Miss Leon's Fried Chicken and Comfort Food at Bomber's Hideaway in the Grove

Categories: First Look

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"Miss Leon's Fried Chicken." | Photos by Mabel Suen

Bad Dog Bar & Grill (3960 Chouteau Avenue) closed its doors on January 1, but the popular Grove spot didn't stay vacant for long. Business owners Chad Fox and Jim Weckmann of Rehab Bar & Grill quietly re-opened the bar as Bomber's Hideaway on January 5 with an entirely new concept coming out of the kitchen: Miss Leon's fried chicken and comfort food.

The humble cook behind it is none other than Dieta Pepsi, an accomplished area drag queen and LGBT-community activist whose culinary experience includes moonlighting at Rehab as well as CJ's on the Hill.

"I'm offering stick-to-your-ribs comfort food -- food that your grandma cooked when you were little, food people eat on Sunday after they come from church. It's not fancy. It's not upscale. It's just some down-home country cooking," chef Leon Augustus Braxton Jr. says.

See also: Happy Hour at Atomic Cowboy: A Small Taste of Fresh Mex in the Grove

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A Look Inside Winfield's Gathering Place, A New Kirkwood Bar and Restaurant

Categories: First Look

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Winfield's "BBQ Burnt Ends Sourdough Melt." | Photos by Mabel Suen

As reported by Gut Check, Winfield's Gathering Place (10312 Manchester Road; 314-394-2200) opened in Kirkwood on January 19. The new venture from restaurant partners Mark Winfield and former Major League Baseball player Jim Edmonds -- who also co-own the Precinct together -- features a casual atmosphere and Southern-inspired cuisine.

See also: Winfield's Gathering Place Opens in Kirkwood January 19

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El Burro Loco, a New Traditional Mexican Restaurant in the Central West End

Categories: First Look

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Tacos at El Burro Loco: tilapia, pastor and carne asada. | Photos by Mabel Suen
El Burro Loco (313 North Euclid; 314-224-5701) opened in the Central West End on January 13, filling a sizable space once occupied by Pasta House Co. Passersby might still notice some remnants from the Italian eatery around the edges of the exterior -- fortunately, the colors of Italy and Mexico's respective national flags interchange easily enough.

Behind the unassuming glass doors, however, the new restaurant takes on an identity all its own with a veritable kaleidoscope of vibrant Mexican-themed paintings and art filling every nook and cranny in the space. The menu matches this intensity with a bounty of house-mixed margaritas and piping hot plates.


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Al Forno É: A New Pizzeria Featuring Specialty Wine-Based Pizza Sauce in the Delmar Loop

Categories: First Look

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Al Forno É's "Pizza Alfredo" with herbs, artichokes, spinach and cherry tomatoes. | Photos by Mabel Suen
There's something special about Melville Avenue, a short strip of storefronts off of Delmar Boulevard's main drag. It's been home to everything from the Korean-Mexican fusion restaurant Seoul Taco to the traditional Indian cuisine of Taj Mahal. Last month, yet another ethnic eatery set roots on the all-too-easily overlooked street, and its contents bear a one-of-a-kind style of pizza worth the slight detour.

According to chef-owner Mario Esquivel, Al Forno É (567A Melville Avenue; 314-757-6542) is Italian for "it's in the oven." The native Guatemalan received formal culinary training in his father's hometown of Calabria, Italy, and opened his own Italian-food catering business in Clayton after moving to St. Louis three years ago.

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Earthbound Brewing, New Microbrewery on Cherokee, Produces St. Louis' "Weirdest" Beer

Categories: First Look

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Earthbound Brewing's "Irish Red," "Pecan-Chicory Stout," "Rosemary-Juniper Pale Ale" and "Belgian Pale Ale." | Photos by Mabel Suen
Earthbound Brewing's (2710 Cherokee Street; 314-504-3532) intent is to offer up "St. Louis' smallest, weirdest beer." Ever since the homegrown brewery began selling its product over the holidays, it seems to have achieved just that. In a cozy 1,000-square-foot, shotgun-style space on Cherokee Street, co-owners Rebecca Schranz, Stuart Keating and Jeff Siddons pour out from-scratch concoctions such as a spicy, burly "Rosemary-Juniper Pale Ale" and a smooth "Pecan-Chicory Imperial Stout."

