Known as the “Gateway to the West”, St. Louis is lucky enough to be right-smack-dab in the middle of the country to absorb culture from every corner. Prior to my college years at Kansas University (KU), I knew very little about St. Louis. As it turns out, a lot of my college friends ended up being from Missouri, so naturally, I would trek home with them for weekends — stuffing my face with the city-famous toasted ravioli, losing my voice at Cardinals baseball games, and taking ridiculously lame selfies at the Arch.
A little older and (arguably) wiser, I have come to realize that St. Louis is America’s sleeper city. There is so much to see, so much to do, and most importantly, so much to eat. St. Louis is very spread out and resistant to gentrification which in turn makes it a rich, traditional, and historical destination.
St. Louis may have been put on the map by a rapper with a Band-Aid on his face (I’m looking at you Nelly), but STL has maintained an enriching presence in sports, songwriting, and small business. Check out my 4 St. Louie staple SMBs!
1. Pi Pizzeria
What would you do if I told you that someone from Chicago has deemed Pi Pizzeria in St. Louis THE best deep-dish pizza in the country? Now, what would you do if I told you that the resounding endorsement comes from none other than former President, Barack Obama?
You know what I would do?
I would grab my laptop and buy a plane ticket ASAP. Besides feeding Obama, Pi has been feeding the Missouri masses with multiple locations and a large, sprawling menu.
Pi uses a crispy cornmeal crust to pull away from the pack of pizzerias in the neighborhood. In addition to their signature sauces, Pi Pizzeria has all of the craft beers on tap to pair perfectly with your pie. My favorite ‘za? The “Smashed Scallion” with onions, creamy goat cheese, and a drizzle of local honey!
2. Ted Drewes Frozen Custard
I couldn’t possibly write a post without paying homage to the Sultan of St. Louis sweets, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard!
It wasn’t until I landed in Lawrence, Kansas (Rock Chalk Jayhawk!) to continue my education that I was introduced to custard and honestly, I think it was the most valuable lesson I learned during my time there. When it comes to custard, Ted Drewes is the OG, and has been churning out classic combos and seasonal favorites since 1930!
The Drewes family is constantly evolving and adding new flavors in addition to the ones that made them great over 80 years ago. You can’t go wrong with the S’more, Lemon Crumb, or Twisted Caramel with sweet and salty pretzels.
3. Phoenix Rising
A town of so many different types of people, St. Louis does a really good job of maintaining a sense of humor, especially when you consider that their NFL team was ripped from them.
Humor and hometown pride combine at Phoenix Rising – a unique and hilarious gifts store with over 20 years in the neighborhood. With a large focus on local and artisanal products, you never truly know what you are going to find when you walk through the doors at Phoenix.
The last time I was in St. Louis, I struck gold. I walked out of there with Band-Aids that look like pickles, a stunning turquoise ring from a local artisan, and a journal with Bill Murray’s face on it.
With such an emphasis on empowering local craftsmen, Phoenix Rising is the perfect place to get a taste of everything that makes St. Louis special.
4. 4 Hands Brewing Co.
4 Hands Brewing, a 20,000 square foot powerhouse of goodness, is home to a fully functioning brewery, restaurant, and barrel-aging facility for both wine and whiskey.
Sit inside and enjoy a craft pint paired perfectly with “brisket nachos” and watch the brew masters make magic from a large window that gives patrons a peek at the process.
The menu was expertly curated by another local fave, Peacemaker and Sidney Street.
The brews all boast names as unique as their profiles with standouts like “CA$H MONY”, “Contact High”, and the seasonal summer “Forbidden Fuzz”, a bourbon barrel-aged Golden ale with a hint of peach.
With Kevin Lemp at the forefront of the 4-Hands family, this local St. Louie brewery has become a lot more than just the coolest local watering hole.
Editor Note: References made to businesses/companies in this post are not meant to convey endorsement by Rubicon of those companies in any way.