I am fond of the neighborhood shortcuts that go through the heart of some south side neighborhoods. Here are three that immediately come to mind:

The Holly Hills neighborhood has a small one starting at Holly Hills Blvd, cutting north to Federer Place:

I imagine this was a shortcut for kids walking to Carondelet Park, directly across from Holly Hills Blvd.

There are two others in the Kingshighway Hills neighborhood. This one starts on Lindenwood, between Kingshighway and Hereford and extends north through the neighbor:

And then another between Macklind and Brannon. This one runs a longer stretch from Pernod all the way to Chippewa.

I imagine a time when these neighborhoods were teeming with kids and families that were allowed to roam freely in a more innocent time. A time when people would walk to the many intra-neighborhood markets and services and churches.

I'm sure there are many others in the city. Are you aware of any of these cut-throughs in your neck of the woods? If so, let me know, I'd like to walk them.

Local man votes St. Louis #1 for dining

St. Louis is a great place for food. And it's usually affordable, no reservations required and less pretentious than some of other big city dining establishments I've been to. We are so lucky to have such a wide variety of top notch, fresh, well run restaurants.

My latest plug for local dining is Meskerem at 3210 Grand (between Humphrey and Wyoming). Here's the play: you've gotta opt for the communal style dining. So choose someone you are willing to share an intimate meal with. By intimate I don't mean lotions, dim lighting and Barry White, I mean you'll be eating with your hands. The food is served on a layer of injera, a mix between a crepe and unleavened bread. It is made from teff, a uniquely Ethiopian cereal grain similar to rye. It is steamed and served cold.

You use the injera to scoop up your selected entree. The vegetarian items are my favorite, with many lentil, collard greens, cabbage selections. It is phenomenal! There are also some delectable lamb and tilapia selections.

This food is fresh, carefully prepared, affordable and extremely tasty. And best of all, it's right here in our fine little city. We kick the suburb's ass when it comes to inventive, indie, affordable, soul-full dining options.

St. Mary's High School Update

I previously posted some photos of the site where St. Mary's high school plans an expansion to accommodate their new athletic fields. The property is at South Spring Avenue and Itaska. St. Mary's High School is a 4701 S. Grand Blvd.

There was an update on this development in the South City Journal. Highlights from the story include:
  1. St. Mary's acquired 6.1 acres of property at the west end of their campus for athletic fields. The property was owned by the Archdiocese until the 1960's when they sold it. Someone developed some hideously designed apartment complexes (St. Michael's Apartments).

  2. Recently these apartment buildings were used by the fire department to do classes and practice in training fire fighters.

  3. These 1970's/1980's looking buildings will be demolished, expected to be completely down by early January.

  4. The new baseball, soccer, tennis and shotput areas will allow the high school's athletics to be on campus, where they are currently using Heine Meine in South County.

This is great news for the south side! Not only will this area be much improved, it looks like the all boy's private HS will be investing even more in it's city campus.

According to the story in the journal, they are launching a $8.5M fundraising campaign which includes the $4.5M for the fields, $0.5M for a center for applied sciences, $0.75M for synthetic turf for the fields, $1.5M for general improvements including A/C, and finally $1M for tuition assistance endowment.

That's a lot of money to invest into this south city property. It looks like St. Mary's high school plans to be here for awhile. They are great neighbors.

This Whoppers For You South Side

Middle child in the middle seat yelling over the radio, "Dad! What's on fire?!?" Nothing little one, that's just the smell of a flame broiled Whopper. "I don't like it", she says. I don't either.

What is the frickin' deal with Burger King. The new one at Loughborough Commons is packed. What's the deal with that? Is South City yearning for more fast food this badly? The BK on Grand closed, why is this one so popular. Maybe it's the proximity to I-55 and it's travelers stopping in for a quick meal.

That place has been packed since it opened. At first I assumed there may have been a coupon for a free Whopper in Town Talk or something.

All I'm saying is that when summer roles around and the Carondelet Mulch Mound blends with the Whopper and the River Des Peres, we're going to be in for real treat.

