Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

h1

Urban Prairie becomes Urban Farm

August 11, 2013

A couple of years ago I wrote about a large expanse of Urban Prairie in the St. Louis Place neighborhood.  While I’ve driven through a few times since, I haven’t really taken the time to stroll around the neighborhood again until this afternoon, when poor road conditions on North Florissant prompted me to park my car and inspect it for damage.

Water Feature Urban Park

St. Louis Place Park – Plenty of green space was planned into the neighborhood.

Luckily my car was fine, and without anything on the calendar decided to let my feet and camera guide me around the neighborhood to the west.  This led me through St. Louis Place Park to St. Louis Avenue (St. Louisans have always been proud of the city), where a homeowner wondering why I was photographing her property directed me to revisit the prairie only a block or two away.  As I took her advice and started walking south, I was shocked to see large cornfields filling up many of the vacant blocks.

Corn - Urban Farming in North St. Louis

Urban Scarecrow and Farm in St. Louis Place

Over the course of the next hour or so that it took me to explore the 10+ blocks of mostly demolished city, I chatted with numerous people who live or work in the neighborhood and pieced together some of the story.  A local firefighter and resident each credited the crops to the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation (which has an urban farm in East St. Louis).  Some saw the city maintaining them.  Others thought that corn looked pretty out of place, that rebuilding a mixed use neighborhood should be the priority and that Paul McKee would probably continue his track record – in the tradition of previous developers – as a serious disappointment at best.  The consensus was that none of the crops are intended for human consumption.  Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find any additional information on the internet (please share if you know more).

Downtown St. Louis Urban Farming

Freshly Planted

Although I agree that new urban buildings would be much much better than cornfields, I think that the conversion to farmland is a positive.  While visiting the town of Valmeyer, Illinois a few weeks ago (devastated by the flood of ’93 and mostly relocated to a nearby hilltop), I saw that many blocks of the former downtown – street grid still in place – are now soybean fields.

Downtown Old Valmeyer, Illinois

A strange sight, but I imagined it  at the intersection of 23rd and N. Market.

North Market and 23rd Street in St. Louis Place

August 2010

Cornfield at 23rd and N. Market

August 2013

Old North St. Louis also has a program to open up vacant lots for projects like this sunflower garden:

Old North St. Louis (ONSL) Sunflower Garden

Sunflowers in Old North

Below are more photos from today of the urban farm in St. Louis Place:

Soybean Farm in North St. Louis

Soybeans near 22nd Street

Urban Farming

Fire Hydrant and Manhole Cover

Survivor in the Urban Prairie

Abandoned Home and Cornfield

Feed Corn on an Urban Farm in North St. Louis

Corn Growing in St. Louis Place

Urban Corn Crops in St. Louis Place

Fire Hydrant on Urban Farm

Cornfield in North St. Louis East of Jefferson

Downtown over a Cornfield

Urban Farming in St. Louis, Missouri

Corn on the Corner

They say this is not edible

Red Corn Silk

Visit my St. Louis Place flickr set for more.

h1

Food Truck Row and Street Vendors in St. Louis

February 22, 2013

Over the past couple of years an impressive roster of food trucks has sprung up in St. Louis despite an almost complete ban on street vendors that spans the entire region.  Street Vendors are prohibited as the default, and vending districts don’t always match up with good vending locations.  As can be seen here in St. Louis City Ordinance 65061, vending is allowed only Downtown (East of Tucker), along the river from Chouteau to Biddle, along Grand from Natural Bridge to 70, on a tiny block bounded by Broadway, Meramec and Ohio (“Licensed vendors in this district may sell agricultural products and flowers only”), and in any ward whose number ends in ’4.’  These rules seem arbitrary and disconnected from reality.

From St. Louis City Ordinance 65061

SECTION THREE. Vending prohibited; exceptions.

