Photograph by Alise O'Brien
Replace your baseball rivalry baggage with a bit of luggage, hop in the car, and head west to find the golden nuggets just past that there Mississippi River. Nicknamed the “Gateway to the West” because, until 1904, one needed both a special key and a password to get in, St. Louis has more recently taken a page out of Cincinnati’s comeback playbook with urban revitalization and some damn good food.
Hit the Road
Be a good Midwesterner and get some miles under your belt. The two best routes, I-64 and I-70, each have their perks. I-64 is much more scenic: It takes you through the hills of Hoosier National Forest and (via a quick detour on Route 66) Marengo Cave. I-70 is a bit more functional, with plenty of rest stops and food options—plus unconventional pit stops like the Boot City Opry in Terre Haute, Indiana, and the Blue Springs Café’s foot-high pies in Highland, Illinois.
Drop Your Bags
Moonrise Hotel offers a quirky-cool boutique hotel experience and puts you in the center of the action. Located in The Loop—one of the city’s most noted nightlife, dining, and shopping districts—Moonrise is pet-friendly, has a solar-powered, rotating moon sign overlooking the street below, and boasts a rooftop terrace bar perfect for cocktails, Sunday brunch, or both at the same time. (You’re on vacation. Live a little.)
See the Sites
Make a move to the World Chess Hall of Fame. Relocated to the city’s Central West End from Miami in 2011, the WCHOF offers 15,900 square feet of artifacts and exhibitions highlighting historic matches, players, and the history of chess. This month, the Hall hosts Strategy by Design: Games by Michael Graves—a tribute to the career of the world-renowned architect and University of Cincinnati graduate.
Lafayette Square and the surrounding Lafayette Park are among the oldest areas in the city. A hub for many wealthy St. Louis families in the 1850s, this neighborhood is the perfect place to bring a cup of coffee, stroll through tree-lined streets, and take a look inside a row of historic homes that’s arguably the most beautiful east of the Painted Ladies.
Stuff Your Face
Let’s get the staples out of the way: Imo’s Pizza is the square beyond compare; toasted ravioli from anywhere in The Hill will have you laughing in “normal” ravioli’s face; and gooey butter cake from The Daily Bread Bakery might cause a permanent rift in your marriage because you’ll love it more than you love your spouse. Now let’s talk hidden gems:
Breakfast: Shake off the night’s sleep at Rooster in the heart of downtown. The farm-to-table café specializes in packing everything from local sausage to bacon jam into delicious, handmade crepes.
Lunch: The Mud House in Benton Park has become a caffeine cornerstone and lunch favorite. Their made-from-scratch menu includes a perfect portabella reuben and a spectacular mud slinger—a breakfast platter piled high with roasted potatoes, cheese, onion, black bean chili, an egg, toast, and bacon or ham.
Drinks: Reach the St. Louis beer scene via the road less traveled at Urban Chestnut Brewery in Midtown. Urban Chestnut offers guests a large outdoor, urban biergarten, small plates, and—of course—great beer.
Dinner: You’re in a barbecue town, so be prepared to get your hands dirty. Sit down for a slow-roasted pulled pork sandwich with an order of smothered fries at The Shaved Duck in Tower Grove East.
Dessert: Not a hidden gem, but go to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard simply because you weren’t born yesterday and you don’t like regrets.
Originally published in the September 2014 issue