Shop N Save Mystery

When it's time to bulk up, and I mean the >$100.00 grocery trips, I go to Shop N Save. It's not the best when it comes to produce, but then again, neither is Schnucks. Since Dierbergs, Trader Joes, etc do not do business in St. Louis, I don't consider them as an option.

Anyhow, the Shop N Save locations are very convenient for South Siders. There's the one at Kingshighway and Chippewa (love that walk in beer cooler), the one in Gravois Plaza and then there's the one on Watson, next to Value City furniture.

They're all relatively close, so I usually choose the one on Watson. It's the cleanest and fastest in my opinion. However, I've always wondered if that location is actually within the City limits or if it's Shrewsbury. Do my taxes go to the city? Last night I asked a checker if the store was in St. Louis or the suburbs. She replied that it's actually in both. Part is in St. Louis, the other part Shrewsbury. She even mentioned that when a shoplifter runs out of the store and heads east, they call STLPD, and if the go west, they call Shrewsbury. Another checker mentioned that the first several cash registers go to the city and the last several go to the county. Huh? Is that possible?

After some fact checking, the address is actually listed as Shrewsbury. Does that mean all the sales taxes go to STL county and/or Shrewsbury?

I don't know where to find the actual city limits of both municipalities, so I'm still confused. I am going to stop going to that one, until I can get a straight answer. Anyone out there know how I can solve this mystery?

Am-Shack No More

We have a 2 year old who is crazy about trains right now, so we decided to take him downtown to see the new Gateway Transportation Center. I used to take the train from


to Kansas City quite often and I did not have fond memories of the



The new center is a fantastic upgrade! We were thoroughly impressed. Now the Greyhound and Amtrak services are consolidated in one very convenient location. There is a major Metro bus hub and


stop nearby; not to mention it's directly under I-64. I really like the central location. This is a really unique station that will really standout to many rail and bus transit users

I like the styling of the building, with the overlapping metal panels and multicolored windows.

Here's a photo the bus depot:

And here's one of what appears to be a decorative addition to the supports for I-64 directly above the station parking lot:

Nicely done! It's great to live in a city that values transit options of all kinds.

Urban Legend or Conventional Wisdom

There's some common lore prevalent in South City: avoid state streets. I've heard this enough times from various people throughout the region for it to stick.

I think the perception is that the state streets are ghetto. Is this true or not? How did this start? All I know is that this is either urban legend, conventional wisdom, or purely outdated logic.

I am leaning toward the latter. We are searching for a home in South City and are considering Benton Park West, Tower Grove South, Tower Grove East, Shaw and Fox Park. Some of these have "state streets" and most are not bad. However there are a few state streets near Gravois Park, particularly Texas, that does seem rather menacing at times. Example: I ride a scooter through the city, searching for streets that I like, businesses, cool buildings, etc. When I encounter large groups of people hanging out in the middle of the street, who don't move out of the way, for whatever reason, that bothers me. That's one of my definitions of "a bad street/neighborhood". I can't deal with that bullshit.

But those are the rare occurrences, the exception and not the rule when it comes to my experience with state streets. It's quite possible that the only way to determine whether there is any truth to the lore on the state streets is in the definition of what is commonly considered a good or bad street/neighborhood. I'll give that some thought for an upcoming post.
I have a feeling my opinions differ from the hoi polloi.

Recommended if you like...

***UPDATE 12/05/08*** Thanks for the recommendations. I think Stellina Pasta will be next on the list. House of India doesn't make the cut. It's not in St. Louis. I believe it is in U City or Olivette or Clayton or something like that. It is good though...

I like the function on Amazon that recommends books based on what you've purchased. Or on iTunes, where they indicate items other people bought based on the item you are viewing. You can learn a lot that way.

