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St Louis recommendations (potential relocation)

I'll be visiting STL from 8/14-18 to do some recon on the area spanning downtown to CWE as a potential place to retire in a couple of years.

I'm looking for suggestions on restaurants/eating places where a sixtyish woman would be comfortable. Love good food of all kinds and am the kind of person that can happily hang out in a coffee place or bar for hours reading and people watching.

Twenty years ago I lived in a loft south of Market in San Francisco and am hoping to find a similar luxe urban feel for a much more reasonable cost of living. Food is important to me so I'd like to get a sense of the casual dining scene in STL.

Happily, my visit coincides with Downtown Restaurant Week (http://www.downtownrestaurantweek.net...) and would appreciate any suggestions on any of these places.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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  1. stroll Washington Ave downtown, bit 'clubby' but a very active streetlife of cafes and bars and lots of new loft-type condos.

    check out Grand Ave from TGP (Tower Grove is one of the best places to go for a walk) and South until about Gravois and the neighboring streets. all sorts of places to drop in casually, various SE Asian, Middle eastern, "New" American (whatever that means) gelato, coffee.
    lots of art and culture happening around SLU up at Grand and Lindell, but lots of real estate turmoil too and a lot of the places cater to either long-time residents or students.

    of course Euclid between Delmar and Barnes in the CWE will offer that luxe feel and many options, but will come at a price.

    I'm liking Cherokee these days, but I don't know if I would as a retiree (but might remind you of your days in SF, think 16th and Valencia with nice yards and without the junkies). Soulard is too "BOO-YA!" messy 3 or 4 times a year (and certain parts any old Saturday). Clayton is clean, pricy and boring. the U. City Loop has become annoying unless it's a Sunday night, Maplewood has interesting things going on but I still don't quite see where it's going yet and we're into about year 10 of its revival.

    what's your approach, an area where a bounty of places are easy to walk to or is a short drive OK?

    1. Even the Central West End will seem reasonable after SF prices, I promise you. Probably the closest thing to a walkable neighborhood in that sense, although parts of Clayton seem more like older urban neighborhoods than an actual suburb. I am your age or so, and promise you we've got lots of spots for comfortable dining alone or with gal pals - the only places I've heard complaints about aresome of the Bosnian spots. Lots of local coffee houses, but the mother ship is Kaldi's on deMun - other locations now, but that's the real thing.

      Even the "fine dining" spots are far more casual than they once were, especially the current generation. I was at The Crossing a couple of weeks ago on a Saturday night - Daniel Bolud-trained chef/owner - and I only saw a couple of jacket-and-tie outfits and several guys actually wearing shorts. (Come to think of it, why is men's clothing a more accurate indicator of casual than women's? We were in everything from white pants and nice tops to long, casual dresses with boleros.)

      3 Replies
      1. re: lemons

        (ahem) I don't wear long casual dresses with boleros. as a guy that look just doesn't flatter my calves.

        that's kinda why I was asking about walking vs. cars as an area like deMun/Rosebury is gorgeous (4+ friends and attendant children live there - makes them sound like the frickin' von Trapps, no?), mostly walkable with good parks/schools/etc. until the next snowstorm shuts everything down and parking is tight. sorry while I find Clayton to have vastly more options than in the past, without a parking garage at ones disposal it can be kind of daunting for the pedestrian - too many rushed and angry drivers ignoring signs and signals. but then again it ain't Brentwood (which is close enough to run easy errands like TJ's).

        personally if STL RE$ weren't the issue I'd be looking around the CWE as that puts one right on the track to get petty much anywhere rather fast. if I wanted to be adventurous then maybe TGP North or East or even places above Delmar (saw a beaut of a boat the other day on Bartmer in need of some cosmo work for 150K) but no walking to the corner store for a pack of smokes after dark.

        if budget is an issue, the area around Hyde Park has some happening stuff going on, but it's still too early to tell and one needs a certain tolerance for neighboring houses disappearing (brick-rustled) overnight. they have a locavore community garden and market. the Candy Kitchen and a few blocks away Piekutowski's aren't going anywhere soon. kinda feels like Lafayette Square and Soulard did around 1972.

        ya want to re-live the loft route? STL has plenty of places down by the river in need of a gut or old storefronts with the apartment upstairs. but then you might need to go meet this person called the "alderman" nobody really knows what their areas of jurisdiction are or what they cover, all very cryptic.

        do a google streetview of likely neighborhoods (I always check the conditions of the yards and cars when I do that) and we can tell you what's near and good around there, or a short distance away. you're never too far from stuff.

