Eat + Drink

International Flavors … of the Midwest? Where to Chow on Global Cuisine in St. Louis

Budweiser is just the beginning. Between 2014 and 2015, census data from the American Community Survey showed that St. Louis was the fastest-growing U.S. metro area for immigrants, beating out larger metropolitan areas like Chicago and New York City.

This diversity is reflected in the city’s dining scene, where alongside familiar international cuisines like Mexican and Italian, you’re likely to find the bold flavors of Bosnia, Saudi Arabia and Nepal.

Here’s a selection of culturally-rich restaurants to visit in St. Louis.

Nudo House STL

When Lee Tran opened St. Louis’ first Vietnamese restaurant back in 1985, she probably wouldn’t have imagined that she’d inspire her son to take a similar risk.

Cut to 2017 when her son Qui Tran, along with executive chef Marie-Anne Velasco, opened Nudo House, a fast-casual-style restaurant celebrating all things Japanese ramen and Vietnamese pho.

Ramen aficionados can rest assured that these two know the ropes. They studied with world-renowned Japanese ramen master Shigetoshi Nakamura before perfecting the four versions on Nudo’s menu.

st louis restaurants
Have sweet tooth? Try Bosnian ustipci (fried bread). (Photo: Getty Images)

Grbic and Lemmons

Interesting fact: St. Louis has been home to the largest population of Bosnians in the U.S. since the 1990s. So when Ermina and Sulejman Grbic opened Grbic, the first Bosnian restaurant in St. Louis, back in 2002, they were welcomed by not only fellow Bosnians but also by a curious set of Midwestern diners.

Today, their children run Lemmons, a natural-light-filled restaurant with a menu that reflects their Bosnian-American upbringing, offering favorites like ustipci (fried bread), blue crab burgers, chicken fried schnitzel and ćevapi, a traditional Balkan sausage.

Meskerem

In business for more than a decade, Ethiopian restaurant Meskerem is beloved by locals as a place where they can enjoy an authentic cultural experience. The Ethiopian flag and netelas (traditional woven scarves) adorn the walls, and on the menu both the novice and the connoisseur will find traditional, made-from-scratch dishes to enjoy.

Try the Meskerem Combo, which offers both straightforward tibs wat (beef in the classic Ethiopian berbere sauce) and the more interesting doro wat (sautéed chicken seasoned with onions, garlic, ginger, butter and red wine) served atop injera, a spongy, somewhat sour flatbread used to scoop your food.

The Palm Trees

st louis restaurants
Try traditional Saudi plates at The Palm Tree in St. Louis. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Palm Trees is St. Louis’ first Saudi Arabian restaurant. Inside, diners can choose to eat in the gleaming white-tiled dining room draped with colorful Saudi tapestries or downstairs, “Saudi-style,” seated on low cushions with plates on the floor.

Dates served in a golden bowl start each meal, followed by hearty entrees like tender lamb and broth served over rice and grilled onions (kabsa) or a vegetarian moussaka with layered eggplant, potatoes, onions, green pepper and tomatoes baked in tomato sauce and topped with bechamel.

Himalayan Yeti

If you’re a fan of Indian food but also willing to try something different, the $9.99 buffet of classic Indian and Nepalese dishes at Himalayan Yeti should be your go-to lunch spot.

Don’t miss the diverse bread selection, including naan, kulcha (leavened bread baked in a clay oven), and aloo paratha (unleavened bread stuffed with potatoes) before moving on to Nepalese momos, dumplings stuffed with chicken or vegetables and minced onion, garlic, cilantro and spices.

Use the carbs to soak up tender goat curry and the spicy Nepalese Chicken Choila from the buffet.

st louis restaurants
Korean specialties like bulgogi can spice up your taco. (Photo: Getty Images)

Seoul Taco

Seoul Taco opened as a food truck in 2011; now this Korean-Mexican fusion spot has two brick-and-mortar locations in St. Louis’ Loop and Chesterfield neighborhoods.

Chef David Choi serves one of the best deals in town with three tacos for $8, and you can stuff them with steak, chicken, spicy pork or tofu. They are topped with sesame vinaigrette salad mix, green onion, crushed sesame seeds and Seoul Sauce.

Kimchi fried rice burritos, Gogi Bowls and nachos topped with queso blanco, green onions, roasted sesame seeds and kimchi round out the menu.