Ian Froeb's STL 100

Photo by Hillary Levin (Post-Dispatch)



No shorthand description can capture why Elmwood, from chef Adam Altnether and front-of-house maestro Chris Kelling, ranked among 2019's best new restaurants and makes its STL 100 debut in the Top 25. Elmwood is strikingly modern in appearance, its entrance marked by a neon, coral-pink logo, its open kitchen dramatically framed behind a glass partition. Yet the kitchen's engine is a coal-fired grill and oven, which gives Altnether's cooking, even at its most complex, a primal appeal. His menu travels broadly to kindle interest in familiar fare, from St. Louis' beloved pork steak (on my visits, served as a riff on Korean ssam) to baba ghanoush (made with ember-roasted sweet potatoes) to mussels (brothless, fizzing with Sichuan peppercorns). Kelling keeps Elmwood moving with a lively but focused energy. Though a buzzy new spot, it feels as if it has already been operating at this high level for years.

Hours: Dinner Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday)

Last year's ranking: New this year

Opened: 2019

Many St. Louis-area restaurants are closed or limiting their dining options during the coronavirus pandemic.