36 Hours in St. Louis

Hey everyone! This post has been a long time coming–both in that I’ve fallen behind in my secret commitment to get a couple posts out each week, and in terms of the topic: St. Louis!

My in-laws sent us an article recently about where to go during a 36-hour trip to St. Louis. It was *full* of tourist-traps, pricey restaurants, and odd recommendations. It really didn’t capture my St. Louis at all. So I figured, why not write my own?

Why haven’t I written this yet??

So, thirty-six hours is a little tough. There’s *so much* to potentially do, and a day and a half barely cuts it. You’ll have to skip the ballgame–though a 48+ hour trip during baseball season has to include a trip to Ballpark Village, which is just as fun as being in the stadium!

We’ll start with hotels. It obviously depends on price-point and location, but unless you have a legitimate reason for being *Downtown*, don’t stay there. If you’re a Four Seasons type, maybe opt for the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton instead, since there’s more going on in Clayton. If you want to be in “the city,” I’d recommend the Chase Park Plaza in the Central West End. It’s right across from Forest Park, walkable to a lot of great bars/restaurants, and has a really nice pool. Dogtown is another fun neighborhood to look at if you want to be close to a lot. Finally, the Moonrise Hotel in the Delmar Loop is a really funky hotel with a great rooftop bar.

When you get in Friday evening, you’ll be hungry, so I’ve got a few excellent dinner options depending on price point, vibe, and your level of patience.

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If you don’t mind potentially waiting for a table and fighting a crowd, Mission Taco is a hip, fun spot for some excellent tacos and margaritas. I’m partial to the one in Central West End, but I’ve had a great time at the one in Delmar, too. They’ve got a few more locations, all of which I’m sure are fantastic. I *love* the battered fish taco, the hot chicken taco, and the soft taco (which has ground Impossible burger “meat”, and is seriously SO delish). The tacos are pretty small, I usually get 3 or 4 so definitely be prepared to mix and match if you’re going the taco route (PS if you want to save this for a late-night snack, they have $2 tequila and tacos after 10pm). My husband loves the brah-rito, which has like French fries and stuff in it. Their house margarita is excellent, but they’ve got an extensive cocktail menu and some great local beers on tap.

Tacos not your thing? Prefer a nice, quiet sit-down meal and generous portions of Italian cuisine? Go ahead and make a reservation at Charlie Gitto’s. Located in the Italian neighborhood (the Hill), it’s one of our favorite date-night spots. The menu is a little pricey compared to most other spots on this list, but even saying that, the prices aren’t outrageous by any means. The chicken parm is my go-to, but really all their food is solid.

Want some low-key pub food? Dressel’s is the spot! You might recognize the name from my husband’s favorite burgers of St. Louis post–this is the burger he raved about to his (fellow-burger-loving) father. Dressel’s is a Welsh pub that feels like you’ve crossed the Atlantic when you step inside, and everything on their menu is fresh and yummy. The fish and chips portion is HUGE. I am *obsessed* with the grilled cheese and tomato soup. Their veggie burger is also really great. They have a rotating tap of local beers and some really fun cocktails, and the staff is so friendly.

Saturday can be as packed or as low-key as you’d like it to be.

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You’ve arrived in the Gateway to the Midwest, so if there’s one *tourist* thing to do, check out the Gateway Arch! The Arch grounds were recently redone, so there’s a really nice grassy area beneath it, as well as the museum. If you want to go up in the Arch for stunning views, you do need to book this in advance.

If you book your Arch trip early enough, you could swing by the Anheuser-Busch Brewery for a *free* tour of the St. Louis landmark–complete with a tasting of the freshest Budweiser/Bud Light you’ll ever drink, as well as a free 16oz pour at the completion of the tour. Depending on the time of year, you might even get to see the Clydesdales! These tours can fill up, so I’d recommend trying to go on the earlier side (tours start anywhere from 9am to 11am depending on the time of year–we start early in the Lou!).

