All About Saint Louis
for the NINC St. Louis Conference
Eileen Dreyer (Saint Louis native and Huge Fan of her home city)
and her Posse of fellow Saint Louisians are preparing a detailed
listing of All Things Saint Louis.
From where to get the best frozen custard to directions for seeing
the Clydesdales, Eileen and her Posse will provide just what you
need to make your time in Saint Louis work best for you.
So please stop back often for updates. But for now, here are two
insights, one from Eileen, and another from Karyn Witmer-Gow, another
proud Saint Louisian.
St. Louis? Good Heavens, Who Wants to Go There?
Byline: Eileen Dreyer
Okay, it isn’t Santa Fe. Or New York. It’s much
more affordable than that. And, believe it or not, there is more
to do than visit the Gateway Arch—although the Arch is all
that and more. But you want to know what else to do…
Ever since RWA came here in 1993, I’ve been the spokeperson
for my city. I’m a native, born and raised. And except for
the chance to live on the west coast of Ireland, I’ll never
leave. But do I like it here? Will you? Oh, yeah.
First of all, the basics. You can get here from anywhere.
Not only do we have an easy airport, we have Amtrak service, and
we’re at the intersection of three major highways, 55, 44 and
70. And once you’re here, it’s a very reasonably priced
city. We have all the modern amenities of any major city, with the
friendliness of a small town. We’re the surprise of the
The weather in early October is some of the best of the year. It’s
a perfect time to wander the downtown streets, or the zoo, or the
Botanical Gardens. The weather is usually still warm, the leaves
just turning, and flowers still blooming.
So where can you go? What can you do? In the ensuing weeks,
we St. Louisans will write columns on particular areas: food, music,
history, kid’s attractions, etc. That kind of thing. I’m
just here to whet your appetite.
First of all, food (at least in my heart). We have a great variety
of restaurants in St. Louis, from our 4-Star Tony’s to Broadway
Oyster Bar, which specializes in Cajun cuisine and jazz, and anything
in between, including foods representative of every immigrant group
who’s come, from the Irish to the Ethiopians. (Yes, it’s
getting its own column.) But when you come to St. Louis, there are
three things you particularly need to know (besides the fact that
we have the best Italian food west of the Mississippi). Ted Drewe’s
Frozen Custard. Toasted ravioli. Gooey butter cake. St. Louis inventions
you can’t leave without trying.
Site-seeing? We have everything from historical sites to a world-renowned
zoo to museums. Architecture as old as 18th c. French colonial, just
south of us, and as new as Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller. A
park where the 1904 World’s Fair took place. The first
Anheuser Busch brewery (with Clydesdales) and the first Busch wildlife
preserve, Grant’s Farm (with more Clydesdales). Oh, and did
I tell you we have a collection of very good wineries strung out,
overlooking the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers? And then there’s
downtown St. Charles, just a few miles away, from which Lewis and
Clark set out, and which doesn’t look appreciably different
You want music? We have everything from classical to rock to jazz
to (my personal favorite) traditional Irish. We even have Chuck Berry,
who regularly plays at a neighborhood joint called Blueberry Hill.
You want theater? We have something like fifteen active theaters.
Art? Antiques? We have a great area called Cherokee Street, where
antiques are still affordable.
History? We’ll need more than one column to cover it.
But I’ll give you some hints. Daniel Boone. Dred
Scott. Charles Fremont. General Sherman. Charles Lindbergh. Lewis
and Clark. Jesuit Black Robes. 1904 World’s Fair.
More than enough for any trip, even without the great hotel and
But, like I said, we’ll be writing other columns to give you
specifics. Because you know you want to come. And not just
for the round-tables.
NINC – Saint Louis History: Only Steps Away
Byline: Karyn Witmer-Gow
The moment you check in to The Drury, Ninc’s conference hotel,
you’ve stepped into St. Louis’s history. From 1912
to 1957, this building housed the International Fur Exchange, a company
that harkens back to the days when trappers sold furs from the Rocky
Mountains to brokers whose warehouses lined the St. Louis riverfront. Within
a few blocks of our hotel, a few stops on the Metrolink, or a few
minutes by car, you can find other wonders of St. Louis’s history.
History within walking distance: Diagonally across Fourth Street
from our hotel is the Old Courthouse and Museum. This is where
slaves Dred and Harriet Scott sued for their freedom in 1846, claiming
that because their master had taken them to live in Illinois and
Wisconsin, where slavery was illegal, they ought to be granted their
freedom. The case was eventually argued in the Supreme Court,
which in 1857 ruled against the Scotts. This High Court decision
was one of the precipitating causes of the Civil War.
