Chowin’ Through St. Louis’s Best Food Trucks

22 Sep

There’s only one Food Truck Friday left, which I sadly will be missing. I figured it was important for me to impart my food truck knowledge/recommendations so others can partake in all of food glory that I will miss out on. With that said, I have not been to every food truck in STL, so please add your own recommendations. I’m also only recommending trucks that I know go to Food Truck Friday. (Sarah’s Meltdown, Cheese Shack, I miss you so!!) Many of these places now have brick and mortars as well, which is probably a testament to how good they are.

Starters:

Guerrilla Street Food – Sometimes the food can be so heavy (yet so good). The Fresh Lumpia are a great started. Light spring rolls (not fried) with vegetables. It comes with a sweet dipping sauce with gives it just a bit of zip.

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Frankly Artisan Sausages

Frankly Artisan Sausages – Their French Fries are out of control. Some of the best I’ve ever had. I love all fries: curly, shoestring, thick, thin, but the perfect fry has a slight crunch on the outside and soft pillowiness (yes, it’s a word when it comes to describing fries) on the inside. I had their standard brat, which was great as well.

Mains:

Lulu’s Local Eatery – The Sweet Potato Falafel was one of the first things I ever had from a food truck and it remains a staple for me. I’m not a vegetarian, but this sandwich packs so much flavor I’d become one if it meant eating this everyday.

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K-bop Chicken Teriyaki

K-Bop STL – I’ve only been able to go here once, but I will definitely be back. I had the Teriyaki Chicken Bop, which was delicious: sweet potato noodles, lettuce, sweet chicken. Many of their other ‘bops’ sound awesome, but all have ‘spicy’ in the name. Given that Food Truck Friday has been pretty sweltering most months this summer, I steered clear, but I’ll be anxious to

Seoul Taco – Isn’t Mexican and Korean the best food combo ever? If you’ve been to Seoul Taco, you’re nodding your head. The burrito is my go-to. The kimchi fried rice give it the perfect amount of spice. A hearty meal for a great price.

Dessert:

Sarah’s Cake Stop – I am in a committed relationship with Sarah’s. There is no one else in my eyes. (My husband and I ever rented the truck for our wedding.) I love their brownies, specifically the Twix. My husband always gets the Snack Cake cupcake. A surprising stand out though is their Wedding Cake. It’s sweet and moist but lighter than many of their other options.

Escaping the Urban Playground: Parks and Hiking Near St. Louis City

25 Aug

Dog_StrollerAs much as I love the urban playground that is St. Louis, sometimes it’s nice to escape into seclusion. (And truth be told, we got Portia a pet stroller for an upcoming road trip out west that I wanted to test out. Don’t judge, she’s old!)

We have some amazing parks and hiking within 20 miles of the city. We packed up the car and drove about 30 min to Castlewood State Park. A lot of the trails run along the Meramec Castlewood State ParkRiver, or at least stumble upon a creek. We hopped on the Grotpeter Trail, which is a three mile loop and spent a little time kicking around in a creek, which was welcomed in a 90+ degree day.

There’s are several great places for hiking right around that area. Closer to the city, you have Rockwood Reservation and Laumier Sculpture Park. (If you’ve never gone into the wooded area next to the parking lot away from sculptures at Laumier, you’re missing out.)

Further out near Castlewood is Lone Elk Park and the World Bird Sanctuary. Both offer beautiful views and unique wildlife. World Bird Sanctuary boasts on their website that you will always see bald eagles.

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I think folks underestimate how beautiful our state is. I know I can forget from time to time. It only takes a drive west or south to remind me, taking in the rolling hills. And spending some time outside hiking is a great way
to take in its beauty. Feel free to share recommendations for other hikes or parks near the city!

National Book Lovers Day – Recommendations to Read

9 Aug

Happy National Book Lovers Day! Last week I share that I’ve been working with the St. Louis Public Library on some communications work. If that post didn’t give it away, I’m a huge advocate for public libraries and a self identified book nerd. I frigging love to read. This summer I did the Adult Pageturners program through the St. Louis Public Library, which means I had to read six books between May 30-July 30. Audio book counted too, but frankly I think that’s cheating (sorry audio book fans). I thought I would share a quick summary of the six books I read, as a few I would highly recommend

Go Set A Watchman, Harper Lee – I was warned before I read this book that it could totally ruin the experience of To Kill a Mocking Bird. Thankfully, I wasn’t invested in the first novel that much, so I didn’t take this one personally. I thought it was a good read, certainly not great. Without giving too much away, the book might destroy the image of Atticus Finch if you’re a big fan, so proceed with caution.

waveWave, Sonali Deraniyagala – I loved this book. It’s an autobiography of a woman who lost her entire family in the Sri Lanka tsunami (her husband, two young sons, and both parents). It’s a painful read, but what I loved most about it was it was so real. I’ve never experienced grief like that, but by the end, when after years of immense anger, alcoholism, depression, and denial, she finally starts to come to terms with her loss, I too felt healing. In what seemed like a hopeless situation, she proved that there’s always hope.

