Featured on Feast St. Louis


Feast on St. Louis: Central West End

“The alfresco, European vibe of the Central West End (CWE) makes it a perennially popular destination for those looking for a relaxing patio lunch, upscale dinner, contemporary brunch, comfortable café, hopping nightspot and everything in between. Nestled among shaded streets and turn-of-the-century homes, it’s one of the city’s most vibrant hubs for dining and drinking.

Located off the eastern edge of Forest Park and near Barnes-Jewish Hospital, the Central West End draws visitors for its restaurants as well as its attractions, including a burgeoning shopping district, World Chess Hall of Fame (and world’s largest chess piece), breathtaking Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis and the boyhood home of playwright Tennessee Williams.

A favorite for craft cocktails, inventive small plates and all-day happy hour Sunday and Monday is Taste, owned by chef Gerard Craft of Sardella and Pastaria fame (as well as the late, great Niche). The intimate, trendy bar has a drink list broken out by – you guessed it – taste, including “rich, funky, vegetal” and “spiced, savory, herbal.” Or, opt for one of nearly 40 classic drinks on the list. Seasonal, rotating shareable bites include local mushrooms in miso broth, Brussels sprouts topped with chile soubise and candied walnuts or the potato skins loaded with Parmesan, green aïoli, bacon and chile peppers. …

Next door is Craft’s ode to French-inspired fare, Brasserie by Niche. The bistro is a lunch and brunch favorite for its romantic sidewalk café-style seating and European cuisine that brings a bit of Paris to the CWE. Executive chef Brian Moxey plates classic dishes like the must-order French onion soup, double-patty burger, roast chicken and meringue-based floating island dessert. …

The food at Café Ventana is also French inspired, by way of the Bayou. The French Quarter-style bistro and coffeehouse on the eastern edge of the CWE serves a mean cup of house-roasted joe, but don’t stop there. Instead, start with its signature beignets made fresh to order before moving along to sandwiches, salads and soups. Standouts include omelets (from plain to the works) and beignet sliders filled with spinach, egg and tomato; bacon, egg and cheese; or pulled pork.

 Breakfast Beignet Sliders

Signature New Orleans-style beignets at Café Ventana come doused in powdered sugar and can be filled with chocolate and seasonal and one-off flavors such as chocolate-peanut butter, mixed berry and blueberry-mango.

“Café Ventana is a quiet place to study but also vibrant enough that you can come in and have a conversation with friends or complete strangers if you want,” says general manager Kevin Mulvill. “Maryland [Avenue] is a hip, central part of the neighborhood, but I would suggest getting off the beaten path and checking out some of the side streets.”

St. Louis was founded by French explorers in 1764, and its French heritage and proximity to the Mississippi River has long connected it to the culture of New Orleans. Newly opened 1764 Public House pays homage to both through its name and modern fusions on the two cities’ fare. …

“The Central West End is known for late-night dining – and early morning,” says Derek Gamlin, who owns 1764 with his brother Lucas. “A lot of that has to do with the hospital nearby and the people who get off at 7am. For example, at 1764 we have an early-morning happy hour from 7 to 10am [weekdays], along with our late-night happy hour.” …

The Gamlins own two other spirits-centric spots in the neighborhood, Gamlin Whiskey House and Sub Zero Vodka Bar. As the name implies, the latter features a massive collection of nearly 500 vodkas, organized by region – from Ao, a Japanese rice vodka, to żubrówka, a Polish bison grass-based vodka. …

Open for more than 30 years, Llywelyn’s Pub in the CWE is the regional chain’s original location, which has since added eight others across the St. Louis and Kansas City areas. It’s known for the picturesque, airy beer garden out back, traditional Irish-pub feel inside and late-night eats. …

The Central West End hosts popular annual events including house and garden tours and a neighborhood-wide cocktail party in the early summer, a Greek festival over Labor Day weekend and a huge Halloween party. There’s never a bad time to visit, but when the weather’s nice, the casual yet sophisticated neighborhood is especially bustling – which makes patio-hopping and people-watching all the more pleasant.”

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