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Restaurant critic Ian Froeb previews this fall’s crop of new dining destinations.
A full rack of the house dry-rub ribs, as served at J. Smugs Gastropit, is photographed on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017. The barbecue restaurant will return to the Hill in November as GastroPit. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com
Fall restaurant openings continue the summer trend of new projects from some of St. Louis dining’s biggest names.
In fact, two of those names are opening restaurants on the same stretch of Wydown Boulevard in Clayton, as Matt McGuire of Louie and Ben Poremba of Elaia and Olio step into the former homes of Zoë Robinson’s I Fratellini and Billie-Jean, respectively.
Meanwhile, one of St. Louis’ most venerated sushi chefs, displaced by a construction project, returns at a new address.
This fall also promises brick-and-mortar locations for a Japanese-sandwich food truck and an ice cream pop-up, two separate restaurants with a shared kitchen from restaurateur Joe Smugala, a chef’s second new restaurant in just seven months and the second phase of the reinvention of Brennan’s in the Central West End.
(Note: Opening a restaurant is difficult even under ideal circumstances. Projected opening timeframes are subject to change, perhaps dramatically.)
4 Hens Creole Kitchen chef/owner Brandi Artis
Now open
Simply Delicious, which occupies the former Good Buddy’s space downtown, is the second restaurant that the chef Brandi Artis and her wife, Brittany, have opened this year. Their first, 4 Hens Creole Kitchen, debuted in January at the Food Hall at City Foundry.
Unlike the Creole-focused 4 Hens, Simply Delicious seeks much broader inspiration for its breakfast, brunch and lunch fare, from avocado toast to shakshuka, from fried goat cheese to a fried chicken sandwich.
The menu, Artis says, is “more (about) the love of all the dishes that I’ve been creating over the years that have kind of been staple at-home dishes that we absolutely love.”
Signature breakfast dishes include the Croffle, a croissant prepared in a waffle iron, and the Sticky Chicky, a riff on chicken and waffles that pairs spicy agave chicken strips with freshly baked French bread  topped with butter, sugar and apple pie spices.
Where 1115 Pine Street • More info 314-802-7287; facebook.com/simplydeliciousstl; instagram.com/simplydeliciousstl
An ice-cream sandwich from the pop-up Sugarwitch
Sept. 30
The married duo of Sophie Mendelson and Martha Bass introduced their ice-cream sandwiches last year from a vintage Airstream trailer outside Olio in Botanical Heights. If you have seen the line at this trailer on a Saturday, you won’t be surprised to learn Sugar Witch is now opening a brick-and-mortar location.
Sugarwitch will open its storefront at the end of the month in the Carondelet Bakery building in the city’s Patch neighborhood. Mendelson says the historic nature of the space itself and the scale of the production space appealed to her and Bass.
“We just felt like this place needs to be … in operation, and if it can be us that gets that going again, then that’s wonderful,” she says.
Sugarwitch will continue to offer its core ‘witches (e.g, the Ursula, with vanilla ice cream, rainbow sprinkles and a brownie). Mendelson said the brick-and-mortar location will let the menu be more “fluid” rather than set for the week or month.
She and Bass are working with the Fox Park roaster Coffeestamp on the coffee program, which will include drip and cold-brew coffee and nitro cold-brew ice cream floats.
Where 7726 Virginia Avenue • More info sugarwitchic.com
Owner and sushi chef Noboru Kidera prepares an order at Nobu’s Japanese Restaurant in 2018 in University City.
Early October
For more than a few sushi aficionados in St. Louis, the discussion of the area’s best chef begins and ends with Noboru Kidera of Nobu’s, one of the University City restaurants displaced by the Costco-anchored development now under construction at Olive Boulevard and Interstate 170.
Nobu’s will return this fall in the Delmar Loop with a new look from noted designer Sasha Aleksandr Malinich. As opposed to the original Nobu’s broader menu of Japanese fare, the new location will focus on sushi, according to its website, that is “prepared in the simple, old-world style Noboru grew up with in Kobe, Japan.”
Dinner will be omakase-style, featuring the chef’s selection of nigiri, sashimi and other dishes.
“And there will be a small a-la-carte menu if you wanted to order things in addition, but everybody will go through the (omakase) experience first,” says George Kidera, Noboru’s son.
Nobu’s will also be reservations-only.
Where 6253 Delmar Boulevard, University City • More info nobustl.com
Chef-restaurateur Ben Poremba
October
Bar Moro, the new venture from the acclaimed chef-restaurateur Ben Poremba, will occupy the sleek former home of Zoë Robinson’s Billie-Jean in Clayton. The restaurant will feature Spanish and, more broadly, Iberian and Mediterranean cuisine.
“It’s small, and it’s very, very sleek,” Poremba says. “But, you know, with Spanish (cuisine), you don’t really need to have too many involved ingredients. It’s just pretty straightforward.”
Poremba has been mulling the Bar Moro concept for quite a while now. For many dishes, he says, “certain iterations were already worked out at Elaia, and we served them for quite some time.”
Diners can expect snacks like oysters on the half shell and slices of jamón ibérico and other cured meats as well as such classic dishes as croquettes and gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp).
Bar Moro’s larger plates will nod toward regional specialties. One Catalan-inspired dish features a rice porridge cooked in squid-ink broth with chorizo and grilled octopus. The beverage program will feature Spanish and Portuguese wines, with a focus on sherry.
Where 7610 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton • More info bengelina.com
Natasha Kwan, chef-owner at Station No. 3
October
Bonito Bar was originally slated to open this summer, but Natasha Kwan and Rick Roloff, the married team behind Frida’s, Diego’s Cantina and Station No. 3, now aim to debut their new venture in October.
