A Design Lover’s Field Guide to St. Louis
Enjoy a getaway in the Gateway City.
Published Jun 20, 2019 7:00 AM
There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a new city, but when you only have days (or hours) to explore, it helps to have a curated list from travelers you trust. That’s where Domino’s Field Guide comes in. Compiled by editors and design-minded locals around the globe, consider this a need-to-know edit of the coolest bars, hotels, restaurants, galleries, and boutiques in the top design cities (and regions). We’ve already covered Paris. Next up: St. Louis, Missouri.
St. Louis, situated along the picturesque Mississippi River, has long been a day-tripping city. It’s flush with an impressive display of design-savvy restaurants, shops, and hotels, which may prompt travelers to spend more than just one day visiting the Gateway Arch and Forest Park. There’s way more to the charming destination than gooey butter cake and toasted ravioli.
The restaurants alone are reason enough to extend your stay. “Renowned chefs like Gerard Craft, Kevin Nashan, and Michael Gallina have all brought their amazing talents to our city and continue to break ground and elevate the human experience,” says Sasha Aleksandr Malinich, design principal of R5 Design Agency—the firm behind the design of several noteworthy spots, including Vicia, Cinder House, Sardella, and Peacemaker Lobster & Crab.
Restaurateur Zoë Robinson ( Bar Les Freres, Billie Jean, and I Fratellini) has single-handedly created her own personal restaurant row in Clayton and continues to push the creative envelope in St. Louis. “I’m proud of our city and its growth,” she says. “In particular, the food scene is flourishing and having a renaissance moment right now.”
Michael Kennedy, a vintner and owner of Vin Fraiche, a boutique wine portfolio, has fallen in love with his native stomping ground all over again and is choosing to split the year between wine country and the bustling city for inspiration. “Coming back from Napa, to be honest, we’ve been blown away by experiences at newcomers Louie, Billie Jean, and Elmwood,” he says. “Even the local winery scene is booming, with excellent producers like Chandler Hill Vineyards, Hermanhoff, and Claverach Farm—so standout that we’re in the process of creating a laser-focused, single-vineyard dry white wine from Missouri.”
Itching to take a trip to this Midwestern metropolis? Follow the advice of these local experts in our design lover’s guide to the Gateway City.
Where to Stay
Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis: Get up close and personal with the Gateway Arch and Mississippi River when you stay at this lavish hotel. The rooms are spacious and airy, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows. A plush velvet chaise longue doubles as a prime sunrise reading spot in the morning. Pop up to the rooftop for chef Gerard Craft’s Sunday asado brunch at Cinder House, complete with a mecca of traditional South American–style grilled meats and accoutrements. “We’re inviting guests to our backyard barbecue,” says Craft. Insider tip: We suggest carving out an afternoon for spa time. After the Himalayan body-balancing treatment, unplug in the relaxation area and take in the city views.
Angad Arts Hotel: In the Center Arts District, check in to this artsy boutique hotel, where you’ll be matched to an arts-themed room based on chromotherapy. Dreamed up by the Lawrence Group, the hotel is the first of its kind to offer luxurious accommodations that take the emotions behind color into consideration. Red-colored rooms are scented with a Kama Sutra massage oil candle, while green rooms boast a Himalayan salt lamp to encourage healthy blood flow and a sound night’s sleep. Bikes are on call for roaming around the city at leisure.
Where to Eat and Drink
Sardella: A hot spot for weekend brunch, Sardella serves seasonal, Italian-inspired dishes in an inviting interior. “Drawing cues from my travels to Barcelona, Catalonia, and the Mediterranean region, the interior incorporates clean, simple architectural forms that provide a foundation for color,” says Malinich. A glass diorama, filled with preserved flora, welcomes guests and sets the tone for the experimental menu items, like fried chicken–meets–’nduja French toast. Robinson especially appreciates the colorful display of sardine cans, a nod to the restaurant’s name: an ancient Italian sauce crafted from sardines, salt, and peppers.
Louie: On weeknights, here’s where you can find Kennedy sipping cool Italian wines by the glass and Robinson enjoying relaxed dinners (and admiring the floral wallpaper). “My favorite dishes are the roasted chicken and wonderful wood-oven pizza,” recommends Robinson.
Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery: This micro-creamery serves up some of the city’s most inventive ice cream flavors, plus a few alcohol-infused options. “Rosewater is usually my choice,” says Robinson, who loves it so much that she offers it at her restaurants. Insider tip: The line may be intimidating, but we promise it’s worth the wait.
Billie Jean: Named after Robinson’s mother, Billie, and her late father, Jean, this restaurant feels like an underground dining spot in 1940s New York City. David Kent Richardson, a friend of Robinson’s, helped bring her vision to life. Inside, dark but dreamy black walls are adorned with Abstract Expressionist art by Robert Motherwell and celebrity portraits by Harry Benson. In the kitchen, chef Ny Vongsaly perfectly executes the American- and Asian-influenced cuisine, while the waitstaff graces the floor outfitted in NYC fashion designer Todd Thomas’s custom uniforms.
