As locals say, “somewhere between Mayberry and Metropolis is Maplewood,” a rare find that juxtaposes an old-style vibe with one that is truly hip.
Residents say you can meet the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker — and then talk to the brewer and the blacksmith.Stroll down the street any time of day and find a wonderful mix of families, millennials, hipsters, old-timers and visitors. Same thing at night. The area’s downtown is a place where one can so totally immerse themselves in a most distinctive shopping and dining experience — where it seems every day is Small Business Saturday, with an extraordinary twist.
Buttressed by Schlafly Bottleworks on one end and Side Project Brewing at the other, the quarter-mile stretch of Manchester Road, and relegated side streets, is home to over 200 businesses, restaurants, breweries and boutiques, more than 25 of them that produce and sell their own products on site — everything from culinary knives, colorfully welded iron and steel bottle openers, artisanal leather handbags and wallets, beer, soaps, Strange Donuts and more.
Strange Donuts? Yep — operating under the slogan Be Nice. Stay Strange. — the donut shop has quickly become a staple of St. Louis culture and its own unique way of life. The from-scratch donut menu rotates monthly to reflect in-season fruits and available ingredients. The donuts have names like Gooey Butter, Peanut Butter and Jelly, and Blueberry Cheesecake. The company’s “Stranger” donut flavors change weekly and are available Thursday through Saturday until sold out — think, Hotdogs and Ketchup, Pizza, Bubblegum, and Sweet Potato. Order quickly though — they sell fast.
For the Maplewood Maker’s Map that features not only these creative businesses, but also all of what the city has to offer, visit www.enjoymaplewood.com. Located approximately 10 minutes from downtown, you can take MetroLink to the Maplewood station and walk east just a few blocks to start your tour. Or, drive and park your car in one of the many free lots or street side spots available. And then leave it. You won’t need it the rest of the day.
Maplewood is a gift chaser’s dream — peruse, purchase and please everyone with everything from your own logoed t-shirts (Tiny Little Monsters), sweet potato marshmallows and homemade dark chocolate (Kakao Chocolate), made-from-scratch pies (Pie Oh My) and artisanal breads (Living Room and Great Harvest Baking Co.).
Wait, there’s more. To wit: a real leather wine tote (Sole Survivor), a blacksmith-produced kitchen utensil set and/or hunting knives (NHB Knife Works), seasonal preserves with a strong hint of a local beer (Larder and Cupboard), beer-infused hair gel (Bee Naturals), and “Don Draper”-scented bubble bomb soap (Maven). At Bolyards Meat & Provisions the smell of fresh-smoked meats waft through the parking lot outside, drawing visitors in from near and far. Choose from choice cuts of pork, chicken, beef and lamb that all hail from the lush pastures of Midwestern farms. Sit for a while at one of the three communal-style tables inside, or umbrella-covered tables outside, and sample some of the incredible beef-laden sandwiches that are made to order.
Or walk one block to get a feline fix at Mauhaus Cat Cafe and Lounge. Make a reservation before you go though. The free-roaming live cats are available for adoption, or just comfort, along with a Cup of Joe. Also on Sutton is St. Louis’ only holistic respiratory and wellness experience, the Saint Louis Salt Room. Here, you can dream of ocean waves and sea spray as you lounge in a reclining lawn chair under dimmed lights and the sound of soft music. Let the power of salt calm your senses, all in 45 minutes. Need more action? Try the Skee-Ball and pinball machines at Orbit Pinball Lounge and Bar. Jurassic Park, Last Action Hero and The Simpsons are a few of the games that harken back to an earlier time.
Beer and whiskey drinkers delight in Maplewood’s new age offerings. At Tapped, patrons receive a bar-coded wristband that is digitally activated when held up to one of the more than 40 beer taps and eight wine taps that line the walls. Pour what you wish to taste, sample the offerings, eat a wood-fired oven pizza and know that your tips are being donated to a local charity announced each month. Since its grand opening in May 2017, the establishment has donated more than $45,000 in tips to area charities such as Artists First, Joe’s Place and Wheels of Hope. A few doors down, at Vom Fass, where the motto is “look, taste, enjoy,” and you have a choice of sampling the world’s finest oils, vinegars and spirits, including Teeling Whiskey Co.’s 26-year-old aged Bunnhaneim whiskey.
