jesse mendica risk​, executive chef at olive + oak​ photo by carmen troesser

​Olive + Oak​ executive chef Jesse Mendica Risk's 8 favorite St. Louis restaurants

Jesse Mendica Risk, executive chef at Olive + Oak, loves eating out; but as a chef married to another chef (Clover and the Bee and O+O Pizza executive chef Mike Risk), getting to new restaurants can be challenging. “Since we're just off on Mondays and Wednesdays, when possible, that limits us,” she said. “There's a lot of places that I'd love to go to, but they're open, like, Thursday through Sunday. So, I'll never even know [them].” Still, the duo does manage to get out, especially to neighborhood spots they can walk to in Webster Groves, where they live and work, as well as places farther afield. Here, Mendica Risk talks about some of her favorite local eateries, how she likes to order, and the menu details that stick with her after the meal is finished.

Have a Cow
“I just love being in there and talking to the guy that gives you the little stanchion that has a picture of a cow. And he says, ‘She just gave me her first calf the other day,’ and I love how real it is. The guy knows his cows, and he knows his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and it's great.
What I had the other day that just knocked my socks off was their grilled peanut butter and jelly. And it seems so silly, but I love it that they put it on the menu in the first place, because that's totally what I want when I go there. But they have a great burger. They have great egg sandwiches. Everything there seems good.”
2742 Lafayette Ave., St. Louis, 314.261.0305,

“We went to Songbird just the other day, and I remembered again how much just being around [co-owner] Chris Meyer makes anybody happy. … My favorite thing about their menu is that they give so much respect to all the farms and their providers. That always dictates what I'm gonna get, if it's the Buttonwood chicken or the Buttonwood eggs. Just reading the respect that they give their farmers. They have this one dish, and … at the end of the description, it says, ‘With this one dish, you supported seven local growers and farmers.’ That's cool.”
4476 Chouteau Ave., St. Louis, 314.781.4344,

dishes at olio // photo by izaiah johnson

“Olio has food that tastes like I want everything in the world to taste all the time. It's such a good menu where everything's pretty tiny, [so] you can kind of order the whole menu. We bring friends when we go there because when it's just two people, you want to order too much, and it's hard to choose. But if you can, just leave off a couple things and then order everything else. You can't miss the hummus. But honestly, it's really a matter of getting everything and eating all of it, like, little bite here and a bite from that plate. I love how all of it goes together so perfectly.”
1634 Tower Grove Ave., St. Louis, 314.932.1088,

Biggie’s Restaurant and Bar
“I didn't know about Biggie’s until I met [husband Michael Risk] and his family, and I can't believe I lived my whole life without them. Every time you go, it's just great. It's a bar and grill that's been there forever and, you know, soccer teams go after they win a game or whatever. It's that kind of place.”
3332 Watson Road, St. Louis, 314.781.0060,

Sushi Station
“Sushi Station just makes everybody happy every time. Not only do they have all the veggie sushi that I can get my hands on, but the orange chicken there – it is so good. We always try to have a glass of wine or beer [with it], but then [co-owner] Pui [Nammakhot] always sends out sake for us, so that happens.”
29 N. Gore Ave., Webster Groves, 314.733.5511,

DD Mau
“Those tacos that they have are the best – it’s the roti ‘taco shell’ that makes them so amazing.”
20 Allen Ave., Webster Groves, 314.926.0900; 11982 Dorsett Road, Maryland Heights, 314.942.2300,

“We kind of have a formula to how we order [at Louie]. We'll split an appetizer, we'll split a pizza and we'll get whatever fish special they have for the night and whatever stuffed pasta special they have for the night. Their specials every night are always spot on. We always switch back and forth on the Rosie y Rosa vodka cocktail and the gin cocktail. From there, they pair the wines for us; they suggest it, and it's always spot on.”
706 DeMun Ave., Clayton, 314.300.8188,

Balkan Treat Box
“The pide is so good. And so are the cevapi, those sausages and bread that just taste like the fire that they came from. But I love that they always switch up their veggie pide. And so that's pretty much what we get every time. … I love the way they celebrate all of what's in season.”
8103 Big Bend Blvd., Webster Groves, 314.733.5700,