Don’t think for a second I’ve forgotten about lunch! I’ve got not one but two excellent sandwich options for you: Blues City Deli in Benton Park or Gramophone in the Grove. I’m a big fan of the Mike’s Spicy Beef n Cheddar at Blues City, and the hubs loves the Alcatraz at Gramophone, but both spots have a great selection of interesting combinations to choose from. Be prepared to stand in line (out the door) at Blues City, but it does move fast. I will add a note around the locations: both are surrounded by areas that feel a little run-down, but don’t be daunted! The Grove is a really trendy spot that’s well-traveled during the day (and has a fun nightlife, but it can get a little dicier in the early-morning hours), and Blues City is in more of a residential area. A final note about Gramophone: if you’re in the Grove already, you might as well swing by U.R.B. (Urban Chestnut’s Research Brewery) to do a $1 sample survey–you get three good-sized samples of beers they’re testing out, and just have to fill out a survey about the notes/aromas/tastes that are present for you, and how likely you’d be to order a full pour. They also have pretty delish pizza if you prefer that to sandwiches! If burgers are more your thing, Mac’s Local Eats is *the* place. It’s been featured on the Travel channel, and the line can wrap around the bar, but again, it generally moves fairly quickly (though they will take the time to explain their menu in detail to every newcomer). If Mac himself is there, he usually buys a bucket of Busch beers for those waiting in line to enjoy. They’re all smash-burgers, so if you like a thick, juicy, red burger, Dressel’s is your spot. If you like thin, juicy patties smothered in cheese, Mac’s is everything. (It’s my favorite, I love the double classic with everything. The double pimento burger and the dirty sancho have received rave reviews from friends and loved ones as well). Insider tip: Mac’s is located *inside* Tamm Avenue Bar and Grill–other than a small sidewalk sign, it’s pretty well hidden if you’re not in the know. Head inside and follow the bar around to the window in the kitchen, where Mac or one of his team will take your order and get you squared away. There’s also a great (dog-friendly!) patio and an arcade in the back!

Ok, sorry about all that–you guys know I love food, right?–back to the “things to do”. If you want a quieter day, or just a break from adventure for the afternoon, head over to Forest Park and just wander the paths. We’re so fortunate to live across the street from one end of the park, and it’s one of our favorite places to just enjoy being outside. There are a lot of grassy areas or benches to just sit and read or contemplate life. Forest Park also has two golf courses, the St. Louis Zoo, and St. Louis Art Museum. Both are free admission, both are fun–though the Zoo is often *very* crowded. Art Hill itself is lovely, the Art Museum standing on a hill overlooking the Grand Basin (Instagram-worthy photo op!). If you’ve got kiddos to entertain (or feel like being a kid yourself), City Museum downtown is SO fun! It’s the only place on the list with an admission fee (other than the Arch tour), but with those $12 you get to climb through caverns, slide down a 10 story slide, and/or navigate a wire cage up to a suspended airplane.

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Any of the restaurants I’ve already listed would make great dinner options, too. If you’ve got a car and want to explore into the county, Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria in Rock Hill has great pasta, interesting pizza combinations, and fun cocktails. Alternatively, Stone Turtle in Dogtown is a nice, cozy spot for good drinks and typical American fare (it might sound odd, but I also had some fantastic crab cakes there once). Speaking of cocktails, if you love a good craft cocktail you have to check out Taste in the Central West End. They have three pages of classic cocktails to choose from, plus a rotating menu of seasonal inventions. Their french fries are also *amazing*.

I didn’t go into the *many* brewery options, but if you enjoy beer, you’ve come to the right city! I’ve posted about the key ones I’ve enjoyed in more detail, but I’d definitely recommend checking out 4 Hands, Urban Chestnut, 2nd Shift, Alpha, and/or Rockwell Beer Co.