From the Courthouse steps, the Gateway Arch and St. Louis riverfront
are laid out before you. The arch grounds mark the site
of the original town, founded by Auguste Chouteau in 1746. The
flags of France and Spain flew over St. Louis before the U.S. bought
the city in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
The arch, designed by Eero Saarinen and completed in 1965, celebrates
St. Louis as the Gateway to the West. An underground museum
beneath it offers multi-media presentations on Westward Expansion,
rides to the top, and an excellent American history bookstore. From
the steps that lead down to the river, you’ll have no trouble
imagining everything from dugouts to riverboats landing at the levee. A
ride on the Becky Thatcher or Huck Finn can give you
a taste of that riverboat experience.
Also on the arch grounds is the “Old Cathedral.” Built
in 1834, when the buildings were tightly packed together in Old Town,
only the cathedral’s façade was ever finished. In
an earlier church on this site, Sacagawea’s son, Jean Baptiste
Charbonneau, was baptized in 1809.
Several historic houses are near the hotel: Eugene Field’s
house (author of “Little Boy Blue”); the Victorian home of fur
trader Robert Campbell; and the residence of ragtime great Scott Joplin.
By Metrolink: (Closest station is located just past Busch
You can appreciate the Mississippi’s power by riding across
the lower level of the Eads Bridge to the first stop in Illinois. In
this graceful span, completed in 1874, engineer James Eads introduced
construction techniques that revolutionized bridge building.
Stop back at the Arch/Laclede’s Landing, where many of the
mid-Nineteenth Century warehouses along the cobbled streets have
been turned into shops and restaurants. Or ride west to Union
Station. Built in the 1890’s in an architectural style
known as Richardsonian Romanesque, this railroad station was the
world’s busiest during World War II. Updated to celebrate
its former grandeur, it houses a hotel, restaurants, and shops. Don’t
miss the station’s barrel-vaulted waiting room (a great place
to have a drink) or the whispering corner beneath the hotel’s
spectacular stained-glass window.
Another site you can access by Metrolink is Forest Park, site of
the 1904 World’s Fair. It now holds, among other things,
the Missouri Historical Society (with excellent collections on the
history of St. Louis, the Mississippi and Missouri settlements, the
Louisiana Purchase, the American West and Charles Lindbergh, among
others), and St. Louis’s Art Museum, not to mention the Zoo,
with the original 1904 Birdcage Walk.
If you’re looking for more westward expansion history, try
the St. Louis University Museum of Art on Grand Avenue, which houses
the collection of Western Jesuit Missions.
Half an hour away is Old Town St. Charles, Missouri’s first
capitol in 1821, one of Lewis and Clark’s stops, and a classic
river town. It’s a lovely place to wander on a sunny
afternoon. Beyond St. Charles is the Daniel Boone Home and
Historic Village, made up of Nineteenth-Century buildings rescued
from demolition. Missouri’s many wineries are sprinkled
out that way, as well, and can offer a pleasant afternoon’s
An hour to the south of St. Louis is Ste. Genevieve, Missouri,
a charming river town with excellent examples of extant French Colonial
architecture from as early as the 1770s.
Not far over the river in Illinois is the Cahokia Mounds archaeological
site, which documents the Mississippian culture that flourished along
the river during the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries, and includes
the world’s largest woodhenge.
If you’re interested in a specific kind of history or doing
in-depth research, please email me directly at
and I will do my best to point you in the right direction.
Saint Louis Restaurant Guide From An Expert!
I confess I’m a foodie and there’s no better place to
be one than my hometown. Highbrow or low, St. Louis has it
all. So let’s talk about good eats around the metro area,
starting with close-by places. Tony’s and its casual
counterpart Anthony’s offer five star dining that won raves
from my fav foodie Willard Scott. Kemolls has great Italian
with a view to die for. For loft district chic, check out Washington
Avenue’s ethnic and American cuisines: Kitchen K for
Cajun fusion, the Dubliner for Irish fare. If you’re
sports minded, try Mike Shannon’s or Fi15teen.
Laclede’s Landing, with cobblestone streets and 200 year-old
warehouses converted into pubs and restaurants, combines fun casual
dining with jazz, rock and blues. Give Jake’s Steaks
a try for Cajun, quaff microbrewery beers at Morgan Street or devour
a loaded burger while watching the Mississippi at Sundeckers. My
fav is Hannagan’s.
You’ll need to cab it to the old-fashioned soda fountain lunch
counter at the Crown Candy Kitchen in north city, or visit Union
Station and join the Parrotheads at Key West Café for homemade
chips, seafood and Key Lime pie. Check out the jazz and blues
at the Broadway Oyster Bar or BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups—these
two are not to be missed for local color!