No person shall sell or offer for sale or permit the offering or selling of any goods, wares, merchandise, flowers, horticultural products, services, food or beverages upon any public sidewalk, street, roadway, or roadway median within the City of St. Louis except in those areas designated by ordinance as Vending Districts.

Although these laws are often unenforced, they’re on the books.  Luckily not every entrepreneur has been deterred.  Stands selling BBQ or hot dogs, t-shirts and rugs, bootleg CDs/DVDs and  sno-cones can be seen on vacant lots or in front of businesses all over the city.  While I’m sure that some of these businesses are licensed, some are certainly not.

BBQ Truck/Trailer Jamaican in North St. Louis, Missouri

Mi Hungry Bar-B-Que on North Kingshighway – I remember eating here 6 or 7 years ago off Grand.  Pretty tasty stuff.

Recently, food trucks have been bringing street vendors the kind of positive attention that could lead City Hall(s) to rethink their restrictive ordinances.  While food trucks are not new to St. Louis, the 20-30 that have popped up over the last couple of years represent something new.  These businesses feature creative options that differentiate them from the conventional American hot dog stand or taco truck.  Over the past two years I’ve visited food trucks with specialties ranging from Korean Tacos to grilled cheese sandwiches, Filipino rice bowls to po-boys, Vietnamese sandwiches to gyros and from sushi rolls to crepes.  The diversity of options that have appeared in this relatively short time span is incredible.

Comfort Food/Soul Food on Chestnut in front of Anthem in Downtown West

Street Life Food Truck – Recently featured in a great music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aiy6-Wp_7WA

As these new eateries have proliferated, they have established a growing list of lunchtime parking spots to rotate between.  Popular locations include CityGarden, Wells Fargo Advisors (Beaumont and Pine), SLU Pius Library, Anthem (19th and Chestnut), Washington University Medical Center (Taylor and Scott), and Purina on Chouteau.  With the exception of CityGarden, most of these places don’t usually attract pedestrians.  They are all in close proximity to large daytime populations, but sit on the edge of parking lots, or underused green space.  One contributing factor is that St. Louis Food Trucks are Pretty Much Banned from Parking Anywhere Ever.

Food Trucks at St. Louis University - Popular Lunch Destination

Food Trucks outside of SLU’s Pius Library on Lindell

In a positive step towards accepting these mobile vendors, City Hall established “Food Truck Row” on 13th Street between Market and Chestnut this last summer.  Granted, this spot is located on the Gateway Mall in the Civic Center (often referred to by suburbanites as “Homeless Park”), and is more convenient to City Hall employees than anyone else, but it’s a nice gesture.  As someone who works in Downtown West (but not at one of the huge organizations that can attract their own food trucks), I find Food Truck Row to be one of my more conveniently located lunch options (behind Mom’s Kitchen, Hoagie City, The White Knight Diner and Imo’s on Washington).

Zia's on the Hill has an incredible Food Truck

Zia’s at Food Truck Row

Although it has been reported that business at Food Truck Row is slow, I’ve seen some busy lunch hours there.  It can also be anticipated that business will improve once SLU’s Law School is completed, and the renovation of the Municipal Courts Building should also help out.  One thing that the City could do to help, is add more seating!  There are currently only three tables in this rather large park, and none in the adjacent blocks of green space.

Fireman's Memorial in the Gateway Mall is home to Food Truck Row

Food Truck Row needs more Tables

Keep an eye out for Food Trucks around town, and try to support the ones that stop at Food Truck Row.  There are some really incredible chefs behind many of these trucks, and just as the food truck gives them the opportunity to try out their business, it gives us an opportunity to try out their food.

For daily map of Food Truck Parking spots, check out http://showmefoodtrucks.com/.

h1

Projects in Grand Center Advancing as Promised

June 25, 2012

It’s been a while since I last wrote about Grand Center, and since then a lot has happened.  The neighborhood has been improving at a remarkable pace, with a lot more investment than we’re used to seeing around the city.  KWMU’s new home, UMSL at Grand Center just opened, and the building is a great addition to Olive Street.  I haven’t seen any signs of work on the proposed plaza behind this new building  but hopefully it’s still in the pipeline.

