Breaking News
More () »

Awards and national rankings: How the St. Louis food scene made us proud in 2021

Cheers to these local institutions for making St. Louis proud in 2021!
Credit: UPI
Manager Hailey Mattof delivers a double cheeseburger with all the fixings to a customer in the dining room at the Hi-Pointe Drive In, in St. Louis on Tuesday, November 16, 2021. The World Food Championships held in Dallas on November 10th, crowned the Hi-Pointe Smash Burger the best burger in the United States. Chefs in the category were challenged to create a burger using Impossible vegetarian meat. Hi-Pointe owner and chef Mike Johnson said he made his famous Cowboy Burger for the competition. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

ST. LOUIS — St. Louisans are fiercely proud of their vibrant food scene. When any of our local restaurants, breweries or wineries make national headlines, it’s big news around here.

This year, as the restaurant industry continued to pivot amid the ongoing pandemic, recognitions tasted extra sweet.

And, there were a lot of them.

We gathered up all the stories we reported on how St. Louis made a splash in the culinary world – at least 18 different honors, rankings and awards.

Cheers to these local institutions for making St. Louis proud in 2021!


Restaurants America can’t lose: Think back to January. COVID-19 cases were on the rise again and the restaurant industry was working through its first cold winter where indoor dining was still a challenge or not possible in some cases. Noting that, Esquire magazine made a list of 100 restaurants so critical to our identity as a food nation that America "can't afford to lose" them.

Three St. Louis institutions were included on the list: Blueberry Hill, Cunetto House of Pasta and Pappy’s Smokehouse.

Essential St. Louis restaurants: Food blog Eater is known for compiling thoughtful food guides for cities across the globe, and in June they put St. Louis in the spotlight. A St. Louis-based write gathered the “20 ‘essential’ St. Louis-area restaurants,” including Nudo House, Olive + Oak, Balkan Treat Box and Gioia’s Deli.

NYT’s “America’s Favorite Restaurants” list: The New York Times set out to find the "most vibrant and delicious restaurants" around the country this year for its "America's Favorite Restaurants" list, and that list includes St. Louis' very own Little Fox.

"The happiness of several generations of urban-dwelling Americans rests in part on easy access to a corner bistro that punches above its weight," Brett Anderson, a contributor to the New York Times food desk, said.

One of the best foodie cities: You don’t have to convince us that we have an amazingly delicious food scene, but now it’s out there for even more people to know. WalletHub came out with its 2021 Best Foodie Cities in America list and St. Louis was ranked No. 16 overall. When it came to specific categories, St. Louis was first in restaurants per capita, most gourmet specialty food stores per capita and affordability and accessibility of highly-rated restaurants.

Simone Biles loves Imo’s: Let’s not forget about the gymnastics GOAT not only professing her love of St. Louis-style pizza but defending it on national TV. Biles got a taste of the Square Beyond Compare while in town for the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials and tweeted that she missed Imo’s when she left town. A few months later, while on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night talk show, he questioned why she loved the pizza and its provel cheese so much.

“Provel is the best!” she exclaimed. Kimmel replied by calling it the “world’s most disgusting cheese.”

“No, it’s not. Seriously, we could fight right now,” Biles said.


Best cake in Missouri: Nathaniel Reid Bakery racked up another delicious honor in June when “Eat This, Not That!” listed the best cakes in each state. The Kirkwood bakery earned Missouri’s top spot for its pound cake.

"It's no surprise that the confections baked by Nathaniel Reid — named one of the top 10 pastry chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine — are wildly popular among locals and visitors," the list said. "Try the pound cake, and if you want a little extra flavor add one of the many jams on the menu."

LISTEN: Subscribe to the Abby Eats St. Louis podcast

Best doughnut in Missouri: For a bite out of the sweet breakfast favorite, look no further than south St. Louis County’s The Donut Stop. The family-run business in Lemay was featured in Food & Wine Magazine’s list of best doughnuts in each state. Food & Wine said customers love the cherry fritters, fry pies, French crullers and cinnamon globs.

Best sandwich in Missouri: It’s no surprise St. Louis staple Gioia’s Deli earned this recognition for its hot salami sandwich. Food & Wine Magazine released the list of best sandwiches in each state back in January, and owner Alex Donley welcomed the good news to kick off the new year.