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Sunday morning before you leave, get (early) brunch at Cafe Osage. They can get pretty busy, but it is worth the wait. The french toast is my favorite, hubs loves the pancakes, but seriously everything on the menu is great. One note, the scrambled eggs do come pretty runny so you have to ask for them to be cooked firm if that’s your preference. It’s located within Bowood Farms nurseryso you can enjoy the plants and cute trinkets while you wait for a table. They’ve also got a cat who stands sentry near the door.

As you can see, I had a really hard time paring down all the places I love in St. Louis to fit into this post. If you take nothing else away from this exceptionally long rambling, know that St. Louis has something for everyone!

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The OTHER Lou: Our Louisville Adventure

Maybe I’m being obnoxious by referring to Louisville, KY as the other Lou. I don’t remember my US history all that well (sorry, Mr. Jones!) but I’m fairly certain Louisville came before St. Louis, at least in terms of US Cities. (Ok, because I love history and hate being wrong, I had to turn to the ol’Google. Turns out Louisville was chartered in 1780, while the settlement of St. Louis was established in 1764 BUT [and here’s where that history lesson paid off] didn’t become a US city until the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Thanks TJ!*)

Anyhoo, the hubs and I took advantage of the less-than-4-hour-drive for a long weekend mini-vacay (side note: I don’t know why I have to so aggressively defend the fact that Louisville is 4 hours from St. Louis. Several people have tried to dispute me on this *after* I’ve made the damn trip!). It was such a blast, despite the weather being pretty frigid. As my husband put it: we didn’t do a lot but we saw a lot.

We stayed at the 21C Museum Hotel which was awesome–there was a fun video wall in the elevator lobby, my brother in sculpture form near the entrance, and we were able to get drinks at the hotel bar and wander through the exhibits–which makes weird art SO MUCH more enjoyable. We giggled a lot, which is one of my favorite things to do with my husband.

Our hotel was right next to the Louisville Slugger museum. I come from a family of baseball fans (like, my mom’s dad built a baseball field into their farm when she was a kid). We wandered the gift shop and touched all the different bats and read the wall of plaques bearing the names of baseball greats and their favorite Louisville Slugger bat number. We did not tour the actual museum, but I got a picture of the giant bat out front.

We also made the short trip to Churchill Downs. It was really cool seeing the racetrack from the highway (and through the slats in the fence). We got some pics with the horse statue out front, and entered the lobby of the museum…in the middle of a feral pack of elementary school kids on a field trip. No thank you, we agreed to save the inside of Churchill Downs for another day.

We checked out several different neighborhoods. Our museum was on Main Street, which featured a lot of distilleries and restaurants and shops. It was an easy/long walk to NuLu, a hip neighborhood with funky antique shops, more distilleries and breweries, and some tasty food spots. We also walked through 4th Street Live, which was bumping with the Guy Fieris of the world. We made a few trips to Bardstown Road/the Original Highlands, which I liked a lot. It had a lower-key vibe that reminded me of some of my favorite St. Louis neighborhoods.

Ok, now for the good stuff, the real reason a person checks out Louisville (apart from maybe horses): the bourbon! I’ve enjoyed a few whiskey drinks on occasion before this trip, but had next to no knowledge about the nuances of whiskeys/bourbons/ryes. Now, I can say I really like bourbon. I like rye whiskey, too. I really like Old Fashioneds.

So first stop for us was Evan Williams, partly because it’s one of the best known names, partly because it was only about a block from the hotel, mostly (for me, at least) because he was Louisville’s first distiller! I wish I could have learned more history–I got that from a street placard–but we did not do the tour. We just hopped on the elevator with another group and slipped into the bar for the best Old Fashioned I’ve ever had. We also got to keep commemorative Evan Williams bourbon glasses. Score!

