I came across Lona’s Lil Eats after receiving some spot-on restaurant advice from a friend. It took three attempts to actually dine at the restaurant due to their somewhat limited business hours but it was worth the wait!
What started as a stand in Soulard Market, is now a brick-and-mortar restaurant located on an unassuming corner in the Fox Park neighborhood. Lona’s serves up what can be best described as Asian soul food, pulling flavors from her native home in the Yunnan province of Southern China. The restaurant is set up so that you order at the counter and food is delivered to your table. What is normally a less than personal restaurant format is exactly the opposite at Lona’s. Every employee was welcoming, friendly, and helpful. They even brought us a shot of spiked punch from the bar when they heard it was our first time at the restaurant.
The star of the menu is the build-your-own rice paper wraps (think Asian version of Chipotle). You choose your protein (grilled chicken, pulled turkey, spicy tofu, grilled steak, or stir-fried shrimp), then your staple (whole-grain rice, jasmine rice, glass noodles, stir-fry glass noodles, or lettuce mix), and finish it off with of one of five sauce choices. Each wrap is served with your choice of a side dish. There are also salad options, suggested wrap combinations, and plates which allow you to try more than one protein. Be sure to do yourself a favor and start with an appetizer of dumplings, you won’t regret it.
To start, my husband and I shared an order of dumplings, half mushroom and half mushroom and steak. They were full of flavor and served with a spicy sauce. Our entrees arrived on trays covered with white parchment paper. My wrap was stuffed with stir-fry shrimp, stir-fry glass noodles, and spicy sesame sauce. The wrap was quite large and held together surprisingly well. While I loved the bold flavors, I was left regretting all of my spicy fillers which were just too much for me. It was served with a side of spicy eggplant which luckily had a little less heat than I was expecting. It tasted like it had been marinating for days leaving it with great texture and flavor (my eggplant-hating husband even enjoyed this dish). My husband ordered a chicken wrap filled jasmine rice, lettuce mix, and Lona-Q sauce with a side of the village bamboo stew which was an unfamiliar tasting, yet interesting dish of pickled bamboo. We both agreed that portions of food are large and filling but leave you feeling healthy and light at the end of your meal.
Overall, my experience at Lona’s was great. I loved the unique concept and have found nothing else like it in St. Louis. Just be sure to call and check the hours before heading there.
Lona’s Lil Eats is located at 2199 California Ave St. Louis, MO 63104