Hit List: 7 places you must try this February
1. Hi-Pointe Drive In: 1033 McCausland Ave., St. Louis, 314.349.2720, hipointedrivein.com
Hi-Pointe Drive In is the new counter-service burger and sandwich spot from the team behind Sugarfire Smoke House. Nothing beats the classic cheeseburger with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles: the thin smashed patties have a crispy edge but manage to stay a little pink inside. Order it with fries and a milkshake – we're partial to the butterscotch with a dash of whiskey. For something healthier, try the Salmon Banh Mi with a seared salmon fillet, pickled vegetables, cilantro and a sweet and spicy chile-mango aioli on a Companion baguette. Or go for the refreshing Greens & Grains salad, packed with quinoa, wheat berries, avocado, veggies and mixed greens with lime vinaigrette. Expect long lines during peak times – it’s been packed since day one.
2. Shawarma King: 571 Melville Ave., University City, 314.261.4833, Facebook: Shawarma King University City
Shawarma King isn’t a misnomer. Order the beef shawarma plate with rice, which comes with tahini sauce and a small Arabic salad of cucumber and diced tomatoes tossed with lemon juice and olive oil. The sauce is good, but those tender, moist slivers of meat don’t really need it. Other classic dishes are no afterthought, either. The falafel has a thick, dark crust and soft, herbaceous interior. Try the savory mahshi version, which comes stuffed with onion and sumac and topped with sesame seeds. And don’t miss the baba ghanoush, which has a nice charred flavor from grilled eggplant, brightened with lemon and a zip of garlic.
3. Crave Street Food: 2605 Washington Ave., St. Louis, 314.696.8480, wecravestl.com
The menu at Crave made us a little nervous – pancakes, sushi, quesadillas and fried chicken rarely go together for a reason – but one bite of a salty, savory Cubano Phatada dispelled our doubts. Basically a chimichanga filled with pulled pork, ham, cheese, Spanish rice, black beans, pickles and mojo mustard, this fried burrito hits all the right notes. Those who want something a little lighter should look for the Four Alarm Tuna. The only poke cup with raw tuna on the menu, it has cubes of spicy yellowfin sashimi in a smoky guajillo paste with furikake, cucumber, cilantro and avocado served over warm sushi rice in a paper coffee cup.
4. Side Project Brewing: 7458 Manchester Ave., Maplewood, sideprojectbrewing.com
Doors have finally opened at Side Project Brewing’s long-awaited brewery and tasting room, and we’re posting up at the bar for a pour of its internationally acclaimed beer. A large chalkboard displays bottles available to-go or for onsite consumption, as well as the day’s offerings pulled from 11 taps. Look for the oak-aged options Side Project is known for, or try something from the brewery’s new label, Shared. These beers aren’t required to be barrel-aged – though it’s hard to believe Shared Vibes, a smooth, rich Russian Imperial stout never spent time in oak. Grab a glass of it or its caffeinated counterpart, Shared Coffee Shop Vibes, then watch brewers Cory King, Brian Ivers and Tommy Manning at work in the 20-barrel brewhouse.
5. Mak's Pub & Grub: 6109 Gravois Ave., St. Louis, 314.354.8148, makspub.com
Tucked into an industrial stretch of Gravois Avenue in Princeton Heights, Mak’s Pub & Grub is funky and eclectic. The menu is a step above traditional pub food with a concise bill of fare including specialty mac and cheeses like the Fried Chicken Mak, a massive bowl of cheesy goodness topped with chunks of breaded chicken, applewood-smoked blue cheese and some spicy, sweet Mak Sauce. The Kale & Artichoke Mak is (marginally) healthier with arugula, scarlet kale and tangy goat cheese. For those looking for a non-mac option, check out the Southside Gravy Fries, Mak’s spicy answer to poutine.
6. Pieces: 1535 S. Eighth St., St. Louis, 314.797.8200, stlpieces.com
St. Louis’ new board game bar and cafe is open and catering to game nerds in Soulard. For a small fee, you can play more than 500 board games while munching on snacks like hummus and nachos, or more substantial rice bowls and chilis. Come in for weekend brunch and order the spicy chorizo-pepperjack omelet, topped with sliced avocado, Sriracha and a cooling drizzle of sour cream. Opt for a beer off the short drinks list while you play classics like Battleship and Clue or more complex games like Terra Mystica and Game of Thrones.
7. I Love Juice Bar: 9849 Manchester Road, Rock Hill, ilovejuicebar.com
Start your day with a green juice made fresh at I Love Juice Bar , like the lightly sweet-tart Ginger Greens made with ginger, apple, kale, spinach, cucumber, parsley and lemon juices. Smoothie fans can try one of the blends on the menu, or create their own with a mix of bases, fruits and add-ins like turmeric and chia seeds. Continue your clean eating spree with vegan meals like the pad thai noodles: sweet potato noodles joined by shredded carrots, cucumber, spinach and cashews in a spicy-sweet peanut sauce. Rock Hill just got a little healthier.
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