Monday, June 29, 2009

Our Favorite Restaurant

Every place where Dave and I have lived, we've always found a local eatery where we ended up grabbing a disproportionate number of meals. Sometimes it takes longer than others, but generally we eventually find that our favorite restaurant is within walking distance of our home. The trend began when we lived in Budapest, Hungary and found an excellent little restaurant called Hemingway, perched out over a lake in our neighborhood park. The setting was lovely, the food was comfortable, and we could walk there within 5 minutes. We moved from Budapest to St. Louis, and lived in a small apartment on the edge of Saint Louis University's campus. There I began work waiting tables at a small pizza shop called Vito's. Since then, the small pizza shop has opened a bigger (and nicer) place down the street, but it still stands as the best pizza in St. Louis. When we moved a few miles away to Forest Park Southeast, we were lucky to have The Billy Goat open up at the edge of the neighborhood. Hands down the best burgers in town, the Billy Goat also had great chicken salad, grilled cheese, and more. They specialized in bar food done well, with a chef on staff who would occasionally put together 5-course meals for regular customers. We loved it.

We moved to Shanghai, and immediately found a love for street food. In Pudong, our most frequent meal was dumplings purchased in the lane by our home. But when we moved to Puxi, we found very little street food near our home. We have only discovered our new favorite, and nearly too late - as we plan to move into the French Concession (still Shanghai) on September 1.

I don't even know the name, as I've never noticed a sign out front. But you can tell the restaurant because there's always a man with a little white cap standing at the grill in front, cooking up amazing lamb kebabs. The man is Uighur, a Chinese minority group hailing from Xinjiang, the northwestern-most province of China. The Muslim tradition of this province as well as its borders along the K-stans and historic trade with the middle east create a wonderul distinct food. Many dishes have some connection to Chinese food, but seem closer to the middle east. Grilled lamb, baked flat breads, and all sorts of foods which I can't identify but love to eat are succulent and juicy, or fluffy and warm. The milk tea and the bitter yogurt make perfect compliments, and we all down everything.

Now that we've discovered what we thought to be our little hole in the wall - apparently also discovered by the NY Times! - I've vowed to eat there every week until we've moved to our new home. And maybe again until we find our new local haunt.

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