The Girl On the Train, Paula Hawkins – Good suspense read. Not as good as Gone Girl (presuming you were a fan. You either love it or hate it.) The main character is a bit challenging, which made it hard to read at times, but the author did a great job of taking you through twists and turns, which kept me engaged. Unlike Gone Girl, I did start to get a sense of the ‘ending’ halfway through the book, but it still got my pulse racing when it all came together.

waterforelephantsWater for Elephants, Sara Gruen –Set in a colorful and exciting circus environment, this is a beautifully written love story. I have a rule about not seeing the movie version of books until I’ve read them, so I have no idea how this stands in comparison. I loved the main character, which is an elderly man, reflecting on his adventures of running off with the circus. And unlike many books, I thought its ending was absolutely perfect. It made me look forward to the days when I’m old and gray and can happily look back on my wild and crazy life.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander – Very powerful read given the state of our country. Someone had recommended it to me, and I must say, it paints a striking picture of the discrepancy in the incarceration rates of whites verses blacks around drug laws. The author is definitely biased, but it’s a great read for anyone who is looking to get more information around the somewhat discreet ways we still systemically discriminate against minorities.

The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner – What. A Tough. Read. Once you understand the characters names (they switch depending on the chapter and some characters have the same name…) it becomes interesting. I can see why it’s considered a classic. Faulkner wrote it back in 1928, and the style must have been revolutionary at the time. Each chapter is a different phase of Compson family’s life and very clearly shows the personality of the narrator (which also changes given the chapter.) With that being said, you really get a sense of each narrator through the style of writing, offering a deep look into the emotions and outlook of each.

readyplayeroneReady Player One, Ernest Cline – I’m not normally a sci-fi fan, but this could also be considered a thriller. I really loved this read and would recommend it to anyone with a vivid reading imagination. Basically Earth as we know it has ceased to exist, filled with rampant poverty and a devastated environment. The only place of solace is in a virtual world called Oasis (think of Sims). Unforeseen circumstances create an opportunity for immense wealth through a competition in Oasis, but with it comes death and heartache.

Uncovering the History Behind St. Louis’s Libraries

28 Jul

Recently, I’ve been doing some pro bono communications work for the St. Louis Public Library. It’s been a treat for me – getting to meet so many of the people that make our public libraries the magical place that they are, both employees and users.

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My local branch, Barr (of Famous Barr).

When I first met the library’s communications manager, Jen, I mentioned that my local branch was Barr (that’s library speak for where did you go to high school…). She remarked how lucky I was, which drew a blank stare from my end.

Unbeknownst to me, Barr is an original Andrew Carnegie library. There are four branches that the St. Louis Public Library still operates as libraries, as well as the Central Library downtown (Barr, Cabanne, Carondelet and Carpenter). Between 1883 and 1929, Carnegie built 2,509 libraries around the United States. Thirty-three of those libraries were in Missouri, and 22 still operate at libraries today. The libraries were built back in early 1900s and, although they’ve been renovated on the inside, the exterior remains largely the same.

Looking into what might have drawn Carnegie’s interest in St. Louis, it seems that back in the mid-1800’s, Carnegie learned of James Eads plans to build a bridge over the Keystone Bridge Company. He was anxious to get involved, seeing it as an opportunity to build up business for the Keystone Bridge Company, which he managed. “The Eads bridge was

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The magnificent Central Library.

Carnegie’s first involvement in a major structural steel project.”

Currently, it seems like Barr is the only branch that is officially on the National Register of Historic Places, although I found application for each of the other branches. I’d be curious if anyone knows their official status.

These are architecturally beautiful buildings and a reminder of the incredible history of our city. Even if you aren’t a fan of the public library, it’s worth driving by to marvel in where we’ve been as a city, and  imagine where we will go.

Four Under-the-Radar Happy Hours in St. Louis

8 Jul

I love a deal. (Which makes me a perfect target for all those ‘super specials online sales… Damn you, ASOS.) I also love getting together with friends after work at the many fantastic bars and restaurants our city has to offer. Below are four excellent happy hours that are relatively under-the-radar in my opinion. I’m detailing out what I got at each and scoring them based on COST, QUALITY, and QUANTITY. As usual, share your own favorite places in the comments section

Pan D’Olive – A+

IMG_5248This place is the real ‘happy hour’ deal. The menu is incredibly extensive offering beer, wine and liquor specials, plus lots of delicious appetizers. The space is also beautiful with a large bar. This place has it all covered: inexpensive, excellent quality, and sizeable pours and portions brings the place to the top of the list.$3 glass of wine people – and you have an option of two different whites and reds. My husband and I had a glass of pinot grigio, a whisky and coke ($5), calamari ($5) and a flatbread ($5) for $18.

