Review: Ferguson Burger Bar, Six Months Later

The "Garbage Burger" with lettuce, bacon, egg, onion, cheese and mayo. | Mabel Suen

Ferguson Burger Bar & More
(9120 West Florissant Avenue, Ferguson; 314-388-0424)
Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sun. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

"My friend was on vacation -- I think it was the Bahamas -- and the owners of a restaurant she stopped in knew all about us. She was like, 'Kizzie, you've gone worldwide!'" It might seem unthinkable that a humble burger joint in a St. Louis county strip mall has international name recognition, but Ferguson Burger Bar & More is not just any restaurant. Since opening its doors on August 7, 2014 -- two days before the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by then-Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson -- the restaurant has become the face of a community stricken with grief, unrelenting in the face of violence and committed to moving forward.

See also: Review: Leonardo's Kitchen Serves Delicious St. Louis-Style Italian in Generous Quantities

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Review: Leonardo's Kitchen Serves Delicious St. Louis-Style Italian in Generous Quantities

"Veggie" pizza with tomato sauce, roasted eggplant, peppers, zucchini, onion, mozzarella, provolone and fresh basil; "Hey Bauly" pizza with tomato sauce, mini meatballs, peppers, onions, mozzarella, provolone and fresh basil. | Mabel Suen

Leonardo's Kitchen and Wine Bar
(2130 Macklind Avenue, 314-664-1410)
Mon.-Thur. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.;
Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
(Closed Sundays)

Rich LoRusso grew up on the Hill, just a block away from the tiny Texaco gas station on the corner of Macklind and Bischoff avenues. It's no surprise that he and his wife, Terri, ended up as restaurateurs: They met as teenagers working at the same small Italian restaurant. She was a busgirl; he was a cook. What neither expected, however, is that the fill-ups and oil changes at his neighborhood service station would cease -- and that they would end up operating a restaurant there instead.

Named after their grandson, Leonardo's Kitchen and Wine Bar is the LoRussos' sophomore effort. The pair has been operating LoRusso's Cucina, a midscale Italian restaurant in Clifton Heights, since 1986. When Station Pizzeria (the original occupant of the converted gas station) closed, they jumped at the opportunity to open a more casual concept in the nostalgic space.

See also: Avenue Amply Fills the Void Left By the Pomme Restaurants: Review

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Avenue Amply Fills the Void Left By the Pomme Restaurants: Review

Endive salad. | Corey Woodruff

(12 North Meramec Avenue, Clayton; 314-727-4141)
Mon.-Thurs. 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
Fri. 7 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sat. 8 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sun. 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

Chef Bryan Carr didn't necessarily want to shutter his beloved pair of restaurants, Pomme Restaurant and Pomme Café & Wine Bar. Initially, he had hoped to merge the two complementary concepts (Pomme Restaurant was more upscale, Pomme Café was a casual breakfast, lunch and dinner spot) into one at the original location on North Central Avenue, but it proved logistically impossible. When the former Roxane space in Clayton opened just a few blocks away, Carr saw it not only as an ideal fit, but also as an opportunity for reinvention. His new concept, Avenue, gently nudges patrons in a new direction while giving them many of Pomme's familiar comforts.

See also: Review: Bonefish Grill's Seafood Cuisine Drifts Way Off Course

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Review: Bonefish Grill's Seafood Cuisine Drifts Way Off Course

Tuna tartare tostada, Bang Bang shrimp, Chilean sea bass and lobster grilled cheese. | Mabel Suen

Bonefish Grill
(8780 Eager Road, Brentwood; 314-918-1649)
Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
Sat. 10:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m.
Sun. 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

Call me famished. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth, whenever it is a damp, drizzly February in my soul, whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before Red Lobster, and especially whenever my craving for hush puppies gets such an upper hand of me that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from driving through Captain D's, then I account it's time to try a new seafood restaurant.

I was not alone in my quest for fruits de mer; it seemed that half of the city had the idea to try the first St. Louis location of the Tampa, Florida-based seafood chain Bonefish Grill. Rising out of the Drury Inn parking lot like a Floridian manse, I could tell that the place was a hit. Cars packed the expansive lot, and eager patrons waiting for a table spilled out of the lobby and into the cold (weekday) night air. All signs pointed to smooth sailing.

See also: Old Standard, Ben Poremba's New Fried-Chicken Restaurant, Sets the Bar: Review

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Critic's Notebook: Old Standard's Ben Poremba Is the Philosopher King of the Kitchen

Ben Poremba of Old Standard Fried Chicken | Mabel Suen

Ben Poremba's culinary prowess was known around the halls of UMSL's philosophy department well before Old Standard Fried Chicken (1621 Tower Grove Avenue; 314-899-9000). "The head of the department used to call me its personal chef," he laughs. "I was always doing catering or cooking for parties as a way to supplement my income."

