The product of an artistically inclined married couple with a passion for all-natural foods, SweetArt boasts a menu of organic and homemade cookies, cupcakes, cakes, sandwiches, and wraps, with an all-vegetarian lunch menu that features a bounty of vegan options. Co-founder Cbabi's colorful paintings cover the neighborhood bakeshop and art studio's sun-kissed, bright walls, making it a lovely locale to bust out your idea journal over a vegan Sweet burger ($7.25) paired with a spicy cup of flad ($3.95), Sweet Art's house-made, vegan, three-bean chili loaded with chunky sweet potatoes. The grilled Klemm ($5.95) is served stuffed with cheese, fresh broccoli, and roasted garlic, while the vegan Botanical ($6.85) swaddles baked tofu, black sesame seeds, cilantro, spicy peanut sauce, and veggies.
Host to regular erotic art shows and sex-positive social events, Shameless Grounds serves up a dose of radical inclusiveness alongside its frothy espresso drinks. Customers 18 and older rappel down the human-sexuality lending library's bookshelves with care so as not to spill foamy lattes (a $3 value) or bold americanos (a $2.55 value) on erotic photography and gender-studies tomes. Alternatively, the S'creamer (a $3.85 value) combines ice cream and espresso with rich chocolate sauce for a dessert easily sipped during rounds of kinky bingo, fetish-themed karaoke nights, and other sex-positive events.
The modern flourishes on Copia's menu are globally-inspired but grounded by an American culinary tradition. Brought to you by chef Zach Fiorimondo and property director Derrick Collquett, dishes such as chilies and champagne-goat-cheese cream take off from Midwestern classics, such as slow-roasted rotisserie chicken, house-smoked trout, and pork-rib chops.
Aided by a wine market whose bottles pour into the dining room at retail price, the downtown eatery aims to shuttle city dwellers directly into wine country with 18,000 square feet of exposed brick walls, wood-beam ceilings, and white tablecloths. Elsewhere within the rambling complex, natural light pours into an atrium garden, a glass waterfall neatly partitions off the bar to prevent diners from impulsively ordering every dish and drink they see, and stainless-steel vats age several of Copia's own wines. Much missed after a fire shuttered its initial incarnation, Copia was roundly welcomed back onto the St. Louis scene in 2010: among other praise, St. Louis Magazine called its calamari "as crispy-crunchy delectable as any seafood you?ll find in a New England clam shack" and its smoked ribs "the best upscale version of barbecue in the area."
In 1972, Herbie Balaban opened a café in St. Louis’s West End, turning his former beatnik-boutique space into a French-inspired café. He grins from old pictures of the restaurant, a handlebar mustache curling upward toward a jaunty beret in crisp black and white. Though the space has changed hands in the ensuing years, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said it “would be an excellent restaurant in any era.” Aaron Teitelbaum, now the executive chef, honed his craft in New York City while working with Bobby Flay and Daniel Boulud in their kitchens. Aromas drift from Herbie’s own kitchen, hinting at French, Asian, and American influences. Those culinary traditions swirl together in truffled lobster mac 'n' cheese and shrimp with grits and buttermilk-fried leeks. Goat cheese steeps in smoke before melting with peppered bacon across burgers alongside a trout salad, of which a writer for the St. Louis Post Dispatch said, “I’d normally prefer no adulteration to well-smoked trout, but in this case folding in a gentle horseradish crème fraîche was a perfect foil for a fluffy, slightly sweet corn pancake underneath.” Grilled duck breast pairs with a duck-confit crepe served on an original Duck Hunt game cartridge, and Herbie’s Vintage 72's wine list is carefully curated to incorporate vintages from around the world, prioritizing US and French wines above all. The interior at Herbie’s Vintage 72 was designed by co-owner Jeff Orbin, whose past triumphs include restaurants such as Miso in Clayton and Monarch Restaurant & Wine Bar. Much like the food, the décor blends French and American influences, incorporating some of the antique French posters that decorated the walls of the café in the ‘70s. Inverted teardrop lamps and tableside candles illuminate the restaurant, which is surrounded by exposed-brick walls. Patrons settle in at curved corner booths or opt for open-air dining to enjoy their meal, and chatter drifts up from private parties amid the wine cellar’s barrels and rough stone walls.
Though Sushi Ai has recently opened its sixth location, it still shows the same dedication to classic Japanese cuisine. Sushi remains the star of the menu, ranging from single pieces of pepper tuna and spicy scallop sushi and sashimi, to delicate hand rolls that mingle crispy salmon skin and cucumber. Standout special rolls include the World Series roll—packed with soft-shell crab tempura, tuna, eel, avocado, tobiko, and tempura chips—whose original recipe was pitched from Japan in 1919. Rich soups with udon noodles and medleys of seafood or vegetables join Sushi Ai's other cooked entrees, such as chicken fried rice or beef and shrimp sautéed on a hibachi grill.
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.