Feast on St. Louis – Delmar Loop
Written by Bethany Christo
Photography by Jacklyn Meyer
The Loop is full of energy and vibrant sights – starting below your feet, with famous locals like Yogi Berra, T.S. Eliot and Tina Turner on the star-lined path of the St. Louis Walk of Fame. Look up, and you’ll see the bright lights of the Tivoli Theatre, Pin-Up Bowl and The Pageant. As street musicians jam next to a statue of Chuck Berry, visitors stream in and out of boutique shops, art galleries, music venues, bars and diverse dining destinations.
“People here really believe in their restaurants, independent shops, clothing boutiques, art galleries and music venues,” says Joe Edwards, who founded the Walk of Fame and owns myriad businesses in the area including Blueberry Hill, The Pageant, Tivoli Theatre and Moonrise Hotel. “All the people who put their hearts and souls into their businesses – that’s the key to The Loop.”
The eclectic six-block stretch along Delmar Boulevard that bridges St. Louis and University City, Missouri, was named one of the top 10 streets in the U.S. by the American Planning Association. The neighborhood beyond Delmar offers tranquil tree-lined streets and historic homes, but the area is best known for the vibrant main drag, dubbed The Delmar Loop in the early twentieth century for a popular, looping streetcar line. Later this year, that line will come to life once again, when the Loop Trolley will take riders up and down Delmar on colorful refurbished electric cars on its 2.2-mile journey, with stops at the Missouri History Museum and Forest Park.
The Loop packs a lot into its six blocks. Out-of-towners, longtime locals and college students from nearby Washington University in St. Louis campus alike visit for the globally inspired dining options that offer everything from a walk-up window for Mexi-Cali tacos at Mission Taco Joint, to hand-pulled noodles and hand-formed steamed dumplings (made while you watch) at Corner 17 Chinese Restaurant, to authentic Italian sweets at Piccione Pastry or deep-dish, cornmeal-crust pies at Pi Pizzeria.
A favorite fast-casual stop is Seoul Taco. A wall of artfully arranged neon boom boxes and thumping beats greet you when you walk in to the energetic space. Owner David Choi launched Seoul Taco as a food truck in St. Louis in 2011, mixing Korean and Mexican cuisines. It was an instant hit for its flavor-packed menu items that incorporate the best of each culture’s foods. Signatures include a packed 1-pound burrito rolled with kimchi fried rice, cheese, green onion, Seoul Sauces and your choice of meats (bulgogi steak, spicy pork, chicken or tofu, all marinated for 24 hours), as well as the overflowing Gogi Bowl, Choi’s take on bibimbap.
“The Loop is so diverse, so unique, compared to other streets and neighborhoods in St. Louis, and growing up a St. Louis native – it’s been like that since I can remember,” Choi says of deciding to establish the Seoul Taco storefront in the neighborhood. “It’s a staple place people visit when they have free time – these streets are packed no matter the weather, every weekend.”
Another must-visit is Salt + Smoke – you’ll be able to smell it about 200 feet before you walk through the door. The full-service barbecue restaurant serves the greatest hits every proper joint should have: cherry wood-smoked St. Louis-style ribs, pulled chicken and pork, and best-selling sliced brisket served on a platter with white Cheddar-Ritz cracker mac ‘n’ cheese, coleslaw and a mammoth Cheddar-bacon popover. Along with 250 whiskeys and 60 beers, Salt + Smoke also serves creative comfort food dishes like a fried jalapeño-Cheddar smoked and pan-fried bologna sandwich with chowchow and burnt-end toasted ravioli, a smoky twist on a classic St. Louis delicacy.
Salt + Smoke owner Tom Schmidt grew up only a couple blocks away from his restaurant, which was a big factor in choosing the location. “Coming back wasn’t just a good business decision because it’s a really dynamic, diverse place with tons of people, but it’s also home,” he says. “The Loop is special in that it has so many styles that all fit into one place: population-wise, we’re tethered to Washington University, amazing diverse neighborhoods in University City and an entertainment district for locals. It’s a draw for everybody for so many reasons.”
There’s plenty to engage you morning until night in The Loop, but it’s best to end your visit atop the Moonrise Hotel, which is best known for its 3,000-pound, 10-square-foot moon perched atop the building. For dinner, stop by Eclipse Restaurant on the first floor for modern American food with Southern leanings, like fried green tomatoes topped with pork belly, housemade pimento cheese and jalapeño-tomato jam; head-on shrimp with Gruyère grits; seafood gumbo; and filet mignon with parsnip purée. Then, head upstairs for a drink at the rooftop terrace bar, which uses in-season and housemade ingredients to craft creative cocktails such as Buffy the Vodka Slayer made with cucumber vodka, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, strawberry syrup, lime and mint.
Seven stories up, as the sun sets over the blinking neon and bustling night crowds before you and a mammoth man-made moon rotates behind you, all it takes is a glance left and right and see all The Loop to offer and to understand why it’s a must-visit neighborhood in St. Louis.
Eclipse Restaurant and Moonrise Hotel, 6177 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, Missouri, 314.726.2222, eclipsestlouis.com
Salt + Smoke, 6525 Delmar Blvd., University City, Missouri, 314.727.0200, saltandsmokestl.com
Seoul Taco, 6665 Delmar Blvd., University City, Missouri, 314.863.1148, seoultaco.com