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Kevin Nashan is at the forefront of the food scene in St. Louis, where he's seen a major culinary renaissance in the past eight to ten years. "St Louis was always in my heart when I left college—I knew I wanted to come back," he said. The five-time James Beard Award semifinalist worked in the kitchens of Daniel in NYC, Martin Berasategui in Spain, and Commander's Palace in New Orleans before returning to the Lou.
He's not actually from St. Louis, though—Nashan grew up in Sante Fe, where he worked in his grandfather's restaurant. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what type of food he makes at his restaurant Sidney Street Cafe: it's a bit of the Southwest mixed with the Midwest, plus some Basque region flavors, with Nashan's classical French training tying it all together. He's also turned the parking lot of Sidney Street Cafe into a 100-yard garden that's cared for by neighbors and open to the public on the honor system.
We caught up with Nashan to find out what he's eating when he's not at Sidney Street Cafe—here are his picks for the best bites of pizza, burgers, ice cream and more in St. Louis.
Slice of Pizza: We love going to Pastaria with the kids. The Neopolitan-style pizza is delicious and the kiddos love the gelato. We also like Pi. Their Bucktown [with mozzarella, roasted chicken, artichoke hearts, red bell peppers, green olives, red onions, feta, and sun-dried tomatoes] is ridiculous.
Burgers: Five Star Burgers' Hatch green chile burger brings me back to my New Mexico roots. If you like a big, beautiful burger running down your chin, then this place, owned by Steve Gontram's, is it. Packed with delicious sides and your own personal basket of fries you simply can't go wrong. Also, you can never go wrong with O'Connell's.
Ice Cream: Taking my kids to Crown Candy is such a treat. They crush it with their old-school malts. It's a St. Louis institution that's been around for 100 years!
Coffee Shop: Sump has changed the coffee scene in St. Louis forever. They roast the beans really well and follow up with delicious java sourced with thought. We also love going to Kaldi's by our house, which has helped raise the bar as well for coffee in the Lou!
Dive Bar: J&A's in the Central West End is as dive-y as it gets. With cold PBR's, I'm in heaven.
Markets: I always frequent the Maplewood market on Wednesdays. Great atmosphere and fun seeing all those families score fresh veggies. Love taking my kids too! My other favorite is the Tower Grove Market on Saturdays. I love seeing other chefs there, and it's also fun to see my customers there too. There's an excitement about a farmer's market, because all these people are there for the same reason. They want good high quality food—it's a little culture of its own.
About the author: Erin is the former national managing editor of Serious Eats. You can follow her on Twitter: @erin_zimmer