Meet us in St. Louis

Posted on Mar 20, 2014 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Paul Brickler, St. Louis Chapter leaderIf you’re headed to St. Louis this weekend for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, you need to read this. Paul Brickler, a’02, St. Louis Chapter leader, shares his best suggestions for places to go, things to see and what to eat and drink while you’re in town. Paul helpfully provides info about several popular districts in the city, including downtown, Forest Park, the Central West End and more.

Downtown: Dining and Drinking

There are a lot of great establishments to visit in downtown St. Louis, especially along the vibrant Washington Avenue corridor, which features a number of unique restaurants, bars and shopping opportunities. Some of my favorite places to eat and drink downtown include:

St. Louis Arch, by shock264 on Flickr

Photo credit: shock264 via Flickr

1. For a brunch, my favorite two places downtown are Blondie’s (1301 Washington Ave.) and Rooster (1104 Locust St.).  Blondie’s serves one of the best, most diverse menus for weekend brunch, and Rooster features the best crepes in the city. Both have excellent coffee.

2. If you are looking for a familiar lunch you can’t go wrong at Planet Sub (211 N. 9th St.). You may know this place better as the famous Yellow Sub from Lawrence. If you need a quick bite and are already downtown, it’s great to get a little taste from home.  Also, they give a discount to KU students and alumni.

3. Pi Pizzeria (610 Washington Ave.) features excellent pizzas in both the deep-dish Chicago style and a thin crust variety. They serve all sorts, from vegan to meat-lovers, and have a fun atmosphere to go along with their great pizzas.

4. For a great brewpub lunch or dinner, or even just for excellent beer, try Schlafly Tap Room (2100 Locust St.). They are perhaps the largest of the many locally-owned, family-run micro-breweries that St. Louis is famous for, but they may have the best selection when it comes to food. Ask to try the spicy ketchup, it’s really good.

5. If you like excellent wine, good beer, and small plates, Robust Wine Bar (635 Washington Ave.) has a great selection of all three, with an intimate atmosphere to go with it. Probably the best prosciutto I have sampled outside of Italy, too.

Downtown: Cultural Attractions

Most people would expect the Gateway Arch to appear here, but at present, I would advise against going. The grounds are in the midst of a major renovation so access is limited and many of the attractions are closed. You can still get an excellent view of it from Market Street, though, on your way to the Scottrade Center.

Instead, check out the City Museum (750 N. 16th St), a sculptural menagerie of found objects (airplanes, school buses, etc.) blended with architecture to create a sort of educational and experiential fun-house/playground that’s very entertaining to visit. The cost is about $12 per person, but there’s no place like it anywhere. Kids love it, but so has every adult I’ve taken there. Don’t be afraid to try the three-story-high roller-slide down to the lobby. It’s nowhere near as intense as the ten-story spiral slide from the roof. The museum also features the World’s Largest Pencil and an aquarium. It’s difficult to explain if you haven’t been, but I highly recommend it.

City Museum, photo by Jon DeJong via Flickr

City Museum, photo by Jon DeJong via Flickr

Downtown West/Saint Louis University area

The SLU campus and its neighborhood cover an area west of downtown that spans from Lindell Boulevard to Market Street, both East and West of Grand Boulevard. There are a number of great places to visit around there as well.

1.  For the best barbecue available in St. Louis, you have to go to Pappy’s Smokehouse (3106 Olive St.). They just do everything right. It’s amazing.

2.  Vito’s (3515 Lindell Blvd.) is famous for their award-winning Sicilian-style pizzas, but they also have a full menu of fantastic Italian dishes to go along with it. Or so they tell me. I ALWAYS get a pizza. You won’t be disappointed either way.

3.  The Field House (510 N. Theresa Ave.) is a great little sports bar just north of the SLU campus where you can watch all the games. Just make sure SLU isn’t scheduled to play before you go, or you may find the place overrun with Billikens. SLU students and fans are generally easy-going and friendly, though.

4.  Another great local microbrewery has set up shop not far from the SLU campus.  Urban Chestnut (3229 Washington Ave.) makes some of the best beers available in St. Louis. I highly recommend the Zwickel and the Schnickelfritz, but there are several others.  We recently hosted a KU Alumni Association happy hour there, and it was a huge success. The large patio is nice – when the weather is – but they have plenty of cozy space inside when the weather isn’t cooperating.

Downtown South – Soulard, Lafayette Square:

Just south of downtown are the historic districts of Soulard and Lafayette Square. Soulard is known for its Farmer’s Market and an abundance of unique bars, while Lafayette Square tends toward the culinary. Here are a few of my favorites in that area:

1. 4 Hands Brewery (1220 S. 8th St.) makes some of the finest barrel-aged craft beer in St. Louis, and their tasting room does an awesome job of pairing it with unique, flavorful dishes for a modest price (most dishes are under $10). This place is a must-visit for any beer enthusiast.

2. If finer dining and even better cocktails are more your thing, I recommend the Planter’s House (1000 Mississippi). They have a small menu, but everything on it is superb. They make a poutine that would make French Canadians cry, and their Spaetzle is something I will probably tell my grandchildren about. But they can be a bit spendy, depending on your tastes and appetite. Their bartenders are full-fledged mixologists. It’s probably not the most appropriate place for children, but adults should have a great time.

3. If you have the time, consider an Anheuser-Busch Brewery (1200 Lynch St.) tour. They are free, last a little over an hour and feature free samples at the end. The kids probably won’t enjoy the samples as much as you do, but they might get a kick out of seeing the Clydesdale horses. The scale of the operation is impressive, and they include a lot of history about beer, Prohibition, and globalization in their tour.

St. Louis, via kla4067 on Flickr

City of St. Louis, photo credit kla4067 via Flickr

Areas to visit outside of Downtown

1.  The Hill is St. Louis’ version of Little Italy, which runs along I-44 from Kingshighway to Hampton, and it has a vast array of neighborhood markets and restaurants. Some of my favorite restaurants there are Cunetto (5453 Magnolia Ave.) and Anthoninos’s Taverna (2225 Macklind Ave.) but there are many, many more.  John Volpi’s Market, at 5258 Daggett, made a lot of the Italian-style cold cut meats for the East Coast deli’s during World War II, when imports from Italy were prohibited.

2.  Forest Park is home to the majority of the large cultural institutions in St. Louis, almost all of which are free to visit. These include the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Science Center, the St. Louis Art Museum and the History Museum. The only fees you will pay are for parking at the Zoo lot (park nearby and walk, Forest Park is lovely) or for tickets for certain special exhibits.

3.  The Delmar Loop in University City is a lot like Mass Street in Lawrence – walkable streets with unique shops, restaurants, and bars. The Loop is just to the northwest of Forest Park. It’s also an easy MetroLink ride from downtown, if you like.

4.  Another great little district to visit, the Central West End, is just to the east of Forest Park and is also located adjacent to a Metro stop. There are a lot of great restaurants, shops, clubs and pubs in this vibrant neighborhood.

5.  A visit to the Missouri Botanical Gardens costs $8 for adults, but is free for children age 12 and under. As the former estate of Henry Shaw, it features an incredible multitude of flowering plants on display in a meticulously manicured walking garden. But that’s not their primary mission: the Garden sponsors research in the plant sciences and harbors several rare plant species which are nearing extinction, with the goal of maintaining biodiversity among our plants in a sustainable way.

Many thanks to Paul for sharing a great list of tips for visitors to St. Louis! What would you add to the list? Email us at share@kualumni.org.

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