Nathaniel Reid Bakery
Start your day the way the French have been for centuries: with copious amounts of laminated dough and butter. The Nathaniel Reid team makes over 100 types of pastries, entremets, breads and sandwiches daily, so good luck picking just one (an impossible task). Grab a ham and cheese tiger claw for a bigger breakfast, or treat yourself to the chocolate almond croissant that made him famous: They’re baked, filled with housemade almond paste, chocolate and rum syrup, then baked again.
BTW: The kouign-amann may not be the sexiest pastry in the case, but it may very well be the best.
Nathaniel Reid Bakery, 11243 Manchester Rd. Kirkwood, Mo. 63122
Living Room Coffee & Kitchen
What’s not to love about a homey cafe where everything is made in house, including the coffee? Try the rotating single-origin brews and one of the seasonal breakfast options. You won’t regret the Workday sandwich — Living Room’s signature soft baguette topped with soft eggs, bacon, cheddar and dressed greens — nor should you pass up getting their signature cheesy biscuit to go. It’s more scone than biscuit (think Red Lobster), so it’s perfect for a midmorning, post-breakfast snack.
BTW: The space is cozy (read: small), so get there early if you plan on snagging a seat.
Living Room Coffee & Kitchen, 2808 Sutton Blvd. Maplewood, Mo. 63143
Balkan Treat Box
St. Louis has the largest Bosnian population outside of Bosnia, so it only makes sense that it would have a Bosnian restaurant or two. Balkan Treat Box has grown from a beloved food truck to packed counter-service restaurant almost every day, with good reason: It’s incredible. Most dishes come out of the wood-fired oven, including the freshly baked somun bread, giving every bite a hint of smoke to accompany the wallop of herbs, spices and sauces.
BTW: Eat the cevapi with your hands, tearing the bread into pieces, not like a sandwich.
Balkan Treat Box, 8103 Big Bend Blvd. Webster Groves, Mo. 63119
Time to carbo-load like you’re about to run a marathon. No bread in St. Louis is better than Union Loafers’, so throw caution to the wind and embrace your expanding waist. Start your meal off with a pretzel the size of your head or a slice of the Roman-inspired pizza rosa, then move on to a signature sandwich. Get fancy with the rare roast beef with gruyere, pickled peppers and bistro sauce, or go classic with the turkey and swiss with romaine and “famous” sauce.
BTW: Use Yelp’s Waitlist to get in line, or prepare to be standing around for an hour. And if you’re sharing, get the little gem salad with bacon. It’s the best salad in town.
Union Loafers, 1629 Tower Grove Ave. St. Louis, Mo. 63110
Lee Tran opened St. Louis’ first Vietnamese restaurant, Mai Lee, over 30 years ago and forever changed the city’s culinary landscape. Her son, Qui Tran, is doing the same thing with Nudo House, a Japan-meets-Vietnam noodle house (get the name?). The quick-service restaurant is the city’s best ramen joint, with dishes like the rich tonkotsu O’Miso Spicy and the chicken-based Hebrew Hammer, along with Mai Lee’s beloved pho and banh mi sandwiches. The Delmar Loop location opens early summer, so you’ll have NuDos options.
BTW: Get the vegetarian ramen, Shroomed Out, spicy … and add pork.
Nudo House, 11423 Olive Blvd. St. Louis, Mo. 63141
Restaurant veteran Matt McGuire’s Louie is everything you want a casual restaurant to be. It’s unpretentious. The staff treats everyone like a VIP. The vibe is laid back, and the Italian-ish food will leave you wanting more — but you’ll inevitably have no room, because no one can stop eating their pastas or wood-fired hearth breads. Don’t let the intentionally spartan menu descriptions deceive you; the “roast chicken, rapini, chicken jus” may very well be the best roast chicken dish you ever eat.
BTW: The prosciutto plate might not sound like much, but the reality is, it’s everything.
Louie, 706 De Mun Ave. Clayton, St. Louis, Mo. 63105
Residing in a nearly 100-year-old building in the historic Central West End, Taste actually feels like a speakeasy. James Beard winner Gerard Craft’s cocktail bar has a single-page food menu and a 15-page drink menu, if that tells you anything about where the spot’s priorities lie. Whether you want a classic (sorted by the year of their conception) or a house cocktail, you won’t be disappointed. If you want to throw caution to the wind, let the bartender choose for you.
BTW: The best seats in the house are the couches tucked away upstairs.
Taste, 4584 Laclede Ave. St. Louis, Mo. 63108
Pie Guy Pizza
Your night of bar hopping in the Grove comes to a close. You look up and see a glowing slice of pizza. No, you’re not hallucinating. You’ve found Pie Guy Pizza, a literal bright spot in a late-night food desert. The slices and 18-inch pies may look like your typical New York-style pizzas, but with their fermented sourdough crust made from Italian flour and locally sourced toppings, they’re next level.
BTW: It’s worth going in just for the pizza knotchos: garlic knots smothered in cheese, marinara, pepperoni and more.
Pie Guy Pizza, 4189 Manchester Ave. St. Louis, Mo. 63110