St. Louis experienced a population boom during the late 1800s when German and Italian immigrants settled in large numbers, and thanks to the work of several visionary thinkers, the city became home to the first concrete stadium (Francis Field at Washington University), the first skyscraper (the Wainwright Building ) and the first ice cream cone (served at the 1904 World's Fair), among other novel creations. A mix of Old World charm and modern life continues to be a hallmark of this vibrant Midwestern city, in which each neighborhood has its own history and unique character.
This area offers most visitors their first impression of the city, greeting them with its signature Gateway Arch , historic Union Station , the Old Courthouse and Busch Stadium , where the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team plays their home games. The once industrial area of Laclede's Landing is now home to some of the city's favorite restaurants and finest hotels, as well as an entertainment district that features live music ranging from pop to jazz.
This old, well-established neighborhood is situated south of Downtown. Here you will find a fine selection of jazz and blues clubs as well as the gargantuan outdoor Soulard Farmer's Market , which sells fresh produce, flowers and bakery items. It is the largest continually operating open-air market west of the Mississippi River. Visitors will also find the Anheuser-Busch Brewery and the Bowling Hall of Fame in this area.
A large Asian community resides in the South Grand area, offering a tantalizing selection of Asian restaurants, like Sekisui , on nearly every block. This neighborhood also contains Tower Grove Park and the expansive Missouri Botanical Gardens .
Settled by Italian immigrants in the late 1800s, this area still offers some of the best traditional Italian fare this side of the Atlantic. Gian-Peppe's and Dominic's are highly recommended by the locals to those in search of fine Italian dining. Pride runs deep in this old neighborhood with well-tended lawns, where even the fireplugs sport the red, green and white of the Italian flag. The St. Louis Art Museum and the St. Louis Science Center can also be found in this district.
Central West End
The heart of the Central West End is Forest Park , which is larger than Central Park in New York City and is home to several free attractions, including the St. Louis Zoo . Treed neighborhoods here feature stately homes from the early 1900s as well as bookshops, art galleries and coffee houses. Home to a large segment of St. Louis' gay community, this district also contains the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis and its breathtaking array of mosaic art.
The largely restored Lafayette Square neighborhood has nearly 400 Victorian-era homes, along with many charming restaurants and bed and breakfasts. The neighborhood circles the 30-acre Lafayette Park, the first public park to be established west of the Mississippi River. Though still in the middle of a major urban center, you'll feel like you're in a small town here.
The Loop (University City)
Called "The Loop" by locals, University City lies north of Washington University and is home to The Tivoli Theater movie palace as well as Blueberry Hill , where Chuck Berry still performs his rock standards on occasion. The area also boasts a diverse selection of affordable ethnic eateries, including Thai, Indian and Vietnamese.
The quaint historic town of St. Charles , which borders St. Louis proper, includes the restored First Missouri State Capitol as well as the Frenchtown Historic District , with its antique and gift shops, tearooms and restaurants. The entire downtown area of St. Charles—all 26 blocks—is on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors will be charmed by its gaslights, brick streets and colonial ambiance.
St. Louis, which began experiencing an influx of immigrants from Europe in the mid-1800s, offers a variety of fine ethnic fare, including some of the best traditional Italian cuisine on this side of the Atlantic. While St. Louis may not be as widely known for its restaurants as some other American cities, it contains a wealth of good eating options—from elegant to casual—for the hungry traveler to discover.
Downtown St. Louis offers an exciting and eclectic mix of dining choices. If you're in the mood for French fare, head for the elegant, yet comfortable ambience of Cafe de France . This is the kind of place you'd expect to see more of in a city named after a French king. Faust's serves inventively prepared wild boar and venison as well as a fabulous Sunday brunch. For a breathtaking view of downtown St. Louis you can't beat Harry's Restaurant & Bar , a favorite stop for business professionals.
The Loop (University City)
Brandt's Market & Cafe is known for its gourmet food and fine selection of wine and beer. Cicero's specializes in traditional Italian cuisine, and also has a popular bar and game area. Riddles' Penultimate Cafe & Wine Bar is a bistro-style restaurant with a warm, inviting interior. The menu at Vietnam Star is long and impressive, and contains many dishes from the country, many of which are also vegetarian. For something unique, stop into the Red Sea , where plates are brought to the table sans utensils. Shu Feng fuses Chinese and Korean to form inventive creations that appeal to many diners.
The neighborhood known as "The Hill" is the place where baseball legend Joe Garagiola grew up (right down the street from Yogi Berra), and it is still largely populated by descendants of the Italian immigrants who began settling in St. Louis in 1857. The lawns are well-manicured, the community is close-knit and the food is world class. Cruise through this area in the southwest quadrant of St. Louis and you'll find fine formal dining and mom-and-pop eateries with red-checkered tablecloths. St. Louisans celebrate special occasions with the elegant Northern Italian cuisine at Dominic's . Crowds flock to Gian-Peppe's for arguably the most delicious Marsala sauce in town. LoRusso's Cucina regales diners with seafood pasta specialties, while patrons often wait one or two hours for dinner at Cunetto House of Pasta .