In 2014, Maplewood was designated the first-ever Green Dining District in the nation. With its multiple eco-friendly restaurants committed to minimizing their environmental footprint, and menus of farm to table local foods, the city has become a foodie’s paradise. Some of these hotspots include Kakao Chocolate, Foundation Grounds Coffee House & Cafe, The Post Sports Bar & Grill, Great Harvest Bread Co., Water Street Cafe, Pie Oh My, Traveling Tea, and Schlafly Bottleworks, to name a few. At Boogaloo’s, you can sit at the bar in a swing suspended from the ceiling. A smoker in the back cooks up the most tender pork for the site’s infamous tapas and sandwiches. Make sure to order a side of cornbread. Eat up — it’s all good.
Farm to table enthusiasts can keep it fresh at the Schlafly Farmer’s Market from 4 to 7 p.m., every Wednesday, April through October. Winter markets are held 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., one Saturday a month from November through March. More than 30 farmers and local food purveyors participate each week — farm fresh eggs, herbs, mushrooms, artisanal loaves, pork and more. Live music plays on the Bottleworks Patio on market days and, of course, you can enjoy a Schlafly beer while you shop. The brewery brews more than 70 styles of beer annually and has been described as the one of the best places in St. Louis to arrive hungry and thirsty. The city’s first new production brewery to open since the end of Prohibition, make sure to catch a free Schlafly brewery tour.
Local artists, local beer — the craft brewery hosts one of Maplewood’s most approachable, affordable and quirky art fairs of the year, Schlafly ArtOutside: An Alternative Art Fair. The three-day juried event, which draws nearly 15,000 patrons annually, features approximately 65 local artists in the brewery’s parking lot. The family-friendly fair features live music, food, unique art and of, course, beer.
Festivals are aplenty in Maplewood. For example, one of the more whimsical renowned tributes to Bastille Day, Let Them Eat Art, is held each year the second Friday of July. As part of the celebration, downtown businesses host their own artists who engage guests with stories, music and, naturally, art. Beer crawls (ongoing), the Sweet Tooth Tour (January), the Coffee Crawl (March), Stringfest (May), the Taste of Maplewood (May) and the Green Dining District Tour (self-guided) occur regularly in Maplewood. So do whiskey and chocolate pairings, cheese and soap making classes, national grilled cheese celebrations and even grilled s’mores days.
While walking through the district make note of the seven Walk of Fame plaques that pay tribute to the businesses that served the patrons rolling through here on Route 66 (1924-33) when Manchester Road was part of its path. Each of the seven are still family-owned and operated:
- Scheidt Hardware (1916) is the kind of place where the owner always knows the real name for the “thing-a-ma-jig” that you need for that special home project. If you look close enough you can see the marks on the walls where the floor was leveledto convert the former theater into a hardware store.
- Citizens National Bank (1915), the first bank in the Midwest to offer a drive through and walk-up window.
- Saratoga Billiards and Bowling Alley (1916) is the oldest upstairs bowling alley west of the Mississippi and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The eight-lane bowling alley, located on the second floor of the building, is best known for its vintage interior. If you’re hungry while bowling, you can always have a pizza delivered. It’s that easy.
- The owner of Empire Supply can help you with any doors, windows or glass orders, just as his grandfather, a former Russian Czar Guard, did back in the 1940s; Kalb Electric, in business for more than a century, now sells lighting fixtures and lamp parts; Paramount Jewelers (1946) creates and restores those favorite rings and things; from it’s humble start on the side of the road in the early 1900s, the Sunnen Products Company is now the largest integrated precision bore sizing company in the industry, employing more than 800 with offices throughout the world.
It’s all here, all day long. From vintage to new age, holistic and hip, you can experience Maplewood in real time — taste, touch and smell as you shop, dine, drink and bowl. There’s nothing like it.