12 of our favorite St. Louis restaurant stories from 2021


Looking back to January 2021, no one would have predicted the events and circumstances that local diners went through this year. Food critic Dave Lowry reflected on his favorite moments, while GDT Dining room editor George Mahe looked to the future. The following stories have defined the past year and will influence the following one. Here they are, in chronological order.

Casa Don Alfonso and Tony’s open less than a day apart in Clayton

Two of the most visually striking restaurants opened in March one day apart and about 100 yards apart in Clayton. Since then, Casa Don Alfonso and Tony’s have received frequent accolades (in June, a Forbes contributor wrote an article stating that “America’s Best New Italian Restaurant is in St. Louis”) and represents a study of the styles and mood of contrasting Italian cuisine. They join The Capital Grille, 801 Fish, and 801 Chophouse in the same block of Carondelet Plaza No area in town can boast of having this kind of firepower within walking distance.

Soulcial Kitchen, a mobile cloud mission with a mission, launches in the eastern metropolitan region

When this innovative concept was first announced by GDT, its many components made it difficult to digest. In short, the business model includes company-owned branded food trucks, a cloud-based kitchen, a business incubator, pay-in-advance meal tokens, and a converted DC-3 plane on wheels called Space Shuttle Café, which touched down at the resort in Swansea, Illinois, last week. Soulcial Kitchen also organized and now operates the nation’s premier food truck apprenticeship program. Regulated by the Ministry of Labor, the program provides training and hands-on experience to cooks looking to break into the food truck industry.

The temporary (and masterful) hub of Elmwood, from a fine dining restaurant to a pizzeria

Give Elmwood owners Chris Kelling and Adam Altnether credit for one of the most creative – and ultimately permanent – pandemic pivots: the conversion of his more fancy, popular restaurant, Elmwood, into a more casual, temporary eatery, ElmwoodXPizza. Field. At first, charcoal-baked pizzas were only available for pickup or delivery (often dropped off by Kelling himself). Later, Elmwood’s dining room served as a placeholder for Pizza Champ (a collaborative effort with Side Project Brewing), which was quietly taking shape in a low-key building nearby. Located directly across from the Side Project Brewery in Maplewood, the project is slated to open in February. As soon as Pizza Champ hits its fighting weight, Elmwood will get closer to its roots but offer a prix fixe menu.

Brennan moves, reopens, suffers devastating fire and reopens again

When the Saint Louis Chess Club announced its intention to expand the space occupied by Brennan’s – the partial bar, the sweatshop, the lounge, the cigar club, the event venue, the shared workspace, bottle shop and ping pong shop in the Central West End – business owner Kevin Brennan found a suitable location just around the corner. Forced into pause mode by a strange catastrophic fire on reopening day, Brennan was nonetheless able to create a doubly refined version of the beloved original. The new iteration opened without incident at the end of July. Right, a photo from the opening night of the legendary blackboard known for its pithy words.

Food Hall opens at City Foundry STL

After five years of proposing, planning, polishing and pivoting, City Foundry STL’s highly anticipated Food Hall opened to the public in August, featuring 10 kitchens surrounding a central bar operated by Gerard Craft’s Niche Food Group. Three more kitchens were then added (Sureste, Chicken Scratch Rotisserie and Intergalactic Burgers), and three more are slated for early 2022, including STL Toasted, the first local restaurant specializing in grilled dumplings.

Stone Soup Cottage reopens but announces permanent closure

At the top of St. Louis’ best of lists for a dozen years, Stone Soup Cottage has set the bar high for food and hospitality, exemplified by its elegant tasting menu dinners served in a bucolic setting. breathtaking. After halting on-site meals for 13 months (but delivering prepared dinners, complete with linens and candles), owners Carl and Nancy McConnell announced a brief comeback tour but also that the restaurant, in its current version, would serve its last. invited in June 2022. “That doesn’t mean this is the end of Stone Soup,” said Nancy GDT in September. “That’s just the end of this chapter.”

Support Sword for Chief Rich LoRusso

The community of St. Louis was shocked and saddened to learn that Rich LoRusso, a truly beloved chef and owner of LoRusso’s Cucina, had been diagnosed with an extremely rare form of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after having experienced debilitating (and unexplained) symptoms. for a few years. One fundraiser, For The Love of The Chef, sold quickly and far exceeded its financial goals. The other chefs were eager to help in any way they could, but many had to be turned down. A second fundraiser – a chef’s dinner of $ 500 per person at the Persimmon Woods Country Club – is being organized to benefit Rich and his wife, Terri, and the chefs are lining up again to lend their support . Additional information will be published when available.

Barcelona closes after 19 years but could revive

In February 2019, when BARcelona owner Frank Schmitz learned that the plot of land in Clayton containing the restaurant was being sold, he attempted to move the 19-year-old tapas palace to no avail. Schmitz received a departure notice and closed the doors in September. For years BARcelona has been the standard bearer for street cafes and sidewalk restaurants in Saint-Louis. This week Schmitz reports that “there is something in the works” and hopes “to reopen BARcelona in a new location in time for the sidewalk patio season”.

Rockwell Beer Garden opens in Francis Park

This spring, when GDT announced that Rockwell Beer would be opening a pastoral beer garden inside a city park, one had to wonder why, in a city steeped in beer history, this had never been done before. With former Niche Food Group executive chef Michael Petres at the helm of leading food offerings for pizza, Rockwell Beer Garden quietly opened in Francis Park for a few months starting in October. and will reopen again in the spring.

Tempus opens long-awaited dining room after one year of take-out-only service

Last October, after months of delay and in the midst of a pandemic, renowned chef and owner of Tempus at The Grove, Ben Grupe, opened his popular restaurant in the safest way he saw fit: for the take out service only. In February 2021 GDT The star of top-notch take-out, Tempus’s fare graced the cover. A few months later, GDT praised the restaurant for the way its staff served their sidewalk patio patrons by participating in the cardboard but still beautifully presented offerings. The Tempus dining room finally opened its doors in early November, with no disappointment for anyone. Although the restaurant officially opened last year, we’ll be doubling down and calling it one of 2021’s must-sees as well.

Pi + Rico grows and succeeds

Located in a small independent building on the corner of Manchester and Berry, Pi Pizzeria + ¡Rico! The Mexican packed plenty of menu options – pizza, Mexican entrees, burgers and the killer chicken sandwich – in a small package when it opened last October, amid the pandemic. When a larger restaurant and bar became available a mile to the west, a decision made sense. Chef Cary McDowell said, “We are now able to do what we’ve been doing and more in a full-service semi-turnkey location that happens to have tons of parking, a large patio, and logical locations. for curbside pickup. Open for just under two months, Pi + Rico recently opened for lunch, an indicator of the neighborhood’s immediate acceptance of the concept.

Susan Barrett buys Zoë Robinson’s three restaurants and plans to reopen them all

The most asked culinary question for a year and a half—What will become of Zoë Robinson’s restaurants? –was answered in this article from mid-November. The good news: Susan Barrett (local art consultant, gallery owner and good friend of Robinson’s) bought all three restaurants. More good news: An operator yet to be named will reopen Bar Les Frères and I Fratellini almost simultaneously with only minor cosmetic changes early next year, and Billie-Jean will be redesigned and opened at a later date. . Robinson would only say GDT who said the operator “doesn’t need my help at all – this person is so good.”


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