Just five minutes from South Grand, Egg Restaurant (2200 Gravois Ave. Tel: 314-202-8244. www.eggstl.com) offers a breakfast/brunch menu that spans the globe, from Benedicts made with their fantastic cornbread to breakfast tacos or (my
favorite) chakchouka, a spicy vegetable or beef stew that hails from Tunisia, as does the gracious and welcoming owner. It’s worth the slight detour from some of the downtown sites for a breakfast that will get you ready to start the day satisfied. Note: just upstairs from Egg, Shock City Studios (2200 Gravois Ave. Tel: 314-771-3099 www.shockcitystudios.com), a recording studio that’s hosted everyone from Diddy to The Voice, is quickly becoming St. Louis’ leading recording studio. Give them a call and see if you can arrange a tour.
But I digress. Let’s keep on with our gourmandizing. One major change since my youth is that St. Louis now has a great, and varied, dining scene. Be sure to visit prominent favorites as Sidney Street Café (2000 Sidney St. Tel: 314-771-5777. www.sidneystreetcafestl.com), where James Beard–award-wining chef Kevin Nashan dishes up constantly surprising and creative cuisine. Another James Beard–winner, Gerard Craft, recently opened Cinder House (999 North 2nd St. Tel:
314-881-5759. www.cinderhousestl.com) in the Four Seasons, with a focus on grilling and a Latin and international menu from piri piri chicken to Moqueca seafood stew (and the best fries in history, just sayin’), along with glorious views over the city.
In the Cortex, a high-tech development near Washington University, Vicia (4260 Forest Park Ave. Tel: 314-553-9239.
www.viciarestaurant.com) beckons with an inventive menu, and my lunch is an amazing wheatberry salad and tartine that
are as beautiful as the wide-open, gorgeous space. In the Central West End I enjoy Scape (48 Maryland Plaza. Tel: 314-361-7227. www.scapestl.com) for its casual bistro atmosphere that’s great for brunch or dinner. In Clayton lies Revel
Kitchen (7447 Forsyth Blvd. Tel: 314-597-1199. www.eatrevelkitchen.com), where you’ll order at the counter, building your
dish from base (bowl, wrap, salad, eggs) to protein (chicken, pulled pork, “mofu tofu,” etc.) and a variety of seasonings from
southern to Asian to Latin to Mediterranean. Toss in an order of fabulous “cauliflower tots,” and a few minutes later they’ll bring the fresh and amazing food, overseen by the former team chef for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Anyone eating their way through St. Louis will want to visit The Hill, the city’s Italian neighborhood. Here, Gian-Tony’s Ristorante (5653 Daggett Ave. Tel: 314-772-4893. www.giantonys.com) has a comfy atmosphere and great Italian food,
including toasted ravioli, which is ravioli coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried, a St. Louis specialty. Another local favorite
is Gooey Butter Cake, a rich, buttery cake with a top layer that’s even richer, more buttery, and, well, gooey. It’s possibly my
favorite caloric splurge in the world, and you can find a wide variety of flavors at Park Avenue Coffee (1919 Park Avenue.
Tel: 314-621-4020. www.parkavenuecoffee.com), both to enjoy by the slice or ship home.
Of course, no visit to St. Louis is complete without a trip to the one-and-only Ted Drewes Frozen Custard (6726 Chippewa
St. Tel: 314-481-2652. www.tedrewes.com), where your “concrete” will be handed to you upside-down to show that it’s so thick it won’t dribble out of the cup.
These are St. Louis traditions that, like many, keep on going even as new ones pop up. If St. Louis has changed immensely
since I grew up here, it’s also stayed the same in some important ways. Places grow out of what was already here, in a kind of architectural recycling that builds on a legendary past without remaining stuck in it. So every time I’m tempted to say “wow, this is like a different city,” I remind myself, well, it’s not really. Every time I savor a meal at an amazingly good restaurant, or see rainbow flags flying, or walk down once-empty streets now vibrant with life, I think, it really has gotten better, hasn’t it? Which is followed, inevitably by the thought, well, maybe I’m the one who’s gotten better. With any luck, both are true.