        1. re: hill food

          An excellent suggestion about googling the neighborhood to look @ yards/autos.

          I thought you had marvellous calves, dearie - sorta like Henry VIII in those lovely French hose.....

        2. re: lemons

          >> (Come to think of it, why is men's clothing a more accurate indicator of casual than women's? We were in everything from white pants and nice tops to long, casual dresses with boleros.)

          Because men's clothing is far more well-defined in its categories; "business attire" just about always means suit and tie, "jacket required/recommended" means a jacket with or without tie, "business casual" means non-denim slacks and a shirt with a collar, etc. Whereas, as you accurately observed, women's clothing permits far more latitude in each category, everything from dresses to skirts to pants etc.

        3. hill food, I really am your biggest fan. I was going to suggest looking into the DeMun area of Clayton. I'm not a fan of the downtown area of Clayton (white bread, bo-ring) , but the girl-child has recently acquired a dear friend who lives off DeMun,and a what a lovely little pocket of the metro area that is. (Kaldi Coffee and Carl's Deli for pastrami sandwiches, what more could you ask for?)
          I think that you should take a quick run to all sides of Forest Park. The Central West End is lovely, very walkable, very bustling, but the west (Clayton/DeMun)side of the park is lovely as well. Dogtown, to the South of the park and within the city limits, is a bit more working class, but also a lovely, friendly part of the city with plenty of neighborhood places to go. To the north, the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood has beautiful residentials, although the area is geared a bit more to the college students from nearby Washington University, and can be less walkable at night. Whatever you choose, welcome to the Lou, let us know what you're leaning toward, I love this town, and I love to hear what newcomers have to say about it.
          If you don't mind a little grit with your city, our nabe of South Grand-Tower Grove would be glad to have you...

          1. I realize we've gone off the rails a bit from your original question...truth is, the CWE is so chock-a-block with places to coffee/lunch/dinner that you're not going to be able to walk a block without passing a bunch of them. I LOVE Brasserie by Niche for lunch, I've heard all kinds of good things about Central Table, there are coffee shops everywhere. There a quite a few students in the area, but I (a fiftyish woman) am perfectly comfortable in any of the establishments in the area. A big plus to the Central West End for me is the good branch of the public library on Euclid, I rather like dining alone...but I need a book!

            1 Reply
            1. re: tonifi

              and those librarians at that branch could not be sweeter. set me right up on their WiFi (I was shushed at the South Grand location once while I was extolling the merits of Kobo Abe, or maybe it was Amos Tutuola, to a friend)

              y'know I keep wanting to try Central Table I just haven't made it into town much lately.

            2. Wow, you guys are awesome! Lots of great stuff to digest here.

              I have been wallowing on Zillow for a few weeks and really find myself drawn to the loft-style condos in the Downtown and Downtown West area. There seem to be a number of great-looking places in the 150-200K range that are very appealing. Definitely looking for a condo or rental - no desire to have to worry about maintenance. I am currently living in a corner house in the original suburb of Levittown NY and this past winter my snow removal budget convinced me that I am not going to want to do that much more. After 15+ years here, I am eager to get out of the burbs and back to a more urban lifestyle. The reasonable cost of living is one of the big attractions of STL, along with fond memories of some brief visits in the summer of 1969...

              I would like to be in a location where I can walk to most places but will have a car and will want to have parking associated with the unit. I think I would end up doing a lot of exploration of the immediate and surrounding areas. I love to travel and hope to do some good road trips.

              Food-wise, I am moderately adventurous and can always find a few things on a menu to try.

              Thanks again for all of these good suggestions.

              2 Replies
              1. re: chrisonli

                "my snow removal budget convinced me that I am not going to want to do that" after back-to-back 24" snowfalls within a week in DC 2010, I can relate.

                with a car really anywhere along the central corridor is going to give you easy access to markets and casual dining. and don't worry about eating alone, it's STL - after a year or so you'll know everyone you probably need to and it won't be an issue.

                downtown (and midtown and Northside for that matter) is spotty on groceries, there is a store near the old Post Office and the Soulard market isn't far (but weird days and hours)

                deMun does have nice low and mid to high rises and is walking distance to a decent 24-hour supermarket.

                could be a decent place for a starter rental.

