Delmar Loop. “That was my first opportunity to really lead a project on my own,” Prapaisilp says, “and now I’m very glad I’m back in the fold.” In 2019, he and his mother opened Chao Baan, a restaurant rooted in northeastern and southern Thai cuisine, reflecting Sue and Suchin’s heritages, respectively. The menu features Prapaisilp’s favorite family recipes, including khao tod nam sod, deep-fried rice cakes with chilis, fish sauce, and lime, served with pork sausage, ginger, and cilantro. During the pandemic, Chao Baan has offered online ordering and curbside pickup, as well as limited dine-in service. “We retooled as quickly as possible, and we’re really fortunate that our food travels well,” Prapaisilp says. “We’re grateful to the St. Louis community; St. Louis is that special type of place that really looks out for locally owned restaurants.”
WITH CARRYOUT DINING ON THE RISE, MORE RESTAURANTS ARE OPENING WINDOWS.
The pickup window was conceived to launch a sister concept, Wing Runner, but all of its barbecue faves, including the Tripe Pig (snoot, rib tips, and house-made hotwurst) are available as well.
Not much has changed over the years at the Route 66 staple, known for its famous smashed burgers. So after the pandemic prevented customers from gathering around its 16 stools, it was particularly noteworthy that the tiny restaurant added a pickup window.
At this punny house of chicken, order the broasted Cheep & Cheddar from the Bawk Up Window, or request curbside pickup in front of the coop.
These days, the coffee window is pulling double duty, with Italian-inspired fare and pies from the adjacent O+O Pizza.
A whopping 30 taco varieties, including the popular Who You Call’n Shrimp taco, with margarita slaw, are dispensed from a side window. (Or think outside the bubble and reserve one of Club Taco’s four igloos.)
During patio season, order superior pizza and pasta at the side window, take about 10 steps, and chow down at one of the nicest (and best-hidden) European courtyards in town.
What’s Old Is New Again
Three classic drive-ins are worth the drive for a day of old-time family fun and no-frills smashed burgers. King Louie’s, in Wood River, is the regional classic, but those in the know also head in the opposite direction, to Wally’s, in Breese. And on the Missouri side, hike beautiful Hawn State Park, then grab a taste of nostalgia at Hunt’s Dairy Bar, in Farmington.
Stools were installed in front of the double window in Soulard, where you can also order a brew from nearby iTap.
Although Grace temporarily closed its late night–only window to Grace Chicken + Fish, it’s open for Meat + Three’s specialties, including chef/owner Rick Lewis’ incomparable fried bologna sandwich with pimiento cheese and farm egg.
The pickup window might be cut out of a garage door, but the pies, created by pizzeoli Mitch Frost, are first-rate.
Owner Scott Sandler and his team serve up vegetarian-friendly, New York–style pizza from a service window at the front door along South Grand.
A nondescript window on Newstead turns out some of the city’s most creative to-go fare, courtesy of chef Ben Grupe, a former captain of the U.S. Culinary Olympic Team.
The window at Michael and Tara Gallina’s popular University City restaurant is open at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offering a creative array of seasonal fare, as well as a weekend trifecta of pizzas, smashed burgers, and pot pies.
In warm weather, we opt for bread, cheese, and charcuterie; when it’s cold, we go for hot soup and a grilled Gruyère sandwich on baguette.
At one of the busiest drive-thru windows in town, devoteés queue up for chimichangas, chalupas, rotisserie chicken, and margaritas.
It’s the only place in town where you can pick up a cornmeal crust pizza, a trio of tacos, and a jug of margaritas.
The stock menu is as solid as a slinger, but monitor Yolklore’s social media for outstanding weekend collaborations.
A former sandwich shop dispenses subs, sushi, ramen, and poke.
The owners of this chef-driven health-conscious salads-and-wraps restaurant wisely installed two drive-thru lanes at the O’Fallon, Missouri, location. One is for traditional orders; the other is for online orders.
