Review: Winfield's Gathering Place Shows Jim Edmonds and Mark Winfield in Winning Form

Mabel Suen
Ribs and baked bean platter, burnt ends sourdough melt and the "BBQ Carolina Steak Burger."

Winfield's Gathering Place
10312 Manchester Road, Kirkwood; 314-394-2200
Mon.-Sat. 11-1 a.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

After a good first inning with their successful 15 Steakhouse, the team of Jim Edmonds and Mark Winfield got into a jam. First came the city's temporary closure of the sleek midtown steak house following assaults and other criminal incidents both on its premises and in the surrounding neighborhood, then the botched rebranding of the space in 2013 as the Precinct. From the delayed relocation of the neighboring St. Louis Metropolitan Police headquarters to a series of negative reviews, it was clear that the game wasn't going their way.

See also: Review: Miss Leon's Serves Some of St. Louis' Best Comfort Food

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Review: Miss Leon's Serves Some of St. Louis' Best Comfort Food

Miss Leon's fried chicken and chicken-fried steak. | Mabel Suen

Miss Leon's
3960 Chouteau Avenue; 314-652-0011
Tues.-Thurs. 4-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 4 p.m.-1 a.m; Sun. 2-9 p.m. (Closed Mon.)

On any given Sunday, beginning around 1:30 p.m., the line for Miss Leon's all-you-can-eat fried-chicken feast begins to form. By 2 p.m., it can stretch well into the Bombers Hideaway parking lot, while those in front clamor for tables and await the Southern-fried extravaganza. It's quite the spectacle, especially considering that the St. Louis fried chicken market is at peak saturation. Then again, how often do you get to eat some of the best Southern food in town cooked by a drag queen named Dieta Pepsi?

See also: Last week's review of Ellisville's Walnut Grill

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Review: Walnut Grill Confuses With Over-The-Top Menu

A selection of dishes from Walnut Grill: fish tacos, "Cedar-Plank Salmon" and "Thai Pork Mac n Cheese." | Mabel Suen

Walnut Grill
1386 Clarkson-Clayton Shopping Center, Ellisville; 636-220-1717
Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m
Sun. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Let us, briefly, consider the description of Walnut Grill's "Thai Pork Mac n Cheese": "pulled pork, four cheese alfredo, asparagus relish, smoked gouda, sweet chili sauce."

Huh? It was hard for me to say whether I felt hungry or horrified. This confusion returned more than once as I paged through Walnut Grill's gargantuan, wide-ranging menu. The owner of the Pittsburgh-based boutique chain once described his restaurant's philosophy this way: "You've got a carload of four people that want to go out to dinner; there's something on our menu that will probably appeal to everyone in that car."

The result, however, is a restaurant without an identity where the kitchen succeeds about as often as it fails. It's a shotgun approach to cooking -- spray the area, and you're bound to hit something eventually.

See also: Walnut Grill Opening in Ellisville in Former Chevy's Space

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Review: Pizzino Uses a Baker's Precision for Memorable Pies

Pizzino's "Piero" grilled pizza with San Marzano tomatoes, fontina and pecorino blend, spicy roasted tomatoes, garlic, roasted zucchini, roasted fennel, basil and extra-virgin olive oil. | Mabel Suen

(7600 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton; 314-240-5134)
Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (Closed Sundays)

Jim Zimmerman was destined to make great pizza. The Pizzino owner comes from a line of bakers that goes back over three centuries to Lithuania. His grandfather immigrated to St. Louis in the 1800s, and he sold flour out of a tiny pushcart. This humble business would go on to become Cahokia Flour Company, a major player in the industry that, under the younger Zimmerman's watch, would be a force in the artisan baking movement that began in the late 1990s.

The lineage of Zimmerman's craft may come from the Baltic Sea, but his inspiration for Pizzino is Mediterranean. He and his wife, Vicky, have been traveling to her native Italy nearly every summer for the last 40 years. There, Zimmerman developed an appreciation for gastronomy that inspired him to leave the flour business, go to culinary school and open his first professional cooking venture -- a pizzeria.

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Review: Fort Taco's Brentwood Drive-Through Is Your Newest Addiction

A box of Fort Taco's "Traditional Soft Shell Tacos." | Mabel Suen

Fort Taco
(8106 Manchester Road, Brentwood; 314-647-2391)
Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Sun. 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

I almost got into a fight at the Fort Taco drive-through. The lady behind me began yelling obscenities out of her window. "Will you hurry up? Just order the whole menu already!" I was about to jump out of the car and tell this woman what she could do with her taco, but settled instead for a nasty look and lingered a little longer just to spite her. I now realize I owe this woman an apology. Having tasted the perfection that is Fort Taco, I understand what a crime it was to come between her and her fix.

See also: Review: Gooseberries Pleases Herbivores and Omnivores Alike

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Review: Gooseberries Pleases Herbivores and Omnivores Alike

Three kinds of tofu specialties from Gooseberries: "KFTs" breaded and baked in thirteen herbs and spices; "Tofu Kiss" marinated in beet juice and breaded with crispy rice; and "Tofish Sticks" breaded and baked with lemon pepper and dill. | Mabel Suen

(2754 Chippewa Street; 314-577-6363)
Tues.-Thurs. 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sat. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
(Closed Sundays, Mondays, Fridays).

Kim Bond is a vegetarian and Ross Lessor is a meat-eater. They have been together for nearly two decades, but were sick of feeling like one person had to sacrifice every time they went out to eat. That's why their restaurant, Gooseberries, aims to please both dietary persuasions.

See also: Review: Family-Friendly Cabana on the Loop Struggles with the Basics

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Review: Cantina Laredo Shows the Sleeker Side of Tex-Mex

"Top-Shelf Guacamole," "Relleno De Camarones," and "Enchiladas De Cangrejo." | Mabel Suen

Cantina Laredo
(7710 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-725-2447)
Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sun. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Forget, for a moment, that Cantina Laredo looks less like a cantina in Laredo and more like a posh restaurant on a golf resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Never mind that serving fajitas with copious amounts of sour cream is as authentically Mexican as Taco Bell, or that the restaurant is named for a pair of border towns but inspired by a city 700 miles to their south. If you can suspend your disbelief, you'll have a pretty good time at Cantina Laredo.

See also: Review: Ferguson Burger Bar, Six Months Later

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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.

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