Missouri Food and Drink

In the last two posts, I talked about our recent trip to St Louis and Kansas City, but I didn’t fill you in on the food and drink we encountered. Always a highlight of our travels, it was exceptionally so in these two cities!

Barbecue

Missouri is a stronghold of of barbecue and we visited the stalwarts of this cuisine in both cities. In St. Louis, Pappy’s Smokehouse is known as the home of the best Memphis style barbecue. We had loved it on our visit in 2012 and it was equally as delicious on this visit! The ribs are smoky and the sauces vary from sweet to spicy – they are amazing.

 
In Kansas City, we tried two iconic offerings. Arthur Bryant’s was founded in the early 1920’s and is considered by many to be the most famous barbecue restaurant in the U.S. Again, the ribs had that smoky, fall-off-the-bone characteristic and the sauce, tasting of vinegar and paprika, was excellent. The atmosphere was down-home, with the floor just a bit slick from the grease in the air!

 
Our second excursion in KC was to LC’s Bar-B-Que. This small, one-room joint, in a rather sketchy location, is known for its ‘burnt-ends’ and they did not disappoint! As with the other two barbecue restaurants we visited, the many testimonials to their excellent food were posted on the walls!

 
All three barbecue joints were excellent – but my personal award goes to Pappy’s. To me, their ribs are still the best!!

Other Restaurants of Note

We also enjoyed some excellent meals at:

  • Anthonino’s Taverna in the hill district of St. Louis – great Italian fare, especially their signature toasted ravioli
  • Triumph Grill in Grand Center, St Louis
  • Mario’s in Westport, Kansas City – fabulous grinders and soup

 
Beer

We has some excellent stops for afternoon refreshments on this trip. The October special of pumpkin brew became our drink of choice and we had some great ones!

We also enjoyed a visit to the Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City, where we tried two flights featuring their many varied brews.

 
Brew of a different sort

Our regular readers may recall our cultural guest blogger in Prague and Vienna, Debbie. Today, Debbie returns as our resident expert on coffee houses. We visited many on this trip – here is Debbie’s take on the coffee scene in SL and KC:

“Sure, St. Louis and Kansas City are known for beer, blues, and baseball, but who knew that they are home to a craft coffee culture where the local roaster shops outnumber the big green chain outlets? Pleasantly surprised, we were. You need to adjust your whole coffee-drinking experience. There are too many to review individually, so suffice it to say that if it ain’t pour over in front of your face, it ain’t coffee. And don’t be asking for dark or mild roast, the talk is of flavours, of boldness, of undertones. Don’t be asking for small, medium, or large either – pour overs are served in ounces and might magically appear in a mini carafe or a wine glass or a flask that you can pour into your cup at leisure. And the baristas, oh, the baristas! Not for here is the short-term-part-time-wait-till-I-go-back-to-school barista, for being a barista in a craft coffee house IS a career – a career with a passion, a passion for smells, flavours, and designs. It is a thing of beauty to watch a big, strapping, bearded man gently, ever so gently, slowly pour the steaming water over the grounds at a a precise pace measured by timer for perfection every time. And if you happen to order a milky delight (only whole milk, of course), it is a wondrous thing to watch his big hands pour and tip until the perfect picture emerges in soothing browns and milky whites before he gracefully hands you his work of art. You have probably figured out by now that there is no rush in craft coffee houses. Here, you are patient and when the moment arrives, and you have that lovely, warm, beautiful liquid in your hands and feel it permeate your physical body and mind, you sit back and read or ponder or engage in thoughtful conversation with whoever is near, for this, really, is an art gallery. Not to be completely outdone by the product itself, however, is the location and the sign on the door. Chances are you will be looking for an unpretentious hole in the wall with minimalistic furnishings and with a name that only hints at what wonders hide inside – Oddly Correct, Blueprint Coffee, Picasso’s and many undiscovered others. There might be food but the best ones just have a few nibbles because you are here for the shining star, the coffee. So, the next time you are in St. Louis or Kansas City, enjoy the beer, blues, and baseball but also venture into the world of craft coffee. It’s worth a special trip.”

  
 Ah yes, it was a great trip filled with wonderful eats and drinks!

Cheers,

Bev & Harv

Four Days Under the Arch

A couple of weeks ago, we took a trip to St. Louis and Kansas City with our traveling companions, Larry & Debbie. In this blog entry, I’d like to tell you some of the highlights of our four days in St. Louis, the Gateway to the West.

Harvey and I had visited St. Louis in the summer of 2012 – but only for two nights and in the midst of a major heat wave – so we really hadn’t done much exploring, other than the major tourist sites – the famous Arch and the Anheuser-Busch brewery. This trip, we had four days to get to know the city. Our expert trip planner, Debbie, had done excellent research and we travelled about the city like native St. Louisans (really, that’s what they are called).

Our hotel was located near the airport and had the most friendly staff I have ever encountered in a mainstream hotel. By the time we left, we were hugging them good-bye! We used the MetroLink light rail train to travel into the city core for the first couple of days. This was a very efficient travel mode – even on the evening train when the driver announced that the train was ‘defective’ and we crawled into the last stop at the airport!

We toured most of the major neighbourhoods in St. Louis. Here’s a recap:

Downtown St. Louis

The skyline of downtown St. Louis is dominated by the Gateway Arch. Standing 630 feet tall, the Arch is the tallest man-made monument in the U.S. and is celebrating 50 years in 2015. The grounds of the Arch are currently undergoing a major renovation, which is expected to be completed in Spring 2017.