So I am a nut for local dining here in St. Louis. I've compiled a short list of some of my favorite places. I'm kinda stuck in a rut and I would like to hear from like minded people who regularly dine at the places I've mentioned and maybe you could make a recommendation or two for new places that I should try. Here goes:

Greek: Apollonia
African: Meskerem
Vietnamese: Bahn Mi So, Pho Grand
Chicken: Iron Barley
Hamburgers: O'Connells
Quick take out: The Pitted Olive
Bosnian: Berix
Fried Fish: Hodaks
Mexican: La Tropicana, El Burrito Loco
Steak: $=Tuckers in Soulard
Pub food: Dressels
Beers: Schlafly and Mattingly Brewing Company
Mideast: Cafe Natasha

Notice there's no French, Spanish, Italian, Indian, Chinese or seafood joints....I'm sure I'm missing some great places. If you like many/all of the above, please make a recommendation!

Shopping the City

I go to great lengths to shop the city. I own a home here, my kids go to school here, I purchased a car here, etc. I try to keep every dollar I spend on entertainment and retail within the city limits. My reasons are simple:
  • Keep viable businesses open within the city limits

  • Support local investment

  • Employees in the city pay 1% earnings back to the city (like it or not)

  • I loathe the suburbs and it's myriad of inane strip malls

Some things are easier to get in the city than others. Here are some things that I cannot purchase in the city and wonder why not:

A TV. We're looking to upgrade to a LCD or plasma tv. Where in the city can I do this? Target has some, but a rather small selection. We need a Best Buy in St. Louis. Why not? And we need one in an old building, not a mega warehouse structure. Although, I'd settle for one in Loughborough Commons or Southtown Center.

So what else do I routinely drive to the suburbs to purchase?

  • Furniture, I think the Value City Furniture near Watson is actually in the county. I know the Shop N Save next to it is partially in St. Louis and partially in the county.
  • Costc0
  • Honda/Nissan/Mazda/Kia/Hyundai dealerships

  • Trader Joes

  • Gap/Old Navy/other national clothing retailers

I think the above businesses would be well patronized in St. Louis. I think Downtown could use some national clothing retailers. I think South City could use a Costco. Damn it, don't we have the demographics to make it sound for the above businesses to make a nice profit? Target is always packed. Home Depot is too. Lowe's seems to do well. I think Best Buy would be well patronized too.

President Elect Obama

Wow! Jubilation! Love! Caring! History!

Tears of joy were shared while listening to this momentous occasion. For the first time in a long time, I am optimistic about our leadership at the Presidential level. The possibilities seem endless.

That was the best night we've had in a long time! Way to go St. Louis! ~84% agree in this city that Obama/Biden was a better choice than McCain/Palin. I like living in a city were we can all overwhelmingly agree on that. I live among friends.

I was overwhelmed with the brevity of having an African American as president elect. I didn't think that really mattered to me until last night as I listened to the many black responses to the results. It was moving. I am so happy and proud of the Obama family.

I hope we can use this momentum and optimism to continue to pull people together for common goals.

Like Barack said, this is going to be tough. There will be sacrifice. I for one am ready.

p.s. I cannot wait to watch Michelle and Barack raising those two beautiful little ones in the White House. So go get that puppy and usher in a new era of caring, compassion and humility to the highest office in this great land.

Community Radio: Why It Works and the Gentleman Auction House

Pre-internet, I learned of bands and new sounds almost exclusively from friends and KDHX. Occasionally WMRY would send something new my way, but not very often.

Another local community radio station, KWMU, recently had their pledge drive; and while I know they are necessary, I hate these things. I listen to the station faithful talking about "driveway moments". They are referring to times where you are listening to NPR in your car during your commute and are so engrossed in the program, that you sit in your driveway to finish listening. No driveway moments come to mind for me when it comes to NPR. But, it got me thinking about how many bands I've heard of on KDHX and ran home to see if I could find the band's name.

