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Life is all about balance, which is what makes St. Louis a city worthy of your time. Eat more barbecue than any person should for lunch, then dine at an award-winning vegetable-forward restaurant at dinner. Take a walk around Forest Park, then explore some of the 60-plus breweries in town (this is the birthplace of Anheuser-Busch, after all). Get cultured at the Saint Louis Art Museum, then get crazy at the impossible to define City Museum.
St. Louis has a long been a melting pot of cultures. It’s a city full of entrepreneurs, artists and creators. Shop (and eat) your way around the streets of Maplewood, the Grove or the Central West End, and you’ll get it.
Central West End
The Central West End has long been one of the most interesting and centrally located neighborhoods in St. Louis. On one side, you have access to Forest Park and its numerous attractions, and on the other you have an eclectic and thriving mix of restaurants, bars and shops. Snag a room at the historic Chase Park Plaza hotel for the full CWE experience. Find this neighborhood.
label: In the action
In what feels like the blink of an eye, Maplewood has become one of the most walkable and interesting neighborhoods in town. The main drag, Manchester Road, is dotted with all sorts of small local businesses (especially of the delicious variety), including Side Project Brewery, recently rated the ninth best brewery in the world by RateBeer. Rent an Airbnb, hit the streets, and you’ll feel like a local instantly. Find this neighborhood.
Nathaniel Reid Bakery
Start your day the way the French have been for centuries: with copious amounts of laminated dough and butter. The Nathaniel Reid team makes over 100 types of pastries, entremets, breads and sandwiches daily, so good luck picking just one (an impossible task). Grab a ham and cheese tiger claw for a bigger breakfast, or treat yourself to the chocolate almond croissant that made him famous: They’re baked, filled with housemade almond paste, chocolate and rum syrup, then baked again.
BTW:The kouign-amann may not be the sexiest pastry in the case, but it may very well be the best.
address: Nathaniel Reid Bakery, 11243 Manchester Rd. Kirkwood, Mo. 63122
What’s not to love about a homey cafe where everything is made in house, including the coffee? Try the rotating single-origin brews and one of the seasonal breakfast options. You won’t regret the Workday sandwich — Living Room’s signature soft baguette topped with soft eggs, bacon, cheddar and dressed greens — nor should you pass up getting their signature cheesy biscuit to go. It’s more scone than biscuit (think Red Lobster), so it’s perfect for a midmorning, post-breakfast snack.
BTW:The space is cozy (read: small), so get there early if you plan on snagging a seat.
St. Louis has the largest Bosnian population outside of Bosnia, so it only makes sense that it would have a Bosnian restaurant or two. Balkan Treat Box has grown from a beloved food truck to packed counter-service restaurant almost every day, with good reason: It’s incredible. Most dishes come out of the wood-fired oven, including the freshly baked somun bread, giving every bite a hint of smoke to accompany the wallop of herbs, spices and sauces.
BTW:Eat the cevapi with your hands, tearing the bread into pieces, not like a sandwich.
address: Balkan Treat Box, 8103 Big Bend Blvd. Webster Groves, Mo. 63119
Time to carbo-load like you’re about to run a marathon. No bread in St. Louis is better than Union Loafers’, so throw caution to the wind and embrace your expanding waist. Start your meal off with a pretzel the size of your head or a slice of the Roman-inspired pizza rosa, then move on to a signature sandwich. Get fancy with the rare roast beef with gruyere, pickled peppers and bistro sauce, or go classic with the turkey and swiss with romaine and “famous” sauce.
BTW:Use Yelp’s Waitlist to get in line, or prepare to be standing around for an hour. And if you’re sharing, get the little gem salad with bacon. It’s the best salad in town.
address: Union Loafers, 1629 Tower Grove Ave. St. Louis, Mo. 63110
Lee Tran opened St. Louis’ first Vietnamese restaurant, Mai Lee, over 30 years ago and forever changed the city’s culinary landscape. Her son, Qui Tran, is doing the same thing with Nudo House, a Japan-meets-Vietnam noodle house (get the name?). The quick-service restaurant is the city’s best ramen joint, with dishes like the rich tonkotsu O’Miso Spicy and the chicken-based Hebrew Hammer, along with Mai Lee’s beloved pho and banh mi sandwiches. The Delmar Loop location opens early summer, so you’ll have NuDos options.
BTW:Get the vegetarian ramen, Shroomed Out, spicy … and add pork.
address: Nudo House, 11423 Olive Blvd. St. Louis, Mo. 63141
Restaurant veteran Matt McGuire’s Louie is everything you want a casual restaurant to be. It’s unpretentious. The staff treats everyone like a VIP. The vibe is laid back, and the Italian-ish food will leave you wanting more — but you’ll inevitably have no room, because no one can stop eating their pastas or wood-fired hearth breads. Don’t let the intentionally spartan menu descriptions deceive you; the “roast chicken, rapini, chicken jus” may very well be the best roast chicken dish you ever eat.
BTW:The prosciutto plate might not sound like much, but the reality is, it’s everything.
address: Louie, 706 De Mun Ave. Clayton, St. Louis, Mo. 63105
Residing in a nearly 100-year-old building in the historic Central West End, Taste actually feels like a speakeasy. James Beard winner Gerard Craft’s cocktail bar has a single-page food menu and a 15-page drink menu, if that tells you anything about where the spot’s priorities lie. Whether you want a classic (sorted by the year of their conception) or a house cocktail, you won’t be disappointed. If you want to throw caution to the wind, let the bartender choose for you.