Nearby is Laclede’s Landing, which combines rich St. Louis history with modern entertainment. Generally you can stroll along the riverfront, but access is limited at this time due to the major construction surrounding the Arch.

 
The “new” Busch Stadium was opened in 2006 and is home to the St. Louis Cardinals. It looks like it would be a great place to watch a ballgame!  

 
Directly adjacent to the stadium is Ballpark Village. This entertainment complex actually occupies the area where the “old” Busch Stadium was located. We stopped in for a delightful lunch at the Budweiser Brewhouse and while there, were able to watch a live interview with Bob Gibson. Larry was especially pleased with this – as he was the only one of the four of us who actually knew who Bob Gibson was. Bob is a retired baseball pitcher who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals and holds a significant place in the team history. Larry apparently has a couple of his baseball cards in his collection. Despite the ignorance of the rest of us, we all thoroughly enjoyed listening to the interview of this man, who is nearing 80 year of age and was very informative and entertaining. 

Edit   
Also located nearby are the Scottrade Center, where the St. Louis Blues play our game, and the Edwards Jones Dome, where the Rams tackle football.

We wondered through the Citygarden, a vibrant and serene blending of lush plantings and internationally renowned sculptures with delights of water, stone, architecture and design.

Edit  We also stopped in at Union Station. This National Historic Landmark was once the world’s largest and busiest train station but was converted in the early 1980s into a hotel, shopping center, and entertainment complex and today, only serves local rail (MetroLink) transit passengers.

Forest Park

Forest Park occupies 1,293 acres in the center of the St. Louis and is the seventh largest urban park in the United States. It contains St. Louis’ major museums – the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Missouri History Museum – as well as the Saint Louis Science Center, Saint Louis Zoo, and The Muny, which is the country’s biggest outdoor theatre. It was a lovely spot for a lengthy stroll, despite a brief rain shower which sent us scurrying for cover under a tree.

 Central West End

Perched on the eastern edge of Forest Park and over a century old, the chic Central West End is full of charming sidewalk cafés, galleries, antique shops, restaurants, boutiques and pubs. It’s a little European, a little New York and totally St. Louis. The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis was completed in 1914 and is the mother church of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The World Chess Hall of Fame is also located in the Central West End. We enjoyed a great pumpkin brew at one of the many local establishments!
  Grand Center

Grand Center serves as the cultural hub of the region, and is home to many theaters, with their neon signs lighting up the street in the evening.  

Lafayette Square

This neighborhood boasts an impressive collection of beautiful Victorian homes and could be described as ‘urban chic.’ We enjoyed checking out the exterior grandeur of many of these homes.

Soulard

The city’s oldest neighbourhood exhibits a leisurely pace and an appreciation of days gone by. The historic streets are lined with red brick townhomes that house live music clubs and unique restaurants. We walked to Soulard to experience their annual Oktoberfest. While sipping on the ever present ‘Bud’, we enjoyed a variety of live music on three separate stages – the oldest Blues band in St. Louis, a traditional German ‘oompah’ band and an interesting classic rock polka band.  

The Hill

The Hill is the quintessential “Little Italy” neighbourhood. Baseball’s Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up here, and today it maintains a traditional collection of authentic Italian bakeries, grocery stores, restaurants and mom-and-pop trattorias.

Everything is colorful here – even the fire hydrants are painted red, white and green. Its epicenter is one intersection that sums it up perfectly, with St. Ambrose Catholic Church on one corner, an Italian bakery/restaurant on another, an import shop across the street, and a neighborhood tavern/bocce garden on the fourth corner.

We enjoyed a coffee house, an corner Italian sandwich shop and a lovely dinner (but more on that later).

 
The Loop

The area is nicknamed “The Loop”after an old streetcar turnaround and is the original home to Chuck Berry. The highlight of The Loop is Delmar Boulevard, an eclectic main drag lined with an array of ethnic and American restaurants, music clubs, coffee shops, vintage clothing stores and boutiques. It’s an easy place to spend a full day exploring shops that offer everything from tattoos and piercings to books and records. Larry certainly spent considerable time checking out the records, but he didn’t seem to want to follow through his suggestion that we stop at a tattoo shop.  

Bordering The Loop is University City:

University City was founded by publisher Edward Gardner Lewis, who began developing the location in 1903 around his publishing complex for Woman’s Magazine and Woman’s Farm Journal. A number of historic buildings, including the beautiful City Hall, are mixed in with the century old homes, some of which are lovely and some which require some modern TLC. 

 
Webster Grove

Webster Groves is a fashionable neighbourhood with cozy restaurants, boutiques and century-old homes, more than 300 which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We wandered for a while, stopped in for an afternoon refreshment and drove around the tree-lined streets to view the exteriors of many of the beautiful homes. 

We enjoyed just wandering around the areas and learning about St. Louis. It is an interesting city that is currently dealing with some societal challenges, not the least of which is a rising murder rate. I certainly don’t want to imply that we ever felt unsafe as the murders are definitely concentrated in specific areas and specific demographics. We found interesting and enlightening articles about this issue in a local publication, the Riverfront Times. If you are interested in reading more – http://www.riverfronttimes.com/newsblog/2015/10/01/st-louis-has-the-highest-murder-rate-in-the-nation and http://www.riverfronttimes.com/newsblog/2015/10/07/st-louis-murder-map-tracks-killing-by-neighborhood .

As always, we tried out a number of local restaurants, bars and coffee houses. Stay tune for the details on those in St. Louis and Kansas City soon, as well as a post about our days in Kansas City. 

Cheers,  

Bev & Harv