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Like many Midwestern cities, St. Louis’ revitalization has led to an explosion in restaurants. From BBQ joints to vegan cafes, food trucks to fine dining, the St. Louis culinary scene appeals to a broad range of palates. You need a car or a ride sharing app to try all the best St. Louis restaurants. This vegetarian TravelingMom shares her family friendly favorites.
Disclosure: The writer was hosted for this trip.
Reasons to Visit St. Louis
The new St. Louis Aquarium, spiffed up iconic Gateway Arch and many free attractions are just some of the reasons to visit St. Louis. This city holds a special place in my heart because I met my husband here when I was in college in St. Louis.
It also holds a special place in my stomach. In addition to an Italian food scene in The Hill neighborhood, a Balkan food scene in Webster Groves, and St. Louis specialties like barbecue, toasted ravioli and ooey gooey butter cake, the city has a burgeoning chef/owner driven culture, with multiple award winning restaurants all over the city.
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The Best St. Louis Restaurants, All Family and Vegetarian Friendly
Small Batch Whisky Lounge
The all-vegetarian Small Batch Whisky Lounge has a delicious kid-friendly brunch. You can get a vegan sausage, eggs, or tofu scramble a la carte for little tummies, plus mac and cheese, quesadillas and pancakes. Go early for dinner, where a variety of delicious small plates, pastas and stews will appeal to the whole family. Small Batch is in a former car showroom; check out the historical photos upstairs. $$
Utah Station is in a former gas station. Half the menu here is vegan, and everything is family friendly. You order at the counter and the food is delivered to you. Eat outside at the large patio in nice weather. Don’t miss the vegan pizza, with gluten-free cauliflower crust (or regular crust). $$
This is a James Beard finalist, but the place is not fancy. Eat outside in the semi-heated patio near the wood fired oven, even in winter. The seasonal, vegetable forward menu also includes sustainably raised meat. With lots of small plates, you can find something for the kids to eat. The chefs do a vegetarian tasting menu, which was amazing. $$$$
This all vegetarian restaurant in Clayton has chickpea ‘tuna,’ pizzas and six plant-based cheeses for the burgers (along with cow milk cheese). There are soups, salads, and curries for more adventurous palates. Leave room for great vegan desserts like a chocolate avocado mousse. $$
This is the original frozen custard, so thick that a shake, called a concrete, can be turned upside down and it won’t pour out. Expect long lines in nice weather. $
Best St. Louis Restaurants near the Gateway Arch
The Brewhouse Historical Sports Bar
This restaurant in the Hyatt Regency has homemade BBQ, along with toasted ravioli, flatbreads, burgers (and a vegan option) and tacos. $$
The Old Spaghetti Factory
What could be more kid friendly than a restaurant dedicated to pasta? The Old Spaghetti Factory at Laclede’s Landing offers more than a dozen pasta choices, plus a kid’s menu and gluten-free options. $$
Specializing in Korean fried chicken, Kimchi Guys has a vegan menu with Bibimbap and tacos. Asian rice bowls come with greens, rice, kimchi and different meats or plant based protein. $$
Best St. Louis restaurants near Busch Stadium and the St. Louis Aquarium
During baseball season, eat at these places near Busch Stadium. Or if you’re headed to the nearby St. Louis Aquarium, you can check these out.
This rooftop lounge in the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark overlooks the stadium and serves very good food. The restaurant is 21 and over after 9pm. But how often do you take the kids out to eat dinner that late? A lot of the small plates are perfect for small people: Turkish meatballs, shrimp skewers, grains with tofu. There are also tacos, burgers and pizzas. Try the spicy buffalo cauliflower pizza. For dessert, here is ooey gooey butter cake and a homemade Kit Kat. $$
Get your fill of barbecue here. Chose ribs, beef brisket, burnt ends, pulled pork, pulled chicken, spicy sausage or turkey breast. Vegetarian options are limited to sides like corn on the cob or baked potato.
Schlafly Tap Room
This brewpub has a family friendly restaurant. In nice weather, even the dog can join you on the patio for dinner. On weekends, enjoy live music, too. There are barbecue ribs, fish and chips and burgers. But vegetarians are not forgotten. There is a tofu bahn mi and tofu curry. For adults, it all pairs well with the freshly brewed beer. There is a second location in Maplewood. $$
Where to Eat Near Forest Park
You can spend all day in Forest Park, at the free zoo, free art museum, free science center (sense a theme?) and free history museum. Use the trolley to get around the huge park. On Saturdays and Sundays, the trolley is free. Otherwise, all day tickets are $2 for adults, $1 for kids five and older. The trolley operates spring through fall, stopping at all the attractions throughout the park. You can also rent bicycles from City Cycling Tours.
