The Beautiful, Historical City of St. Louis
St. Louis is a magnetic sort of place. When people move here, they are unlikely to leave. The communities are approachable, the landscape is lush and the cultural offerings are immeasurable. It's truly a hidden gem.
When I first learned that my husband had grown up in St. Louis, nothing really came to mind. I really didn't know anything about it. I didn't even know that it is the "Gateway to the West" or that it was the largest city on the Lewis and Clark trail or that it hosted the World's Fair in 1904. Maybe that's because I hated history and geography, or maybe it's because St. Louis tends to fly under the radar. Lately, St. Louis has popped up in the news for some unpleasant things, but I need you to hear me: it is so much more than all of that. I feel safe in this city; it feels like home. It allows you to establish yourself here, but it also keeps you on your toes. If you are truly going to understand the heart of this place, it helps for you to be willing to explore a little bit. We have a beautiful fusion of the old and new. It's a pleasant collision of tradition and innovation that invites fresh faces in for the experience. St. Louis has a rich history, a diverse population, a forward-thinking restaurant scene, plenty of green space, and free museums. It is really enjoyable to show friends and family around in my city, because it sells itself. I have a few favorite spots that I have to check off the list every time a new person comes to visit. Using those things as a jumping off point, I've come up with a list of places to eat, things to do, and places to stay. I highly encourage you to consider visiting St. Louis at some point. It will not disappoint.
- Bowood Farms' Cafe Osage
- Blues City Deli
- Gioia's Deli
- Salt and Smoke
- The Libertine
- Nacho Mama's
- The St. Louis Arch
- The City Museum
- The Missouri Botanical Garden
- The St. Louis Zoo
- Forest Park
- The Delmar Loop
- The St. Louis Art Museum
- The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis
- The Saint Louis Science Center
- The Magic House
- Cardinal's Game at Busch Stadium
I love food. Eating is my favorite. Needless to say, this is my favorite category. Like I said before, there are some really exciting things happening in St. Louis's food scene right now.
Scape is located in the Central West End. It has a really lovely ivy-covered courtyard and a delicious Brunch with a make your own bloody mary bar. In the past, I have gotten the eggs benedict or a good ole crepe, but I recently had a pretty amazing encounter with the pecan praline sourdough french toast. Yeah. That exists.
Bowood Farms is one of my favorite places in the city. It's a garden center, an Anthro-esque store and a Brunch spot (Cafe Osage) all rolled into one. The menu is unique and delicious, and walking through the gardens makes for a great activity to follow your meal.
Pastaria is an Italian family-friendly, pasta-forward restaurant. It's offerings are solid. Everything that I have tried was delicious. Even the freshly baked bread they bring to your table is mind-blowingly good. I would probably be happy to just eat like eighteen loaves of bread, but I like to order either the wood oven baked eggs for brunch or the mixed greens salad, the strozzapretti with amatriciana sauce or the margherita pizza for dinner. Or the risotto balls. Oh and gelato.
This deli is a groovy sort of sandwich shop, that celebrates the soul of our city and all of the other stops along the Blues Highway. It was also included in Yelp's 2017 list of the top 100 places to eat in America. Their primary menu items are all classic NOLA cuisine, such as the Po-Boy and Muffaletta. Yum. (sidenote: they also have a pizzeria, called Melo's and it's my fave Neapolitan pizza in STL.)
Gioia's Deli on the Hill (The historically Italian neighborhood in St. Louis) has been awarded many accolades, including the James Beard Award. It's secret is in its tradition. The owner, Alex Donley, hasn't made any significant changes to the deli saying, "I honor it, and get out [of] the way." Gioia's has been in his family since 1980. They are most famous for their homemade hot salami.
Serving up Texas style brisket barbecue, pit beans with bacon, coleslaw and bourbon cocktails, Salt and Smoke has somehow managed to separate itself from the rest of the pack of barbecue joints here in St. Louis. The atmosphere is warm and friendly and it reminds me of home. If you are from Texas and are feeling homesick, get yourself to Salt and Smoke.
