The New Latin Flavor: Modern Mexican and Beyond in St. Louis

Call it “modern Mexican” or “Latin fusion,” or just call it “so tasty”: there’s a new wave of restaurants bringing a fresh interpretation of the cuisines of our beyond-the-southern-border neighbors. Chips and salsa, take a seat.

Público

Among the newest hotspots in town, this Latin-American taberna (or tavern) is turning out dishes like grilled oysters, smoky grilled baby octopus, ceviche, and smoked whitefish tacos. That plus a stylishly simple dining room make for a must-dine experience. 

Lücha

Homey renditions of pozole, slow-cooked pork belly simmered in green mole sauce, and street tacos in ten varieties (including lamb and turkey) fit the bill of the self-described “Mexican soul food” here. 

Milagro Modern Mexican

This homegrown spot pulls out all the stops with specials like blue crab-stuffed empanadas, sweet potato-chorizo hash, strip steak, some terrific tequila cocktails…and fresh, handmade tortillas for which they source their own masa.  

Fritanga

How about a foray into Nicaraguan cuisine? From the starter crispy plantain chips to pupusas (oversized, puffy corn cake filled with deliciousness) and carne asada, there’s a lot to explore.  

Maya Café

Rather than let it all blend into a menu mish-mash of Latin America-esque, the folks here take the time to indicate the country of origin for their dishes; we recommend the zucchini squash blossom quesadilla (Mexico), or perhaps you’d like the kick of the coffee- and chile-rubbed pork loin slices (Cuba). Your meal is your map, and there are no wrong turns. Special nod, too, to the décor by local artist Bill Christman. 

 Maya Café

Cantina Laredo

Upscale approach to Mexican dishes like enchiladas  (the lump crab variety is one standout) and tacos; house specialties also include a carnitas torta (griddled sandwich featuring roasted pork, a fried egg, apricot spread and goat cheese) and the shrimp-stuffed relleno pepper. 

Mango

You say “aji,” I say “yum”: Peru’s indigenous hot pepper is a recurring ingredient in many dishes at this sumptuous Peruvian restaurant (although not all the food is ultra-spicy!) It gives heat to the creamy sauce served over shredded chicken and baby Yukon Gold potatoes, in the aji de gallina, and punches up the roasted mahi mahi/mussels/scallops/calamari/shrimp dish quite understandably called pescado a lo macho. A sleeper favorite? The palta rellena: creamy vegetable salad served in an avocado. No fire-breathing after that one. 

Amanda Doyle
About the author

Amanda served as the St. Louis associate editor a...