Olive + Oak, Webster Groves, MO – Gnocchi Doke

The St. Louis restaurant scene was pretty impressive in 2015.  If you can believe it, the city will crush 2015 with and even more impressive 2016.  One of my new favorite places to spend the evening is Olive + Oak.

Olive + Oak is a neighborhood restaurant in Webster Groves but should be a destination if you love food and drinks.  They focus heavily on locally sourced ingredients and change a large portion of their menu regularly.  DISCLAIMER:  If I talk about a dish you really want, it may not be there the night you go.

When I first arrived, I saw that my prayers had been answered and they serve fried cheese curds.  Ever since I lived in Oregon for work, I have been obsessed with them.  No trip to the coast was complete without a visit to the Tillamook Cheese Factory.  Fresh ones are also fun since they squeak on your teeth when you bite them.  Olive + Oak’s are lightly fried and served with a charred scallion and chile aioli.   Just the right amount of salt in this dish and they are the perfect snack.

Cheese Curds

For those that are following me on Instagram (shame on you if you don’t), you know I love cocktails.  If you haven’t heard of Chelsea Little, this is another great reason to get your butt over to Olive + Oak.  Chelsea has been one of my trusted “spirit guide’s” ever since her days at Libertine.   I would be hard pressed to know how many drinks she has crafted for me since I met her.  I’ll admit I’m a “Little” biased (get it 🙂 ), but I feel like I have watched her grow up as a mixologist.  For old times sake, I started off with a bartender’s choice:

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As always, it was a hit.  I also sampled something from the menu: the #69.  Chelsea was never one to name her drinks so I find it humorous they are now just numbers.  The torched rosemary adds so much to the nose of this cocktail.  I can see why it made the cut to be featured on the menu.

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Now back to the food!  When I visited, I narrowed my entree choices down to two items.  The scallops or the gnocchi.  Seafood was calling me that night so I went with the scallops.  The scallops were cooked perfectly, but they were served on a bean puree.  Although flavorful, it wasn’t something my palette was wow’d by.

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When dining with others, you can politely ask to sample their dish as well and try even more of the menu. The tenderloin was much more up my alley.  It was also cooked perfectly but in this case the meat was allowed to be the star of the dish.    IMG_1011

One of the biggest surprises from Olive + Oak  was their kids menu.  There were so many more choices than most places.  As I looked around, there were several families enjoying meals together.  So parents, it’s clear that this is a place to treat the whole family.  As you can see by the picture, the noodles are superhero approved!  Also the milk glasses were super cute!

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Normally this would be the part of the post where I ride off into the sunset and wrap things up.   Not this time!  Two decisions from my first visit still haunted me.  One, I think I should have picked the gnocchi. Two, I passed on dessert.  So stick with me for a slightly longer post, It gave me a chance to correct those sins and I promise you there is valuable information to follow.

This time I visited with no child in tow so I took my more natural seat at the bar.  The bar is nice and a focal point of the small space.  Of course more “bartender’s choice” cocktails were consumed:

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Chelsea’s concoctions continued to be on point and just what I needed.  Then something magical happened!  I ordered the gnocchi and it was even better than expected.  Feast your eyes on this:

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This my friends is their gnocchi.  The texture was light and fluffy.  Almost like individually wrapped gifts of potato awesomeness that you don’t want to ever end.  This dish is killer and I want more!  A version of it seems to be on the menu each night so I’m looking forward to trying future flavorful pairings.

I also ordered a dessert that brought hope back to the world: the butterscotch pot de creme.

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You know the stereotypical depressed human gorging themselves on ice cream? They only choose that because they have not had this dessert.  It will make you certain the sun will rise again tomorrow and things will be OK.

There you have it.  Clearly, Olive + Oak is an A in my book.  I look forward to more gnocchi, butterscotch pot de creme, and Chelsea cocktails.  If you see someone sitting at the bar with all three, it might just be me.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 3.  As I have stated it’s a great neighborhood hot spot and also very family friendly.  The sound level is elevated so fussy kids won’t be noticed but not so loud that you can’t hold a conversation.  There are a couple TV’s where the bar tables can see but they are placed so great if you are at the bar.  It’s OK, you have better things to focus on while you are there: your date (if you have one), the drinks (you better have one), and the food (you better order some).

Público – University City, MO – Tacos, Arepas, and Oysters = Happy Tummy

Mike Randolph is at it again with a new concept in University City called  Público.  It has been getting rave reviews, so I had to see what all the fuss was about.  After a quick glance at the menu, thoughts of the long gone MEDIAnoche came to mind.  MEDIAnoche was the night-time version Mike’s other restaurant:  Half and Half.  Although there were similarities, the new concept featuring an oak-burning hearth in the kitchen, definitely caught my attention.

This visit was a “go big or go home” type of night.  Most of the items are smaller and meant for sharing, so I would suggest ordering around three to five items for a couple.  Once you order, items will come out as they are available.  If you prefer, there are also entrée portioned items available as well.

First up: a cocktail to help shake off the week, and this one was a stunner.

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It was called the “Have you seen my guava?” and it was light, well-balanced, and definitely effective.

Once the food started to arrive, it came out fast and furious.  First, the raw oysters.  On this particular night they were featuring Cranberry Creek Oysters from Washington State.  They were medium on the brine and had a slight cucumber flavor on the finish.  I had never eaten oysters with lime juice, but it was a nice touch.  The flavors paired extremely well with the house red hot sauce.

Another guilty pleasure of mine is sweetbreads.

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This was the first dish that caught my eye from their menu.  It happens to be the most unique take on them that I have had and is probably my new all-time favorite.  They were served with a pineapple and habanero sauce, which came with just enough of a kick on the back end so you know it’s there.

Guess what?  There was a liver dish and I ordered it. I know, right?

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I had their arepa with lamb liver butter, fried sage, and maple syrup.  The lamb liver butter was light compared to most liver dishes.  The sweetness from syrup should make it more palatable, even if you aren’t a liver lover like me.

Yes, I also love tacos.  I LOVE TACOS.  Público‘s tacos come as a pair which makes them great for sharing if you can resist keeping them all for yourself.  Out of all the great options, I settled on the pork belly.

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The first round of tacos was delicious: moist and packed with flavor. They were so good, in fact, I opted for a second round. Unfortunately, the difference in texture made this round a bit more dry. Either way, I would still recommend them.

Público is the latest restaurant adding more taco options to University City.  In fact, it is safe to say that U City has the upscale and diverse taco market cornered in St. Louis.  They have a menu with plenty of options in a fun setting with an upbeat vibe.  I predict a long life for this restaurant and can’t wait to try some of the entrées.

Dive 2 Five Star Scale:  3.  As I have already said, it has a very upbeat vibe.  It is also in one of the great areas to walk around in St. Louis: the Loop. I love the open concept with the large “U” shaped bar.  It was a great way to get in without a reservation before they became more busy.  The decor is fun as well.  I am a tree art fanatic so I loved the large trees on the wall.