See Also: Old Standard, Ben Poremba's New Fried-Chicken Restaurant, Sets the Bar: Review

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Old Standard, Ben Poremba's New Fried-Chicken Restaurant, Sets the Bar: Review

Fried chicken at Old Standard. | Mabel Suen

Old Standard Fried Chicken
(1621 Tower Grove Avenue; 314-899-9000)
Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.-midnight;
Sun. 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m.

About a year ago, Ben Poremba was sitting in the middle of his Mediterranean wine bar Olio when he had a revelation. "I think I'm going to open a fried-chicken place." It seemed like an odd venture for Poremba, an Israeli who grew up in Morocco. His employees certainly thought so and laughed him off when he made his proclamation.

The next thing they knew, the chef was taking off on multi-day adventures around the country to learn everything he could about this most American of dishes. Whereas Olio represents the food he grew up eating and Elaia is a nod to the refined, classic techniques he learned in cooking school, Old Standard is Poremba's homage to his adopted American home.

See also: Pizzeoli Has Perfect Neapolitan Pizza Down to a Science: Review

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Pizzeoli Has Perfect Neapolitan Pizza Down to a Science: Review

The classic Margherita, with fresh tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, hand-grated Parmesan and extra virgin olive oil. | Mabel Suen

(1928 South Twelfth Street; 314-449-1111)
Tues.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Fri. 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Sat. 4-9:30 p.m. (Closed Sun. and Mon.)

Pizzaioli is the Italian word for pizza-maker. It's a literal translation, but it's a bit like calling Salvatore Ferragamo a guy who makes shoes. To understand the essence of the word, one need not travel any farther than the corner of Allen and Twelfth Street in Soulard. There, Scott Sandler has opened Pizzeoli (an Americanized spelling of the term), an edible love poem to Neapolitan-style pizza. The former real-estate broker had been an at-home baker for years, experimenting with breads and obsessing over the perfect pizza dough. When his real estate career hit a rough patch last year, he decided to follow his dream of opening a pizzeria. Sandler enrolled in the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana's training program in California to further hone his craft.

Talking to Sandler, however, you'd think he taught the course. This man is serious about pizza. When he's not in front of the oven with peel in hand, he can be found walking around Pizzeoli's tiny dining room, espousing the virtues of yeast and why it's important to use a particular style of mixer to work the dough. He approaches his craft with a precision that borders on obsession, and his customers reap the benefits.

See also: Cooper's Legendary American Pub Serves Both Timeless and Forgettable Food: Review

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Cooper's Legendary American Pub Serves Both Timeless and Forgettable Food: Review

The cut ribeye at Cooper's. | Mabel Suen

Cooper's Legendary American Pub
(140 North Main Street, St. Charles; 636-724-5505)
Mon.-Wed. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Thurs.-Sat. 11-1:30 a.m.
Sun. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Three months is barely enough time to garner a reputation, but Cooper's is already legendary -- at least, according to its name. Speak with Bill Komlose, however, and it's clear why he was tempted to oversell. Cooper's Legendary American Pub is the realization of a dream for this former insurance broker. He had been waiting his entire life to open a bar of his own, so perhaps he thought calling it "Cooper's Pretty Darn Good Pub" would have been anticlimactic -- though it would have been much more on point.

See also: Peacock Loop Diner Smooths Its Feathers After Rocky Opening

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Peacock Loop Diner Smooths Its Feathers After Rocky Opening: Review

The double griddle burger. | Mabel Suen

Peacock Loop Diner
(6261 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-721-5555)
Open 24 hours

If Blueberry Hill is the denim-clad, foul-mouthed, chain-smoking Rizzo, then Peacock Loop Diner is Sandy: bubbly, pink-poodle-skirt-wearing and saccharine sweet. The latest feather in "Duke of Delmar" Joe Edwards' already impressively plumed cap, the Peacock carries forward his love of 1950s kitsch, this time as a 24-hour diner that feels straight out of the film Grease. From the Skee-Ball to the neon lights that set the counters aglow, I half expected Frankie Avalon to appear from behind the curtains of the diner's rotating booth (the "Carousel of Love") for a rendition of "Beauty School Dropout." In other words, it's exactly what one would expect from retrophile Edwards.

Peacock Loop Diner is part of the new Lofts of Washington University development that includes, in addition to brand-new student housing, the grocery store and dining destination United Provisions. Like its co-tenant, Peacock hasn't had the smoothest sail in its first few months of operation. Complaints about everything from poor service and mediocre food to spotty cellular reception have given the fledgling restaurant an unsavory reputation. It got so bad that Edwards took action: In a recent press release, he cited several menu changes, referenced service improvements and even noted a booster antenna being installed to improve cell reception.

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The 10 Best New Restaurants of 2014

Corey Woodruff

From handmade noodles served out of a chop-suey dive to butter-drenched lobster rolls served from a James Beard-nominated chef, 2014 was an eclectic year for St. Louis dining. I had the privilege of experiencing it all, and here are my nominees (in no particular order) for the best restaurant openings of 2014.

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