Now, I like popular music, don't get me wrong. The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Motown, Miles Davis, Neil Young, etc. All that stuff is great and will be in my life forever. However, nothing beats the feeling of discovering something new and exciting. KDHX has done that again and again for me over the years. In the old days, I'd hear something and have to listen to the DJ and write down the band name if they even mentioned it. Or, I'd call the station and ask what the song was. Then email came and I could email the DJ and ask about songs (thanks Doug Morgan for being so kind over the years). Well, now it's much easier thanks to the great KDHX website. You can simply click on the show, and the song/band info appears. Excellent.

Friday, I happened to take a half day off; I turned on KDHX around noon and heard a song that immediately struck me. First, let me say that I am a sucker for hand claps and cow bells. The song being played immediately hit the spot with some choice hand claps not 2 seconds into the song. The inventive, complex layers of percussion and bass/synth lines kept my attention and the singer's voice and delivery reminded me a little of Conner Oberst. The jingle-jangle guitar part at 38 seconds continued to draw me in. It kinda reminded me of mid 70's soul, like Jackson Five. Some na-na-na's at 2:20 min, and I was sold.

I had to get home to log on to KDHX to see what that was. The show was "Silver Tray" and the DJ was Thomas Crone. He played a song called "ABCDEFGraveyard" by Gentleman Auction House. I googled it and found to my surprise that the band is from St. Louis! I was very happy. So I logged on to iTunes and bought a couple songs.

Thanks to KDHX, I now have a new current local favorite.

I hope to see these guys play soon, and I wish them luck. Here is a link to their website . And here's a nice interview of the band from SXSW. And a video of another good song "Book of Matches".

Now for the real question: are they really from St. Louis or the suburbs? I always gave Uncle Tupelo props for saying they were from Belleville. Being a Belleville product, that was very important to me.

Anyhow, thanks again KDHX for playing songs you can't hear anywhere else on the dial!

Great Rivers Greenway Extension

Took a ride on the River Des Peres Greenway extension this morning. As usual,

Great Rivers Greenway

has done a careful, excellent job. There is the familiar stone work, decorative pavers with the fleur de lis imprint and well graded paths. In addition, there are a few really interesting touches unique to this extension. First, they installed decorative metalwork on the Morgan Ford overpass, they also painted the buttresses with the flowing water pattern:

Secondly, they added some nice touches at the corner of Morgan Ford and Germania at the entrance to the extension toward I-55:

Thirdly, I like the way they have worked in trees to provide shade and interest at the stopping/resting points:

As usual, the selection and placement of trees is fantastic. There are more ginkos along this stretch and some larger grasses planted toward Germania. All in all, another excellent and beautiful addition to St. Louis. The next extension is planned for 2010; this will take the trail from I-55 to Alabama avenue. It will add an additional 0.5 mile to the River Des Peres greenway.

Missouri Forest ReLeaf

I was in need of some low-canopy Missouri native tree species to plant at the Holly Hills Community Garden at Bates and Arendes. I started asking around on where we could get some trees at a low cost. My sister turned me on to Missouri Forest ReLeaf.

I submitted an application for Eastern Red Bud and River Birch. These are 2 of my favorite trees as they are native to our region and are very hearty and low maintenance.

The application was submitted and I got an email back the next day indicating that I got 10 red buds and 10 river birch, all free of charge! I was ecstatic. You know, St. Louis is such a great place. There are so many connections to meet caring and well intentioned volunteer organizations.

The trees were ready for pickup at their nursery near Creve Coeur Lake is far west county. They are now in the ground skirting the edges of our garden. In several years, we will have a beautiful stand of trees that will provide a natural border to our garden and also convert more CO2 to O2 while providing additional pollination sources for the Hemitera and Coleoptera that help pollinate our flowers and crops.

Thanks to Gateway Greening and Missouri Forest ReLeaf for all the support over the years. It's organizations like these that make me want to stay in St. Louis for years to come.


St. Mary's High School Athletic Field Expansion

According to

this information on the urbanstl board

, changes are in store for St. Mary's High School. Plans to extend their athletic fields to include new baseball diamonds will affect the apartment complex below:

There are a lot of these 1970s (?) style apartment complexes in my hometown of Belleville, Illinois. They were not particularly well received there, and it appears that they don't fit in any better in St. Louis. The suburban nature of these complexes add very little to the neighborhood.