                1. re: hill food

                  Soulard Market, of course, is very old, dating back to the 1700's. But it isn't very much a farmers' market any more - it's closer to a European style street market with some trucked-in stuff, odd bits of clothing, bakeries, brick-and-mortar stores for meat, spice, and so on. Also open limited days. When I was young and impoverished, I used it often. Now, pretty seldom. On the other hand, the farmers' market in Tower Grove Park is the best in town. We surely don't have what you down on the Embarcadero - tayberries, anyone? not here - but it's grown and done well. And there are others, as well. A much harder town to do without a car than San Francisco, certainly, but that's not going to be your situation. Keep us posted.

              2. If I were in your shoes, I'd also check out Lafayette Square. I'm a little younger than you are and there are a number of spots that I'm perfectly comfortable hanging out in. Off the top of my head, there's 33, Planter's House, 1111 Mississippi, Park Avenue Coffee, Vin De Set, Square One and probably others that I'm too lazy to look up.

                3 Replies
                1. re: shannonstl

                  what's the name of the new grocery on Jefferson near Park or Chouteau maybe? I hear it's pretty good.

                  1. re: hill food

                    I think you mean Fields Foods on Lafayette right across from the old City Hospital (now condos), locavore in focus, though they do have store-brand options, lots of prepared food, a small bakery, sushi...that kind of thing, AND a bar in the store...the shopping carts have cup-holders for your beer or wine (I have friends who are great fans of this option). On the other end of the scale, there is a new Save A Lot on Lafayette and Jefferson, inexpensive groceries, mostly their own cut-rate brands...pretty good basic staple-item shopping. Good to see the retail food business responding to the population growth in our heart-of-the-city areas.

                    1. re: tonifi

                      good as that area needed some options (and at all ends of the spectrum)

                2. personally when the day comes that I'm rolling in ill-gotten cash I'm buying the CityGarden, moving into the Death in the Afternoon space and otherwise keeping the grounds as is, public-wise.
                  http://www.citygardenstl.org/

                  either that or the penthouse at the Park Plaza, or the top floors of Knights of Pythias or the Continental. anybody else collect delivery menus?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: hill food

                    You obviously are a man/madame around town. Was there a loss when the Majestic closed?

                    1. re: steveb

                      y'know I had not been to the Majestic in many years. was sorry to see it disappear, but never felt the call.

                      I look at real estate and restaurants like others look at porn. always have, but never have had the venture capital to buy in during that critical 5-10 year window/gamble.

                      1. re: steveb

                        I loved the memories at the Majestic. I did not love the margarine they served with the pancakes. Seriously, hill food, were we separated at birth? zillow.com is my porn channel. And in a perfect world I would take any one of the lofts over City Museum so long as they look out over MonstroCity. I long to lounge on my couch in bathrobe and slippers, sipping coffee as hundreds of strangers climb past my windows.

                        1. re: tonifi

                          ugh not me, while I have little shame or modesty I have had too much of being startled by the occasional fire escape climber while in the shower in apartments... "oh why yes hello!"

                          but we should hang out again one of these days (just not in a shower and/or on a fire escape OK, although who can predict the future?).

                          1. re: hill food

                            Well, only if the fire escape is catered. Say the word, my friend, I'm there.

                    2. I have been making lists and plans, hope you all don't mind a few more questions:

                      - there were no comments on whether any of the restaurant week spots/menus are worth pursuing...any thoughts on this?

                      - I definitely want to do the Tower Grove market on Saturday morning, but couldn't quite tell where in the park it takes place. Any hints?

                      - what's a good (but not too crazy) place to watch the 49ers preseason game on Sunday afternoon?

                      - I am going to try to catch a Cards game - any recommendations for can't-miss food at the stadium?

                      Thanks much!

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: chrisonli

                        "can't-miss food at the stadium" uhh it's mostly miss.

                        TGP isn't very big and it's hard to miss anything going on - you'll see it (there's really only one route East/West)

                        Restaurant week I have no comments or opinions. maybe the RFT can help.

                        1. re: chrisonli

                          The market is behind the wading pool/playground/pavillion on the circle that's where Tower Grove Avenue goes (north-south) through the park. The east-west roads are a giant oval (with serious traffic humps) but TG Ave is the thing to look for if you come in from most directions.

