2018 was an exciting year for new restaurants in Missouri, many of which feature globally inspired cuisine. Expose your palate to diverse cultures and try one of these new ethnic culinary hotspots.
Le Bao, Columbia – Jina Yoo's latest venture offers a new twist on Korean street food. Select a savory steamed bao (Chinese dumpling) or fluffy bun filled with kimchi and pork belly, Philly cheese steak or fried chicken. The menu also features steaming bowls of pork, chicken, seafood and veggie Ramen.
Jamaican Jerk Hut, Columbia – What started as a mid-Missouri food truck now has a brick-and-mortar location. The expanded menu features favorites like Jerk Chicken and Pork Steak as well as exotic additions such as oxtail with butter beans and curried goat.
J. Vietnamese Café, Jefferson City – Choose from eight different kinds of pho (pronounced fuh), house-made spring rolls and authentic banh mi. Take the "Pho Challenge" and attempt to consume seven pounds of pho including broth, a variety of meats and noodles. Finish the entire bowl in 45 minutes and win $500; please call ahead, pho of this proportion takes time to prepare.
The Benevolent King, Maplewood – The chef/owner of beloved Elaia and Olio has a new endeavor in Maplewood. Choose from small and large plates featuring Moroccan-inspired fare such as lamb meatballs and whole branzino (Mediterranean Sea bass) on a bed of roasted chicory.
Balkan Treat Box, Webster Groves – Named by Food & Wine magazine as one of "The Best Bites of the Year," this spot serves authentic fare from the Balkan region – from Bosnia to Turkey – made fresh in a wood-burning oven. Try the spit-roasted kebab, wood-fired somun bread and spicy ajvar (a roasted red-pepper relish) spooned overstuffed pide (a Turkish flatbread).
Van Gogh's Eeterie, Springfield – Located in the historic Commercial Street district, this restaurant offers a Dutch-inspired menu that introduces a variety of pannenkoeken (pancakes), as well as nasi goring (fried Indonesian rice, banana, tofu, sweet soy and sambal).
Greek Belly, Springfield – Authentic Greek fare includes menu items made from scratch and/or imported from Greece. Enjoy traditional gyros and dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) with a side of tirokafteri (spicy feta dip). Your tastebuds will opa!
Little Danube, Ozark – Drawing on chef/owner David Prutenau's Romanian roots, the menu features Eastern European fare. Order traditional sarmale (cabbage rolls stuffed with rice, pork and herbs and topped with sour cream) or langos (fried dough covered with whipped ricotta, figs, thinly sliced prosciutto and dates).
Waldo Thai Place, Kansas City – Skip the pad thai and sample one of the many other authentic offerings such as hoisin brisket stir-fry or Hor Mok Ma Praw, steamed seafood curry custard with salmon, shrimp, scallop, crab meat and Thai basil on jasmine rice.
If you're eating the same old burger and fries when dining out, it's time to get out of your comfort zone. You don't have to travel the globe to savor exciting new flavors – be adventurous and try one of Show-Me State's new ethnic restaurants.
Written by Amanda Long