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Cheap Eats in St. Louis

Sauce Magazine · Guide to St Louis · created over 6 years ago

Dropping a few Benjamins on a six-course meal is all fine and dandy (and often, quite the welcome treat), but when not celebrating a special occasion, you’d still like to eat well without breaking the bank. That’s what our Guide to Cheap Eats in St. Louis is all about. From breakfast to lunch, dinner to dessert, we believe every meal should taste great – and not cost a pretty penny. Whether you’re looking for a juicy burger, tasty tacos or a even just a snack, our Cheap Eats guide has you covered. So go on, take a look around and see what tasty deals around town you can’t wait to sink your teeth into. Just be sure to take a picture and post it to our guide before you do. Then, of course, eat up!

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    Geo’s Trash Wings at Geo's Wings & More in Belleville, IL

    Geo’s Trash Wings (aka dirty wings) are fried, dipped in Buffalo sauce, then refried and redipped. The resulting wing is such a veritable explosion of Buffalo flavor that it can be hard to go back to generic hot wings. The chicken is cooked to a succulent doneness, and a full roll of paper towels at each table really helps with the mess. (For those seeking to experiment beyond the standard sauce, by the way, Geo’s is also known for offering a staggering selection of others on the menu – dozens, in fact.)

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    fish tacos at Tortillaria Mexican Kitchen in St Louis, MO

    Tortillaria had me at “we hand-dip each piece of tilapia to order in Dos Equis Amber Ale beer batter.” Two tacos per order arrive in perfect homemade corn tortillas (it’s not called Tortilla Co. just for tax purposes, people!), topped with pico de gallo, shredded lettuce, queso fresca and the house-made chipotle Baja sauce. The last should probably be served by the bowl; it was creamy, bright, smoky and spicy. Here again, finding lettuce instead of cabbage was a bit of a concern – for about a second, then the sauce and the fish and the tortilla covered all the important texture profiles, and I savored each crunchy, chewy, smoky bite. Tortillaria knows how to build flavors and textures; this is a thoughtfully designed taco, dude.

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    Bibim Bob at U-City Grill in St Louis, MO

    Korean comfort food. That’s the best way to describe Bibim Bob at U-City Grill, the tiny diner tucked into the corner of the building at Enright and Kingsland avenues in University City. Pick one of the few seats at the counter, order up your bibim bob – we prefer ours with beef – and get some kimchi on the side while you’re at it. Mix that sunny-side-up egg into the steaming, perfectly peppery meat and dig into this home-style Korean favorite – it’s sure to warm you from the inside out.

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    Pulled-Pork Sandwich at PM BBQ in Chesterfield, MO

    The best pulled-pork sandwich in the metro area, in the Chesterfield Valley? Unthinkable. Well, not quite. The meat, some of the most perfectly moist pork you may ever have, includes a soulfully cultivated bark and a deeply rosy smoke ring extending well into it. Do yourself a favor and choose to complete the perfection with the bright tang and smoldering spice of PM BBQ’s Carolina vinegar sauce. Weeks after the fact, it will still inspire awe.

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    Big Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies at Russell's Cafe & Bakery in Fenton, MO

    They’re officially dubbed Big Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies, but, truth be told, we’ve eaten bigger and fatter along the way … and would toss most of those aside for a mouthful of Russell’s. Even without the chips (although you won’t take a bite without encountering a deluge of semisweet delights), the dense, wouldn’t-dare-crumble cookies would be a treat, boasting ideal chewiness under a subtle outer crunch. Perhaps it’s a case of practice makes perfect: Owner Russell Ping said he’s been making the same simple recipe since he was 8 years old. His secret? Salted butter and a generous dose of brown sugar.