The Libertine is in Clayton, calling itself a "neighborhood eatery." That seems like a couple of trendy buzzwords thrown together, but when you walk through the front door, you realize that it is perfectly apt. It is a friendly restaurant run by interesting people who love good food and want you to join the fun. Try the double diner burger (yes, the burger) or the black gnocchi and white truffles. Also be sure to order a cocktail from one of their truly remarkable mixologists, such as the Yellow Jacket. That just so happens to be my husband's favorite cocktail.
I grew up in Houston on a diet that consisted mostly of chips and queso, from legitimate Tex-Mex restaurants. We Texans can get pretty high and mighty about our Mexican food, but now that I've left Texas, I can tell you that there really is nothing like it. I was craving it so badly once I moved to St. Louis. So when I happened upon Nacho Mama's, I was incredibly excited. It's the closest thing to home that I've found. It's very casual and family friendly, often cranking out some Beach Boys and Sam Cooke, and serving up delicious fajita tacos and margaritas. It is sublime.
Publico is a Latin-inspired restaurant that is picking apart and re-assembling traditional Mexican and South American dishes. One such dish is the Arepas with guacamole, queso and salsa. Most of the dishes are prepared on a wood-burning hearth, which further accentuates the warm and rustic atmosphere. Try a paloma cocktail and pair it with the carnitas tacos. Hey, maybe go ahead and throw in a few of their "Platos Pequenos." You deserve it.
This peruvian restaurant is an immersive experience. The music, food and ambient lighting throw you into a sort of stupor and you start to believe that maybe you're not in America anymore. I'm a huge fan of the plantain chips with chimichurri that they serve to every table. Try the Lomo Saltado or the Ceviche de Pescado and a Nori's famous sangria, which has a touch of cinnamon.
Full disclosure, I haven't gotten to go to Nixta yet, but it just got written up in Bon Appetit as one of the top 10 new restaurants in America. That seems like a good enough reason to include it on this list. It's a colorful, fun modern mexican restaurant that becomes a bar with salsa dancing on the weekends. Everything on the menu sounds tasty, but if I had to pick something now, it would be the chorizo butter-poached shrimp tostadas with avocado. That sounds pretty darn good.
This is basically the traditional "welcome-to-St. Louis" activity, because it's our most well known landmark. Designed by Eero Saarinen, the arch was built to symbolize our city's role as the Gateway to the West and to commemorate the settlers who ventured into Western America. Fun fact: it is as wide as it is tall. You can take a ride in a tiny space-age pod inside of the arch all the way to the top for some pretty cool views. My personal favorite part of the arch is that you can see it from so many places in the city. In a plane coming into St. Louis, instead of saying "Hey! I can see my house from here!" everyone says, "Hey! It's the arch!"
The city museum is just the most wonderfully ridiculous place. The fact that someone created this magical wonderland is astounding to me. It resides in an old shoe factory that is 10 stories tall, and within it, you will find slides, ball pits, a circus school, tunnels, petrified trees, an aquarium, more tunnels, an actual museum, a carousel, a school bus, and plenty of hidden passageways that make you feel like the best explorer in the entire world. You'll just be walking along and there will be a tiny hole in the ground, and suddenly someone just pops right out of it! It's hard to explain this place properly, so you'll just have to go and see for yourself!
The botanical garden is massive (it's 79 acres) and it's the oldest botanical garden in the nation. It's a wonderful place to go on a Saturday in fall, when you want to see some leaves changing. There are some fountains for the kiddos to play in, a greenhouse of cacti, a vast collection of orchids, and a large Japanese strolling garden.
The zoo is my favorite go-to activity in St. Louis. First of all, it's free and second of all, it's a really great zoo. Because it doesn't cost us anything, I don't necessarily feel obligated to stay there for as long as possible. We just walk right in and then, when Laurel or Rebecca start having a tantrum, I can just walk right out again! It's a good destination even when it's cold because they have the monkey and bird houses indoors. They have a fantastic childrens' zoo, which does actually cost money, but it's worth it every once in a while in my opinion. My favorite exhibits are the seas lions, the penguins and the polar bear. Oh, plus it was voted America's top free attraction.
