A St. Louis Baker Cultivates a Late-Night Pizza Community

You may remember St. Louis baker Alex Carlson’s focaccia from our story in September or from Tower Grove Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. What you may not have heard is that the one-man bakery also serves up pizzas from his shop Red Guitar Bread on Cherokee Street every Friday and Saturday night.

The pizza has been available for about a year now, and Carlson has shared information about the pies mostly by word of mouth. Lately, he’s noticed that the neighborhood is beginning to discover it, with several repeat customers coming in with their friends. This type of development is what Carlson said he’s after for all aspects of his business: slow and steady, so he can make sure the quality remains as the quantity grows.

Not a huge space, the Red Guitar Bread is tucked on Cherokee Street away from the majority of the business district. Walking in, the air is warm and filled with the smoky scent from the expansive oven that lies in the back of the exposed kitchen. The menu has some classic flavors like the Margherita style, which are mostly named after Carlson’s family members. He usually saves a spot on the menu for a weekly Farmers Market Special featuring items found fresh from Tower Grove that morning while he sells bread from his stand.

Alex Carlson of Red Guitar Bread relaxes in his bakery. Photo by Jennifer Silverberg for ALIVE.

Alex Carlson of Red Guitar Bread relaxes in his bakery. Photo by Jennifer Silverberg for ALIVE.

Carlson’s success is driven by the results he sees from the bread and pizza that come from the brick oven he built in his shop.

“On a very basic level, baking just works with the way my mind functions. I’m a creature of habit so I appreciate the routine, but no two days are ever truly alike, so I need to have all my senses engaged when I have my hands in the dough mixing and shaping so that I’m able to adapt to every day’s unique conditions,” he says. “And on a personal level, I really enjoy the quiet—or not, depending on what music I’m listening to—of working alone, and I’ve always been into that romantic idea of the lone craftsman practicing his trade.”

As for the future of Red Guitar Bread, Carlson said expansion is definitely in the works. He’s planning to put more focus on offering more service hours and days once the farmer’s market season comes to a close. He’s been happy to become a part of the Cherokee Street district.

“That sense of community support is only getting stronger as the neighborhood grows,” Carlson says. “I honestly didn’t have any particular intention to be on Cherokee when I was looking for a place for the shop, but when this space came up for sale it felt right. And in retrospect, I realize it’s the best place I could have chosen to put down roots—or 10 tons of masonry, in this particular case.”

Carlson said he also is planning to build on the relationship with the nextdoor dive bar San Loo by installing an ordering window between the two spaces, allowing their patrons get some pie without leaving the party.

Enjoy pizzas on Friday nights tossed by Ted Frerker—who bakes in the shop while Carlson gets some much needed rest—and say hello to Carlson on Saturdays nights. Red Guitar Bread is open both nights 7pm-midnight.

Red Guitar Bread
3215 Cherokee St., Gravois Park

Photos by Jennifer Silverberg.

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