Flamingo Bowl – A-

FullSizeRenderMy brother tipped me off to this spot. The big seller, $3 craft beers from 4-7pm. They had some solid options, including Schlafly, Urban Chestnut, and 4Hands. They only have beer specials, so that knocks a few points off. They also did $4.50 appetizers, but their apps listed only consisted of four items. Still, better than nothing. The place was completely empty when we went. Depending on your preference of ambiance, maybe that’s your preference, but I enjoy a bit more of a crowd. We did get a table looking out on Wash Ave, so we could watch people watch. This is by far the cheapest of all of the happy hours. We got two craft beers each and an order of toasted raviolis for $16.50.

Basso – A-

IMG_5278Took some friends here for happy hour and it turned into dinner. The food menu for happy hour was that plentiful. Prices are great for the quality, quantity and ambiance, but were the most expensive of all of the places we tried. However, quality and quantity reign at Basso. By far the best food, and there was a ton of it. My husband and I had a glass of wine ($5), a specialty mixed drink ($6), truffle fries ($4), crispy meatballs ($7) and a pizza ($7) for $29.

Ernesto’s Wine Bar – B+

IMG_5288Ernesto’s used to have a killer happy hour. They’ve seemed to scaled back a bit, but the plus side is, they’re small plates menu is so reasonably priced, (most items under $10) it’s basically happy hour all of the time. Monday – Friday, from 4-7pm, they offer a ‘Wine of the Day’ special, which is a $6 glass of a wine of their choosing. I had a glass of the ‘Wine of the Day’ and their mac and cheese for $11.

Best Spots for Pac-Man in the Lou

27 Jun

I love the nostalgia of an arcade. Something about the clinking and the soft hum of the machines gets me excited. My absolute favorite game is Pac-Man (and Ms. Pac-Man of course). The post is partly selfish in that I’m always looking for new places to play. Share your favorite spot in the comments section.

Here are some of mine:

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CBGB on South Grand. (Courtesy of eventseeker.com)

CBGB – If you like a good dive bar, you’ll love CBGB. Snuggled amongst the international cuisine of South Grand, this place has all that dive bars lover seek (cheap beer, dim lighting, aging decor), with one cherry on top, arcade games, including Ms. Pac-Man and pinball.

Kitchen Sink – This is a relatively new spot downtown, near the Dome at America’s Center (aka the Edward Jones Dome). There’s one lone arcade game, thankfully it’s my fav. I’ve had hit or miss experiences going here. Recently we stopped in and were told they were ‘closed’ even though it was 2pm on a Saturday and the place was half full. I will say though, on the occasions where I have been welcomed in, the food was good and they had a nice beer selection.

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Playing Ms. Pac-Man at Black Thorn Pub.

Black Thorn Pub – What’s the perfect side to Ms. Pac-Man? Oogey, gooey pizza. Black Thorn Pub has got you covered on both. My preference is to stop in, place an order to go and play while I wait for my delicious pizza to be ready.

Union Barbershop – This might be a bit specialized of a business, but my husband goes here to get his hair cut (support local city businesses people) and tipped me off that they offer the delights of Pac-Man, among other things, while you wait for your cut. Makes it all the more worth it to have to wait a little bit if you ask me.

Adventure and History in Rootwad Park

16 Jun
Rootwad Park, St Louis

Art through art.

Last weekend, the husband, pup, and I took a trip to Bob Cassilly’s art installation in Rootwad Park, just north of downtown. I don’t spend much time exploring this area, and I must say, if you love this city like I do, and have a value for it’s history, it’s worth taking a trip. So many beautiful buildings along RiverView Trail that really gives you a sense of what our city looked like decades ago.

Rootwad Park was Cassilly’s, founder of City Museum, last commissioned work. The small park featured Cassilly’s signature quirky style, the focal point being a large turtle appearing to eat an even large snake. Covered in graffiti, which old news articles portrayed as quite the scandal at the time, I found the illegal addition to add to the experience. Perhaps it’s a telling sign of my leniency around what’s acceptable in an urban community, but to me, the graffiti adds vibrancy and a sign of who’s passed through. (Although I realize we don’t need to know everyone’s personal phone number…).

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The old Laclede Power Co building, which sits directly in front of Rootwad Park.

What made the park particularly appealing to me though, was the history surrounding it. The area is the start of the RiverTrail, which goes all the way up to the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. The Laclede Power Co. building, which has been vacant since the 1970’s sits directly behind the park. A faded sign on the door suggests that there were plans to renovate it into a welcome center and office building, but a quick google search tells me not much has happened since 2009.

Just around the bend, at the Biddle Street Trail Head parking lot is the beautiful Ashley Street Power House. It was the first electric power plant built by Union Electric and still stands today as a majestic landmark on the river front.

There’s no doubt much more to explore around this area in North City. I highly encourage anyone who is interested in a little adventure and a history lesson to check out Rootwad Park and the surrounding area.

If you squint, you can see my family standing on the bridge. Portia, our bulldog loved exploring.

If you squint, you can see my family standing on the bridge. Portia, our bulldog, loved exploring.