The Ten Most Important St. Louis Restaurant Openings of the Aughts #5: Atlas (2003)
I've heard more than one person call Atlas one of St. Louis' best-kept secrets, which makes no sense because pretty much everyone I know loves the place, and those who don't are misguided wretches who probably kick puppies and leave the toilet seat up. Stroll into Atlas without a reservation and you'll have to wait for a table. The husband-and-wife team of Michael Roberts (chef) and Jean Donnelly (desserts, front of house) serves unpretentious but utterly delicious bistro food -- steak frites, lamb chops and oh! let the winter wind blow if it means I can order cassoulet -- that landed it among the city's best when it opened not quite seven years ago and that has remained unwaveringly excellent ever since. My favorite Atlas moment? Overhearing a fellow diner debating whether to order Donnelly's sublime marjolaine for dessert. "Is it really that good?" he wondered. Donnelly stared at him, her expression deadly serious: "Yes."
5513 Pershing Avenue; 314-367-6800; website