“It is such an honor to be featured in Food and Wine with sandwich giants such as Katz’s Deli in NYC and Central Grocery and Deli in New Orleans. It makes me so proud to carry on the 103-year-old tradition of serving St. Louis’ favorite sandwich, the Hot Salami, since 1918,” the fourth-generation owner of Gioia's Deli said.

Credit: Gioia's Deli


Top dessert spot: More icing on the cake for Nathaniel Reid Bakery. The St. Louis County shop landed on Yelp’s list of top dessert spots across the U.S. and Canada.

Top vegan ice creams: One of St. Louis’ most popular ice cream shops scooped up another recognition. Clementine’s was featured on Food Network’s list of vegan ice creams “that are so good, you won’t miss the dairy.” The shop’s vegan flavors include coconut chocolate fudge, lemon poppyseed, vanilla bean, pink champagne, salted caramel and chai.

Best native wine: Stone Hill Winery was clinking glasses in November after earning several national awards. The Hermann winery won American Wine Society’s 2021 Best Native Wine award for its 2018 Cross J Norton. Judges tasted more than 600 wines and only handed out 10 coveted “Best of Class” awards, including Best Native Wine.

Stone Hill also racked up several awards from the Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition, dubbed the “Olympics of Wine Competitions.”

Best pizza states: Both Missouri and Illinois were honored for their unique – and vastly different – types of pizzas. Food & Wine Magazine listed the top 10 pizza states in the country. Illinois came in at No. 4 with Chicago deep-dish getting the limelight. Missouri was ranked No. 10 for its thin-crust pizza.

Best neighborhood gems: The city is home to so many colorful neighborhoods with diverse food options, but there was one restaurant that stood out above the rest, at least according to OpenTable. Trattoria Marcella, in Lindenwood Park, was featured on a list of 100 best “neighborhood gems” for 2021 in the U.S. They also were the only Missouri restaurant to make the cut.

A top place to eat: Yelp asked its users to weigh in on their favorite restaurants. That feedback led to the list of Top 100 Places to Eat in 2021. Olive + Oak landed at No. 50.


Best burger in the world: In November, the World Food Championships crowned Hi-Pointe Drive-In as having the best burger in the world. Owner and chef Mike Johnson said he created the burger using two items from the restaurant’s menu: the cowboy burger and Impossible burger. This story was a smash hit on our website this year, making it the most-read food story on KSDK.com.

“St. Louis is definitely on the map now as a big deal in the foodie world!” said Hi-Pointe Drive-In’s executive chef Adam Pritchett.

Credit: World Food Championship Instagram

Best bacon in the world: Best St. Louis wasn’t done bringing home the awards from that worldwide competition. Chef Jack MacMurray, of the Old Hickory Golf Club in St. Peters, won the title of world bacon champion. His winning dish was a bacon-wrapped and chocolate-lined pork belly over a bacon chocolate chip pancake.

Authentic Thai cuisine: Back in April, nine local restaurants were honored by the Ministry of Commerce Royal Thai Government for serving up authentic Thai dishes, with one restaurant earning the most prestigious award. South Grand staple King & I received the Signature award for “premium quality, refined décor and excellent service.”

Credit: King & I / Chao Baan
Left: Pad Thai at King & I; Right: Khao Tod Nam Sod at Chao Baan

Best bloody mary mix: When it comes to the classic drink in St. Louis, we have one of the best options around. Southside Alchemy’s Sweat & Tears mix received a gold medal in the “spicy” category at this year’s Drunken Tomato Awards. Their “Mild Mannered” version earned a silver medal.

Want more tasty food stories?

Subscribe to the Abby Eats St. Louis podcast

Abby Llorico tells the story of St. Louis based on what’s on the table. From the hunger for local ingredients to the booming brunch scene and the craving for creative cocktails, Abby dives into the nitty-gritty of how St. Louis grew to become the foodie town that it is.

Abby Eats St. Louis is available for free on all podcast apps. Make sure to subscribe to get the latest episode as soon as it drops.

Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn Castbox

Before You Leave, Check This Out