Aaron Teitelbaum's New Chess-Themed Kingside Diner Is a Clear Winner

Mabel Suen
Kingside's slider is served all day.
Kingside Diner
4651Maryland Avenue; 314-454-3957.
Sun.-Thurs. 6 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 6-1:30 a.m.

When asked about his pregame dining regimen -- and yes, he gets asked about it quite often -- chess wunderkind Magnus Carlsen will spout off a menu that sounds as if he is training for an Iron Man. Actually, it's far healthier.

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Medina Grill Is a Cosmopolitan Take on International Flavors -- and Its Owner's Lifetime

Mabel Suen
Hummus, falafel on pita, chicken shawarma, beef shawarma and a blondie.

Medina Grill
1327 Washington Avenue; 314-241-1356.
Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Ibrahim Ead wants you to know that medina means "city" in Arabic. Jerusalem is a medina. So are Gaza, Mecca and Dubai. But don't let the exotic-sounding word fool you into thinking it's reserved for the Middle East. New York is a medina, as are Paris, London and even our little slice of Americana, St. Louis.

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Review: At the Q Shack, Larry and Angie Lampert Serve Up Old-School Barbecue

Photo by Mabel Suen
Barbecue at the Q Shack.

The Q Shack
6900 Noonan Avenue; 314-657-0702.
Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun. 5-9 p.m. Open from the beginning of Daylight Saving Time till its end. Closed Sundays.

Before the elite smokehouses fired up their Ole Hickories, and well before barrel-aged cocktails were paired with pulled pork, the Gateway City got little recognition as a serious barbecue town. Yes, it's true that we were overshadowed by our Memphis and Kansas City brethren, but mostly it was because St. Louis barbecue was defined one of two ways. Either it was your jort-clad, mustachioed dad guzzling Busch and "Maulling" pork steaks on the back yard grill, or it was your local Boy Scout troop -- usually on a Saturday afternoon and definitely in a parking lot -- cooking rib tips out of a smoker that looked like a rusty metal trash drum turned on its side.

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Mike Randolph's Público Is the Best Restaurant to Open This Year

Mabel Suen
Público's "Pescado Blanco" tacos.
6679 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-833-5780. Tues.-Sat. 5-10 p.m.; Sun. 5-9 p.m. (Closed Mondays.)

Watching Mike Randolph is like watching the cap dance on the Jumbotron at a baseball game. One minute he's opening a pizzeria; the next he's moving it across town. Then he's closing it to rebrand the space as an Italian restaurant -- at the same time he's rolling out a new Latin-American grill, inspired by a pop-up he once did inside his breakfast café. Keeping up with Randolph's culinary twists and turns is exhausting, if not a touch comical. Someone has even created a mock Twitter account called "Bored Mike Randolph" to poke fun at the chef's antics.

- See also: Review: Lascelles Brings Stylish, Upscale Dining to, Yes, Granite City

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Review: Lascelles Brings Stylish, Upscale Dining to, Yes, Granite City

Mabel Suen
Sea scallops, the "Farmhouse Burger," tomato bisque, lemon soufflé.
Lascelles Granite City
1324 Niedringhaus Road, Granite City, Illinois; 618-709-7375. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Head east across the McKinley Bridge from St. Louis into Illinois, and the change in scenery is palpable. As the buildings that make up the downtown skyline grow smaller in the rearview mirror and you make your way into Granite City, it's as if you've been transported to another time. But it's not a nostalgic view.

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Review: At HandleBar, Eastern European Treats Mesh with Comfort Food

Mabel Suen
Russian flatbread, a "Baltic" banh mi and borscht.
4120 Manchester Avenue; 314-652-2212.
Tues.-Sun. 11-3 a.m. (Closed Mondays).

George W. Bush famously stated that he looked Vladimir Putin in the eyes and could see his soul. Even if the former president famously misjudged Putin's character, I imagine the dinner party that might have precipitated those comments would have been a lot like dining at HandleBar: an odd blend of Russian fare and Southern-inspired comfort food.

Here is borscht as well as pork-belly hash, and Eastern European ground pork and bacon dumplings served alongside pimento cheese. And hummus. And...St. Louis-style pizza? Yes, that too.

- See also: Taco Circus Is an Affordable Tex-Mex Delight

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Review: Taco Circus Is an Affordable Tex-Mex Delight

Mabel Suen
Pork-steak and choizo-breakfast tacos.
Taco Circus
4258 Schiller Place; 314-808-2050.
Mon.-Thurs. 7 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri. 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun. 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

When Christian Ethridge told his loved ones his business plan, he may as well have told them he was running off to join the circus. You're moving to St. Louis? From Austin? To open a taco joint in a Bosnian neighborhood? Saying he was going to take up the trapeze with a bearded lady might have seemed more plausible.

- See also: The Little Dipper Is Too Small for an Oven, Plenty Big to Kick Ass

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Review: The Little Dipper Is Too Small for an Oven, Plenty Big to Kick Ass

Mabel Suen
The "Carolina Reuben" with turkey, cole slaw, Thousand Island and Swiss.
The Little Dipper
2619 Cherokee Street; 314-625-3230.
Tues.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11-1:30 a.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Closed Mondays)

While Thomas Eversmann was working as a bartender at Hammerstone's in Soulard, his long-time friend and bandmate Jason Paul was being groomed to work for the Hammerstone family's small soap business. The gig was selling dishwashers and cleaning chemicals to some of the best restaurants in town, and though Paul instantly knew it was the wrong fit, he felt an obligation to stick it out. The owner himself had tapped Paul to follow in his footsteps — and it just so happened that the owner was his girlfriend's father.

- See also: Review, United Provisions Cafe

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Review: United Provisions Café Is a Great Fast-Casual Restaurant Inside a Grocery Store

Mabel Suen
Ramen, sushi and fried chicken.
United Provisions Café
6241 Delmar Boulevard; 314-833-5699.
Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (lunch) and 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m. (dinner); Sat.-Sun.11 a.m.-9 p.m.

I had first planned to check out the Dining District at United Provisions on October 29 last year, roughly two months after the ambitious international grocery store and café hung out its shingle in the Delmar Loop.

See also: Review: The Gramophone

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Review: The Gramophone Says Goodbye to Music and Hello to Damn Good Sandwiches

Mabel Suen
The "Alcatraz," the "Mississippi Nights Club" wrap and the "Frenchy."
The Gramophone
4243 Manchester Avenue; 314-531-5700.
Tues.-Sun. 11-3 a.m. (Closed Mondays).

The Gramophone opened as a music venue in 2008 — before Urban Chestnut began brewing beer, before coffee shops and yoga studios sprung up along Manchester Avenue, back when the Grove's reputation as a nightlife hot spot was still a whisper. There were no tables to speak of in this intimate concert hall; the closest thing to nutrition was the lime garnish on your gin and tonic. It's not that owners Andrew "Roo" Yawitz and Scott Swanston didn't care about food service. It just wasn't their business.

See also: Review: If You're Into Over-the-Top Food, Busch Stadium Doesn't Disappoint

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