At Black Bear Bakery, every batch of Lickhalter sourdough-rye bread, sweet pastries, and crunchy granola is made with the care of a shop owner. That’s because each staff member serves as a partial owner of the communal shop. This makes each staff member feel a personal responsibility for creating a shop they’d like their family to come to, encouraging them to use eco-friendly processes and locally sourced, organic ingredients. Along with whole-grain recipes filled with specialty ingredients such as kalamata olives and rosemary, bakers use century-old recipes passed down from the owners of Lickhalter Bakery. These recipes create hearty sourdough-rye loaves sprinkled with caraway seeds or twisted together with pumpernickel dough.
While breads are their specialty, bakers fill their ovens with more than just bread loaves. They craft handmade, boiled bagels that come sans holes, as well as cookies, baked granola, pizza crusts, and a variety of buns. On the weekends, they welcome the community for a vegetarian and vegan brunch, which features staples such as pancakes, quiche, potatoes, and bread pudding made from their loaves. These dishes can be washed down with pours of fair trade coffee, juice, tea, or pastry filling.
Chef and owner Raj left his native Punjab in 1994 to earn his culinary stripes working as a cook in New York City. After a year of training and practice, he relocated to St. Louis, where his expertise in the art of Indian cooking quickly won praise in the Riverfront Times, which dubbed his eatery the city’s best vegetarian restaurant.
Laden with meat-free options, the menu entices taste buds with spiced and nutritious ingredients such as saag paneer’s spinach and fresh cheese, aloo gobi’s cauliflower and potatoes, and chana masala’s tender garbanzo beans. Chefs also throw dairy to the wayside in many dishes, including the vegan mirchi bhajia—deep-fried anaheim peppers stuffed with potatoes and spices hot enough to peel the wallpaper off a doll’s house. A catering menu provides spreads for large groups and flash mobs that rent the on-premises banquet hall.
Fizzy's Soda Fountain & Grill invokes waves of nostalgia with its charming, old-timey decor, friendly staff behind the counter, and a menu of burgers, floats, hot dogs, and fries. Guests chow down on reuben sandwiches, cheeseburgers, and fresh salads, pairing meals with frosty glasses of chocolate soda, malts, milkshakes, and ice cream in a variety of flavors.
In 1910, fourth-generation German immigrant Alvin O. Eckert set up a small produce stand on a roadside in Belleville, Illinois. More than 100 years later, that roadside stand has flourished into the expansive Belleville plot of Eckert's Farm: a pastoral acreage where orchards surround a country-style restaurant, bakery, and handmade-custard shop. The Eckert family's sixth and seventh generations ensure this farm remains a true family affair. Sixth-generation member Jim Eckert is the chief horticulturist, and his cousin-once-removed, Chris, oversees retail operations and the sale of the farm's homegrown produce and spare scarecrow parts. Chris's sister Jill helms the food program, and his wife Angie oversees the Country Store and colorful Garden Center.
Throughout the year, visitors arrive on the Belleville farm's grounds for a range of seasonal activities, including peach-, apple-, and pumpkin-picking. During the summer, a concert series features live outdoor music on Friday and Saturday nights, and in the fall, staff lead bonfires and evening hayrides through the orchards. Inside the farm building, instructors teach cooking classes for adults and children, as well as a wine-pairing class.
Family-friendly activities also abound at the Eckert family's other two farms. The Grafton farm, where public apple-picking began in 1964, offers daily animal feeding and miniature golf. The seasonal Millstadt farm is home to a workshop, haunted hayrides, and an array of warm-weather children's attractions—including a 70-foot underground slide.
The Village People aren’t the only group to put their stamp on the YMCA. At Sushi Bistro a team of master sushi chefs assemble deep-fried YMCA rolls chockfull of yellowtail, spicy mayo, crab, and avocado. The YMCA is one of more than 20 specialties, like the blend of tuna and hot chili sauce in the new Dynamite roll, an improvement over the old Dynamite roll’s tuna and gunpowder. Besides its namesake treat, Sushi Bistro specializes in plenty of other Japanese favorites, including hibachi-grilled king salmon and succulent cuts of teriyaki steak.
Choice Saint Louis is a caf? open for breakfast, lunch, and early dinner with an outside patio. The chefs here create wholesome morning meals of eggs benedict to hot oatmeal with fresh fruit, that can be complimented with a hot cup of coffee or freshly brewed tea. During the lunch hour caf?-goers can opt for a varied selection of sandwiches, creative salads, daily soups, and pizza. Thin-crust pizzas can be assembled on regular or gluten-free crusts using toppings such as grilled chicken and fresh veggies. The diner also hosts a number of gluten-free breads, wraps, pizza crusts, and pastries for customers looking for healthier options.