Food. History. Architecture. Shopping. More food. Savor St. Louis walking food tours provide all this and more.
Central West End residents Susan and Patrick Smith and their family have owned and operated Royale Food and Spirits on South Kingshighway for 11 years. After experiencing food tours in Chicago, Portland and New York, Smith and her daughter, Jennifer Schmid, saw a need for a walking food tour in St. Louis.
“We are very much into food,” Schmid said. “About 10 years ago, we started thinking about starting St. Louis’ first walking food tour.
“We zeroed in on the Central West End given the rich history, architecture and culture of the neighborhoods, as well as the fantastic, unique restaurant options available to many,” she said. “We love the neighborhood, the people and the vibrant community.”
The Central West End tour proved to be so successful that last year they started one in the Delmar Loop.
The tours feature restaurants where participants get to sample a dish, usually signature to that restaurant. Schmid and Smith have specific criteria for choosing a restaurant.
“We want it to be unique, and part of the neighborhood, and not necessarily part of a large chain,” Schmid said. “We want it to be family-owned or independent.”
Touring the CWE
On a sunny May Saturday, six people gathered in front of Left Bank Books to take a tour led by Anna Cardot, a Central West End resident who leads tours for Savor Saint Louis.
“When we came here 22 years ago from Boston, we lived in Chesterfield, but when I became familiar with this area, we moved here and I love it,” she said.
“It’s an area that is economically and ethnically diverse,” she said. “At one time, it was the enclave of very wealthy families, and has gone through its ups and downs, and is now definitely on the upswing.”
“And,” she added, “The American Planning Association has named the Central West End to its annual list of the 10 best neighborhoods in the country.”
Residing in the Central West End has given Cardot a knowledge of the fascinating history and architecture not only of the columned mansions on tree-lined gated streets, but of the homes of well-known people who called the neighborhood home. People such as literary greats Tennessee Williams, William Burroughs, Kate Chopin and T.S. Eliot.
The first stop on the tour was Dressel’s, which opened in 1980 and was inspired by the famous Gaslight Square entertainment area at Boyle and Olive. Gaslight Square had its heyday in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Dressel’s food is locally sourced with a Welsh influence as evidenced by the Porchetta “Louis” sandwich, herb roasted pork, bitter greens, peperoncini, and three cheese blend on Italian bread served to the group.
A walk past some galleries and boutiques took the group to Pi Pizzeria. President Barack Obama had this pizza when he visited St. Louis and was so impressed he flew the staff to Washington, D.C., to prepare it for an event.
The group feasted on the thin crust “Central West End,” a sauceless pizza with prosciutto, mozzarella, goat cheese, red onion, grape tomato and arugula, and the “Bucktown,” with mozzarella, chicken, artichoke hearts, feta cheese and green olives.
Jeni’s Ice Cream was the next stop. Jeni’s uses herbs and fair-trade-certified vanilla, cocoa and bean-to-bar chocolate in its ice creams with such flavors as wildberry lavender, bourbon salted pecan, pistachio honey and brambleberry crisp.
A short walk south on Euclid past shaded private streets brought the group to Maryland Plaza and Bar Italia, where they dined on Gemeli Bolognese on the covered patio.
To walk off the pasta, Cardot led the tour to Lindell and through the Chase Park Plaza, where she talked about the history and interesting, little-known events that occurred at the grand hotel built in 1922.
“Anybody who was somebody stayed at the Chase,” she said.
The tour concluded with a stop at Bissinger’s and a glass of iced cocoa topped with a homemade marshmallow. Chocolatier Tambora Mills explained the hows and whys of turning out top-notch chocolate, whereupon he served up dark chocolate caramels and chocolate-dipped strawberries.
The Delmar Loop walking tour includes Salt + Smoke, Seoul Taco, Ranoush, Pi Pizzeria, Fitz’s and Piccione Bakery.
Schmid said they try to be consistent with the restaurants.
“We work to become a loyal customer and bring people back,” she said. “We want them to see value in participating in the tours so they get return customers.
“When the managers are there, they will come up and introduce themselves and make people feel comfortable,” she said. “Some (tour-goers) have gone back in the same day, like to go back to Pi for a beer after the tour is finished.”
She said as they grow, they will add more tours, such as south of Lindell and downtown.
“Showing off all the wonderful food and history of St. Louis to the people who take our food tours is so much fun,” Schmid said. “Savor Saint Louis Food Tours is the best way to get to know a great deal about our city and help people fall in love with it and the great food we have.”
Tours are available every Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., April 1 through the beginning of December, and are suitable for all ages. Prices are $15 for children 7 and under, $30 for kids 8-12, and $48 for adults. Tours accommodate up to 12 people and take place rain or shine. Gift certificates and private tours are also available. Call 314-669-1326 or go to www.SavorSaintLouis.com.