KWMU Grand Center

KWMU’s new Location on Olive Street

Just across Grand, the Metropolitan building renovation is a big project that will dramatically improve the look and feel of Grand Center’s center.  The Metropolitan Artist Lofts, as the project is being called, are scheduled to open September 1st and I’m getting excited.  As one of the largest buildings in the neighborhood, and one that has had a few failed attempts at rehab, the reopening of the Metropolitan Building will be a major psychological boost to Grand Center.  The activation of this building should also help to link Grand Center with SLU and Midtown Alley given its placement at the intersection of these three districts.

Metropolitan Artist Lofts

Just a couple blocks up Grand is another new sight.  The Grand Center Public Art area finally has its third installation.  Entitled “A Chromatic Confluence,” this colorful, interactive sculpture is quite unique and worth checking out.

A Chromatic Confluence

Particularly fitting is that this art installation is right across the street from the Grand Center Arts Academy.  Already home to Cardinal Ritter High School and Clyde C. Miller Career Academy (not to mention SLU), Grand Center is really establishing itself as a neighborhood that values education.

Grand Center Arts Academy

Another new addition to the neighborhood that this blog has reported on in the past is Sweetie Pie’s Upper Crust.  Located on Delmar about halfway between Grand and Spring, the restaurant is a little bit isolated by parking lots and an abandoned building or two, but that doesn’t seem to be discouraging any business.  Riding off the success of the TV show “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” (which really shines a positive light on the city of St. Louis in my opinion), as well as their delicious food, this new location looks like it’s going to be an attraction of its own.

Sweetie Pie’s Upper Crust

Grand Center has had an ambitious list of projects queued up, but after seeing so much recent success  I am confident that we will see many of them come to fruition.

Just for fun, here are some more photos I’ve snapped around the neighborhood in recent weeks:

NPR UMSL St. Louis Grand Center

h1

Hotel Ignacio Opens

April 22, 2011

St. Louis University’s new Boutique Inn, Hotel Ignacio opened its doors this month.  This accomplishment follows numerous Midtown Hotel projects that never made it much farther than the planning stage (except for the very small Grand Center Inn).  Midtown is a pretty major destination in St. Louis with assets such as SLU, The Fox, Powell Hall, The Moto Museum, Chaifetz Arena, Pappy’s Smokehouse and The Best Steak House all within a couple of blocks of the hotel.

Hotel Ignacio - Across Olive from SLU, Just a Block from Grand and Grand Center, and Right on Locust Street in Midtown Alley

The hotel’s placement is very nice for the growth of Midtown Alley, helping to anchor its Western end along with Triumph, The Moto Museum, MotoEuropa, The P.W. Shoe Lofts and the recently opened Field House Bar and Grill.

West End of Midtown Alley

In the near future, hotel guests and area residents alike will be able to enjoy Frozen Yogurt from Flying Cow Frozen Yogurt Company set to open this summer in a newly renovated building just East of the hotel.  It’s neighbor is currently an Art Gallery with some cool looking work on the walls and pedestals.

Art Gallery and Hotel Ignacio

Other recent additions to Midtown Alley such as the Urban Chestnut Brewing Company (which makes delicious beer) and the Double Apple Cafe and Hookah Lounge are bringing more people to the area and increasing its visibility.  My hope is that we won’t have to wait too much longer to have the large parking lots separating Grand Center from Midtown Alley replaced with useful buildings to create a continuous urban space.

Parking Lots in Midtown Alley and Grand Center

A large Parking Lot right in front of the new hotel is a bad first impression and I hope that SLU will realize that a parking garage with first level retail is a better way to go.  The enormous glut of parking in Midtown remains its biggest problem in my opinion, and only by rebuilding the city where it has been torn down to create these parking lots can we get this neighborhood to reach its full potential.