Boundary – Bring your fancy clothes for this meat focused restaurant in the Cheshire Inn. There is a wonderful weekend brunch, with chicken and waffles, smoked brisket hash, omelets and frittatas. If you want to eat early with the kids, the burger is just $10 at happy hour, weekdays from 5- 7 pm. There are wood fired steak and plenty of veggie sides. Get the gooey butter cake for dessert. $$$
Clementine’s Creamery – this local chain has interesting flavors. Make sure to steer kids towards the ‘nice’ side of the menu. One of the key flavors is Gooey butter cake. The naughty side has boozy ice creams, for adults only. There are always four or five vegan ice creams, including a wonderful chocolate and a surprisingly tasty lemon poppyseed. There’s even a vegan version of salted crack caramel, perfect for that lactose intolerant child. You can walk here from the zoo (there is another location in Lafayette Square). $
Best St. Louis Restaurants near Delmar Loop
The Delmar Loop area, Washington University’s college town, has a lot of appeal for families traveling with tweens and teens. There is a giant record store, Vintage Vinyl, along with vintage clothing stores and coffee shops. The sidewalks are embedded with stars for famous St. Louis residents. Look also for the Chuck Berry statue honoring the rock & roll innovator and St. Louis native.
Salt + Smoke specializes in barbecue pulled pork, pulled chicken, ribs, brisket and meat by the pound. Parents can sample local beers or the extensive bourbon menu. There is a vegan falafel burger. But vegetarians have to be careful. There is beef fat in the fries and bacon in the beans.
Blueberry Hill – known for its burgers, this 48 year old institution now offers vegan cajun red beans & rice and an Impossible burger. This was a college hangout, back when there were no veggie options.There is also kids menu. Blueberry Hill has live music shows, some of which allow children. $$
Taste of Lebanon – the Mediterranean menu has falafel, hummus and meat on skewers. There is a separate vegan menu with pizza with vegan mozzarella and pickled turnips, vegan grape leaves and lentil soup. $$
Where to Eat Near Soulard Market: Best St. Louis Restaurants
The Soulard neighborhood, known for its historic farmers market on Wednesdays through Saturdays, also boasts an annual Mardi Gras celebration.
Mission Taco Joint (which also has locations in the Central West End and Delmar Loop) makes incredible Huitlacoche empanadas. These masa pockets are packed with huitlacoche (aka corn fungus – trust me, it’s delicious), roasted wild mushrooms, poblano chiles, arugula and goat cheese. The tacos include many kinds of meat, from brisket to pork to duck to fish. But there are also vegetarian mushroom tacos and spicy vegan ones with Impossible burger crumbles. $$
Bogart’s Smokehouse is another causal place to get your BBQ fix. And the dry rubs, sold at the restaurant, make nice gifts for those at home. And they are TSA friendly! Smoked ribs are the specialty, but there are many other kinds of meat. For non-meat eaters, not so much. $
Best St. Louis restaurants near the Missouri Botanical Garden
The Missouri Botanical Garden has a large Japanese Garden, an annual holiday light show and a seasonal children’s adventure garden. The garden, a National Historic Landmark, opened in 1859.
Uncle Bill’s Pancake House – This 24 hour diner was our college hangout for pancakes and eggs. You don’t have to eat pancakes for dinner, though (you can, if you want). There are also soups, chicken fried steak and meatloaf. $
SweetArt -this vegan breakfast lunch spot and bakery has fantastic cupcakes and great salads and sandwiches. Order at the counter and find a seat. Warning: lines can be out the door. The wait is worth it. On Fridays, SweetArt is open until 8pm, so go for an early dinner. $
Olio specializes in Mediterranean small plates. The converted gas station (apparent a trend in St. Louis restaurants) features a wood-fired outdoor oven. Be sure to get at least one kind of hummus with homemade pita. You can make a whole meal of the mezze in this kid friendly restaurant. $$
Indo – this high end but casual sushi restaurant – yes, sushi in the midwest! – is a James Beard semi finalist for best new restaurant. You can actually walk here from the botanical garden. $$$$
Where to Eat in the Central West End
The Central West End, on the eastern side of Forest Park, has a bustling business district filled with boutiques, restaurants with sidewalk cafes, and galleries. Grand houses line the side streets.
Shake Shack, in the Central West End, started in New York City in 2004. Chef/owner Danny Meyer grew up in St. Louis, so it makes sense to eat here if you don’t have a Shake Shack near your home. Or even if you do. What kid would turn down this fancy burger restaurant? You can get a plain burger, or one gussied up with shallots, smoked bacon and the addictive sauce. I’m partial to the vegetarian portobello burger. And the homemade frozen custard is a must. [Ted Drewes inspired it]. $
Dressel’s Public House dates from before my college days. Order the homemade potato chips or pretzel to dip in Welsh rarebit while you wait for your farm to table burger or fish and chips (this won’t be redundant. The chips here are fries). $$
Where to Stay
To really enjoy the St. Louis restaurant scene, Spend a few days. I made camp at Union Station Hotel, a luxury hotel in the Union Station complex. You can explore the St. Louis Aquarium just steps away from your room, catch a baseball game and walk over to the Gateway Arch. In nice weather, walk to Soulard.