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The 10 best new restaurants in St. Louis in 2016 (plus, the 3 best meals)

From left, Nick Blue, Gerard Craft and Chris Kelling at Sardella, one of Sauce Magazine's 'best new restaurants' of 2016.
Greg Rannells | Sauce Magazine
From left, Nick Blue, Gerard Craft and Chris Kelling at Sardella, one of Sauce Magazine's 'best new restaurants' of 2016.

In the Sauce Magazine office, there is a meticulously edited running spreadsheet. On it are the names, dates, and addresses for each of the over 100 restaurants that opened in St. Louis in 2016.

Meera Nagarajan, Catherine Klene and Heather Hughes have been working for the past 12 months to catalogue restaurants, bars and food-related shops that have opened in the St. Louis area this year. They tried more than 50 restaurants for the “best new restaurants” list alone, finally settling on ten that run the gamut from traditional dining establishments to carry-out only pizza joints. You can find that list here.

“The majority of what we ate and drank had to be memorable and delicious,” said Klene, the magazine’s managing editor. “And the restaurant had to offer something that was unique to the St. Louis dining scene that makes it stand out. The execution of a dish has to display technical skill and consistency. It is not just about the food: pleasant atmosphere and friendly, inviting service are necessary. If it was just great food, a lot of places might make the list but dining is about the experience. And, at the end of the day: Did we want to go back?”

Sauce Magazine considered every restaurant that opened in St. Louis between November 15, 2015 and November 15, 2016.

On this month’s Sound Bites, St. Louis on the Air contributor Steve Potter talked with Klene, Hughes and Nagarajan about the ten restaurants that made the cut of the year’s best.

The number one spot went to Gerard Craft’s new Italian-inspired restaurant, Sardella, at 7734 Forsyth Blvd. in Clayton.

One of Sardella's dishes, a miso-ricotta ravioli with orange, pepitas, brown butter and tarragon.
Credit Greg Rannells | Sauce Magazine
One of Sardella's dishes, a miso-ricotta ravioli with orange, pepitas, brown butter and tarragon.

Opened in Niche’s previous space, Sauce Magazine heralds Sardella not only for its food, but also its atmosphere and space.

“Everybody that’s in [Sardella] is chatting and laughing a little bit louder, and that atmosphere makes me want to linger,” Nagarajan said.

“Not only are the clients louder and more relaxed, but so is the staff, and I think that’s what really makes it a great experience,” Klene said. “The whole dining experience is reflective of that.”

The other top ten restaurants include:

Vista Ramen, 2609 Cherokee St., St. Louis

Olive and Oak, 102 W. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves

Kounter Kulture, 3825 Watson Road, St. Louis

Nixta, 1621 Tower Grove Ave., St. Louis

Porano Pasta, 634 Washington Ave., St. Louis

The Preston, 212 N. Kingshighway Blvd., St. Louis

Sheesh Restaurant, 3226 S Grand Blvd, St. Louis

Egg, 2200 Gravois Ave, St. Louis

Melo’s Pizzeria, 2438 McNair Rear, St. Louis

After trying out countless dishes from over a hundred restaurants, the members of the Sauce Magazine team recounted their favorite meals.

“I would say the Ceviche at Nixta was one of the most surprising and delighting dishes that I tried,” Hughes said, of the dish, which is a raw fish plate cured in citrus juice. “This one is served [with] apples in it and it comes with this rose water espuma which is kind of like a jell.”

Nagarajan chose the Khao Soi at Kounter Kulture as her favorite dish.

“It’s a Northern Thai dish,” Nagarajan said. “Red curry and coconut milk in the sauce, pulled chicken and lime. It’s a wonderful, comforting… a little bit indulgent soup dish.”

Klene is a fan of the grilled octopus small plate at Vista Ramen.

“It’s perfectly tender, but it still tastes meaty. It has a crispy exterior...and it’s served with this potato salad,” Klene said. “It’s kind of this fun backyard grilling experience where you think of potato salad and grilled meat, but it’s with an elegant piece of octopus.”

This Sound Bites segment is produced as a part of a partnership between Sauce Magazine and St. Louis Public Radio.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.
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