Sustainable, mindful cooking is the new black. Fortunately for St. Louis foodies, some of the most prominent chefs in this movement to place intention at the forefront of the culinary arts can be found right here in the River City. Most recently, the power couple Michael and Tara Gallina opened a plant-forward restaurant called Vicia that has sent the St. Louis food scene into a frenzy. After opening in late March of 2017, Vicia has already been named “Best New Restaurant” by Sauce Magazine, and was featured in prestigious Bon Appetit Magazine’s “Top 50 New Restaurants in America 2017.” This December, Vicia has been nominated for USA Today’s 10 Best New Restaurants, chosen alongside 19 other renowned restaurants nation-wide. After reading about Vicia’s instant success, I instinctively hopped online to make a reservation as soon as possible.

The Location

Clare Schrodt

Vicia is appropriately located in the heart of Cortex, a center for innovation near the Central West End in St. Louis. Just as its surroundings suggest, Vicia’s sleek, modern, and simple aesthetic fit perfectly with the theme of modern revolution. One of my favorite aspects of the dining experience is the open-concept kitchen that promptly catches the eye upon entering the dining space.

The Dinner Menu

A welcoming, yet elevated dining experience followed. Vicia's team of chefs and servers encourage shared dishes, particularly for dinner. Between one other person and myself, we ordered a total of 6 small dishes. Among the dishes I ordered, I was most surprised and captivated by the Missouri wheat berriesVicia's wheat berry dish description briefly lists the ingredients of sweet potato, brown butter, and seeds, and I was curious how these ingredients would be combined. The wonder of the Missouri wheat berries dish came to reality as each bite produced a delightful balance of sweet and savory flavor. Packed with a familiar fall essence, the classic sweet potato flavor combined with the textural element of the crunchy seeds and wheat berries had us drooling. To finish dinner, we inhaled the apple tatin, a masterful combination of cinnamon apples, a molasses crisp, and topped with a spiced ice cream.

The menu is constantly rotating with the availability of fresh, local ingredients, so some of the dishes I ordered, including the glazed crispy carrots with cabbage ketchup, stone ground polenta, and build-your-own tacos with finely sliced radishes as taco shells, are sadly no longer available. However, don't be alarmed. This simply means that Vicia's development team intentionally seeks to optimize in-season vegetables to produce a fresh, creative menu to keep its clientele on its toes with each menu adjustment. 

The Lunch Menu

Clare Schrodt

In addition to Vicia's evening fare, the restaurant offers a casual lunch menu. Available Monday-Friday from 11:00 AM- 1:30 PM, this lunch option is much more college-budget friendly. I recently stopped by for lunch and picked up a tartine of whipped goat cheese and pesto topped with roasted carrots. Once again, Vicia’s flavors showcased the flavor benefit of highlighting local, in-season foods.

Clare Schrodt

Paired with the tartine, I had a cauliflower soup with charred vegetable mole and popcorn powder. As with all of Vicia's menu offerings, it was an atypical combination, but the fusion of the creamy cauliflower with popcorn powder gave the dish a desired saltiness and texture.

Clare Schrodt

Also available that day was a build-your-own tuna sandwich and a vegetable quiche. The lunch menu offers an affordable way for college students to experience Vicia without breaking the bank, featuring an option of ordering two menu items for $11 or three items for $14. This nationally ranked hub of food innovation sits within walking distance of SLU, providing even more of a reason to gather some friends and give it a try. 

Revolutionary Dining

Beyond the classic dining experience, Vicia offers a chef’s tasting menu, a full bar, and non-alcoholic drinks, like ginger-spiced apple cider. The accolades this all-encompassing, plant-forward restaurant has received are more than deserved, and with each rotation of the menu, Vicia proves itself to be at the cutting edge of both refined dining and local sourcing. 

The success of a restaurant that so deeply values farmer relationships and places an emphasis on preparation and presentation of undervalued vegetables indicates a shift in modern dining. Perhaps a place like Vicia will inspire more chefs to consider new and interesting ways to place vegetables at the center of main dishes. Most importantly, Vicia’s approach to food highlights that above all, intentionality with what we eat can absolutely make a difference, and sustainability should play a major role in such a central part of our lives.