More Photos of Hotel Ignacio

h1

Midtown Alley

June 27, 2010

Ever since I first rode my bicycle down Locust Street East from Theresa (as a SLU student and Grand Center resident) I have considered this area one of St. Louis’ coolest.  Once known as “Automotive Row” and recently re-branded as “Midtown Alley,” this district has many advantages including its 2005 placement on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is centrally located and in close proximity to SLU, Harris-Stowe and Wells Fargo Advisors not to mention Grand Center and existing residents of the immediately surrounding area.  It has a fairly intact built environment with fewer gaps in the street-wall than most of St. Louis and it already had a few churches, residents and many small businesses scattered throughout it (most notably on Washington Avenue which has a Limousine Business, a Sign Maker, Salvation Army Harbor Light, Grand Wig House, several auto-related businesses and more).

Washington Avenue in Midtown Alley in 2007

Unlike many concentrations of commercial activity in the city of St. Louis, Midtown Alley is not restricted to one street.  Washington, Locust, Olive and all the streets that connect them are part of this district and each have been benefiting from recent investment.  Midtown Alley also has short, walkable blocks (which Jane Jacobs is a big fan of) and an ability to expand in any direction it wants!

Map of Midtown Alley

In the last few years the area has improved dramatically, particularly along Locust and Olive Streets.  Restaurants, nightclubs, barber shops, residences, offices of professionals and more have made the decision to move into Midtown Alley.

Motorcycle Event Outside Moto Museum

There is a motorcycle museum, a tanning salon, a boutique clothing store, a Taekwondo school, a recording studio, a very popular rock venue, the Black Alcohol/Drug Service Information Center, and more.  SLU is opening a boutique hotel in Midtown Alley next year and next door on Locust will be a Motorcycle Dealership (SLU had better have a lobby that connects Locust and Olive).

Hotel Ignacio and MotoEuropa

This is from the website of the Tour de Grove bicycle race (which included the Midtown Alley Grand Prix:

Moto Europa coming July 2010, Moto Europa located at 3410 Locust is the latest addition to a true motorcycling destination right here in StLouis, MO. Attached to the Moto Museum and the Triumph Grill Moto Europa will offer new Ducati and Triumph motorcycles combined with a beautiful state of the art dealership and providing customer service second to none. Opening July 30, 2010.

Personally I’m excited.  And not as a Motorcycle fan.  The transformation this area is undergoing is just incredible.  And the best part is that Midtown Alley is not alone.  It is just one of many places around the city that people are rediscovering.

Anti-Aging and Wellness Center next to Arch Taekwondo

Areas where people concentrate themselves generate economic and social activity that makes our city a city.  We can never have enough of these places where St. Louis actually looks like a real city and we can really learn a lot of lessons from seeing what works when redeveloping neighborhoods.

Midtown Alley's Grand Opening was September 26th 2009

The slow and organic growth that Midtown Alley has been experiencing has actually been going pretty fast!

Locust Street in 2008 - The Two Buildings on the Right are now the REO Lofts

I commend Midtown Alley and its businesses/organizers for their great work.  Pappy’s attracted the New York Times to Midtown Alley (even though they didn’t name drop it) and I’ve been recommended the chicken wings and sandwiches at The U, the pizza at The Good Pie and recommend to others the beer at the Buffalo Brewing Company (and the food).

2 Buildings SLU is converting to Apartments and Retail

Unfortunately, despite all of the success Midtown Alley has had, it still faces some pretty big obstacles.  Just like the Loop owes much of its success to Wash U, SLU and Harris-Stowe are key to the success of Midtown Alley.  Although they literally touch Midtown Alley, both institutions have turned their campuses inwards leaving fences to face the outside world.  Olive Street already suffers from it’s extreme width that discourages pedestrians from crossing it.

