A Weekend Guide to The Delmar Loop: Art, Shopping, Entertainment and Dining

The Delmar Loop is actually not a loop at all, but rather a straight stretch that runs along Delmar Boulevard. Its western end starts in University City—originally a planned community developed by Edward Gardner Lewis, who, in 1902, purchased 85 acres not far from what would be the site of the 1904 World’s Fair, after his publication, Women’s Farm Journal, outgrew its Downtown St. Louis headquarters.

Soon came three terms as mayor, the construction of distinctive U. City buildings and landmarks (including City Hall, bookending The Delmar Loop on the west) and the founding of notable art institutions and newspapers under Lewis’ watch. Fast forward some 115 years, and The Delmar Loop—one of the nation’s most recognized entertainment districts— remains culturally vibrant and innovative. A case in point: the new trolley line connecting it to Forest Park. And, thanks to growth in the businesses along its eastern end, it now extends into the City of St. Louis.

alliance-min

EXPLORE
Craft Alliance Center of Art & Design
6640 Delmar Blvd.
314.725.1177

To a newcomer, browsing the Craft Alliance course catalog feels empowering. Learning how to work with materials of contemporary craft—clay, glass, metal, fiber and wood—can unleash a creative drive in those of us who haven’t really thought much about making art since elementary school. For experienced artists, Craft Alliance offers advanced classes, programs, exhibitions, a gallery shop and, importantly, a sense of community.

Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design

The nonprofit, which started as a cooperative gallery in 1964, still prides itself on approachability. For example, its recent “Rough Draft” event invited artists-in-residence to craft steins to match Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. beers—giving beer drinkers and clay artists common ground. While some of its course highlights skills that have been around hundreds of years (such as making glass beads or manipulating wool fibers using a wet-felting technique), others build on the latest graphics software and 3-D printing techniques. For a more personal social experience, learning any of these skills can be the theme of a private “maker party” organized by Craft Alliance and taught by professional practicing artists.

Craft Alliance’s primary location is in The Delmar Loop, with a satellite location in Grand Center. The Delmar location hosts the Gallery Shop as well as shows like upcoming juried exhibition “Hidden Treasures: Enveloped Metalwork,” co-presented with Midwest Metalsmiths. The show, which opens March 29 and runs until May 12, celebrates the unique characteristics of handmade metalwork.

While you’re in the neighborhood …
Plowsharing Crafts
This global shop features fair-trade items made by skilled artisans—from Peruvian ceramics to Haitian metal sculpture to Ugandan baskets of woven banana fibers.
6271 Delmar Blvd.
314.863.3723

Artisans in the Loop
Colorful artwork of all genres fills this storefront gallery that was a post-retirement labor of love for its owner.
6511 Delmar Blvd.
314.833.3540

Compônere Gallery
Representing more than 100 artists, Compônere is a go-to gallery for pieces that are functional, wearable, imaginative and affordable.
6509 Delmar Blvd.
314.721.1181

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LISTEN
Delmar Hall
6509 Delmar Blvd.
314.721.1181

This two-year-old venue—the newest addition to the concert scene in the Delmar Loop—has close ties to two of its neighbors. So close, in fact, that the same site hosts all the ticket sales. The big kid on the block is The Pageant, which fits between 1,000 and 2,300 music fans. Just down the street is the Duck Room at Blueberry Hill, with a maximum capacity of 340. Delmar Hall is designed to land perfectly between them, hosting between 350 and 750 concert-goers, depending on the configuration.

Co-owners Joe Edwards and Patrick Hagin also own The Pageant, and Edwards own Blueberry Hill. Between the three venues, acts have a series of stepping stones—and audiences can choose the type of experience that fits their mood, their taste and their wallet.

Bands at Delmar Hall range from acoustic blues to pure rock to progressive bluegrass—which happens to be the genre for the New Year’s Eve show, featuring Yonder Mountain String Band. Thanks to the complete renovation, the space underwent, the owners were able to configure everything the way they wanted, from seating options to the sounds and lights. The result is modern and flexible, where everything from comedy to country feels like a perfect fit.

