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Carondelet Diner: A Greasy Spoon with Old-Fashioned Favorites

Categories: Hidden Gem

Welcome to Hidden Gem, Gut Check's short love letter to restaurants, coffee shops and bars that lie off the beaten path. These places soldier on in relative anonymity, beloved by their regulars, but largely overlooked by the greater populace. Hidden Gem will attempt to rectify these terrible oversights. Have a Hidden Gem of your own to share? Tell us in the comments.

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Never pretty, but always prominent: the "Slinger." | Photos by Mabel Suen
When Patch neighborhood resident Sue Stewart saw the short-lived original Carondelet Diner (321 East Davis Street) go vacant in 2012, she knew she could make it into a good, old-fashioned greasy spoon of her own. She kept the name, the corresponding signage and even the theme of home-cooked specialties -- albeit using her own recipes. The resulting menu weighs delicately on the wallet and heavily on the gut.


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Dojo Pizza: Pizza and Karate in a Century-Old Former Church

Categories: Hidden Gem

Welcome to Hidden Gem, Gut Check's short love letter to restaurants, coffee shops and bars that lie off the beaten path. These places soldier on in relative anonymity, beloved by their regulars, but largely overlooked by the greater populace. Hidden Gem will attempt to rectify these terrible oversights. Have a Hidden Gem of your own to share? Tell us in the comments.

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Dojo Pizza volunteers Ashlee Copp, Keisha Regans and Kathryn Copp. | Photos by Mabel Suen
"Where'd you get that pizza from?" some hungry construction workers yell from the top of an adjacent building as they see us loading a box of leftovers into a getaway vehicle.

"There. Right there," says my dining companion in response, pointing to the 100-year-old church we just walked out of. The men reply flabbergasted, unsure if they heard us right: "Where?!"

The red-and-yellow banner that reads MRCKA's Dojo Pizza (4601 Morganford Road; 314-351-0935) seems minuscule in comparison to the towering former Christy Memorial United Methodist Church, but those that take notice will find a unique community and worthwhile eats inside the historic building.

See also: Dojo Pizza Works With Kids in Bevo on Both Karate and Pizza

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Oasis Shisha Lounge: An Obscure Hookah Restaurant with Afghan Family Recipes

Categories: Hidden Gem

Welcome to Hidden Gem, Gut Check's short love letter to restaurants, coffee shops and bars that lie off the beaten path. These places soldier on in relative anonymity, beloved by their regulars, but largely overlooked by the greater populace. Hidden Gem will attempt to rectify these terrible oversights. Have a Hidden Gem of your own to share? Tell us in the comments.

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Flaky samosas stuffed with veggies and served with tzatziki. | Photos by Mabel Suen
Twenty-one-year-old Mohammad Noori originally dreamed up the plans for Oasis Shisha Lounge (6417 Hampton Avenue; 314-481-1993) with his younger brother, Qais, while they were teenagers growing up in south city. However, tragedy struck before they could complete them together. A car accident took Qais' life, and it wasn't until last November that Noori came across his brother's business portfolio and decided to continue with what they started.

In late February, Oasis opened quietly in St. Louis Hills, featuring a menu that's prepared entirely by their mother using family recipes. The purposely word-of-mouth concept has already attracted a regular crowd and combines the siblings' love for authentic Afghan food and hookah.

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Monte Bello: A Basement Pizza Kitchen That's About to Become St. Louis' Worst-Kept Secret

Welcome to Hidden Gem, a short love letter to restaurants, coffee shop and bars we at Gut Check have discovered off the beaten path. These are the places that soldier on in relative anonymity, beloved by their regulars and largely overlooked by the greater populace. Hidden Gem will attempt to rectify these terrible oversights. Have a Hidden Gem of your own to recommend? Tell us in the comments.

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All photos by Mabel Suen
Monte Bello Pizzeria's homemade toasted ravioli.

In what seems like a top-secret pizza lair in south St. Louis -- in a Lemay basement, to be specific -- 54-year-old Tom Nix spends six nights a week single-handedly baking up what he calls St. Louis' original thin crust pizza. That claim sounds like a tall one coming from a place that many St. Louisans aren't even aware exists, but Nix seems determined to show us how it's done.

Last April, he took over management of Monte Bello Pizzeria (3662 Weber Road; 314-638-8861), equipped with all the restaurant's original recipes from 1950. Those pies are now flying out of the oven for the first time in decades.

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