SLU's Face Fence to Midtown Alley

If SLU were to add street entrances to it’s buildings along Olive and allow students and staff to enter from the inside OR outside of the campus, people would be better able to take advantage of what the school’s prime location has to offer.  In addition, the blight of surface parking between Midtown Alley and Grand Center must be addressed.  If re-connected, these areas could benefit each other greatly.  I recommend driving through Midtown Alley at the very least.  While a lot of what it has to offer is still just potential, that potential is still great.

More photos of Midtown Alley.

h1

U-City Grill

April 13, 2010

The U-City Grill is exactly what we need more of in St. Louis.  Despite the fact that this place has been around since 1987 (almost as long as I’ve been alive and longer than all but 7 of the 42 restaurants listed on the loop directory),

U. City Grill - Since 1987

I first discovered it less than two years ago while living nearby.  One day, feeling like diner food I decided to check out the “grill” and came across this menu:

Menu @ the U-City Grill

Since it was after 11 am, I had the option of either being brave and trying the Korean food, or going elsewhere.  Luckily I decided to be brave and ordered the first thing on the menu – Bulgoki (no idea how to pronounce this) Beef.  Just a couple of short minutes later I was handed a bland looking two-tone plate.  There was white rice and white bean sprouts covered in beef.

Bulgoki Beef - Delicious

Now usually I like vegetables to be a pretty big part of my meal and my initial thoughts were that I was not going to like what I had in front of me.  Then I tasted it.  Somehow, this simple combination of thinly sliced steak (expertly marinated of course), rice and bean sprouts is perfection.  For about six dollars I was full and happy.  Since then, every time I walk into the U-City Grill I can’t help but notice the smiles on the faces of the other customers.  This place makes people happy!

The U-City Grill

If you have never been here, go.

h1

Activity in Grand Center

March 30, 2010

The Intersection of Art and Life has been off to a great start this year.  Kota Fire Grill is open and with the same ownership as Triumph Grill I have faith that it will outlast its location’s recently previous tenants.  Around the corner at 3526 Washington, a new hair salon, Salon Edge Hair and Tanning is open, with a Jewelry Store, Grand Center Jewelers, and a Computer Repair shop, Virtual Technologies.

3526 Washington

This retail space is a great addition to Grand Center and I wish these businesses success.  Luckily they will be able to take advantage of added traffic from the City Diner @ The Fox which although behind schedule (what isn’t) appears to be well on it’s way to opening.  Today I saw this public announcement about a neon sign for the new diner.

Extremely exciting.  Another recent move to Grand Center was made by the Veterans Affiars Dermitology Clinic to the retail space in the Continental Life Building on Olive.  Today when I went to take a picture of this new office I found an even better picture @ Grand and Olive.

Cobblestones and Streetcar Track peeking through the street on Grand and Olive

The history of Grand Center is its greatest asset in my opinion and I think this is one pothole the city should not repair.

Also underway is work on the new location of Sweetie Pie’s on Delmar.  I’m very glad to see that the ugly facade is being removed to expose the brick building.

New Sweetie Pie's

Seeing the work here actually started is really great, particularly so soon after the initial announcement.  I hope we see the same kind of swift action getting work started on renovating the Beaux Arts Building (Carter Carburetor Corporation @ 711 N. Grand) to be the home of Grand Center’s new Arts oriented Charter School (the Grand Center Arts Academy)

I am very happy to hear about this new Grand Center Development and think that another school in the area (there are already at least 2 in Grand Center) will be great.  2010 is looking pretty nice for Grand Center and I can’t wait to see these latest projects reach completion.

h1

Sweetie Pie’s: Coming to Grand Center!

February 26, 2010

From the St. Louis Business Journal and the St. Louis American:  Sweeetie Pie’s is opening up a third location (not including the Granite City restaurant/bar/nightclub Sweetie Pie’s Easton Delmar in Grand Center!

