I grew up in Alton, Illinois so my knowledge of St. Louis didn’t extend far beyond the occasional family trip to a Cardinals game or the Zoo as a kid and college trips to Mardi Gras…I had no idea about all the little hidden gems and neighborhoods that I would discover upon moving back. I loved Chicago, but it became what I called the “law of diminishing returns” – every new restaurant and every new event became less and less exciting. In St. Louis, there’s a sense of true growth right now. The market isn’t over-saturated so restaurateurs, bar owners, makers, etc. that are doing super interesting things can be celebrated, and I definitely love the feeling of new energy and excitement.
You can’t throw a rock without hitting something cool and amazing in Chicago, but I like that sense of scrappiness in St. Louis. I want to frequent the restaurants that I love over and over again whereas in Chicago, there were very few that I went to more than a handful of times over 7 years. I love that I can walk into most restaurants, coffee houses, etc. and know someone. There’s a true sense of community that I never had in Chicago. Even though I do miss running on the lake and the intensity of Chicago from time to time.
I know that I’ll get blasted for this, but I really don’t love STL-style pizza or gooey butter cake – ok, sue me. Although, I did just discover Russell’s Gooey Butter which is on a shortbread cookie base, and it adds a perfect balance to not be overly sweet. But I love a good T-Rav any day as well as St. Louis pork steaks. For T-Ravs, I love a semi-sweet chunky sauce and then a heavy breadcrumb breading that are super crispy. I just had some great ones recently at Del Pietros. I used to stock up on the boxes of Louisa’s T-Ravs to take back to Chicago too because you can get them as crispy as you want. For pork steaks, I probably enjoy them most at home with my dad as the chef, but look to get your meat at an awesome butcher shop like Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions.
That’s hard because there are so many amazing places! I live in South City with my boyfriend so we would wake up and walk my dog Polly to Blueprint Coffee on Watson. We do this almost every Saturday if it’s nice outside. I am obsessed with this space – an iced cortado with the garage doors open? There’s nothing better. I’d then probably do something active so either yoga in Tower Grove Park on the weekends or a work-out class at Shred415 or Fitness Formula (two of my favorite studios). If I’m brunching, I’m probably at Half & Half, Sardella, Dressel’s or Lola Jean’s. If it’s lunch, 99% of the time, I’m craving Union Loafers (cheesy bread and Little Gem with bacon every time. I’ve tried to get something different, I can’t do it).
Then we’d probably get back outside and hang out in Forest Park or take a drive out to Castlewood Park – we have so many amazing hiking spots just 20-30 minutes outside of St. Louis! Or we’d bike around town with friends and grab beers at one of the breweries. For dinner, that really depends on what I’m feeling, but I’m usually craving some sort of Asian or Latin cuisine. If you haven’t been to Cinder House at the Four Seasons St. Louis, go! I crave that kind of food. And then we’d go to a show at The Duck Room, Delmar Hall or The Pageant.
Also, if you love up-and-coming musicians, check out Sofar Sounds – they do pop-up concerts in undisclosed locations around St. Louis, and they are always a great way to meet new people and explore new places. If a show wasn’t involved, I’d head to drinks on Taste’s patio. I’m getting too old for this, but I’m still not opposed to the occasional dance party at Atomic Cowboy either.
I would have to say either Taste, Retreat Gastropub or Yellowbelly. Yes, these are all clients, but I have proper justifications as to why. Taste is the sexiest spot in St. Louis – hands down. It’s intimate but also lively, and it’s a great conversation starter to do “bartender’s choice” cocktail, They will ask you what kinds of flavors that you like so it shows your date a little bit of your personality.
For Retreat/Yellowbelly, I think that co-owner/bar manager Tim Wiggins is one of the most talented bartenders in the city. And he’s 27 years old?! That’s bonkers to me. He has the insane palate for balanced cocktails. Who would think to incorporate ingredients like miso and soy sauce in fruit-based cocktails, but they work. Or savory vegetables that don’t taste like your drinking a bloody mary. Also, he’s maybe one of the nicest guys to boot so take your date and belly up to the bar and ask Tim every cocktail question under the sun.
Most of my friends know that I have a serious potato chip addiction. I mean, it’s bad. So give me anything with Red Hot Riplets or Salt & Vinegar Chips, and I’m down. So the Red Hot Riplet fries and the Dirty Sancho at Mac’s Local Eats is an easy go-to. I don’t feel guilty about it ever though.
St. Louis has so much potential, and I’d like to challenge the everyday consumer to get out of their backyards and visit different neighborhoods, try new restaurants, step aside of their comfort zone. I do think that we haven’t even begun to tap the lifestyle bar scene in St. Louis so I’m excited to see places like Punch Bowl Social opening here. Chicago has so many amazing bars that also have great outdoor spaces (and it’s freezing there for so much of the year!!). Many bars also interactive elements – just take a look at the adult funland that is the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.
Also, this isn’t Chicago, but if someone could open a Can Can Wonderland (Minneapolis) in St. Louis that’d be great. It’s a putt putt course with each course designed by local artists/dance party/carnival. I’d also like to see more neighborhood wine bars with really amazing charcuterie and cheese programs. I also wish that St. Louis had more festivals and larger community-wide events that drove people to St. Louis. You can’t walk down the streets of Chicago without hitting a street festival in the summer. We need to celebrate all the amazing people that we have here, and I want St. Louis to be thought of as a destination for the cities that surround us like Chicago, Nashville, Kansas City, etc.
Even though I live in South City, and I love my neighborhood, I would probably recommend for someone to look at Central West End or The Grove. I spend most of my time out and about in both of those neighborhoods. One thing that I miss about Chicago is the ease of picking a restaurant for dinner and then just wandering from place to place from there. As our neighborhood communities grow, that’s becoming easier to do in places like CWE and The Grove.
I’m not just saying this because they are a client, but Schlafly Beer’s Stout & Oyster Festival is hands-down the best event in St. Louis. Personally, I love oysters, and you can’t get them any fresher here (they fly in 80,000 from both coasts overnight). But even if you don’t like oysters, it’s one of the best parties in town. They fly in 25 shuckers from both coasts who are just the most amazing cast of characters. The music is always fantastic, and it’s free! You just buy beers and food as you go. It’s always at the end of March (March 22 & 23 this year!) when I’m starting to get super stir crazy, and it’s something that I look forward to all year long.
You can learn more about Caiti and her company on the Jasper Paul PR & Marketing website.