We also wandered far enough down “Whiskey Row” to find Peerless–a younger distillery (closed before prohibition but recently reopened)–where we did an $8 whiskey tasting. 4 whiskeys plus a commemorative glass and a dee-licious piece of chocolate–I was obsessed with this place. Bourbon is aged for 4 years, so theirs won’t be ready until this summer–we had their rye whiskey instead. I learned how the barrel soaks its own flavor into each batch, and theirs had such unique flavors that most of their bottles are single-barrel (meaning–duh–only from 1 barrel) rather than small batch (combining several barrels). They also keep it cask-strength–this got a little too chemistry-heavy for me to remember fully considering the whiskey-fog my brain was in, but something about letting the alcohol evaporate rather than diluting it with water so it gets to the legal ABV without diluting the flavors (maybe?). We bought a bottle of their rye (as well as some of those whiskey-infused chocolates).

The tour we booked ahead of time was at Angel’s Envy. That was a lot of fun–the most memorable part for me was when we dunked our fingers in a bottle of basically everclear. He had us smack those fingers on the palm of our other hand, then smell it (straight ethanol). Then we rubbed our hands together a couple times and smelled it. Now, I can’t remember the order, but one time it smelled like corn, another grains, and after more rubbing, fresh-baked bread. It was a really cool “science experiment” to show how adding heat changes it.

A couple other notable experiences: my favorite bourbon drink was probably the bourbon slushy at Feast BBQ. There was a terrify bathroom at galaxie bar–painted black and lit only by black light, glow-in-the-dark paint, and a tv set on static (can you say flashbacks to the first/only 15 min I watched of The Ring??). I really loved how the air smelled of peat, similar to the hops-smell around AB in Soulard.

It was a lot of fun, a really cute city with a surprising amount to do. We’ll definitely be back for more bourbon–and maybe a horse race!

 

*TJ is of course Thomas Jefferson, hands down most popular president in Missouri, if the number of references to Jefferson (including the capital) are any indication.

Lou Brew Reviews: Rockwell Beer Co.

We’ve got a new brewery in town and guys, I almost don’t want to post this because it’s already too popular. They’ve seemed to explode onto the scene and I’m pretty impressed, because their start was not a hot one.

They opened last year, right before all the colleges went on winter break. Everyone was in a festive mood and looking to blow off steam at any number of festively-decorated atmospheres. In that respect, it’s a great time to open your doors if you’re a fledgling brewery trying to get your name out. EXCEPT. None of their beers were ready.

And it’s location is…edgy. By that I mean, it’s on the very edge of a neighborhood that is known for it’s fun bars and less-than-savory goings-on in the wee hours of the morning. So on the outskirts, it’s a little less “fun” and more “grunge.” Trekking the extra 5 minutes out there after dark in the middle of winter only to discover all the available beers are ones we could get at any of our already-established-as-favorite bars was disappointing and confusing. All it seemed to do was show off the “bad” location and a seemingly disorganized business.

Fast forward to the first *really* nice day of the year, everyone and their mother is feeling outdoorsy, which in St. Louis means drinking on a patio! Civil Life is my husband’s go-to suggestion for this, since they’ve got a nice beirgarten-type set up, but I recalled a very spacious patio at the new brewery, so I suggested we check out Rockwell again.

Also, I’d had their saison with dinner the night before, and it was delish! They’ve distributed their beers to a ton of local bars, which, as a strategy, more than makes up for the fact there were 0 beers to try at their grand opening.

All those people and their mothers had the same idea I did; both the patio and the indoor area of Rockwell were pretty busy when we arrived. We got there *just* in time, though, because we didn’t have to wait for our first beers, but when we went back for our second drink, the line was wrapped all through the indoor space. It moved fast, and all the beers I tried were pretty awesome, so I highly recommend checking them out–and not being put off by the long line.

I could be wrong, but I think their food is provided by Brasserie, which means it’s all fantastic. For beers, along with the saison (Fabricious), the hubs loved their Bizniss Ethics and I really liked the Passing Clouds. I’m a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t try the Oxford Llama just for the name–next time for sure!