While you’re in the neighborhood …
Tivoli Movie Theatre
Fans of old-school movie halls still flock to this local landmark for its independent screenings, film festivals and late-night classics.
6350 Delmar Blvd.
314.727.7271

Pin-Up Bowl
Some things never go out of style—including bowling leagues, retro cocktails, live DJs and canned beer.
6191 Delmar Blvd.
314.727.5555

The W Karaoke Lounge
This luxuriously designed lounge has a central stage plus private rooms for songs in English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and more.
6655 Delmar Blvd.
314.376.4055

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EXPLORE
Center of Creative Arts
524 Trinity Ave.
314.725.6555

COCA is one of the largest multidisciplinary arts organizations in the country, offering classes by more than 250 teaching artists in dance, music, design, theater and visual arts. Its halls hum with activity at all hours, from children learning the ropes of acting out fairytale dramas to adults challenging themselves to master a new genre of dance after a long day at work. The diversity is part of COCA’s draw—everyone will find someone who looks, talks or moves like them.

Thanks to its popularity (it offers 1,300 classes per year in its core arts-education program), COCA is in the midst of an expansion project. Its current building has been renovated, and work is moving forward on new construction that will effectively double the amount of space available for classes, performances and studios. It’s scheduled to open in January of 2020.

Among COCA’s unique forms of outreach are COCAbiz and COCAedu, programs designed for business leaders and arts students and educators, respectively. These help ensure that creativity extends into what may be hard-to-reach corners of our community. The Pre-Professional Division works with talented young artists on training and performances as well as life skills—and it offers the chance to be part of its student companies in dance, vocal performance and theater.

While you’re in the neighborhood …
St. Louis Artworks
Scores of students have received unique job training through arts apprenticeships that teach life skills, financial literacy and employment preparation.
5959 Delmar Blvd.
314.899.9734

Saint Louis Story Stitchers Storefront Studio
Storytelling serves as a tool for promoting literacy, civic engagement and intergenerational unity on topics like gun violence and mental health.
616 N. Skinker Blvd.
314.899.9001

Regional Arts Commission
This grant-making nonprofit strengthens the local arts scene and trains professionals to use art as a tool for change.
6128 Delmar Blvd.
314.863.5811

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EAT
Pùblico
6679 Delmar Blvd.
314.833.5780

Executive chef Mike Randolph’s Latin-inspired dishes showcase simple ingredients creatively combined. Familiar Midwestern comfort foods like roast turkey, green beans and smoked brisket get a burst of exotic flavor from peanut salsa, fermented watermelon and poblano pepper jam. Even the most basic dishes—like arepas (leavened corn “pancakes”) with guacamole, queso and salsa—are satisfying complex. Público is clearly at the forefront of the restaurants that helped earn Randolph a 2018 semifinalist nomination for the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef: Midwest” award (his third). Público was nominated as Best New Restaurant in 2016.

Público’s central bar gives off its own glow via under-lit panels decorated with geometric designs. Behind it, bartenders move swiftly but with grace, working on craft drinks that—like the food—riff on familiar ingredients carefully chosen to enhance the Latin flair. There are the classic like margaritas and daiquiris, and alongside them, a line of conceptual drinks that let the mixologists show their skills. You may not recognize all the cocktail ingredients—or, for that matter, all the wines or beers—but this is an establishment built for adventure. Dive right in.

Wood is a unifying them across the restaurant, from the eye-catching wood-fired hearth, where meats and vegetables roast over Missouri oak, to the metal tree sculptures suspended high on the walls, to the lushly polished timber bar. The result is a space that feels both rustic and modern—very much a home for Randolph’s unique style of cuisine.

Editor’s note: On Nov. 14, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Público’s last day of operation will be Dec. 22. To read a note from restaurateur Mike Randolph regarding the closure, visit Publico’s Facebook post here. And, regarding the context of the decision to close Público, check out the P-D’s report.

While you’re in the neighborhood …

Salt + Smoke
Wash down some of the city’s best barbecue and house-made fixin’s with a long list of craft beers, cocktails, bourbons, ryes and whiskeys.
6525 Delmar Blvd.
314.727.0200

Three Kings Public House
This growing local chain found its niche by focusing on farm-sourced ingredients and local beers on tap and extending a welcoming vibe.
6307 Delmar Blvd.
314.721.3388

Pi Pizzeria
The flagship location of a 10-year-old local chain known for its deep-dish and thin-crust pizzas as well as its commitment to sustainability
6144 Delmar Blvd.
314.727.6633

fork & stix-min

EAT
Fork & Stix
549 Rosedale Ave.
314.863.5572

Tucked away on a side street in the Delmar Loop’s eastern end is a 35-seat eatery quietly making its mark with traditional dishes from northern Thailand. It’s a favorite spot for neighbors from surrounding pockets like Skinker DeBaliviere, for students from nearby universities and for fans of authentic Thai cuisine, who make a point to stop by regularly.

