Red Lotus Spa & Bistro: A New Rock Hill Business Where Beauty Meets Banh Mi

Categories: First Look

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Red Lotus' grilled-pork banh mi. | Photos by Mabel Suen

Last month, critically acclaimed Mi Linh got an extreme makeover, and now its visitors can get made up there, too. On February 13, the Vietnamese restaurant re-branded and opened as Red Lotus Spa & Bistro (9737 Manchester Road; 314-918-8868), a concept that combines owner Dee Dee Tran's background in both restaurants and beauty services by offering the best of both worlds under one roof.

See also: Review: Mi Linh: The Tran family raises the bar for Vietnamese cuisine

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A Look At HandleBar's New, Revamped Menu from Chef Chris DiMercurio

Categories: First Look

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"Pickle Board" with crostini, dill creme fraiche, and pickled cucumber, yellow beets, red onion, carrots and blackberries. | Photos by Mabel Suen

HandleBar recently got a tune-up. Chef Chris DiMercurio -- a veteran of local kitchens including Vino Nadoz, Elaia and Old Standard -- joined the Grove-area restaurant in February and rolled out a revamped menu on March 3. The updated offerings still highlight owner Tatyana Telnikova's Russian heritage, with fresh touches on old favorites and plenty of new plates.

The space itself got a facelift, as well. HandleBar's reputation as one of the best dance clubs and best hipster bars in town -- thanks to regular late-night entertainment as well as events including Lunch Beat -- meant the well-tread place could use some touch-ups. Visitors will notice subtle improvements including refinished floors and booths.

See also: Juniper's Revised Menu From New Head Chef Cassy Vires

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Lucky Buddha: A New Asian-Fusion Cuisine and Craft-Cocktail Lounge in South City

Categories: First Look

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"Thai Basil Smash" and "Buddha Collins" cocktails at Lucky Buddha. | Photos by Mabel Suen

Lucky Buddha (3701 South Jefferson Avenue; 314-833-4568) opened in south city on February 27 in the space previously occupied by Jefferson Bistro. The restaurant's revamped concept comes from chef Rene Cruz, whose career in hospitality includes working as a chef, corporate trainer and local restaurant consultant. His new endeavor features his contemporary take on Asian cuisine, featuring a fusion of flavors inspired by everything from traditional Thai and Japanese flavors to Vietnamese and Chinese dishes.

"I feel a little of extra added this and extra added that creates what we are. I'm trying to use as many bold flavors as I can," he says. "We're very nontraditional. We wanted to keep the basics of the food styles and flavor profiles, but we really wanted to do something unique."

See also: St. Louis Restaurant Openings & Closings: February 2015

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A Look Inside Público, Mike Randolph's Newest Concept Featuring Latin-Inspired Cuisine

Categories: First Look

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An arepa, a leavened corn pancake, topped with smoked Cornish hen. | Photos by Mabel Suen

Público (6679 Delmar Boulevard; 314-833-5780), the latest concept from restaurateur Mike Randolph of Half & Half, opened on March 4 in the Delmar Loop just doors down from his Neapolitan-style pizza joint, the Good Pie. The self-proclaimed taberna features a Latin-American inspired menu of handcrafted cocktails and food, utilizing an oak-burning hearth to cook up spit-roasted meats and more. The concept takes nods from Randolph's former restaurants, MEDIAnoche and Little Country Gentleman, offering refined, artfully presented plates.

"It's a different thing. The wood, the ambiance sets us apart. We're not trying to become a turn-and-burn taco joint. We're trying to be someplace that people can come in and maybe get a good piece of meat, fish," he told Gut Check in an interview last year. "But if they do get tacos, they're going to get 'em roasted by hand, by wood in our custom hearth."

See also: Mike Randolph Talks Público, His New Mexican Restaurant

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Chaparritos Mexican Restaurant: Tex-Mex, Seafood and More on Cherokee Street

Categories: First Look

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Chaparritos on Cherokee Street. | Photos by Mabel Suen

Chaparritos Mexican Restaurant (2812 Cherokee Street; 314-240-5990) opened on February 7 in south city. The concept comes from chef-owner Rafael Marcelino, who cooks up his own blend of authentic Mexican cuisine and Tex-Mex every day from scratch.