See also: Earthbound Brewery, New Beermaker on Cherokee Street, Uses History as an Ingredient

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A Look Inside Living Room, A New Coffeehouse in Maplewood

Categories: First Look

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Espresso service at Living Room. | Photos by Mabel Suen
As reported by Gut Check, Living Room (2808 Sutton Boulevard, 314-306-7626) opened in Maplewood on December 16, offering specialty coffee roasts, from-scratch baked goods and more. Located next door to fellow newcomer Bolyard's Meat & Provisions (2810 Sutton Boulevard, Maplewood; 314-647-2567), the cozy space provides the perfect backdrop in the neighborhood to enjoy first-origin coffee, tea and light snacks.

See also: The Living Room Opens December 16 in Maplewood

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Pizzino: A New Fast-Casual Restaurant Serving Focaccia-Style and Grilled Pizzas in Clayton

Categories: First Look

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Grilled pizzas at Pizzino. | Photos by Mabel Suen
This town has seen its fair share of pizzas over the years, but none quite like what Jim Zimmerman is offering at Pizzino (7600 Wydown Boulevard; 314-240-5134). The fast-casual restaurant opened this past December in Clayton and specializes in two different kinds of savory, Italian-inspired pies: a focaccia-style, by-the-slice option as well as a grilled variety served on a thin, cracker-style crust.

"My wife grew up in Italy, so we've been fortunate to spend many of our summers visiting there. The approach they take to keeping ingredients simple, but bringing in lots of flavor became a passion for me," says Zimmerman, a native St. Louisan who spent the majority of his hospitality career working for a family-owned food distributor before taking to the kitchen to perfect his own recipes.

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Ryder's Tavern: A New South-City Hangout in Tower Grove South

Categories: First Look

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Ryder's Tavern's Reuben sandwich. | Photos by Mabel Suen
Ryder's Tavern (4123 Chippewa Street; 314-899-9343) opened its doors in Tower Grove South on November 19 in the spot many south-city dwellers recall as the former Bleeding Deacon, a bar and restaurant that shuttered its doors in 2011. Make no mistake, however: This new venture isn't meant to recreate that experience. Ryder's Tavern has an identity all its own, one that revels in a bounty of draft beers, minimal distractions, and a small selection of simple yet hearty soups and sandwiches.

"It's comfortable, we don't have any TVs, and it's dark and low key. I wanted a place where you could just come in, get a drink and hang out," says owner Ryder Murphy. "I love this bar and feel like I finally have a home after twenty years in the business. This is what I want to be doing until I'm too old to get around."

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A Look Inside KimCheese's New Second Location in Creve Coeur

Categories: First Look

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KimCheese's beebimbap with spicy pork. | Photos by Mabel Suen
As reported by Gut Check, the second location of KimCheese (10441 Olive Boulevard; 314-569-4123) set up shop in Creve Coeur. Akin to its flagship, which occupies a former Dairy Queen, the fast-casual Mexican-Korean fusion restaurant opened last month in a different former ice cream shop: an Oberweis Dairy storefront.

See also: KimCheese to Hit Creve Coeur

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Blank Space Debuts Expansion Featuring Daytime Hours and a New Food Menu

Categories: First Look

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Hummus, black-sesame baba ghanoush, and pistachio halvah from Confluence Artisan Foods now available at Blank Space. | Photos by Mabel Suen
"I just was wondering: Is this a record store, a lounge, or what?" inquires a curious passerby who happened to pop into Blank Space (2847 Cherokee Street) during a recent daytime visit.

"All of the above." responds owner Kaveh Razani without dropping a beat. "We're an art gallery, bar, venue, tea house, record store and coffee shop."

Since its inception two years ago, Blank Space has taken on many identities, earning honors such as best art gallery and best hip-hop club in RFT's best of St. Louis in 2013 and 2014, respectively. As the result of a major expansion that transforms the building into a three-story multiplex, the hybrid community-oriented stomping ground rolled out new daytime hours on November 18 along with a new food and drink program.

See also: Blank Space Begins Major Expansion on Cherokee Street

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