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We went to Union Loafers in Tower Grove for pizza and it was a) delicious b) floppy (from grease) c) a close second-favorite behind the U.R.B. pizza or d) ALL OF THE ABOVE

yes the answer is D and also I had TWO dee-licious sour beers by Stillwater which I cannot remember nor pronounce the name of but here we are.

Somehow upon entering our apartment, I started singing “Screamer” by Good Charlotte, and that sent me down a crazy, spiraling rabbit-hole of old school Good Charlotte that has made me so happy in my buzzed state.

UPDATE: the hubs is playing some remixed song that I get to croon Creed-style to the chorus: hold me now, I’m six feet from the edge and I’m thinkkiiingg…

This post has no point. Sorry for your time.

Lou Brew Reviews: 4Hands, Round 2

We recently revisited 4Hands in downtown St. Louis, and it was a lot of fun! My husband and I are big fans of their Single Speed blonde ale, but we also like City Wide (he the pils, me the pale ale).

My parents were in town and we wanted to give them a bit of the local beer scene flavor. We were going to do Schlafly (their tours are pretty fun and as I’ve said, their beer selection is fantastic), but they were setting up for a big weekend to-do. We ended up at 4Hands, because I like their beers and I remembered it was a fun atmosphere.

Mom and I loved the On Cue–Himalayan salt, cucumber, and hibiscus–but the men did NOT (the enjoyed their pilsners and free arcade games). Dad had a great time crushing it on Galaga while Mom and I played skee ball (even if it took us a little while to realize we had to push “start” for our points to start counting…). We giggled a lot and I may have panicked and way over-tipped the bartender at one point (you’re welcome for that 60% tip, sir) and it was a great time.

Something I think we figured out last time but forgot this go round: they have different drinks at the downstairs bar and the upstairs bar, but your tab is accessible through either. Just something to keep in mind if you start a tab downstairs then head up to the game area and decide to try a beer up there!

Lou Brew Reviews: Alpha Brewing

Do you love sour beers?

If you said yes — perfect! If you said no…that’s fine, too.

Alpha Brewing in the Tower Grove (ish?) area is worth a visit no matter your beer preference. They are known for their sours — the Delphian is amazing, and the Guava Brett will pucker even the most sour-lover’s taste buds — but they’ve got several great IPA, Stout, and Blonde Ale options as well. And some super-fun names. You better believe I tried the Hop, Lock & Drop It, the Troll Wheatwine, and the Fyler Flyer (which gets harder — or easier? — to order the more you have!).

I also really like that they offer a range of pours, so you can create your own flight — and/or just enjoy a *very* small glass of your favorite if you happen to be a lightweight like me. They have your normal-sized pours as well, of course, but I like that I have options, especially if day-drinking.

Alpha also offers live music shows on Thursdays and Saturdays. Their food looked pretty good, though we did not partake — they even have a Vegan night for the non-meat-eaters out there.

Their website claims “It’s not for everyone” but seriously, I think it’s my favorite local brewery. It’s tucked back in a neighborhood near Grand Ave, just out of the way enough to be a hidden gem while close enough to merit an easy trip.

Lou Brew Reviews: Modern Round 2

We went back to Modern Brewery during St. Louis’s Craft Beer Week. Mostly because we we’re headed to this BBQ event at 2nd Shift which was packed with people to the point both my husband and I got a little zap of anxiety and decided to retrace our steps, since we passed Modern on our way to 2nd Shift.

Also, my husband is still (sadly) allergic to cats, so I was already apprehensive about 2nd Shift since they have a few brewery cats running around.

And because of this, I can say with certainty Modern is just not my jam. This time around, I got the special release Birdman APA and my husband went with the Modern Man lager. Don’t get me wrong, Modern was packed with people. Their beer is clearly good.

I just don’t like it. Neither does my husband. And that’s okay. Saint Louis is full of great craft beers. There is more than enough for everyone to find something they love.

If anything, I’m a little thankful there’s one less place to choose from next time we’re discussing which brewery to visit. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it out for yourself when you get the chance!