For the better part of five years, Tai Ke has shown that there is a strong demand for Taiwanese cuisine in St. Louis — and that, thanks to social media, a small location hidden from the main road won't keep diners away. I have lately gravitated toward the spicier dishes on the menu: Taiwanese popcorn chicken and the Traditional Stir-Fry (ground pork with fermented black beans, chiles and chives). But Tai Ke's range is expansive, from the street snacks (gua bao of the exceptionally juicy fried-chicken cutlet) to soups (braised beef noodle, clear clam) to such sizzling dishes as the signature three-cup chicken and hakka stir-fry. The potential redevelopment of the Olive Boulevard-Interstate 170 interchange continues to cast a shadow. Tai Ke needs to do nothing more to prove itself an essential St. Louis restaurant.
Hours: Lunch and dinner daily (closed Tuesday)
Last year's ranking: Rest of the Best