A Weekend Guide to the Historic and Stylish Webster Groves, Missouri

 In Culture, Guide

In the historic Webster Groves area, independently owned businesses, restaurants and shops are nestled between beautiful residential areas, parks, universities and historic architecture. For local families, young professionals, surrounding locals and visitors, there is much to do. Eat, drink, shop and explore the neighborhood like a native with our guide below.

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Olive + Oak
102 W. Lockwood Ave.
It’s rare to find a locale that’s equally perfect for a casual date night or special occasion, but somehow Olive + Oak, opened in 2016, does just that. Helmed by owner Mark Hinkle and executive chef Jesse Mendica, this elegant café serves raved-about dishes like the blue-crab gratin with Calabrian chile, celery and pretzel bread, which reviewers across nearly all social-media platforms proclaim a must-try. Another reviewer grabbed drinks at the neighboring sister restaurant The Clover and the Bee, while waiting two hours for a table—and still left a five-star review. “It. Was. Worth. It.” she writes.

Mendica has been working in the industry since the age of 16, and in 2017 she was nominated as a James Beard Award semifinalist in the Best Chef: Midwest category. Hinkle, originally from Alton, Illinois, confesses he’d pass the time watching cooking shows featuring Emeril Lagasse, Jack McDavid and Martin Yan while growing up—that is, when he wasn’t wreaking havoc on the quaint Midwestern river town with his three brothers.

Together they have created an environment in which they craft each meal from the finest ingredients they can gather, often working with local farmers and artisans. The results include dishes like the eclectic elk loin, served with parsnip cream, balsamic shiitakes and fingerling potatoes, or the Eggs in Purgatory dish. Served with tomato ragù, chile, spaghetti squash and farm eggs, the dish is a dream for the diner. The menu is rounded out with a variety of seafood, vegetable and sandwich dishes as well, including the dip: roasted leg of lamb, drunken goat cheese and lamb jus (yes, “drunken” goat cheese; sometimes a foodie must throw caution to the wind).

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Highway 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen
34 S. Old Orchard Ave.
Walking into Highway 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen, you’ll happen upon a sign that says “Be nice or starve.” Opened in 2006 by restaurateur Bill Kunz, the locale was founded on the principles of soulful cooking, Southern hospitality and a celebration of jazz and blues music. Local bands often take the stage.

The walls are nearly camouflaged by framed band posters, music paraphernalia and folk art. On an episode of “STL Live”, Kunz recalls when Guy Fieri filmed an episode of his show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” at Highway 61, during which Fieri remarked on the decor and said, “It looks like your garage exploded in here.” Kunz does not contest the observation: “My wife said, ‘Get rid of this junk, or open a restaurant,’” he recounts.

Kuntz recommends menu favorites like the Cajasian Potstickers—homemade dumplings packed with Andouille sausage, vegetables and Sambal chili sauce, then pan-seared and served with Creole soy dipping sauce. “It’s got a little heat to it,” he says. Diners also love the Mississippi Catfish, Cajun Pollock, and jambalaya stew.

While You’re In The Neighborhood …

The Clover and the Bee
The sister restaurant to Olive + Oak; perk up here with a delicious coffee and baked pastry.

100 W. Lockwood

Robust Wine Bar
The perfect spot for an elegant night out, with a sommelier to talk you through flavors and pairings.

227 W. Lockwood

The Block Restaurant
A perfectly polished, elegant spot for meat-lovers, with a butcher and local farmer on hand.

146 W. Lockwood

Cyrano’s Cafe
Make sure to split an ice cream dessert here—they must use nearly an entire gallon for each one.

603 E. Lockwood

The Sushi Station
We love the St. Louis roll, with spicy tuna, white tuna, masago, spicy mayo and seaweed flakes.

29 N. Gore

Tei Too
Casual and delicious Thai dishes, from curry and satay to stir-fry and noodles.

8185 Big Bend

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Civil Alchemy
8154 Big Bend Blvd.

It may be reductive to say Civil Alchemy is unapologetically inspired by nostalgia from a bygone era; the community store where everyone knows your name. It is true that the lifestyle shop harkens back to a time when corner stores and independent businesses were the first stop on one’s shopping agenda.

Walking into Civil Alchemy, one will likely begin by wandering through the apparel section that carries goods from independent designers originating in the middle of America, like The Normal Brand and imogene + willie. Then one might discover artisan-crafted jewelry and lifestyle pieces, like hand-selected Japanese tools, camping equipment and seasonal linen bedding—a favorite of founder Kelley Barr. The store is a new, smaller departure from Barr’s previous venture, K Hall Designs. “This is not about making a bunch of money, opening a bunch of stores and generating a ton of hype,” she says.

Meandering into the side room, where a mix of curated kitchen items, liquor, wine, beer, coffee, appetizer trays and drink mixers are displayed along with everything needed to fill up the aforementioned appetizer tray with delectable meats, cheeses and crackers. Shoppers are also invited to sample the brand’s own floral-noted gin, which Barr has been developing for more than a year. She co-runs the space with her son Ian VanDam, who recently returned from a trip to India working with vendors on new product offerings.

