chowing down in st. louis | Somewhere in Middle America

One of my favorite things to do while on vacation is to eat. I love checking out the local hot spots. So while we were in St. Louis this past weekend for a wedding, J and I made sure to carve out some time to visit some of the city’s best known restaurants. I updated my Facebook status asking for recommendations and received quite a few from Omahans who used to live in the Gateway City. I also scoured the St. Louis version of Where magazine and the online version of Sauce, a local culinary and entertainment magazine, for insider tips.

For dinner Saturday night we chose Araka in Clayton (above), which won a 2009 Readers’ Choice award for “Best Lookin’ Restaurant” from Sauce. We arrived early, and I enjoyed a most delicious Raspberry Lemon Drop at the bar while we waited. After we were seated we decided to order off the Restaurant Week menu–3 courses for $25. When you consider that most of the entrees cost approximately $25 a piece, that was a steal. I am proud to announce that I tasted escargot for the first time, as that’s what J ordered for his appetizer. Unfortunately, service was a bit spotty, and we had to send back my pork loin twice. The first time it was overcooked. The second time it was literally raw in the middle. The restaurant handled the snafu appropriately and did not charge me for my meal, which also included an appetizer and dessert. My dessert was just blah. I ordered the chocolate chip pound cake, but they served me an end piece with the “crust,” so it wasn’t as soft and moist as it should have been. Thankfully, J’s dessert was so delicious that it made up for what mine was lacking. Chocolate-hazelnut bars. Yum.

Before we left St. Louis we decided to stop at Pi in The Loop for lunch. A favorite of President Obama’s, the trendy–and relatively healthy–pizza place is famous for its Chicago-style deep dish pizza (above) with cornmeal crust. (Although we heard somebody say it was San Francisco-style pizza. I didn’t know SF had a style of pizza.) It was insane. Even the spinach salad we started with was fantastic. Although we ordered a large pie (for $22!), it was so filling that we were each only able to eat 2 slices. It’s a good thing we went for lunch on Sunday; on Friday and Saturday nights, you can wait up for 2-3 hours for a table!

(top image source, middle image source, bottom image source)