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    Blue Plate Specials at Farmhaus Restaurant in Saint Louis, MO

    The dinner menu at Farmhaus focuses on high-end fare using local ingredients, but at lunch, it’s all down home. Don’t expect a lunch menu, though – and we mean that literally. Each weekday, chef and owner Kevin Willmann and his crew offer one, and only one, lunch item, dubbed the Blue Plate Special. “I’ve always had a secret dream of doing a diner,” Willmann said, “and this is my little chance to do it.” Step into the tiny space around noon on a Monday and you’ll be treated to fried chicken, mac and cheese and mashed potatoes. On Tuesdays, kitchen manager Antonio Pacheco takes over and offers tacos, complete with hand-pressed tortillas, and the rest of the week features comfort fare like roast beef or bacon-wrapped meatloaf. It’s a throwback in price as well as style, since the total bill for entrée, sides, salad and tea will only set you back 10 bucks – surely one of the best values in town. According to Willmann, “These blue plate specials really speak to the core of what we want to do. It’s one plate, one idea and its audacity might draw some attention.” We’re sure it already has. 3257 Ivanhoe Ave., St. Louis, 314.647.3800

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    Chicken and Waffles at Goody Goody Diner in Saint Louis, Missouri

    The chicken is salty, crispy and piping hot; the malted waffle’s crust has a slight crunch that can stand up to a generous pour of warm maple syrup. We think chicken and waffles are a perfect match. “The contrast just tastes good,” agreed Richard Connelly, owner of North City’s Goody Goody Diner, which serves our favorite version of the combo. Stuffing yourself silly with the Chicken and Waffle Supreme, which pairs the famous duo with two eggs and a side (go for the hash browns studded with onions and cheese or the perfectly cooked grits), is best reserved for Saturdays, when napping afterwards is possible. A word of warning: Expect a wait on weekends. But, believe us, it’s worth it.

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    Vegan Brownie at Sweet Art in St. Louis, MO

    If you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t guess the brownies at Sweet Art are vegan. Dense, fudgy and studded with chocolate chunks, they offer a moist texture and a scaled-back sweetness that proved so popular, it consistently outsold the South City bakery’s nonvegan variety. “We use maple syrup in them because it makes them fudgy and because it has deep flavor,” said owner Reine Bayoc, who created the sweet treat a few years ago when members of the band Phish, playing at the Fox Theatre, requested vegan brownies. They’ve been perfected since then: “The ones we have now are a lot better than the ones they got,” Bayoc said with a smile.

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    For Pete’s Sake at Nora's in Saint Louis, MO

    The menu at Nora’s offers some original and creative options, notably the For Pete’s Sake, named for The Brady Bunch’s Peter Brady’s famous “pork chops and applesauce, that’s swell,” line. It’s piled high with juicy pieces of that flavorful smoked pork loin and accented by some small, chewy bacon pieces that add a bit of salt, caramelized onions to add a bit of sweetness, and Brie for a subtle richness. It’s all topped with applesauce, which really allows the pork’s spiciness to pop, making this sandwich extremely balanced.

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    Onion Rings at Village Bar The in Des Peres, MO

    A floury, well-seasoned batter applied with alight touch puts these rings at the top of the heap. After a trip to the fryer, the coating emerges with a flaky texture, while the not-too-thick, not-too-thin cut allows for plenty of crunch. Best of all, the onion retains a measure of its original texture and remains firmly nestled within its crunchy coating, post-bite.

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    Samosa Chaat at Gokul Snacks & Sweets in Saint Louis, MO

    The samosa chaat at Gokul Snacks & Sweets will keep your taste buds on high alert. Crisp, flaky shells filled with a savory mix of potatoes and peas are topped with chickpeas, black channa, onions, cilantro, and tamarind and mint chutneys. A drizzle of cool yogurt sauce balances out the heat and a sprinkle of cruncy sev adds some texture. Sour, spicy, sweet, fresh – you’ll be pleasantly surprised with each bite.

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    Firecracker Green Beans at Mandarin House in Overland, Missouri

    These firecracker green beans are soul-satisfyingly crispy. Cooked with Szechuan vegetable spice and ground pork, they disappeared almost before they rounded the table.

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    Mini Doughnuts at Soulard Farmer's Market in Saint Louis, MO

    Donut Man Stan is likely the most renowned vendor at the market, serving “fresh and tasty mini-donuts ... since 1979.” Watching the machine flip the fried dough is almost better than the oily, sugary treats, available in cinnamon and sugar, chocolate, vanilla, powdered sugar or plain.

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    Wicked Lady Burger at Wicked Lady Pub in Saint Louis , Mo

    The burger – prepared as ordered, which rarely happens – had a nice char on the outside, and the patty had the light texture of house-ground beef. Be sure to upgrade to the cheeseburger – your choice of American, Swiss, Cheddar, pepper Jack or blue cheese is stuffed into the burger, resulting in melty cheese making it into every bite.