Notwithstanding my love for Rick Steves, the best travel experiences aren’t found in guidebooks, but rather, via word of mouth. While guidebooks often land you in phony restaurants serving tourist-friendly versions of regional and national cuisine, word of mouth gets you in the side door and invited to glasses of cab franc with the owner after hours.
You could go the globetrotting chef, author, and TV show host Anthony Bourdain route — posting on foodie websites with discussion boards about the great deep dish you had in Chicago and waiting for opinionated foodies to tell you you’re wrong and where you should be eating deep dish — or, you could let us give you the inside scoop.
We’ve covered Reno and New Orleans, and in this edition, the lovely and talented Bryan Hadley, Front Desk Agent at Magnolia Hotel St. Louis, offers up an insider’s guide to the great American city he proudly calls home.
The Gateway City is known for its riverfront landmark, its breweries, and its Blues and Rock N’ Roll. A Midwest rustbelt city with enduring heart in the face hard times, St Louis is all this and more.
Esquire named St. Louis the “Best Bar City” in America in 2015. With an abundance of diverse neighborhoods spread throughout the larger metropolitan region, there are local watering holes for all tastes and desires.
Where to drink and dine
For a great beer selection downtown try Morgan Street Brewery & Tasting Room or The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium. And Cicero’s in the Delmar Loop is an institution for hopheads in a town full of them. For the refined cocktail connoisseur, check out Blood & Sand.
Pi Pizzeria and Bailey’s Range (Bailey’s also has a top local tap list) are great for family-friendly dining, but for something with a lounge-y vibe, give Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar a go. For a classic institution celebrating St. Louis’s Italian heritage, Charlie Gitto’s manicotti is fat and delicious.
Drunken Fish solves the Sushi fix, while Kopperman’s serves up mountainous New York Style Deli sandwiches. Herbie’s Vintage 72 is the go-to Sunday morning brunch spot featuring an immense Bloody Mary bar.
The Hill neighborhood is known for its restaurants and nightlife, but also houses a number of St. Louis barbecue joints — Pappy’s Smokehouse in Midtown and Iron Barley in Dutchtown South. St. Louis is said to consume more barbecue sauce per capita than any other city in the U.S.
Pro tip: seek out local specialties toasted ravioli (Mama Toscano) and gooey butter cake (Missouri Baking Co.).
St. Louis a great city for free year-round entertainment, and Forest Park is the crown Jewel, featuring the St. Louis Zoo, Museum of Art, Missouri History Museum, and the St. Louis Science Center — no charge for any of it. Grand Center, located in the Midtown Theater District, features the sleek new Museum of Modern Art. And cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, ordained in 1999, gives the great European cathedrals a run for their money.
St. Louis is a beer city
Many brewery tours are available, but the big-daddy of them all, Budweiser, in the oldest neighborhood in the city, Soulard (Pronounced SUE-LARD), could be a good place to start before getting in with the craft beer guys — Urban Chestnut Bierhall, Schlafly Taphouse (located in a famous filming location from Sci-Fi cult classic “Escape From New York”), Four Hands Brewing Company, and Square One Brewery.
St. Louis, home of pioneer Chuck Berry, is full of Rock N’ Roll and Blues tradition. Venues range from concert halls to beer bars, and there’s music every night. “The Duck Room” is an extension of the famous “Blueberry Hill” — where Chuck Berry still plays. For jazz, hit the Bistro. For indie rock, the Delmar Loop is the ticket. Other local favorites for up-and-coming musicians include The Ready Room, Off Broadway, Fubar, and Foam.
Where to stay
Located at the center of it all and built in 1925, Magnolia Hotel St. Louis offers top accommodations and amenities. Perks include continental-style breakfast buffet, a downtown shuttle in a Tesla, and a bedtime milk and cookie buffet to return to after living it up St. Louis style.