Eating and Drinking Your Way to a City’s Heart
The Gateway Arch, Missouri Botanical Garden and St. Louis Science Center are like fancy china dinnerware placed on the table when company comes over. They’re impressive tourist attractions, but they are not the everyday heart and soul of St. Louis. Eating and drinking at local restaurants, shops, breweries and bistros is a surer way to get to know the city’s character.
Kansas City, St. Louis’ cool cousin to the west, is far more than barbecue. Similarly, St. Louis has more to offer than Italian on The Hill, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, and the Anheuser-Busch brewery tour. Here are a dozen other local spots to explore.
Kakao, an award-winning chocolate shop opened by Brian Pelletier, has grown to three locations in Clayton, Maplewood and downtown St. Louis. These hand-dipped, small-batch confections, truffles, caramels, and barks are reason enough to the drive across the state. See their full selection at KakaoChocolate.com.
The Living Room
The Living Room is a serene coffee bar in Maplewood that serves its micro-roast Arthouse Coffees. Up-to-date on different hand-brewing methods, the baristas serve coffee in handmade ceramic mugs made by a local artist. Fresh baked breakfast sandwiches, scones, rolls and more are handy for light noshing. A full menu of coffees for home brewing is available at ArthouseCoffees.com.
Save room for a visit to nearby Strange Donuts, a wondrous place that opened two years ago and makes wild, decadent donuts. Classics include glazed, jelly-filled and salted caramel while other creations run the gamut from gooey butter to red velvet to blueberry cheesecake. Maple bacon is an automatic “yes, please.” Visit StrangeDonuts.com for a full lineup.
Bollard’s Meat & Provisions
Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions is an old-school butcher shop with a modern sensibility. Even if you can’t bring home a butcher’s box of locally raised, pastured, hand-cut meats, you can chow on their weekly sandwich special while supplies last each day. Check out weekly menus at BolyardsMeat.com.
While in Maplewood, pop over to Schlafly Bottleworks, the main production brewery for Schlafly beer. The 23,000 square-foot Bottleworks also houses a brewpub, retail space and tour room. Catch the one-hour class at Schlafly Beer School on Fridays at 2 and 4 p.m. but reserve tickets well in advance. Check the current tap list at Schlafly.com/Bottleworks.
Side Project Cellar
Nearby, Side Project Cellar is a hotspot for craft beer geeks. The tasting room has beers from small-batch Side Project Brewing among its 20 craft beer selections on tap. The website also maintains a list of available, highly coveted Side Project bottle beers on rotation at SideProjectBrewing.com/tasting-room.
Mission Taco is a street taco joint with locations in Soulard and Delmar Loop. The restaurant is SoCal meets Midwest with an upbeat vibe, solid craft beer selection and zero pretentiousness. Nontraditional tacos include chorizo, roasted duck, Baja fish, carne asada and even tofu. Or opt for a torta sandwich with street corn and finish with an order of churros. Check it out at MissionTacoJoint.com.
Urban Chestnut Grove Brewery
Bavarian- and Belgian-inspired craft beer and food can be enjoyed at the super-sized Urban Chestnut Grove Brewery and Bierhall. The main room houses numerous long wooden tables for community-style seating. Sample a flight of Zwickel lager and other beers as you nosh on a currywurst, schnitzel sandwich or charcuterie board. See a events and a full menu at UrbanChestnut.com.
For fancier fare, try the food at Niche. 2015 James Beard Best Chef–Midwest award-winning Chef Gerard Craft excels at preparing dishes using regional ingredients sourced from farmers and ranchers. If you can’t get a reservation, try Craft’s other restaurants Pastaria, Brasserie by Niche and Taste by Niche. Experience their menu at NicheStLouis.com.
4 Hands Brewing Company
4 Hands Brewing Company is a thriving craft brewery and taproom with a funky, vibrant atmosphere. It’s a great place to hang and grab a beer with friends or talk sports with the city’s fervent fans. Beers include American blonde ale Single Speed, hoppy Reprise Centennial Red Ale and the mighty War Hammer Imperial IPA. Hour-long brewery tours are held on Saturdays, noon and 4 p.m.. When you get hungry, order a bite from the adjacent counter, The Fifth Wheel. The in-house kitchen serves the Juicy Lucy grass-fed beef burger, spicy wings and barbecue sandwiches with pulled pork, brisket or veggie chorizo. See it all at 4HandsBrewery.com.
Heavy Riff Brewing
Heavy Riff Brewing is a brewpub in the traditional Irish enclave of Dogtown. Best-selling American brown ale Velvet Brown Underground also comes with a vanilla meets coffee-flavored version. For more traditional tastes, try the Argonaut American Pale Ale and Super Session Hoppy Wheat. While there, load up on a half-dozen barbecue sliders with a choice of smoked pork, beef brisket, turkey, tofu or seitan served on Hawaiian sweet rolls. See their rotation at HeavyRiffBrewing.com.
St. Louis offers plenty more to explore such as the growing options for ramen at Nami Ramen and Gaijin House Ramen. For the stout of appetite, there’s barbecue and whisky at The BBQ Saloon in the Central West End.
Eating and drinking across St. Louis is a dynamic way to explore its complexity and diversity. After all, there’s only so much toasted ravioli and gooey butter cake a person can stomach.