Yellowbelly: Architect Nick Adams of Mademan Design designed Yellowbelly to make guests feel as if they’re embarking on a seaside getaway to the California coast. A dialed-up rum list, inventive tiki cocktails, and seafood are the perfect combination for a fun-filled evening. It’s wise to bring a group and order all the sides—sea biscuits with uni butter and Spam with fried rice included—to start.
The Benevolent King: Ben Poremba’s latest spot is hip and cool in all the right ways. Paying homage to his heritage, the Moroccan-inspired fare and cool cocktail list are all inspired by King Mohammed VI. Plus, the quirky animal portraits and mirrors set the mood for a wild ride through the menu. Order the split pea falafel, Turkish feta, lamb meatballs, and farro.
Olio: This Israeli eatery, housed in a 1930s gas station, is an ideal spot for a fun dinner out. “[It has a] great aesthetic, perfect cocktails served in beautiful vintage glassware, good music on the turntable, and wonderful food,” says Robinson. “The hummus, caponata, and baba ghanoush are my faves.”
Cinder House: Craft’s restaurant atop the Four Seasons Hotel is a real dinner treat. “Drawing inspiration from the mountainous regions of South America, the interior is adorned with a variety of artisan wood and stone textures, including white oak chevron flooring; pigmented lime-based, polished plaster walls; and understated elegant wall coverings,” says Malinich. Dia’s cheese bread, hen of the woods mushrooms drenched in chorizo butter, and anything under the carne menu won’t steer you wrong. If you find yourself at Cinder House for breakfast, the kimchi grain bowl is the way to go.
Vicia: “Vicia’s modest yet inviting interior is a reflection of rustic, industrial, and traditional design, deeply rooted in Nordic and European aesthetics,” says Malinich, who is responsible for its sleek interior. Chef Michael Gallina’s hyper-local, seasonal fare and carefully curated wine list make for a delicious evening.
Where to Shop
The Vault Luxury Resale: For an exceptional collection of vintage designer goods, stop by this spot, which is run by a mother-daughter duo.
David Kent Richardson: One of Robinson’s top picks, this is the place to shop for eclectic interior finds and then some. “David is incredibly talented at choosing the perfect gifts and will wrap, ship, and hand-deliver your purchases,” she notes.
R. Ege Antiques: A “playground for your eyes,” this store is filled with designer Rick Ege’s European treasures and is frequented by Robinson.
Winslow’s Home & Farm: Pop in here for a pastry and coffee, and scoop up everything from Belgian linens and gardening supplies to farm-fresh eggs and small-batch spirits. “The baked goods are made from scratch, just like your grandma used to make,” says Robinson.
Extra Virgin an Olive Ovation: For rare and hard-to-find olive oils and provisions from around the world, head here.
Future Ancestor: This shop is filled with all the vintage furniture and lifestyle goods you could possibly need.
Union Studio: Support local and scoop up St. Louis artisan goods, handmade pottery, and fine art at Union Studio.
Link Auction Galleries: Take a risk and bid on sought-after dishware, furniture, and portraits inside this gallery, housed in an original 1830s auction building, where Robinson often finds new pieces to incorporate into her restaurants.
In a Nutshell
Start your morning at The Clover and the Bee, a stylish locale in historic Webster Groves, featuring a charming atmosphere and a beautiful floral mural worthy of an Instagram snap. The Italian breakfast, a morning bun and a cold-brew lemonade (its version of a caffeinated Arnold Palmer), is the ideal order. Then stop into Civil Alchemy, a lifestyle boutique, to peruse a noteworthy selection of housewares, apparel, linens, and specialty edibles. Head over to MoModerne, a design shop that celebrates St. Louis modernism. Here, you can expect to find an impressive selection of mid-century modern furnishings and epic estate sale finds.
Carve out a couple of hours to explore Gateway Arch National Park. Reinvented by highly acclaimed landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the park is a historic landmark that boasts shaded lawns and biking pathways.
If time allows, the Saint Louis Art Museum offers free admission daily and gives you the opportunity to walk around Forest Park. Take a quick car ride to Vicia for lunch. It puts a hip spin on the fast-casual meal—think: chilled asparagus soup and tartine, artfully displayed on a metal tray.
Dinner will depend on your mood. Seafood? Yellowbelly and Peacemaker are solid bets. For ambience, Cinder House is the epitome of views for days, especially at sunset. Benevolent King is ideal for Moroccan food in a hip setting. One 19 North Tapas Wine Bar is one of Malinich’s recs for tapas and drinks. And try Pasteria or Louie if you’re feeling Italian. After dinner, hit one of the many cocktail bars for a nightcap or make room for a show at the Fox Theatre.