BTW:The best seats in the house are the couches tucked away upstairs.
address: Taste, 4584 Laclede Ave. St. Louis, Mo. 63108
Your night of bar hopping in the Grove comes to a close. You look up and see a glowing slice of pizza. No, you’re not hallucinating. You’ve found Pie Guy Pizza, a literal bright spot in a late-night food desert. The slices and 18-inch pies may look like your typical New York-style pizzas, but with their fermented sourdough crust made from Italian flour and locally sourced toppings, they’re next level.
BTW:It’s worth going in just for the pizza knotchos: garlic knots smothered in cheese, marinara, pepperoni and more.
address: Pie Guy Pizza, 4189 Manchester Ave. St. Louis, Mo. 63110
The best plan for visiting the Delmar Loop is to have no plan at all. Start on the west end of the mile-long strip and walk along until something catches your eye — which won’t take long, because there’s something to do or look at every few feet. Catch a show at one of the street’s three music venues, dive into some barbecue, eat Thai food so good you’ll think you’re in Chiang Mai, or catch a film in the restored 1924 Tivoli Theatre.
BTW:Avoid street parking. Grab a spot in the parking lots on the northwest side.
address: 6691 Delmar Blvd. St. Louis, Mo. 63130 (first building in the Loop at that intersection)
On a nice day, there’s really no better way to spend a Saturday morning than heading to the farmers market at Tower Grove Park. With over 60 vendors showcasing the best in local produce and foods, plus dozens of artisans and nonprofit groups on site, there’s always something interesting to find. After you’re done shopping and snacking, explore the rest of this nearly 300-acre park, or hop over to the Missouri Botanical Garden.
BTW:The early bird gets the worm; show up too late and all the good stuff will be gone.
address: Tower Grove Farmers Market, 4256 Magnolia Ave. St. Louis, Mo. 63110
You could spend a week in Forest Park and still not experience everything it has to offer. Stay outdoors and take a boat out on the water, play 18 holes of golf, go for a run, or just bring a blanket and enjoy the views on Art Hill. Aside from, you know, nature, this 1,300-acre park is home to three museums, the Muny outdoor theater and the world-class Saint Louis Zoo, which has free admission.
BTW:Take in the sunset atop Art Hill, looking out over the lakes and fountains of the Grand Basin, the centerpiece of the 1904 World’s Fair.
address: Forest Park, 5595 Grand Dr. St. Louis, Mo. 63112
It can be difficult for local artists to have their work displayed and sold in stores, which is exactly why owner and children’s clothing designer Mary Beth Bussen opened Union Studio. Every item in the store is made by a St. Louisan, and with an ever-changing assortment of jewelry, tableware, wall art and more (they sell from more than 80 local artisans), it’s worth visiting time and time again.
BTW:After you buy some gifts, walk across the street and treat yourself to some French pastries at La Patisserie Chouquette.
address: Union Studio, 1605 Tower Grove Ave. St. Louis, Mo. 63110
St. Louis is a music lover’s city, with venues peppered all over town. Some big, some small — but right in the middle, you have the Pageant, an intimate 2,000-person theater. No matter where you are, you’re within 70 feet of the stage. The venue plays host to all types of artists, ranging from rock to jazz to stand-up comedy, so keep your eyes on their calendar. You never know what’s coming up next.
BTW:Head down early and get a drink at the rooftop bar on the Moonrise Hotel.
address: The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Blvd. St. Louis, Mo. 63112
The City Museum really is hard to describe — there was a fairly crazy guy in town who bought a massive abandoned warehouse, filled it with the remnants of historical buildings being torn down around it, and then hired equally crazy artists to build tons of stuff. There’s a school bus on the roof. There’s a 10-story slide. You can crawl through a full cave system. There’s a giant bronze hot dog statue. This 100-year-old shoe factory has repurposed the remnants of St. Louis’ historical buildings and turned them into art galleries, a massive playground for kids, an aquarium and much more.
BTW:This place isn’t just for kids. Proof: There are multiple bars inside.
address: City Museum, 750 N. 16th St. St. Louis, Mo. 63103
Where I live: Webster Groves, mostly because it’s centrally located between my favorite restaurants, and I’m too lazy to sit in traffic.
Best way to get around the city: There are buses and the MetroLink, but if you’re trying to make the best use of your time, you’re probably best off renting a car or using a ride-hailing service.
Don’t leave without having: Toasted ravioli. There’s nothing more St. Louis than pasta filled with meat, breaded and deep-fried. You can find them everywhere.
But the local favorite is really: Forest Park. Not only is it about 500 acres larger than Central Park, but it’s home to the zoo, free museums, a golf course, and is all-around the best place to be outside in St. Louis.
If I moved, I’d most miss: The food community. I’ve never been around such a talented group of people who are so eager and willing to help people out.
Every time you see the Arch, you say, “Hey, there’s the Arch.”
We know you’re not going to like St. Louis-style pizza, but we’re going to pressure you into trying it anyway, and then argue with you when you tell us you don’t like it.
The weather makes no sense, so pay attention to the forecast. It might be 80 degrees and sunny today and snow tomorrow. Be prepared.
Author: Spencer Pernikoff
Spencer was born and raised in St. Louis but found his passion for food in Singapore, where he lived for three years. Now, you’ll find him photographing and writing about his hometown’s food scene. He’ll pass on BBQ, but he’ll never turn down soup dumplings.
Spencer was born and raised in St. Louis but found his passion for food in Singapore, where he lived for three years. Now, you'll find him photographing and writing about his hometown's food scene. He’ll pass on barbecue, but he’ll never turn down soup dumplings. Follow
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