LITTLE FOX’S MOWGLI AND CRAIG RIVARD INTRODUCE A TWIST TO WALK-UP WINDOWS.
When Mowgli and Craig Rivard left Brooklyn, in 2017, their goal was to bring the sort of neighborhood restaurant they’d worked at together in New York to St. Louis, Craig’s hometown. That meant investing in not just a building or concept but also in a neighborhood. When the couple visited Fox Park, with its tight-knit community and handful of small businesses, they knew they’d found their new home. In December 2019, they opened Little Fox, serving modern American fare in a hip, fun space. In 2020, the restaurant offered some of the most creative pandemic dining in town, from an outdoor concept in the parking lot across the street to walkup windows for food and wine orders. Now, with the outdoor space closed, the Rivards are focused on walkup service. “We’re treating the windows like pop-ups, so, for example, we got rid of brunch, but every Sunday morning there’ll be some sort of [theme at the food window],” Mowgli says. “Today we had homemade bagels with smoked salmon.” One constant during this chaotic time: the encouragement of the community. “We’re grateful for how supportive the neighborhood is,” Mowgli says. “That’s exactly what we wanted.
Date Night At Home
YES, FINE DINING IS STILL AN OPTION, WHATEVER YOUR BUDGET.
Family-style meals serving six, as well as batched cocktails, are available for curbside pickup. Menu items range from $15–$48; cocktails are $18–$30. Finish the meal with a pint of house-made ice cream—try the caramel chocolate chip.
Dinners for Two are available at various price points. Bar Night for Two includes two courses and batched cocktails, for $60; Date Night for Two includes three courses with a wine pairing or batched cocktail, for $80; and Decadence Indoors for Two includes four courses and two wine pairings or batched cocktails, for $180.
Tasting menus and beverages are available for curbside pickup or delivery. Meals include a three-course prix-fixe Ozark menu, for $45; a five-course prix-fixe Ozark menu highlighting local forage and produce, for $75; and the seven-course Ozark tasting menu, for $100.
Family-style to-go dinners for two or four come with salad and choices of meat and sides, plus wine pairings. The restaurant also hosts Taco Tuesday, which includes a four-pack taco kit for $15 or an eight-pack kit for $25 and house-made chips and salsa.
The weekly Sunday Supper takeout meal, $50 per person, includes salad, a main course, and dessert, as well as an optional wine pairing. Menus vary by week but have featured slow-braised porchetta and boeuf bourguignon.
Kevin Willmann’s acclaimed restaurant in the Lindenwood Park neighborhood offers à la carte meals and bottles of wine and beer for curbside pickup 4–7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Dishes change weekly, but a favorite is braised short rib with gremolata. Don’t forget to add a starter and dessert. Prices run $5–$13 for starters, $14–$20 for mains, and $10 or less for desserts.
The Sundays Are for Family meals include soup or salad, an entrée, a side, and dessert for $35 per person. Guests can also order from a menu of popular pizzas and small plates. Meals are available for pickup 5–8 p.m. on Sundays.
Half Pan Family Meals for three or four people are available for curbside pickup; price varies by dish but generally ranges from $35–$40. We recommend the Half Pan Family Shepherd’s Pie with house grand leg of lamb and whipped potatoes. Add a family-size Italian salad for $20 or a garlic baguette for $7.99.
The acclaimed Benton Park restaurant offers curbside pickup for à la carte items or a Dinner for Two meal that comes with two entrées, two sides, two house salads, and two nut-free chocolate chip cookies, as well as optional wine pairings. Prices vary by menu item. Don’t miss the beef tenderloin or vegetarian Anaheim peppers stuffed with barley, chorizo spices, and cheese.
The $150 all-inclusive Cottage to Carriage meal comes with a bottle of wine, linen napkins and napkin rings, a candle, and stemware, delivered to your door. Menus vary monthly but always include fresh house-made rolls, infused butter, and a seasonally inspired first course, main course, and dessert.
