The Soulard building has come a long way since its days as a turn-of-the-century shoe factory. Its newest tenants, however, still pay homage to their space’s industrial origins, keeping the original concrete pillars and exposed brick walls in Franco's dining room. That isn't to say the owners scoff at modernity—they've updated the charmingly rustic environs with sleek, undulating light fixtures. This balance between past and future extends to the cuisine, which has been lauded by St. Louis Magazine as a “minor masterpiece.” Chefs spotlight classic French meats and cheeses and infuse them with Midwestern flourishes such as molasses-bourbon gastrique sauce. Additionally, servers happily recommend wine pairings or the best wine bottles for trapping genies, a feat that earned Franco’s staff the Best Service in a Restaurant award from Riverfront Times.
City Bistro specializes in hearty American sandwiches. Its menu catalogs a Tuscan grilled chicken wrap with provolone and aioli sauce, as well as a steak sandwich with grilled portabella mushrooms and on a toasted bun. Beyond their cheddar bacon cheeseburgers and BLTs, the team pours wine, mixes cocktails, and chills bottles of imported and domestic beer at their newly remodeled and expanded bar area that features a stage for live blues and Motown music.
Lola's chefs bring the aromas and flavors of creole cuisine to their casual brick-walled space in the heart of downtown. Menus scrawled on chalkboards feature dinner plates such as barbecue shrimp and grits, creole-style chicken breast, traditional jambalaya, and spanakopita-stuffed portobello mushroom. On Saturdays, the kitchen opens for a brunch characterized by inventive takes on traditional dishes such as biscuits and crayfish gravy, savory creole bread pudding, and chicken and waffles with maple butter. The eclectic drink menu features cocktails blended from champagne, flavored vodka, and bourbon, as well as refreshing or hearty craft beers and flights of cognac. On some nights, Lola welcomes DJs and bands onto a small stage set in front of framed posters of famous musicians, which start glowing if they approve of the performers.