doughzels from vincent van doughnut photo by meera nagarajan

Trendwatch: April 2015

Burnt to a crisp
Burnt toast? Not OK. But burnt honey dressing like the one tossed into the Brussels sprout salad at Metropolitan Farmer in Springfield, Missouri or at HandleBar in The Grove is A-OK. We’re loving charred everything: Element’s burnt molasses that was on its bourbon chicken, Cielo’s burnt wheat orecchiette with sausage ragout and rapini, the scorched onion that’s a must for the bone marrow risotto at The Libertine and the to-die-for burnt broccoli salad at Olio.

Kraut sans cabbage
Stop being such a sour-kraut. Chefs near and far are proving that this German staple side dish can still be good without green cabbage. In San Francisco, you’ll find kohlrabi kraut atop fresh oysters at State Bird Provisions and wakame kraut (yes, seaweed!) layered in a warm dish of wild mushrooms and kale at The Progress. Closer to home, you can dig into turnip kraut when you order the rye spatzel at Sidney Street Cafe.

Cool grills
Grills are hot, but some are cooler than others. At newly opened Latin American gastropub Público in The Loop, a custom wood-fired grill is the kitchen’s workhorse, the flames licking everything from hangar steak to pork collar to prawns. Just a few doors down, newly opened Seoul Q’s eight tabletop gas grills, each with an adjustable hood, and the extensive gas and exhaust lines installed overhead might have been a headache for health inspectors but are delighting diners hungry for Korean ’cue.

Cronut, cragel, flagel … all our favorite morning baked bites are getting smashed together. The pretzel croissant is the latest in breakfast buzzwords. No need to head to Manhattan’s City Bakery when you can go to Companion for a croissant prepared as a light, flaky pretzel. If it’s a doughnut you’re after, consider one of the nine varieties of grilled cheese doughnuts at newly opened Tom + Chee in O’Fallon, Missouri, or stuff your face with Doughzels, pretzel doughnuts at Vincent Van Doughnut’s new brick-and-mortar in Clayton. Look for Doughzel holes to make appearances as part of VVD’s line of mini-Vinnies, too.

the little dipper on cherokee street // photos by michelle volansky

Tiny is in
Try extra-small on for size along Cherokee Street at new seven-seat cafe The Little Dipper (order the wheatburger) and at Earthbound Brewing’s 1,000-square-foot brewery and tasting room. For a sweet bite, squeeze inside 350-square-foot Spoon Baking Company in Alton. Then get ready to wet your whistle at eight-seat, 250-square-foot Tiny Bar when it opens downtown later this spring. 

A scoop of booze
We like ice cream; we like it more with booze. Area ice cream shops are dishing up some sweet adult versions of our favorite frozen sundry. Where do we go when we want a buzz and a brain freeze? Ices Plain & Fancy, Jilly’s Ice Cream Bar, Serendipity and Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery. You’ve tasted Clementine’s at some of your favorite restaurants; watch for the ice creamery to open its own shop in Lafayette Square May 1.  

Chef express
As national fast food chains wage their antibiotic-free chicken marketing war, chefs are swooping in with their own express eateries that match the big guys on price but offer better food, prepared on-site. Newly opened Taco Circus in South City is the indie, real-food version of Taco Bell. Bob Brazell’s fried chicken joint Byrd & Barrel will even have a drive-thru like its former occupant, Popeye’s, when it opens this spring. And while local restaurant magnate Gerard Craft hopes to take his fast pasta concept Porano on a Chipotle-like journey when it opens in the Mercantile Exchange building downtown this summer, San Fran big name chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson are a step closer to reinventing fast food with their concept, Loco’l, thanks to the success of a recent crowdfunding campaign.