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Rob Connoley’s guide to St. Louis

Chef Rob Connoley and the St. Louis skyline.


Rob Connoley’s guide to St. Louis

The innovative chef behind Bulrush shares his favourite places to eat in St. Louis, Missouri, from authentic Szechuan food to the best pancakes in town.
04 August, 2023

Chef Rob Connoley is dedicated to researching, defining and celebrating Ozark cuisine, a singularly unique endeavour that diners can enjoy through his creative and educational tasting menu at Bulrush in St. Louis. For his efforts, Connoley has received multiple James Beard Award nominations, taught Ozark cooking classes at the Smithsonian and represented Missouri at the National Geographic Traveller food festival in London.

On his days off, he is also an avid diner and loves exploring and discovering low-key restaurants all across town. “The community has prioritised independently-owned, locally sourced restaurants for a long time thanks to James Beard winner Gerard Craft,” he says. “That means diners are almost certain to have the freshest ingredients, regardless of the type of cuisine.”

Here are Rob Connoley’s recommendations for where to eat in St. Louis, Missouri.

Chili Spot

“This bustling Szechuan restaurant has become my heart and soul with its traditional take on Southwestern Chinese cuisine. They’ve addicted me beyond the mala heat to such classics as steamed eggplant with century egg, and dry pot cabbage. My love affair runs so deep that I now host monthly dinners at Chili Spot to introduce Szechuan newbies to the cuisine through my guided hands, and have been studying Mandarin just to celebrate the kitchen’s amazing skills.”


“With only 10 seats and right downtown, Fleur is taking fine-dining techniques and applying them to approachable breakfast items. Their slinger is bold, generous, and loaded with the crispiest, thinnest tower of onion rings. And I could eat a gluttonous amount of their fried Brussels sprouts. It’s small. It’s quiet. And just around the corner from the city’s graffiti are walls along the Mississippi River.”

Grand Pied

A dish at Grand Pied in St. Louis.

Photo: Jaimee Stang

“I’m a pastry chef so morning meals are more my style. Grand Pied is the sauciest, heartiest, most flavourful meal in the city. Their pancakes are legendary, cooked in well-seasoned cast iron and finished in the oven to fluff up. I almost always get the dirty fries with whatever breakfast main I order – thick cut steakhouse-style smothered in 'debris gravy.’”

Mac’s Local Eats

A burger at Mac's Local Eats in St. Louis.

“St. Louis’ most famous burger spot. Small, locally sourced, whole-animal smash burgers with edges so crisp they can cut your tongue. No one does it better, and any burger lover pays homage to what chef Chris Mackenzie is doing in this restaurant that’s just a short walk to the St. Louis Zoo and Science Center.”


“When I have only one chance to impress a guest, this is where I go. Perfection in service and food is a certainty with this contemporary Italian Matt Maguire restaurant in the DeMun neighbourhood just outside of the city. Their pizza and Roman gnocco loaded with fresh local ingredients are always so satisfying washed down with a reasonable and robust wine list.”


Bread at Songbird in St. Louis.

“Songbird rose to local fame with their farmers' market sandwich – toasted buttery bread with a fried egg, thick-cut bacon, cheddar and a spicy honey drizzle – all local ingredients. Now in a brick-and-mortar location, they have a good selection of breakfast items and the city’s top coffee roaster, Sump Roasters, to chase it all down.”

Sueño Latino

“In the centre of the Cherokee Street district, known for its Mexican food and late-night bars, Sueño Latino offers snacks and big plates. I rotate between their chuletas con tajadas (smothered pork chop) and pollo cena (fried chicken), the latter possibly the best fried chicken in town. If I only have time for a quick bite I grab a baleada especial – a sort of meaty, cheesy, saucy quesadilla.”

The Curry Club

“I plead ignorance when it comes to Indian cuisine, hobbled by the ubiquitous curries, tandooris and kormas found at pretty much every Indian restaurant. That’s why I like Curry Club; they challenge me with dishes and styles that I’m unfamiliar with, and throw down some huge heat alongside their flawless dosas.”

The Vandy

Aprons at The Vandy in St. Louis.

“The Vandy is one of St Louis’ best craft cocktail bars, but hidden in the back is a small kitchen sending out creative tacos by chef Jeffrey Friesen, formerly the head of Taco Buddha, the city’s top fusion taco shop. A much more modest affair, Friesen’s tacos at The Vandy are what I crave after a long night on the line – big flavours, dripping with sauce, and unctuous mounds of meat.”

Tiny Chef at Silver Ballroom

“Another hidden gem inside of a bar, chef Melanie Meyer, weaves her Korean heritage into her American roots. Meyer’s kimchi carbonara is so popular it was featured in The New York Times in 2022 as part of a story on Korean adoptees. Hearty portions with fresh local ingredients, all worked into her spicy Korean twists.”