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

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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.

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Review: Gooseberries Pleases Herbivores and Omnivores Alike

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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

Gooseberries
(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.

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

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"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.

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Review: Ferguson Burger Bar, Six Months Later

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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.

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

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"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.

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

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Endive salad. | Corey Woodruff

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

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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.

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

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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."

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

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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.

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Pizzeoli Has Perfect Neapolitan Pizza Down to a Science: Review

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

Pizzeoli
(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.

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