"My wife is American and I am Mexican, so I'm always trying to combine the best of both cultures," says Marcelino, who hails from Mexico City and has cooked and managed at a local Mexican restaurant for the past eleven years. Chaparritos -- Spanish for his nickname, "Shorty" -- specializes in these hybrid dishes as well as a substantial offering of fish and shrimp. The latter is a nod at family recipes from years of selling seafood in his hometown.

See also: First Look: Tarahumara Mexican Restaurant

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A Look Inside Tarahumara Mexican Restaurant: Chihuahua-Style Gorditas, Tortas and More

Categories: First Look

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"Torta Special" with shredded beef, melted cheese, ham and avocado. | Photos by Mabel Suen

Tarahumara Mexican Restaurant (2818 Cherokee Street; 314-802-7398) opened on February 1 offering traditional Northern-style Mexican cuisine, including gorditas and more, in south city. The new restaurant fills the space formerly occupied by Siete Luminarias.

The concept, named after a northwestern Mexico Native American mountain tribe, comes from husband-and-wife duo Luis Navarro and Teresa Armendirez. According to Navarro, Tarahumara Mexican Restaurant's menu is unique to the area. It features Northern Mexican cuisine from his home state of Chihuahua, unlike many of the neighboring restaurants in the area which primarily highlight dishes from the southern region, he says.

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A Look Inside Hot Box Cookies' New Central West End Storefront

Categories: First Look

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An assortment of Hot Box Cookies' sweets. | Photos by Mabel Suen

As reported by Gut Check, Hot Box Cookies (3 North Euclid Avenue; 314-899-0909) opened in the Central West End on February 27. The late-night cookie bakery and delivery service originated in 2008 with its flagship in Columbia, later adding a location in Lawrence, Kansas. This is its first St. Louis store, and five more are planned for the St. Louis area in the coming year in spots including the Delmar Loop and downtown.

See also: Hot Box Cookies Now Open in the Central West End

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A Look Inside the Little Dipper, a New Sandwich Shop on Cherokee Street

Categories: First Look

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"The Little Dipper" sandwich: Italian beef with giardiniera. | Photos by Mabel Suen

Jason Paul wanted to open a food truck but settled for something a little different, albeit roughly the same size. His new brick-and-mortar sandwich shop, the Little Dipper, (2619 1/2 Cherokee Street; 314-625-3530) opened in south city on February 20 in the 300-square-foot space previously filled by Smalls Tea & Coffee. The menu features made-to-order dishes geared primarily for carryout -- Italian beef, salads and more.

"The inspiration was borderline healthy food. There's a little decadence in there, but we're sticking to real ingredients," Paul says. "All our stuff is humble and simple. We make most everything we serve here, including the sauces and dressings."

See also: First Look: Gooseberries

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The Gramophone's New Concept Rebrands the Bar As A Tavern, Deli and Bottle Shop

Categories: First Look

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The Gramophone's "Bloody Island" ($12.50): a bloody mary with olives, bacon, salami and a roast-beef sandwich. | Photos by Mabel Suen

Last November, longtime Grove-area concert venue the Gramophone (4243 Manchester Avenue; 314-531-5700) announced that it would close its doors for remodeling on January 1. On February 13, the business reopened with updated hours, an expanded menu, and a new focus on beer and alcohol rather than entertainment.

"The neighborhood is changing, and we think we did a very good job with live music for seven years," says operating partner Scott Swanston. "We just decided to try something else."

See also: The Gramophone Will Close In January, Reopen As Bar

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A Look Inside the Old Bakery Beer Company, Alton's First Craft Brewery

Categories: First Look

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The pub at the Old Bakery Beer Company. | Photos by Mabel Suen

As reported by Gut Check, the Old Bakery Beer Company (400 Landmarks Boulevard, Alton, Illinois) opened on January 23 in the former Colonial Bakery building in downtown Alton, Illinois. The concept comes from husband-and-wife team and Urban Chestnut alums Lauren Pattan and James Rogalsky. The couple aims to offer sustainable, handcrafted beers with organically grown American hops and malts, featuring four year-round beers paired with rotating seasonal and guest taps.

See also: Old Bakery Beer Opens to Overwhelming Response in Alton

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