Located between the Frida’s and Diego’s storefronts in University City, Bonito Bar will serve as the bar for Frida’s, which has temporarily closed during construction. Kwan says she and Roloff still haven’t determined whether Bonito Bar will have a separate menu from Frida’s.
(Bonito Bar will be open later than Frida’s, and it will likely offer a selection of small bites after the restaurant has closed.)
When Bonito Bar opens and Frida’s reopens, they will feature seafood in addition to Frida’s familiar plant-based fare. Kwan herself has been eating seafood for 15 years, and she noticed many of her customers now describe themselves as flexitarian or pescatarian.
Where 622 North and South Road, University City • More info bonitobarstl.com
Sando Shack
October
The food truck Sando Shack is opening a brick-and-mortar location at 3173 Morganford Road, the Tower Grove South storefront previously occupied by the Dam. The new restaurant continues a busy couple of years for married owners Amy Guo and Dan Jensen, who also debuted Hello Poke in August 2021 at the Food Hall at City Foundry.
Sando Shack features Japanese-style katsu sandwiches, with chicken coated in panko breadcrumbs, deep-fried and garnished with the restaurant’s cabbage slaw and katsu sauce or sweet-and-spicy sauce.
The menu also includes a katsu burger. Yes, you read that correctly.
“So the katsu burger is actually a beef patty that is also breaded in panko breadcrumb and then deep-fried,” Guo says. “It is so good.”
The new storefront’s small size lends itself to carryout, but Sando Shack does share a spacious patio with its neighbor, the popular soccer bar Amsterdam Tavern.
Where 3173 Morganford Road • More info instagram.com/sandoshackstl
Joe Smugala (left) removes a pizza from an oven at the STL Square Off Pizza Festival in 2017 at Berra Park on the Hill.
November
Joe Smugala, owner of the Hill restaurants Carnivore and Pit Stop, will open two restaurants in the former Taco Circus and Three Flags Tavern building in nearby Southwest Garden.
GastroPit marks a return to the city for Smugala’s barbecue restaurant, which he debuted in 2017 on the Hill as J. Smug’s GastroPit. (He also opened a GastroPit last year in Ellisville but is no longer an owner there.) The menu will be familiar to fans of the original location. This restaurant critic was a big fan of the pork ribs, especially.
Meanwhile, El Milagro Azteca will feature Mexican cuisine from Smugala’s Pit Stop chef and partner Carlos Hernandez. The food here won’t fit into the categories of upscale or modern Mexican or Tex-Mex. Instead, Smugala says, it will bring Hernandez’s “flair” to Mexican cuisine.
The idea is to be “welcoming,” Smugala says, “(to) bring all kinds of people, not just people that are truly into Mexican food.”
Where 4940 Southwest Avenue
Maryland House by Brennan’s will open in the former Mandarin Lounge space in the Central West End. Photo by Ian Froeb, ifroeb@post-dispatch.com
November
Kevin Brennan has successfully relocated his beloved Central West End hangout Brennan’s from its original location to new digs just around the corner, even overcoming a late-2020 fire that severely damaged the then brand-new space.
Now, Brennan is ready to unveil the sequel to Maryland House, the speakeasy-esque venue that was located on the floor above the original Brennan’s. This new Maryland House will occupy a separate Central West End address, the former Mandarin Lounge.
The rooftop lounge will feature a different food and drink menu than Brennan’s. Brennan describes the menu under development as “modern takes on small plates – you know, some interesting seasonal stuff that’ll change out quarterly.”
The new Maryland House will also feature a rooftop garden terrace and a digital art gallery.
“We intentionally designed the space to have only so much seating for dining (and) a little bit more for, like, lounging and just hanging out,” Brennan says.
Where 44 Maryland Plaza • More info themarylandhouse.com
Wright’s Tavern, from Louie owner Matt McGuire, will take over the I Fratellini space in Clayton. 
November
Another of Zoë Robinson’s late, beloved Clayton restaurants, another of St. Louis dining’s biggest names stepping into its stead. Matt McGuire, owner of the celebrated Louie, is turning Robinson’s I Fratellini into Wright’s Tavern.
“It’s a beautiful restaurant, for sure,” McGuire says. “I’ve always liked the scale of that room and Wydown and that neighborhood. So I’ve always wanted to be there if I could, and it just worked out.”
McGuire describes Wright’s Tavern as a “very traditional small steakhouse (and) chophouse” that will also feature shellfish and other seafood. Diners can also expect a “proper” burger in the vein of such iconic St. Louis restaurants as Dooley’s and the Fatted Calf.
Wright’s Tavern takes its name from the architect and planner Henry Wright. Among his designs were the Clayton subdivisions of Brentmoor Park, Brentmoor and Forest Ridge.
Where 7624 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton
Nigiri omakase with madai, saba, sake toro, maguro and Wagyu A5 at Nippon Tei in Ballwin. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com
The operators of a few high-profile restaurants under development said they were not quite ready for inclusion in this fall preview, but keep an eye on them through the holidays and into the new year.
• Sado, the Bognar family’s relocation and transformation of their sushi restaurant Nippon Tei to the Hill.
• Napoli Sea, a seafood restaurant in St. Charles from the Pietoso family of Café Napoli in Clayton and its satellites in Town and Country and St. Charles. 
• Nexus Cultural Cuisine & Craft Cocktails, from the duo of Ceaira “Chef Jack” Jackson and Misha K. Sampson, in midtown.
Ian Froeb is the restaurant critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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