Ian Froeb's STL 100 (2017 archive)

Photo by David Carson (Post-Dispatch)



Niche, ranked No. 1 in the first two editions of the STL 100, is dead. Gerard Craft closed his flagship restaurant in June 2016 and transformed its Clayton address into Sardella. And what a transformation it is. Gone is Niche’s tasting menu; lifted is its dictum against nonlocal ingredients. In its place is a brighter, breezier restaurant, a just-drop-by breakfast-and-lunch cafe as well as a dinner destination. The menu from Craft and executive chef Nick Blue nods to Italy in theory, but on the plate its vibrancy and anything-good-goes mentality feels very California — specifically, very Los Angeles. Standout dishes from Sardella’s early months include gnocchi with crab, chile and bone marrow, the Moroccan-spiced roasted chicken bathed in harissa butter, oxtail braised in stout and pastry chef (and Niche veteran) Sarah Osborn’s winter-citrus tart. Sardella doesn’t merely replace Niche, and it certainly isn’t a scaled-back imitation. This is a restaurant to appreciate on its own terms. Niche is dead. Long live Sardella.

Update: Ashley Shelton, executive chef of Gerard Craft's Pastaria, took over as Sardella's executive chef in April 2017.

Hours: Dinner daily, breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday

Last year's ranking: new

Opened: 2016

Must order: Stout-braised oxtail ($29)