A weekly menu on Wednesdays—dubbed What Would Mathis Cook? for chef Mathis Stitt—runs $38 and features such dishes as fried short rib tacos and shrimp and grits.
A Date Night Delivered experience for $250 includes a Farmer’s Feast for two, bottled botanical beverages, two bottles of wine, a breakfast package from sister restaurant Winslow’s Table, and doorstep delivery. (Other to-go options include a menu of wood-fired items, available Tuesday through Friday, ordered à la carte or as a Feast for Two for $70, or as a Saturday Farmer’s Feast spotlighting world cuisine for $45 per person.)
TEMPUS’ BEN GRUPE TURNS FINE DINING INTO CARRYOUT
The chef isn’t risk-averse. Grupe has spent much of his career in high-profile international culinary competitions, often taking home top honors. He’s a fierce challenger, often most in competition with himself to improve. Grupe knows that without risk, there’s no reward, but that didn’t make opening his restaurant, Tempus, in The Grove, any less challenging during a pandemic. “We’re having to reset as an industry,” he says. “What Tempus initially was has completely changed.” Grupe preserved the heart of Tempus—what he describes as “fine dining without pretension”—yet opened the restaurant as a carryout-only concept. After four months, the dining room still sits empty as Tempus offers online ordering and curbside pickup of such bestselling items as beef rib with semolina dumplings, mustard, braised cabbage, and beets. Grupe intentionally developed dishes that would travel well but still permit artful presentations. “Everything on the menu is engineered, from execution and technique to serviceability, for to-go,” he says, “but we want the presentation to be as close to what you would experience in a restaurant.”
NO STOREFRONT? NO PROBLEM, WITH THE RISE OF GHOST KITCHENS.
With indoor dining largely shuttered over the past year, restaurants have turned to the ghost kitchen model, in which another concept operates with no storefront from the same kitchen as an existing spot.
Already having run a ghost kitchen of sorts with Knockout BBQ, restaurateurs Dave and Kara Bailey were quick to pivot with two entries from the kitchen of Baileys’ Range: Playing Ketchup (serving up hot dogs and brats) and Wing Ding Dong (offering chicken sandwiches and dry-rubbed, smoked, and baked wings).
Wings have proved popular among the creators of ghost kitchens. Last year, BEAST Butcher & Block chef/pitmaster David Sandusky launched Wing Runner, offering 10 flavors, ranging from classic Buffalo to such creative flavors as Fish Sauce Caramel and roasted shishito lime. All flavors can also be enjoyed as cauliflower wings. SugarHi Ghost Kitchen’s–KC Bones, from Hi-Pointe Drive-In, also serves wings and Kansas City–style ribs. The plan is to rotate concepts, incubating spinoff–worthy ideas from the already spun-off burger shop.
Sandwiches are another hot option. At Weber Grill, Roast-A-Rama serves stacked sandwiches, such as a char-roasted sirloin with smoked caramelized onions and smoked cheddar on an onion bun. Sub Division Sandwich Co., from the owners of Polite Society, serves lunch-only sandwiches with movie-inspired names, such as There’s No Crying in Baseball (a Hungarian brat). Adam and Jason Tilford managed to open Mission Taco Joint in Kirkwood as well as their first ghost kitchens, Off the Wall Burgers and Holy Mole, a riff on the fare at the former Milagro Modern Mexican. In Glendale, Chris Sommers of Pi Pizza and Gringo had already planned a mashup concept: Pi Pizzeria + ¡RICO!, and chef Cary McDowell added smashed burgers (and the must-try garlic cheese knots) to the mix.
Motor Town Pizza, from Revel Kitchen, started serving Detroit-style pies, despite owner Simon Lusky’s never having tried this version before making it for himself.
And at Brasas, from Original J’s, restaurateur Mike Randolph has teamed up with Peruvian-American chef Andrew Enrique Cisneros to serve traditional Peruvian-style wood-roasted chicken. Hugely popular in Washington, D.C., the dish has been gaining traction around the country as a fast-casual concept, and the duo are the first to bring it to St. Louis.