Good riddance to these. I've never understood the center courtyards either.

I am pleased that St. Mary's high school will be expanding. That means they are committed to St. Louis. It also means there will be more education options for residents who choose private education.

There is a neglected little city park just west of this apartment complex. Let's hope this park will receive some much needed attention when St. Mary's completes the work.

The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery

I recently rented the 1959 movie "The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery", shot almost entirely on location in South City. It stars Steve McQueen as the getaway driver in the heist of the Southwest bank at Kingshighway and Southwest.

Some of the actual STL cops and bank employees were cast in their actual roles. There is some really choice footage of some familiar sections of town.

Here are some places I recognized:
  • There is a meeting of the thieves under one of the ornate pavilions at Tower Grove Park.
  • McQueen's character steals a license plate for the getaway car in the Famous Barr parking lot at Chippewa and Kingshighway. As far as I could tell, there was a sea of surface parking at the southeast corner of that intersection.
  • Of course the bank at Southwest and K'hway. The site of the current BP and former Don Brown Chrysler/Jeep was also a sea of surface parking.
  • There was a nightclub in the movie, directly across Kingshighway from the bank. It is an empty lot now, but I wonder if there was once a happening deco-style nightclub there, or was it shot at another location?
  • There is a murder scene in the film where a woman is pushed down a fire escape in the back of an apt. building. I'd love to know where that was shot.
  • There is a great scene at the opening of the film where they are driving across the Eads bridge from the Illinois side. My how Downtown has changed. This was before the grounds were cleared for the Arch.

I won't say this was a great film by any means. It was a simple noir style typical of the 1950's. Yet, as a STL history lover, it is a must see. Man, I wish I could have seen St. Louis when it was still a bustling, densely populated city.

Again, the movie was released in 1959. That means it was probably shot sometime in the mid to late 1950's. The population of STL in 1950 was 856,796 and by 1960 it was down 13% to 750,026. Still a lot of people lived here then, almost double the current population. It is clear from this film that by the late 50's, the destruction of older buildings to make way for the car was clearly underway.

Good Bye Suburban Journal

As of Wednesday, November 5th, the Suburban Journal will move to a subscription-only service. YES! We have a choice. If you are a fan of the weekly paper, you can pay a mere $19.99 for a one year subscription to continue your service. However, if you don't want it, it'll be discontinued shortly.

I guess I have mixed feelings over this one. On one hand, I am sick of these things soaking up rain water, littering many porches, sidewalks and steps in the City; these have been the object of both my scorn and affection.

I've enjoyed many a laugh reading the crazy and sometimes creepy Town Talk. I will also miss the occasional incite provided by Jim Merkel and Shawn Clubb on some important local issues.

All in all, we have decided to discontinue the paper delivery service. We don't read the vast majority of the content. And, this will decrease the amount of waste we have in our recycling bins.

Let's be honest, newspapers are becoming more and more irrelevant with the onset of the many, many blogs and websites reporting on STL issues.

Cheers to the folks at the paper who finally decided to make the delivery optional.

You Simply Must

If you haven't already:
  1. Donate to KDHX, our greatest asset on the FM dial. KDHX, Uncle Tupelo and the Replacements are responsible for steering me clear from an alternate path in life. I am pretty sure if I hadn't had these influences, I may be installing windshields in Belleville listening to 96.3. I'm just sayin.
  2. Find a romantic partner, lace up some ice skates on a cold winter night and look to the east over the trees toward the beautiful skyline of St. Louis' best neighborhood. Now go get a cold Schlafly and enjoy the rest of the evening.
  3. Splurge and go to Terrrene. Not necessarily my scene (a little too high falootin' for me), but the food is fresh and fantastic. I didn't know brussel sprouts could steal the show.
  4. Eat at the bar at Iron Barley. This place is like South St. Louis' version of a Northern Exposure scene.
  5. Try the eggplant pizza at Onesto's

What else?