They’re drawn by dishes like sai oua, a grilled sausage of pork and herbs. In Thailand’s northern cities like Chiang Mai, this is a common street food—something you’d grab and go, with maybe a side of spicy green-chile dip (naam prik nuum). The chicken skewers are also easily approachable and delicious.

More-complex regional dishes include a curry with both pork belly and pork shoulder (hung lay curry), and a rich flavorful egg-noodle curry soup (khao soi), with an array of side dishes that you add to taste.

The tiny restaurant’s popularity led owner Phatcharin Wanna to open a Thai restaurant Downtown in 2017. The menu at Kiin Essentially Thai doesn’t duplicate Fork & Stix’s, although some of the most popular dishes appear on both. And the vibe is very different—this is a perfect spot to come with a friend and linger over little dishes of deliciousness.

While you’re in the neighborhood …
Seoul Taco
What started with a food truck—then this eatery—is now a growing regional chain that puts a fast-casual spin on Korean-Mexican fusion dishes.
6665 Delmar Blvd.
314.863.1148

Al-Tarboush Deli
This longstanding Mediterranean deli specializes in Lebanese dishes like tabbouleh salad and falafel, plus many mouthwatering  varieties of meat pies and baklava.
602 Westgate Ave.
314.725.1944

Piccione Pastry
One of the neighborhood’s oldest entrepreneurial families offers authentic Italian coffee, fresh-baked desserts, pastries and gelato late into the evening.
6197 Delmar Blvd.
314.932.1355

osolab-min

SHOP
OSO: A Style Lab
6321 Delmar Blvd.
314.467.0436

Each item—from designer clothes to greeting cards to piggy banks—has a story and makes a statement. Owners Chris Rubin de la Borbolla and Jen Rieger can share them all. The greeting cards? Sourced so hyper-locally that their creator can walk over to deliver new stock.

A Bathing Ape? A Tokyo-based brand that’s popular online but rarely seen in St. Louis stores. JumpFromPaper? Only 10 to 15 brick-and-mortar stores sell bags and wallets from this company out of Taipei. Supreme? The Manhattan clothing line doesn’t do wholesale, but OSO stocks it anyway, because the owners like its hip-hop-punk-skater aesthetic.

Shopping at OSO is a very tactile experience: ultra-soft organic-cotton t-shirts from Groceries Appeal; cuddly llamas shipped from Peru by Partners for Just Trade; smooth, supple bracelets that Urban Lace in Portland makes from bicycle inner tubes; beeswax and coconut candles from Boy Smells out of Los Angeles; a locally made leather body harness; imported Italian porcelain crowns.

The owners also run a separate print and digital design business, but they sometimes invite clients in to OSO for a 360-degree feel for what a project’s vibe could be like. “Our goal is to do for fashion and design what’s been done for craft beer and food in St. Louis,” says Rubin de la Borbolla. By intertwining local and international product lines that speak to them, OSO’s owners are helping us realize what their vision might look like.

While you’re in the neighborhood …
Vintage Vinyl
Recorded sounds on CDs, DVDs and—of course—vinyl are the passion of this beloved shop’s employees and customers alike
6610 Delmar Blvd.
314.721.4096

Subterranean Books
Props to this tiny shop for staying afloat as an independent bookstore featuring new releases of everything from best sellers to cult classics
6275 Delmar Blvd.
314.862.6100

United Provisions
The owners of this well-stocked international grocery store know their customer base well thanks to decades in the food industry.
6241 Delmar Blvd.
314.833.5699

Photography courtesy of Carmen Troesser.

For more St. Louis day-trip ideas, visit our friends at Explore St. Louis. See all of these beautiful locations profiled in our recent print edition of GUIDED: Delmar Loop, available now online or at these locations. Thank you for supporting the companies that keep ALIVE and Guided growing.

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