In Culture, Guide

A neighborhood guide to St. Louis’ top spots to sip, socialize, and shake it on the dance floor.


Cocktail culture reigns supreme at South City hangouts

We’ve all seen restaurant menus that give kudos to farmers behind the ingredients, but these mixologists are spreading the cred even further—to the brewers and distillers behind their handcrafted drinks: like the longtime favorite Prince of Jalisco (Espalon Reposado tequila, Marie Brizard creme de cacao) or the spiritually named Great White Buffalo (Buffalo Trace bourbon). They’re also able to suggest food pairings, a bonus for the adventurous. 4198 Manchester Ave., 314.535.9700.

The Royale
The liquid homage to both St. Louis ward politics and neighborhoods has been drawing fans since this South City bar opened—back when its style of freshly squeezed juices was one of those newfangled coastal trends. Ironically, the very thing that makes this public house so avant garde is its deliberate nod to the past, a habit it keeps religiously on Cocktail Museum Sundays. 3132 S. Kingshighway Blvd., 314.772.3600.

Van Goghz
There’s a reason flavored-martini madness spread to practically every drink menu in the country: They’re fun. Flirtini … Chocolate Covered Cherry … Orange Orgasm … Appletini … It’s impossible to order one without a smile. And if you’re drinking for $3 on a Friday or Saturday night, your smile will grow wider—and quickly. 3200 Shenandoah Ave., 314.865.3345.

Absolutli Goosed
You have to be confident in your bartenders’ abilities if you’re going to offer 80 or so cocktails on one menu (and name some of them after Pussy Galore and other James Bond leading lady favorites). For creativity backed up by quality, this no-frills bar is a hands-down winner. Of course, some of the best drinks on the menu are straightforward, like the Bloody Marys, but even they come with a variable heat level and house-infused spirits. 3196 S. Grand Blvd., 314.771.9300.

There are two reasons people come here: the drinks and the music. You never know quite what beats you’ll get until the DJ shows up, but the drinks are completely and wonderfully predictable: fresh-squeezed juices that perfectly complement the flavors (and potency) of their alcohol-laden companions. Don’t let the dive-y look fool you: Order from the cocktail menu, or ask for a house specialty rather than going with a fallback option on the assumption the bartender doesn’t know what he’s doing. He does. 3216 S. Grand Blvd., 314.772.3308.


Just John
This ain’t your grandma’s church hall bingo game—but that’s not to say you won’t get lucky at this Monday night ritual with Dieta Pepsi. If you’re not into inky fingers, check out the other theme nights: Karaoke Wednesdays and Thursdays or Show Tunes Sundays. 4112 Manchester Ave., 314.371.1333.

Erney’s 32
Release your inner “Glee” character at Show Tunes Tuesdays in a setting way more swank than the typical choir hangout. If you need to wet your whistle, there are dozens of premium vodkas to be enjoyed in the ice-cold Vodbox. 4200 Manchester Ave., 314.652.7195.

The kings and queens of entertainment take the stage three nights a week, for drag king shows on Mondays, amateur drag queens on Thursdays and headliner drag queens on Saturdays. And if you’re still up for brunch the next morning, join a drag hostess-with-the-mo-stess the second, third and fourth Sunday of the month. 4121 Manchester Ave., 314.531.3699.


The Gramophone
This joint has more sounds than Kim Kardashian has stilettos. One night it’s throwback country and rockabilly with Wayne “The Train” Hancock (May 4, 9pm). Then hip hop with Mathias of The Earthworms, Steddy P, Farout and Dread Night (May 14, 9pm). Then blues with Pokey LaFarge and The South City Three (May 20, 9pm). Then the video Britpop/ska/electro/new wave dance party London Calling (second and fourth Saturday of the month, 9pm). [4243 Manchester Ave., 314.531.5700.]

Atomic Cowboy and The Foxhole
Venues: patio, dining room, lounge and dance hall. Music: acoustic folk (Mondays) to swing (Thursdays) to underground hip-hop (Fridays). Artists: DJs, bands, amateurs and burlesque dancers. Shows: early (KDHX DJs on Saturdays) and late (Den of Iniquity on Saturdays). The vast number of combinations requires three separate calendars on the Cowboy’s homepage, and once you’ve tried, will take up significant space on your own social calendar. [4140 Manchester Ave., 314.775.0775.]

Mojo Tapas Restaurant & Bar
Your timing has to be right to catch the once-a-month live music event at Mojo. Their goal is to fill the blank spot on your calendar—the day when there’s no holiday, no arena concert, no big games on TV—usually with the jazz/blues sounds of Strings Attached (May 14, 8pm). [3117 S. Grand Blvd., 314.865.0500.]

Mangia Italiano
Throughout its 28-year history, Mangia has always been eclectic. The food, the atmosphere, the clientele … and now the music. Which is a good thing. The new owners aren’t tinkering with the famous pasta, but they have shuffled the music lineup a bit. There’s still reggae on Sundays and live jazz most Fridays (with the Dave Stone Trio), but Mondays and Wednesdays will regularly feature a range of local DJs like Matt Harnish of Bunnygrunt. [3145 S. Grand Blvd., 314.664.8585.]


Sasha’s on Shaw
You could say this is the modern take on a corner bar. But you’d have to nix the boozy vibe and smoky haze and substitute granite tabletops, long-stemmed glasses and charcuterie plates. The neighborhood feel remains—couples on their night out, girls getting together after work, serious oenophiles enhancing their knowledge—everyone is welcome, whether they order the sweet-est Riesling or the driest Cab. 4069 Shaw Blvd., 314.771.7274.

Don’t forget to check out the neighborhood nightlife guides for CentralDowntown and West!


1522_571.jpgThe Royale is known for their specialty cocktails and global liquor selection

1523_571.jpgSasha’s Wine Bar offers 60 different selections of wine by bottle

1524_571.jpgThe Gramophone, a live music lounge & bar

1525_571.jpgSasha’s Wine Bar offers 60 different selections of wine by bottle

1526_571.jpgSasha’s includes outdoor seating complete with fire pit

1527_571.jpgSasha’s Wine Bar is a great late-night hangout


Photo credit: Photos by Carrie Iggulden

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