Home to the second largest Marti Gras in the country, Soulard is
filled with blues bars and good food, Creole, Cajun or plain American. The
9th Street Abby offers fine dining in a converted church. If
you want authentic Irish music, McGurk’s is your place. For
soft jazz, Hammerstone’s. While you’re in Soulard,
be sure to visit the Farmers Market established in 1779. You
can buy exotic herbs and spices or gnash on fresh baked goods. They
even sell beaver tail if you have a hot plate in your room.
A bit further south near the world’s largest brewery (forget
InBev—AB’s still king in St. Louis) is perhaps the most
unusual joint in the region. Venice Café’s specialty
is Jamaican food, but feast your eyes on the millions of pieces of
glass and beads that cover floors, walls, even ceilings. The
place is a psychedelic trip without drugs!
Tucked amid the gorgeous old houses around Lafayette Square are
dozens of great restaurants: Ricardo’s for Italian (unique
calamari), Sqwires, in an old wire factory, for fab flash-fried spinach,
or Eleven Eleven Mississippi, a hotspot with a wide-ranging menu. For
Mexican, Arcelinas. The chocoholics in the crowd gotta save
room for Bailey’s Chocolate Bar to OD.
The Food Network calls The Hill “one of the top Little Italy
neighborhoods in the country” where the fireplugs are painted
green, white and red like the Italian flag. Yogi Berra, Joe
Garagiola and many sports legends grew up here surrounded by great
restaurants—Bartolinos, Cunetto’s Lorenzo’s, Zia’s…you
get the idea. Upscale at Giovanni’s or checkered tablecloths
at Gian-Tony’s, the food is superb.
The Delmar Loop and the Central West End, are sidewalk café havens
and people watchers delights. Chuck Berry still performs at
Blueberry Hill in the Loop. Stroll down the Loop Walk of Fame. Along
the way try Cicero’s, Brandt’s, Riddles Penultimate,
or the Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Ethiopian or Chinese places. Fitz’s
Root Beer Bottling Company is fun.
The CWE is where the serious money folks of the 19th century hung
out. It’s worth the trip for the architecture, but you’ll
want to gorge on lox, chopped liver and mile high sandwiches at Koppermans,
the best deli on earth (yes, I’ve eaten in New York and Chicago
delis; this is still my pick). For a genuine Welsh pub
experience try Llewellyn’s, or just hang out at Duffs and watch
the crowds go by while you eat. The Pasta House has a restaurant
in the CWE. I don’t usually mention chains, but this
one is local, offering really good Italian food and a marinated salad
to die for.
At the art museum, be sure to lunch at Puck’s (as in Wolfgang). For
casual fare in Forest Park, the Boathouse offers lakeside dining. Although
the food at our top-ranked zoo isn’t gourmet, fuel up to watch
tiger cubs and penguins.
St. Charles is an old French settlement filled with great places
to eat interspersed with shops of all varieties. Vivian’s
Vineyards in French Town has a very good eclectic menu. The
Lewis & Clark features American cuisine and a knockout view
of the Missouri River. If you’re looking for a neat lunch
place, Miss Aimee B’s Tea Room is just the thing. Try
Alton, Illinois, on the Great River Road, is a quick drive to see
autumn colors. The historic old river town sits high on the
bluffs and is filled with antique shops and restaurants. For
nostalgia, don’t miss Fast Eddie’s Bon Air for burgers
and beer at bargain prices—you’ll think you’ve
been teleported back to the l950’s. Tony’s offers delish
artichoke appetizers and steaks. Gentelins is a must for toasted
ravioli (St. Louis own invention) and sensational seafood. My
Just Desserts offers superb lunches and home-made pies.
St. Louis is filled with incredible places to eat in anyone’s
price range. Now I’ll tell you what tastes best of all. If
the baseball gods favor the Cardinals in ’09, the nearest thing
to heaven is eating a juicy jumbo hotdog while you sip an ice cold
beer at Busch Stadium!
P.S. from Kasey Michaels: I checked, and even if the Cards
don’t make the Division playoffs in 2009, the Milwaukee Brewers
did in 2008 …and the Brewers wrap-up the regular 2009 season
in Saint Louis during our conference. There’s
a night game Friday night and day games Saturday and Sunday, and
the Drury Plaza is only one block away from Busch Stadium. Alert
all baseball fans, because “We got game!” Oh, and juicy
And one more thing…as we get closer to the conference date,
we’ll have hotlinks up on the website for as many of the above
fabulous restaurants as we can, for your convenience.
Coming soon: Why Kids Love Saint Louis