Forest Park is an immense swath of green in the middle of St. Louis. It houses the zoo, art museum, history museum, something called the jewel box, the "Muny" which is an outdoor amphitheater that puts on musicals, a golf course, and plenty of lakes and trails and gardens. You can go there every day and see a new part of the beautiful park every time.
There is a stretch of Delmar Boulevard that is flanked on both sides by cute shops, art galleries, great restaurants and cool venues. It's referred to as the loop, when in truth, it's just six blocks of awesome in a straight line. It's best to go at night, when you can get the full effect of the neon lights.
The St. Louis Art Museum sits atop "Art Hill" in Forest Park, overlooking the Grand Basin. It is free to the public, but also features additional rotating exhibits that may not be free, but are often worth it.
I still have not been here, but I have heard that it's incredible. The thousands upon thousands of mosaic tiles that cover the vaulted ceilings are breathtaking, and pictures do not do them justice, I am sure. It was built in 1914 and the mosaics were installed just a few years later. I can't even imagine how long that would take. Just amazing.
The science center is a great place to visit with kids, because it has things that will interest adults and children alike! The general admission is always free. Currently, they have a King Tut exhibit going on. They have a planetarium and an omnimax as well!
The Magic House is basically just an old Victorian-style home that has been converted into a fun learning-centered playhouse for kids of all ages. It has been continuously expanded and now looks like the most massive house ever. They have a bubble room, and a veterinarian room, an ice room, a construction room, a toddler room, and an entire room just for building forts! If it were not socially unacceptable for me to do so, I'd be allllll over those bubbles and forts.
If you're a sports fan, you could go to a Cardinal's game at Busch Stadium. It is quite an experience, but be sure to wear red if you don't wanna get weird looks from people. (Note the arch in the background. Hey! It's the arch! See? Now you're part of the club.)
Now, I know that St. Louis is not on many people's lists of places to visit because it isn't so well know, but I hope that this has nudged you in the right direction! It is a great city with so much to offer. Plus, if you need a tour guide, I'm always looking for reasons to get out of this crazy, toddler-centric house! #MeetmeinSt.Louis!
If you think your city deserves some recognition, I am planning to do a City Guide post to brag about a new city every month or so. Leave a comment below or you can email me your favorite spots in your city at blog@allisondozierinteriors.
WEBSITES: Scape // Cafe Osage // Pastaria // Blues City Deli // Gioia's // Salt and Smoke // The Libertine // Nacho Mama's // Publico // Mango // Nixta // The Arch // The City Museum // The Missouri Botanical Garden // The Zoo // Forest Park // The Loop // The Art Museum // The Cathedral Basilica // The Science Center // The Magic House // Busch Stadium // The Cheshire // The Moonrise // The Ritz // The Four Seasons // The Hampton Inn
PHOTO SOURCES: Cover Photo // Scape 1 and Scape 2 // Cafe Osage 1 and Cafe Osage 2 // Pastaria 1 and Pastaria 2 // Blues City Deli 1 AND Blues City Deli 2 // Gioia's Deli 1 and Gioia's Deli 2 // Salt and Smoke 1 and Salt and Smoke 2 // The Libertine 1 and The Libertine 2 // Nacho Mama's // Publico 1 and Publico 2 // Mango// Nixta 1 and Nixta 2// The Arch // The City Museum 1 and The City Museum 2 // The Missouri Botanical Garden // The Zoo 1 and The Zoo 2// Forest Park // The Delmar Loop // Art Museum 2 // The Basilica // The Science Center // The Magic House // Cardinal's Game // The Cheshire // The Moonrise 1 and Moonrise 2 // The Ritz // The Four Seasons // The Hampton Inn