Stacking Up the Options
The sandwich market has proved unusually resilient in the midst of a pandemic. Local restaurateurs have launched some notable offerings, including Nomad, chef Tommy “Salami” Andrew’s shop in Dogtown that channels Mac’s Local Eats, the popular burger joint that once inhabited the space. Three more chef-inspired shops followed: Stephan Ledbetter’s Re-Voaked, in the Central West End; delivery-only concept Sub Division, from the chef team at Polite Society; and Jimmy Trin’s The Banh Mi Shop, which presents outstanding renditions of the Vietnamese sandwich staple. Gerard Craft’s Sardella begat Pastaria Deli & Wine, and the results (to no one’s surprise) are stellar. But the most unusual entry is Izumi, a Japanese-inspired sandwich concept that owner Kurt Bellon delivers in a teeny-tiny 1995 Subaru Sambar.
THE CLASSIC CARRYOUT ITEM HAS BEEN A POPULAR PICK DURING A TOUGH TIME.
Pizza’s popularity soared in 2020, partly because of the pandemic, spurring new pizza joints and other restaurants to pivot (or delve further) into a business that’s never been described as flat.
When this popular Maplewood restaurant switched almost completely to pizza, co-owner Chris Kelling personally delivered pies, including the When in Rome pie (with roasted potato, corn, bacon, red onion, and rosemary), that many claim are among the best in town. What started out as a pizza pop-up will remain so until the veil of the pandemic is lifted.
For almost 15 years, Katie Lee Collier has wowed St. Louisans with Neapolitan pies topped with everything from squash blossoms to creamy kale. When she launched frozen pizzas in 2020, it opened a whole new market for the restaurateur, who donated 500 pies to people in need during Thanksgiving week.
Olive + Oak’s offshoot restaurant, currently operating out of sister restaurant The Clover and The Bee, boasts superb handmade pastas and half a dozen 14-inch pizzas. The thin-crust pies, which might be called new St. Louis–style, incorporate a special Italian cheese.
At this new pizza joint on The Hill, popularists opt for the 12-inch pie topped with cupped and charred pepperoni and pickled jalapeño; Italian traditionalists order a cheese-less iteration topped with thin-sliced eggplant finished with garlic chili oil and parsley.
It surprised some St. Louisans when James Beard Award nominee Michael Gallina began offering Sicilian-style pizzas on weekends at Winslow’s Table, though the results didn’t. Gallina adorns focaccia-dough pies with various toppings, but in honesty, the chef’s light and flavorful focaccia is an indulgence all by itself.
MELANIE MEYER SERVES A LOVE SONG TO HER KOREAN ROOTS FROM AN UNLIKELY KITCHEN.
Back in spring 2019, when Melanie Meyer had just opened her début concept, Tiny Chef, inside South City pinball bar The Silver Ballroom, she was envisioning she would serve her outstanding Korean fare to customers as they sipped cocktails and played pinball. Then, in March, the pandemic flipped everything on its head, turning her buzz-garnering business into an almost exclusively takeout operation. What didn’t change is Meyer’s fierce commitment to serving some of the most soulful Korean food in town. Tiny Chef is Meyer’s love song to her Korean culture. Adopted from South Korea when she was an infant by a Missouri family, Meyer sees Tiny Chef as a way of connecting with her roots, a mission that results in such dishes as Korean-style street tacos, bibimbap bowls, handmade tteokbokki, and fiery Nuclear noodles. If you’re lucky enough to catch one of her Korean seafood boils, you’ll be treated to a feast of crab, shrimp, bok choy, potatoes, and Korean street corn. Under normal circumstances, Meyer says, she wouldn’t have been able to offer the seafood boils, because they’d take up too much room during service in her tiny kitchen. If there’s a silver lining, that may be it.