Where to find snow crabs in gochujang butter, chile fried tofu sandwiches, and Dr Pepper-glazed pork cheeks in Missouri’s gateway city
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Residents of the Lou have long had an inordinate preoccupation with food and drink — and they take pride in being equal-opportunity consumers. In a restaurant scene that’s not only impressive but expansive, diners spread the love, never reserving enthusiasm exclusively for James Beard winners and Michelin stars. If something delicious exists anywhere in the 314, St. Louisans with voracious appetites will come.
A hawker-style stall planted in the middle of a pan-Asian superstore — serving melamine bowls brimming with lip-numbing mapo tofu — earns the same fervor and local pride as the hyper-disciplined fine dining debut of a veteran competitor of the Bocuse d’Or. An Italian deli on the Hill, famous for serving the same pig’s head salami sandwiches since opening a hundred years ago, is not just a beloved institution but an enduringly popular one. Outside a Korean window-service restaurant, long lines are standard as it serves up snow crabs smothered in gochujang butter from a tiny kitchen in the back of a pinball bar. And then there’s the happy little red Japanese firetruck that zips around the city, where preorders are requisite to score a coveted konbini-style strawberry and cream sando on downy milk bread.
St. Louis isn’t a flyover city. It’s a get-on-a-plane-and-fly-there-right-now city. Just look for the beautiful, midcentury monument by Eero Saarinen and you’ll know you’re in the right place. You can’t miss it.
Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.
After almost two decades as a chef and chef educator, Holly Fann hung up her apron to write full time about food and dining. She hopes to pet every dog in the world and let them know that they are very good.
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
14246 Manchester Rd
Manchester, MO 63011
The big box store-sized Pan-Asian Supermarket, right next to the Bob’s Discount Furniture, is the largest international grocery store in Missouri. You might assume the crown jewel of the market is the impressive fish department or the shiny new bubble tea bar, but it’s actually the small dining area labeled China Bistro. The business looks similar to a Singaporean hawker stall, but the utilitarian kitchen cranks out an astounding amount of regional Chinese dishes, as well as Vietnamese pho. The smoky, charred edges of chow fun noodles indicate a masterful control of the blistering hot wok. You can smell the crimson-hued mapo tofu two tables away, its sauce aromatic with floral and citrus notes. And the tender dan dan egg noodles satisfy with a low, humming heat and perfect springy texture.