Ian Froeb's STL 100 (2018 archive)

Photo by Laurie Skrivan (Post-Dispatch)

Cafe Natasha's

It’s easy to take rice for granted at Cafe Natasha’s. It’s piled to one side of your plate, behind your combo platter of the signature charbroiled beef kebab (sirloin nearly as tender as filet mignon and 10 times beefier in flavor) and the chicken tandoori kebab (warmly spiced with cumin and curry). Focus, though, and you’ll notice the buttered-popcorn flavor of the perfectly al dente basmati grains. You’ll see not merely the shade of saffron but a thread or two of the treasured spice itself. Cafe Natasha’s has won praise for its kebabs, its hearty lamb dishes, its elegant fessenjoon (chicken stew) and beef tongue, but the little details are what push it even higher.

Hours: Lunch and dinner daily (closed Wednesday)

Last year's ranking: Rest of the Best

Opened: 1983 (as the Little Kitchen)

Must order: Beef shish kebab (lunch $11, dinner $15.99)