Photography by Jim Trotter / courtesy © St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission
When you think about St. Louis, the first things to come to mind might be the Arch, Six Flags, the Cardinals and Busch Stadium, or the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. But what else is going on in St. Louis? Where do the locals go to eat and play? Luckily, we’ve got a few St. Louisan connections, and they’ve shared with us some of their favorite places. Since the Lou isn’t too far from Memphis, it’s a great place to spend a weekend. Here are a handful of cool spots worth checking out while you’re there.
1. Cherokee Street
Historically known as the home of “Antique Row” — a six-block stretch of antique, collectible, and specialty shops — Cherokee Street now resembles a mixture of Memphis’ South Main Street and Broad Avenue arts districts. In addition to several antique shops, the street is lined with hip bars, art galleries, retail stores, cafes, and restaurants. Highlights include The Fortune Teller Bar (for fancy drinks, meats, and cheeses), ArtBar (for all of those things plus art), La Vallesana (for authentic Mexican food), and STL-Style (for St.Louis-centric shopping).
This historic French neighborhood (pronounced soo-lard and translated to “drunkard” in French) houses the Anheuser-Busch Brewery and is one of the city’s oldest communities. Its streets are lined with red-brick townhomes, unique restaurants, and plenty of dive bars (like the Cat’s Meow). Soulard is home to the oldest farmer’s market west of the Mississippi — the Soulard Market, which runs Wednesdays through Saturdays year-round and features more than 100 vendors. Soulard also hosts two of St. Louis’ biggest annual events, Mardi Gras and Oktoberfest.
3. Laumeier Sculpture Park
This 105-acre open-air museum and sculpture park is home to more than 60 outdoor sculptures that can be seen while strolling along a 1.4-mile scenic walking trail. Among the works of art on view: Tony Tasset’s Eye — a giant eyeball constructed with fiberglass, resin, oil paint, and steel; and Alexander Liberman’s The Way — an abstract piece made from salvaged steel oil tanks that stands 65 feet tall and stretches 102 feet wide. An 1816 Tudor stone mansion houses the museum’s indoor art gallery. Laumeier is free and open to the public year-round.
4. Pi Pizzeria
To St. Louisans, Pi is known for its deep-dish cornmeal crust and pies that aren’t the typical St. Louis style (i.e., thin crust made without yeast and topped with Provel cheese). But a more noteworthy distinction may be one given by President Obama, who is said to have dubbed it his favorite pizza. He even invited Pi’s owner and baker-in-chief to bake pizzas for him and his staffers at the White House. Talk about a testimonial! This award-winning pizzeria has five St. Louis-area locations, as well as a mobile pizza truck, Pi on the Spot, which was the city’s first food truck.
5. Three Sixty
For a sky-high, panoramic view of downtown St. Louis — without having to take a trip up the Arch — Three Sixty is the place to be. From 400 feet above the city, enjoy a Wish Upon a Cardinal — a cocktail made with apricot brandy, Cointreau, Yellow Chartreuse, and lemon — while looking down right into Busch Stadium. Situated atop the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark, this rooftop bar and restaurant offers breathtaking views, a locally sourced small-plates menu, and a variety of specialty libations.
6. South Grand Boulevard
Not far from the renowned Missouri Botanical Garden, South Grand Boulevard is lined with unique restaurants, shops, and other worthy stops. There you’ll find the Fox Theatre and Tower Grove Park — site of the International Institute’s annual Festival of Nations celebration. But South Grand has a year-round international flair. With a variety of American, Italian, Thai, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, and Ethiopian restaurants, you can take your taste buds on a trip around the world. Highlights include MokaBe’s Coffee House, Pho Grand, Absolutli Goosed Martini Bar, and Gelateria Del Leone.
Great for a dinner stop, this upscale foodie destination in the Benton Park neighborhood is helmed by chef/owner Gerard Craft — a four-time James Beard Foundation finalist for Best Chef: Midwest and Food and Wine’s 2008 Best New Chef. Earlier this year, he was featured on CBS This Morning sharing a recipe for pistachio ravioli with brown butter. The menu — a short list of delicious, locally inspired and sourced dishes — changes often, according to season and availability of regional foods. Currently featured items include pork belly, quail, Baetje Farms cheese, and pecan semifreddo.
8. Lafayette Square
Home to beautiful painted-lady Victorian homes, independently owned restaurants, unique boutiques, and lush gardens, Lafayette Square is a great place to spend a day shopping, dining, or just relaxing and taking in nature. Lafayette Park is situated in the neighborhood’s backyard, with walking paths, a beautifully landscaped grotto, and the historic Park House. Notable destinations include Park Avenue Coffee — which makes a delicious ooey-gooey butter cake, St. Louis’ signature dessert; and Square One Brewery and Distillery — which offers a “Spirits of St. Louis” distilled spirits tasting and a selection of beers brewed in-house.
9. World Bird Sanctuary
One of North America’s largest facilities for the conservation of birds, the World Bird Sanctuary occupies 305 acres of Missouri hardwood forest. Home to more than 200 animals, the sanctuary offers an entertaining environmental education experience, including live displays of bald eagles, owls, hawks, falcons, vultures, parrots, reptiles, and more. The World Bird Sanctuary is located near Lone Elk County Park and Chubb Trail and is perfect for a day of wildlife watching with the family. The sanctuary is open year-round (with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas) and allows free entry and parking.
10. The Fountain on Locust
The list of “Best” awards this place has received over the years is extensive: Best Ice Cream Parlor, Best Grilled Cheese, Best Soup, Best Decor (the list goes on). The menu includes a variety of made-from-scratch salads, sandwiches, and entrees. But the Fountain is best known for its old-fashioned soda fountain and ice creams. Offering “Adult Ice Cream Sauces” and “Adult Floats” (like the Sparkling Champagne Float), no wonder locals love it. The standout menu section (for me) is the list of signature ice cream martinis, like the Ugly Stepsister — made with vodka, triple sec, orange sherbet, and black cherry ice cream. Yes, please!
Special thanks to St. Louisans and friends James Eddy and Jason Ledet and St. Louis magazine’s editor-in-chief, Jarrett Medlin, for their input on this piece.