Future Home of Sweetie Pie's

This is wonderful news for all of us because Grand Center needs more activity and Sweetie Pie’s is delicious!  Governor Nixon even came down to the Sweetie Pie’s location in the Grove for the announcement.  Pretty cool.  Check out this Living St. Louis video on Sweetie Pie’s.  As soon as I watched it for the first time I went straight down Manchester and got myself some of that Mac & Cheese.  If you haven’t been, you really should go.

UPDATE: This month’s St. Louis Magazine has a great interview with Robbie Montgomery, Owner of Sweetie Pie’s.

UPDATE 2: This project hasn’t had any activity for some time now and may be dead.

h1

Neighborhood Grocery

February 8, 2010

Last year I was living in U-City, close to Vernon and Leland.  Very close by we had a grocery store, Pete’s Shur Sav which was incredibly convenient.  Although the Shur Sav faces Vernon, it is also accessible from Olive and considering the fact that it is part of a strip mall, it is still friendly to pedestrians.

Pete's Shur Sav Warehouse Foods on Vernon

In sharp contrast to this easily accessible layout is the U-City Schnucks.  If I wanted an item that the Shur-Sav didn’t carry or needed groceries after 8 PM (when Pete’s closes), I would continue walking up Vernon to Schnucks.

The Walk to Schnucks down Vernon

Although Schnucks is positioned just as close to Vernon as the Shur-Sav, the only access points are on Pennsylvania on the West Side and Olive on the North.  Anyone walking from the numerous neighborhoods South and East of Schnucks (closer to the Loop) have to make a significant detour.  Luckily, one of the first times I was walking down Vernon towards Schnucks, I spotted a small group of kids taking a shortcut.  The bottom of the fence is bent at the bottom in a strategic location to allow it to be crawled under.

Fence along Vernon behind Schnucks - I crawl under

I immediately began using the shortcut.  Instead of walking around the giant box with 3 blank walls I slid under the fence, sending my groceries through first on the way back home.  I love Schnucks, but they need to do a better job of connecting with the communities that they’re such an important part of.

h1

The Best Steak House

February 5, 2010

The Best Steak House, with its prime location (on Grand “across from the Fox“), delicious food, reasonable prices (shown after tax on the menu boards) and otherwise wonderful experience, is my favorite place to eat.

St. Louis Restaurants

Best Steak House in Grand Center

As a SLU student I would sometimes eat lunch at the steak house and then return for dinner.  When I discovered the Chicken Gyro, I met one of my best friends.  At my most recent job, I had a Monday, Wednesday and Friday Best Steak House Lunch set up that ran for months.  My coworkers and I would play a game where we would try to finish an entire steak dinner and then stay awake for the rest of the shift.

Steak and Chicken Plate - 10 dollars after tax

I accidentally covered up my steak with the Texas toast for this picture but there really is a six ounce rib-eye under there and the meal did actually cost just ten dollars.  More commonly I get the chicken sandwich baked potato daily special which comes out to 5.85 with tax – Incredible.  If possible, save room for dessert.  German Chocolate cake, Carrot cake and Baklava are my favorites here but if you’re too full after eating one of those steak dinners, I’d recommend simply looking around the room at the excellent collection of historical photographs of the neighborhood.  This history lesson is expanded upon a little more by Living St. Louis:

According to the small ammount of additional information I have been able to find online, The Best Steak House on Grand is a remnant of what was once a larger trend in the United States.  Luckily, from what I have read, we are left with the Best of the Best Steak Houses.  A reviewer of The Best Steak House on Broadway in Chicago gave a brief history of the business model:

Once upon a time, “Best Steak Houses” littered big cities and small towns across America. They weren’t part of a chain or a franchise — they were just cheap places to get a steak, baked potato, and the ubiquitous Texas toast.

This reviewer “John B.” went on to give the Chicago eatery a terrible review demonstrating to me that what our Best Steak House has to offer is truly unique in the year 2010.  In many ways, Grand Center owes the increasing stability it now has more to the Steak House than to the Fox Theatre or Powell Hall.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,414 other followers