Sadly, we seniors are graduating in four months. It seems impossible – wasn’t it just yesterday that we were eating half-n-half’s in BD and taking doors off the hinges in Danforth to “sneakily” play beer pong in dorm rooms? Alas, those days are far behind us, and it’s time to say goodbye. But first, the dreaded graduation dinner with your entire extended family, who will undoubtedly grill you about your five-year plan. If you’re going to sit through a celebration of the end of the best years of your life, you might as well go to a restaurant that you won’t be able to afford post-graduation. So, without further ado, here are the best restaurants in St. Louis for your bittersweet graduation dinner.

1. Elaia

Photo courtesy of STL Today.

Besides the fact that Elaia is consistently ranked one of the best restaurants in St. Louis (in 2014 it was one of St. Louis Magazine’s main picks for a special occasion restaurant), it’s the kind of place that will make you think to yourself, “If I could only marry this saddle of lamb and have its babies, then I could die a happy man.” It’s also the kind of place that will make your parents think college has taught you something about cooking besides how to insert alcohol into every dessert you can. The menu is a bit out there, so reserve a table at Elaia if you’re a little adventurous and want to impress your parents with your desire to “go out of your comfort zone.”

1634 Tower Grove Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110

2. The Crossing

Photo courtesy of STL Magazine.

The Crossing has been around for forever, and it’s still a go-to place for nights when you need to convince your parents you have your life together. It’s also conveniently located on Forsyth and is super cozy and cute, so enjoy the atmosphere and let your parents order copious amounts of wine. The Crossing is sophisticated but not stuffy, innovative but not weird, and altogether has something for everyone. Ideal if you have picky eaters in the family.

7823 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton, MO 63105

3. 801 Chophouse

Photo courtesy of STL Magazine.

St. Louis is best known for its barbecue, but if you think your extended family is into steak, 801 Chophouse is the ideal graduation dinner venue. This restaurant prides itself on having “prime USDA beef,” a term thrown around on steakhouse menus but clearly notable here – 801 Chophouse has only been around since 2013, but already it’s a staple on any “St. Louis Best Restaurants List.” This is a classic that is most definitely not out of the box, but will satisfy even the most finicky of palates.

137 Carondelet Avenue, Clayton, MO, 63105

4. Niche

Photo courtesy of Fodors.

Gerard Craft is practically a legend in St. Louis. All the basic betches frequent Pastaria on any given weekday, Brassiere is the consummate date night restaurant, and if you haven’t yet been to his pasta version of Chipotle, you haven’t really lived. But Niche is his baby. And for good reason: Niche is the type of restaurant where you walk away feeling high on life and full of so much delicious food that you might have to be rolled home. This is the place to go if your parents are from the East Coast and not convinced that the Midwest has a viable food scene. Word to the wise: they can’t accommodate parties over 6, so if you’re like me and both your sets of grandparents are coming (gag me), this unfortunately won’t be an option for you.

7734 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton, MO 63105

5. Scape

Photo courtesy of STL Magazine.

Scape has unreal food, of course – their oven roasted artichoke appetizer makes me drool, and their macadamia nut chicken is truly a work of art – but this restaurant is a real winner because you can sit outside in the courtyard, surrounded by flowers and tealights. May in St. Louis is pretty ideal, warm but not too humid, breezy but not torrentially windy, and I highly recommend taking advantage of Scape’s unique setting. It doesn’t hurt that the Central West End is utterly gorgeous and the restaurant looks like it should be on a movie set. Do it for the Insta!

48 Maryland Plaza, St. Louis, MO, 63108

Honorable Mentions

Herbie’s Vintage 72
405 N Euclid, St. Louis, MO 63108

Cafe Napoli
7754 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton, MO, 63105

Eleven Eleven Mississippi
1111 Mississippi Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63104

The Tavern Kitchen & Bar
392 N Euclid Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63108

I Fratellini
7624 Wydown Boulevard, 63105

Now, go forth and prosper! You might as well eat good food while you struggle through interrogations about when you’re going to start having kids.

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