                          Anthony's Bar is the little brother of Tony's, reliable kitchen and any of the Tony's menu is available there, including the superb soups and a very homey dessert, a fabulous chocolate layer cake w/ homemade banana ice cream. The view from 360 is wonderful and I'm told the food is good - at least it used to be. Robust is quite reliable. Several of the others are spots I personally don't care for to varying degrees, so will leave comments to others.

                          This isn't much of a sports bar crowd here at CH, I suspect, and we're, many of us locals, sort of over the Rams, as they're still probably going to leave town. Almost every bar in town, including restaurants, have televisions, even somewhere pricey like 801 Chophouse. Not that this is a good thing, you understand. Maybe someone will have a strong opinion on this one, though.

                          My general advice for baseball eating is to eat at Sauce On The Side before you go.

                          1. re: lemons

                            y'know given the names I never understood why Anthony's was less formal than Tony's, another one for the books.

                            and yes TGP has some SERIOUS speed bumps.

                            1. re: hill food

                              I can answer that. Tony's was originally a red-checkered tablecloth restaurant when the first generation opened it. They upped their game in the post WW II years. The bar was opened after they moved from the North Broadway location with the famous stairs (which the maitre d' ascended backwards so as to avoid turning his tush toward guests), and they wanted to emphasize the relationship. Also, for a while before that, Vince Bommarito(Sr.)'s younger brother, Anthony, or Tony, named for their father and now proprietor of A Bommarito Wine Distributor, had a restaurant named Anthony's, more contemporary than Tony's, which I THINK was in that same building where the whole thing now exists. That Anthony's eventually closed, but they liked and kept the name, an hommage (or whatever the Italian equivalent word would be) to the old Anthony's.

                              Clear as mud, I daresay, but....

                              1. re: lemons

                                >> had a restaurant named Anthony's, more contemporary than Tony's

                                I remember dining there (as well as Tony's) in the early 1980s. And I remember enjoying both of them very much. Tony's was jacket-and-tie, while Anthony's was somewhat more casual (what we would now call business casual). The food as well as the decor at Anthony's was indeed more contemporary, less classical.

                                1. re: nsxtasy

                                  Anthony's was indeed where Tony's is now. They were notable, at the time, for the dropped individual lighting for each table.

                                  My dad and mom were regulars since the time of the checkered tablecloths and red-sauce spaghetti. I remember going up those stairs with all of the framed photos on my right side.

                                  We lived in Olivette my growing up and would go downtown where my dad ran a business to meet him on Friday nights. Tony's (No. Broadway) occasionally, sometimes Rose's, but usual dinner destination was Miss Hullings cafeteria. I invariably got the prime rib, my dad liked the fried scallops.

                                  My advice to the OP is to choose an interim apartment in a good area with safety features and then explore. While there are stretches of Washington downtown, Benton park inner south, Central West End, and parts of Clayton that are walkable, St. Louis is a driving town.

                          2. re: chrisonli

                            Look at any map of Tower Grove Park online and you'll see the road that crosses through the middle of the park that has a circle in the middle. The market is held just to the west side of that circle. There is a big pavilion (painted kind of yellow right now I believe) and a fountain/splash pool/playground in front of the pavilion. The farmer's market is held behind, alongside, and all around the pavilion. And the whole area is usually SWARMING with people on Saturday morning. Truly, you can't miss it. Market closes up promptly at noon, so don't be late. When you're staggering out of the market at noon, you should drive a couple blocks east on Magnolia, make a left on 39th Street, and get yourself an ice cream at our new place, Ices Plain & Fancy, two blocks from the park on the corner of 39th & Shenandoah. I haven't yet been, but my kids tell me the ice cream is pricey but kind of awesome...they use liquid nitrogen to freeze each serving individually and I'm told it's quite a show.

                            1. re: tonifi

                              oh Cat has been raving about it, that one, but not of her own Picks like a byline. KDHX not Feast or whatever.

                              1. re: hill food

                                <edit> I've heard good things about Plain and Fancy by the one you know as Foxy Brown's owner (I was darn tired when I wrote that)

                            2. re: chrisonli

                              I don't know where specifically in town you'll be staying but we like to watch football games at Lester's. I've only been to the one in Ladue but I'm sure the Central West End location is equally nice.