“There’s a reason why brick-and-mortar businesses will always exist,” he says. “People need to interact with the thing that they’re buying and the person selling it, and the internet can’t replicate that. So, in the meantime—for the next 100 years, until the internet figures out virtual reality—we have demand. When you have strong community, commerce and local businesses, everything else thrives around it.”

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8631 Watson Rd.

Veteran thrifters know there are treasures to be found at estate sales—though finding those treasures often requires sifting through endless piles of commonplace items. MoModerne, a design shop that also administers weekly estate sales, offers an alternative to rummaging. Run by Luby Kelley and Anna Weiss, the store’s showroom is constantly rotating with fresh finds, which they unearth and curate themselves.

A look at the brand’s inventory yields gems like mustard-colored Milo Baughman his-and-hers lounge chairs, a retro Jens Risom two-piece sofa and other homages to American and mid-century modernism. Treat yourself to a scroll through the @momoderne Instagram feed for more nostalgic inspiration. We’d also recommend having a look at Anna Weiss’ Instagram, which features pieces for sale with the aptly titled handle, @momodernemoproblems. If only all modern-furniture companies could so smoothly reference The Notorious B.I.G.

While You’re In The Neighborhood …

Kind Soap Company
100-percent natural soaps, moisturizers and personal-care products, with an ambitious mission.

20 Allen, #105

Euclid Records
CDs, records and priceless items galore—but perhaps what’s best here is the irreverent ‘80s and ‘90s nostalgia.

19 N. Gore

The Novel Neighbor
You could easily spend an entire afternoon at this whimsical independent bookstore.

7905 Big Bend

Leopard Boutique
A boutique with a small army of stylists connecting you to elegant, yet reasonably priced pieces.

20 Allen, #100

Naked Boot and Shoe
Hand-crafted booties, flats, mid-calfs and more, all made by artisans.

8157 Big Bend

Paisley Boutique
Your go-to for classic basics like a chambray shirtdress or the perfect pair of jeans you can wear again and again.

33 W. Lockwood

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Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
130 Edgar Rd.

Opera is a contemporary art form at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Watch OTSL’s rendition of “Regina,” in which acclaimed mezzo-soprano Susan Graham plays the title role of a conniving female anti-hero who alienates everyone in her life for sake of power. Or see classic “La traviata,” which tells the story of Parisian courtesan Violetta, who unexpectedly falls in love with a young Frenchman. Both classics are transformed into modern mainstage productions at Opera Theatre during this year’s season.

Founded in 1976, the organization showcases historic masterworks alongside innovations through the New Works, Bold Voices program, in which the organization commissions a composer to create an original opera. This season’s production schedule showcases one such work, called “An American Soldier,” the true story of Chinese-American U.S. Army soldier Danny Chen, who served in Afghanistan. The recipient of extreme hazing from his fellow soldiers, Chen committed suicide in 2011 at the age of 19. Composer Huang Ruo and librettist David Henry Hwang tell the stinging story with tenderness, ultimately raising deeper questions about what it means to be American.

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The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
130 Edgar Rd.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis—better known simply as “The Rep”—has been one of St. Louis’ leading theatre destinations for more than 50 years. The Rep produces nine productions a year on two stages in the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts on the Campus of Webster University. Prepare for full theatre immersion that includes classics, Tony Award-winners straight from Broadway and groundbreaking new works.

The Rep will kick off the 2018-2019 season with the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice masterpiece “Evita” (Sept. 5 – 30), the award-winning “A Doll’s House, Part 2” (Oct. 10 – Nov. 4) and a theatrical rendition of the classic Christmas film “A Christmas Story,” featuring the infamous Ralphie Parker (Nov. 28 – Dec. 23).

The award-winning company also hosts a number of events and programs throughout the year, including “Ignite!,” in which a lineup of acclaimed playwrights are invited to debut new scripts to live audiences. Audience members then provide the playwright with immediate feedback.

By supplementing innovative theater with a robust educational department, The Rep provides learning and entertainment opportunities through the Imaginary Theatre Company and the WiseWrite program. This Midwest theatre company performs on a national stage.

While You’re In The Neighborhood …

The Old Orchard Gallery
The neighborhood destination for your art, architecture and history fix.

39 S. Old Orchard Ste B

McCaughen & Burr Fine Art Gallery
Stop by to see stunning landscapes, abstract art and figurative paintings.

117 W. Lockwood

Green Door Art Gallery
A charming gallery and gift shop showcasing works by local artists

21 N. Gore

Webster Groves Concert Hall
Built in the 1920s, this recently renovated performance space is often the site of live music.

103 E. Lockwood

Yucandu Art Studio
Art classes and open studios here are designed for a range of ages and disciplines.

20 Allen, #110

Skystone Conservatory of the Arts
Webster’s local spot for dance classes, including ballet, jazz, tap, pointe and more.

7909 Big Bend

Photography courtesy of Carmen Troesser for GUIDED.

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: Saint Louis.

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