Out of the Kitchen: The Gateway to the West

Out of the Kitchen: The Gateway to the West

What do you get when you’ve got four bored college kids and a Groupon? An impromptu little one-day trip to St. Louis for what may have been the shortest spring break trip anyone’s ever made. Myself and my friends were trying to plan small day trips for the break since we were staying in town for it, when my fiancé decided to look for deals online. He found a good deal on a hotel near St. Louis, we figured out that none of us had ever been, and so one week later we were on I-64 headed west to discover a new city!

When you go to St. Louis, you obviously have to do two main things: the Gateway Arch and the City Museum. The Arch was truly magnificent, and being able to cross another national monument off my list was worth the whole trip for me. We were really disappointed because the grounds around the Arch were under construction, as was the elevator to the top. Judging from the outlines of what was taking shape, some exciting developments seem to be in the works. We saw what looked like an amphitheater and a big rectangular space that is either going to be a field or the new museum that will showcase America’s westward expansion (one can only hope that they try to have some historical accuracy and not gloss over the high cost to land and Native Americans in the process, but I digress…). When the construction is completed, I definitely want to come back and see the new park in all its glory!

If you’re not familiar with the City Museum, you need to be. The name of the place is kind of misleading, seeing as it’s really just a giant playground with a few exhibits inside. Outside, there’s a massive metal and stone jungle gym with tunnels and airplane fuselages and slides galore. If we’re being honest, I’m just barely young enough and just barely small enough to enjoy it. Any older and larger, and I would’ve been in more pain than I already was. Turns out crawling around on metal bars is not very kind to your shins and knees – who knew? And don’t even get me started on turning around in those tunnels. If you’re super tall, big, scared of heights, or claustrophobic, proceed with caution. That being said, it was 100% worth it and a jean jacket turned out to be the perfect material to get me some speed going down the slides (just ignore the fact that I accidentally wore a Canadian tuxedo, unless for some reason you think it works – in that case, aw shucks you shouldn’t have!).

Beyond the obvious must-sees, we found some other things that are well worth your time in St. Louis. There’s an area of the city called Forest Park, which, as it turns out, really is kind of a massive park. The best things about this park, though, are the free attractions it houses.

Yes, I said it. You read it. Free.

Is there any word sweeter to a college budget?

Forest Park contains a zoo, the St. Louis Art Museum, and a planetarium, among other things. We only had time to visit the zoo and the art museum, but give us a few more days and we would’ve worn out our welcome at these no-cost (no-cost, I’m telling you!) attractions. The zoo was fairly small compared to the Louisville and Cincinnati zoos that we’re used to, but it was designed well and housed some animals that we’d never seen before. The art museum was more than impressive, considering the fact that it was free. Again, with a little more time, the art history nerd in me would’ve read every single plaque next to every single piece of art. Trust.

Now we’ve come to the most important part of any trip: the food. We were on a mission to eat at only local places for every meal, and I’m proud to say we didn’t break that once (even though Jack in the Box was calling my name).

For breakfast, we went on down to Vincent van Doughnut. Y’all. These doughnuts were insane. We’ve got some pretty great specialty doughnuts here in Lexington (shout-out to North Lime), but these were something special. I had the New York Cherry Cheesecake, but I was sorely tempted by the Lemon Lavender and the Turtle too. The interior of the shop was so cute, and everything you would want in a local doughnut shop. They’re open fairly early, but be quick – they close once they run out, and they run out fast.

We planned out our eating in advance thanks to Yelp and TripAdvisor, so when our vegan friend found an entirely vegan café on TripAdvisor, she was dying to go. We all wanted a little taste of the plant-based life, so we agreed, and let me tell y’all: Lulu’s Local Eatery did not disappoint! Right when we walked up to the door, we knew this was our kind of place by the pro-refugee signage posted in the windows, and the interior was charming and welcoming. Their menu is seasonal, meaning they only use fresh ingredients, and absolutely everything is 100% vegan! The food was so flavorful and filling, and now I’m dying to figure out how to prepare jackfruit the way it was in my banh mi bowl – you couldn’t even tell it wasn’t meat. If you go, I 100% suggest ordering the spicy tater tots to accompany your meal. You definitely won’t regret it.

We ended the day at a place called the Peacock Loop Diner. The food wasn’t super special, but they had great prices and the atmosphere was classically cool. The real stars of this place are the boozy shakes. I didn’t get one because they’re pricy and I’m avoiding alcohol at the moment (long story short, I want Jennifer Lopez’s body), but we seriously debated getting the Human Sacrifice: a chocolate and vanilla shake filled with tequila and Kahlua, topped with cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Please dear God, someone go and get this and tell me about it. Avoiding it is probably my ultimate regret from the trip, and I swear once I’m skinny I’m never going to turn down an alcoholic milkshake again.

The area that the diner was in is in the college part of town near Washington University, which means the nightlife there was pretty solid. We wandered into a bar with a cool concept called Pin-Up Bowl, which had a small bowling alley in the back. For some reason we thought it was a neat idea, since we’re used to having just darts or maybe pool to occupy our time while we drink. The crown was kind of meh, but we had fun making fools of ourselves trying to bowl in a straight line. For other nightlife options, we heard that the brewery scene in St. Louis is on point, and we had plans to try a few of them but ended up not making it. If you go you’ve got to try the International Tap House or Schlafly for me and let me know how they are!

So there you have it; four college kids’ super unofficial guide to St. Louis. Have you been? Got any suggestions for my next visit? Leave a comment if there’s something we missed out on, and don’t forget to follow me on my (brand new) Instagram to see where I end up next! (Hint: My next trip is going to involve a lot of BBQ…)

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