If you only have time to visit one neighborhood on your next visit to St. Louis, make it the Delmar Loop. This six-block stretch of Delmar Boulevard, which locals lovingly call The Loop, is oh-so-walkable and packed with locally owned shops, restaurants, galleries and more (nearly 140 stops and counting!). It’s so well designed that the American Planning Association named it one of the 10 Great Streets in America.
First things first: the Delmar Loop is not, in fact, a loop. At least, not by modern definitions. Rather, it got its name about 100 years ago, when streetcars would “loop” around here. Today, you can see the construction paving the way for a new trolley, expected to begin carrying passengers in 2017.
We recently spent a day here, eating our way through the Boulevard (burnt-ends ravioli, barbecue and trendy tacos), exploring galleries, bowling in a retro spot that was right up our alley, shopping for souvenirs and entertaining ourselves handily. Here are some of our favorite spots to check out next time you’re in The Loop in The Lou.
Savor great barbecue at Salt and Smoke
If you love the classic St. Louis toasted ravioli (ravioli that is breaded and deep fried) then you’re in for a treat at this line-out-the-door barbecue restaurant, which serves burnt end toasted ravioli. The pasta pillows are packed with smoky brisket, fried and served with ranch for dipping. Next up, we recommend the pulled chicken plate served with white cheddar cracker mac and cheese, garlic and herb fries and a popover. Carb-overload done right! saltandsmokestl.com
Admire engineering art at Compônere Gallery of Art
This artist gallery has a number of rooms to wander through, and you can get your fill of locally made jewelry, paintings, photographs, sculptures and other pieces. But it’s the lamps by Larry Frederick that really command our attention. The artist, who is also associate vice chancellor and chief information officer at The University of Missouri, Saint Louis upcycles old circuits, metal and other objects to make steampunk lamps that are functional statement pieces like you’ve never seen. www.componere.com
Shop for souvenirs at Phoenix Rising
Eclectic is an understatement for the gift items at Phoenix Rising. This small quirk-filled shop is the ideal stop to find a gift to take home. It has a little bit of everything you never thought you’d need: bandages that look like bacon or pickles, sock-monkey handwarmers, a “Crafting with Cat Hair” book, along with purses, wallets, socks, jewelry and more. shopphoenixrising.com
Sip a frosty mug at Fitz’s Root Beer
At Fitz’s Root Beer, the bottomless mug—and delicious root beer within—is only part of the fun. As you sip, you can actually watch the craft soda being bottled before your eyes (check the bottling schedule online to plan ahead). Talk about local! Choose from about a dozen soda options (including seasonal flavors like Key Lime and Pumpkin Pop), and up the ante by making it a float. Or opt for an adult signature drink, like the Rooty Morgan (Root Beer with Captain Morgan Rum) or the Cream Hornet (Cream Soda with Three Olives Cake vodka). fitzsrootbeer.com
Get your thrill at Blueberry Hill
Since 1972—long before The Loop became the buzzing place it is today—Blueberry Hill has drawn music lovers, first with its owner’s extensive record collection and, later, with live music. The famous digs--which include a restaurant, bar and music venue--still draw local and national acts to the Duck Room for concerts. blueberryhill.com
Taste some tacos at Mission Taco
Trendy tacos are all the rage these days, and Mission Taco does them right. Order some Baja fish tacos and a margarita (shaken to order) and stay awhile. The walls are decorated with fun paintings, including Lucha Libre wrestling masks, and service here is top notch. missiontacojoint.com
Strike out at Pin-Up Bowl
The retro neon sign outside is 100 percent consistent with the vintage lounge-y feel at this eight-lane bowling alley/martini lounge. The crowd is decidedly mellow by day. By night, that changes four days a week when live DJs are on the scene, and the bowling alley takes on the ambiance of a sizzling nightclub. pinupbowl.com
Make a night of it at Moonrise Hotel
You can see the giant, rooftop crater-filled moon from the streets of Delmar Boulevard. Follow it to the Moonrise Hotel, a sophisticated boutique hotel where the lunar theme extends to the art on the walls and space memorabilia galore. Suites here are named for St. Louis celebrities, such as Betty Grable, Red Foxx, Tennessee Williams and Shelley Winters. A nightcap—and stargazing—on the stylish Rooftop Terrace is a must when weather cooperates. moonrisehotel.com