Welcome to my fair city! In fact, welcome to my neighborhood!
Everyone at St. Louis Public Radio is excited to have PRNDI in our backyard, and I’m chief among them since the conference is being held a scant three blocks from my house.
So, let me tell you about my neighborhood and things you can do when you aren’t sipping from the deep well of knowledge PRNDI offers.
First up: Exercise.
The Chase Park Plaza Hotel has a really good gym. It’s no ordinary hotel gym, it’s a full-on neighborhood health club with classes and lots of machines and weights and towel service, etc. If you go in the morning before the conference gets going, say “hi” to Doug at the front desk and tell him you’re a friend of Shula and he’ll give you a special St. Louis Greeting.
The weather should be really nice in late June (OK, maybe also a bit humid), so if you’d rather go running or walking outside, the Chase is kitty-corner from THE BEST PARK IN THE UNITED STATES. That’s not just my opinion, some random web site called thrillist.com made the claim a few weeks ago and everyone around town has been boasting about it ever since.
Honestly, it is a great place for walking or running. There’s a trail for bikes and pedestrians that that circles almost the entire park. It’s 5.65 miles long (closer to six if you include the route from the Chase to the path). Getting to the trail from the hotel can be a little confusing so consult this map before you head out. http://www.forestparkforever.org/navigation (or ask the hotel concierge). There is also an app you can download if you are super hard core about not getting lost.
If you don’t feel like walking around the entire park, you can hop on the trolley (it’s a city bus) and tour the park that way. The park has a huge zoo (free), an amazing art museum (free), a history museum (free) a science center (also free) several golf courses, tennis courts, beautiful architecture, lakes with cool birds, an ice skating rink (closed in the summer, of course), restaurants, peddle boats to rent, statues and lots and lots of trees … all kinds of things to do and look at.
Enough with the healthy stuff.
Next up: Food and beverage
The Chase Hotel is located in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis. By far the coolest one in the city. But perhaps I am biased.
It’s a beautiful neighborhood for walking around in. Most of the houses and buildings were constructing in the late 1800s, early 1900s, but as you will see there is lots of new construction going on these days, too.
The benefit of the Central West End is that it’s very walkable and there are restaurants and pubs for every taste. You could easily enjoy good food and drink and never leave the confines of the hotel - they have a good restaurant or two there. But it’s worth exploring the CWE.
As with any city neighborhood, anywhere in this country, if you do walk around at night be aware of your surroundings, especially when you are not on one of the main streets. I’ve never had any problems in my neighborhood, but I hear about things happening to unsuspecting people.
Here are just a few of my personal recommendations in the neighborhood - this is a fraction of what is available. I have included a very rough, not-to-scale map of the neighborhood so you can figure out where these places are in relation to the hotel.
Bar Italia - One of the longest-existing restaurants in the CWE. it has great outdoor space for dining on their quite good Italian food (I recommend the mussels). It also just has a nice vibe in general. A little pricey, though.
Sub Zero - This is a vodka bar that has at least 50 brands of vodka on their menu from all over the world. They also serve quite good sushi and really good burgers. Go figure. The place gets a little rowdy at times, but it’s a great venue and very welcoming. Oh, and the bar is frozen, so if you sit at the bar with your vodka, your drink never gets cold!
Brennan’s - This is a cigar bar with a great selection of hard alcohol and a great cocktail menu. Fair warning: You will smell of cigar if you go there - even if you don’t go into the part of the venue that is designated for the cigars. I can’t speak to their food as I’ve never eaten there, but do they do offer food at moderate to expensive prices.
Dressel’s - Another mainstay of the CWE, the official name is actually Dressel’s Public House. A public house! And it definitely has that feel. It features traditional Welsh food (rarebit, anyone?) but also some very contemporary tasting dishes. Best of all, their homemade chips are the best ever. Lots of beer selections and it’s all moderately priced.
Herbie’s - In the mood for a dining experience? Herbies is very fun ... if rather pricey. It has a huge menu, all of it really good and you can either sit in the restaurant and feel like you walked back in time to 1950; in the bar, which is very 2010; or in the bistro section which is timeless but feels like you are in another country.
Jeni’s Ice Cream -- Amazing ice cream. Fantastic variety of flavors. Well worth the walk. Yes, it’s a chain, but who cares? It’s great ice cream.
Taste - By far, this is my absolute favorite restaurant in the CWE. I cannot rave enough about it. It’s moderately pricey, but the food is creative, fresh, tasty, always changing. Just writing about it makes me want to go and order their gnudi. They also have a great cocktail menu. The venue inside is small, but there’s a ton of seating outside.
Brasserie - Right next door to taste is Brasserie which feels as French as it sounds. The steak frites are worth it and the place has a great atmosphere. Again, lots of outdoor seating, so you can just go there and hang outside and enjoy the scenery.
Rosie’s - Across the street from Brasserie and Taste is one of the last remaining dive bars in the neighborhood. The place is classic and offers everything you want in a dive bar. But here’s the catch: they allow smoking. Yes, there is still indoor smoking allowed in St. Louis but only in establishments that don’t serve food.
Other CWE attractions:
Left Bank Books - a great independent bookstore located next to Jeni’s ice cream place. Say hi to the store cat, Spike, while you browse new and used books.
Mike’s Bikes - if you are feeling like renting a bike to explore Forest Park or other parts of the city, these guys have five-speeds that will get you around in style.
Cathedral Basilica - For architecture junkies, this is worth half-mile walk to see the enormous and gorgeous cathedral. It’s the seat of the St. Louis’ Catholic archdiocese and it looks like it should be located somewhere in Europe.
Chess Hall of Fame - While stumbling around near Bar Italia or Brennan’s you might notice a giant chess piece that is taller than a giraffe. You are not imagining things. It is, in fact, a giant king marking the entrance to the World Chess Hall of Fame. Across the street is the chess club, so if you feel like playing a game, there are always people eager for partners.