#11: The Heath Bar Concrete at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard

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Ian Froeb
The Heath Bar concrete at Ted Drewes
Though I've lived in St. Louis for the better part of a decade now -- and though I've left myself wiggle room by classifying these as my "favorite" dishes, not the "best" -- you still won't find pizza topped with Provel, slingers or toasted ravioli on this list. It's not for lack of trying. Some foods, I think, you have to grow up eating to love.

The frozen custard at Ted Drewes, though? That language is universal.

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#12: Beef Tongue at Café Natasha's Kabob International

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Ian Froeb
Beef tongue at Café Natasha's Kabob International
Café Natasha's Kabob International was the first restaurant that I reviewed for the RFT (or any publication for that matter). That was five years ago next month. I had no idea what I was doing then -- I'm sure more than a few of you will say I still don't -- but I did know one thing: I loved the beef tongue dish there.

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#13: The Root Beer-Braised Beef Short Rib at Monarch

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Ian Froeb
The root beer-braised beef short rib at Monarch
I've lauded the cooking of Monarch executive chef Josh Galliano so often in my reviews and on Gut Check that choosing a favorite dish from his arsenal should be easy. Except that, like any good chef, Galliano is restless and daring, and you don't follow his work so much as try to keep up.

So let's just say that the beef short rib braised in root beer, a relatively new addition to Monarch's menu, is my favorite dish of his right now, subject to change by the time I finish writing this post.

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#14: The Egg Raviolo at Acero

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Ian Froeb
The egg raviolo at Acero
When Jim Fiala's Acero opened four years ago, it raised the bar for authentic regional Italian cuisine in St. Louis so high that other restaurants are still trying to reach it. Four years after I first visited the Maplewood restaurant, I still think about its egg raviolo.

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#15: Pappardelle at the Tavern Kitchen & Bar

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Ian Froeb
The pappardelle, with stewed tomatoes and Italian sausage, at the Tavern Kitchen & Bar
The housemade pappardelle with stewed tomatoes and Italian sausage at the Tavern Kitchen & Bar could not be less ostentatious. You might skim right past the dish while reading the menu -- aside (perhaps) from the fresh pasta, it's the sort of thing you're more likely to make yourself for a weekday dinner than order at one of the area's more buzzed-about new restaurants.

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#16: Carnitas at La Tejana Taqueria

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Jennifer Silverberg
Tony and Brenda Garcia, husband and wife co-owners of La Tejana. Let's pretend one of them is eating the carnitas plate.
La Tejana Taqueria has been serving tacos, tortas and more for three years now. To my regret, I didn't visit the restaurant until this year.

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#17: Benne's Farm Half Chicken at Five Bistro

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Ian Froeb
The Benne's Farm half chicken at Five Bistro
When we say something "tastes like chicken," we mean, of course, that it tastes like nothing at all, so used are we to insipid supermarket birds. How sad. A good chicken properly cooked is a thing of sublime, artless beauty.

At Five Bistro, it represents all that is right with chef Anthony Devoti's restaurant.

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#18: Dátiles Rellenos at Modesto

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Ian Froeb
The dátiles rellenos at Modesto
Well of course something wrapped in bacon was going to make this list.

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#19: Hot-and-Sour Noodles at Joy Luck Buffet

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Ian Froeb
The hot-and-sour noodles at Joy Luck Buffet
One of the coolest discoveries of the past couple of years, tipped off to me by several readers, was the authentic Szechuan menu at Joy Luck Buffet, an otherwise nondescript Chinese buffet in Brentwood. Though the beguiling numbing sensation caused by the Szechuan peppercorn is the hallmark of these authentic dishes, it is absent from my favorite dish there, the hot-and-sour noodles.

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#20: Lamb Vindaloo at India Palace

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Ian Froeb
The lamb vindaloo at India Palace
A thumbnail sketch of India Palace can't help but focus on its setting: an Indian restaurant in a barely redecorated former tiki bar on the top floor of an office building-slash-hotel, with windows overlooking runways at Lambert Airport.

Put the lamb vindaloo in front of me, though, and for a while even those distinctive surroundings fade away.

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