Having returned to St. Louis from Sedalia the day before, Friday featured the Silverado 2500 back at CAM … though only for a few hours as I was soon making a trip to Lambert International Airport for a meeting to discuss the possibility of the museum’s using a bank of windows near baggage claim in some way (either for publicity or an off-site exhibition.) After work, Lara and I took the truck to one of our favorite restaurants in town, Home Wine and Kitchen in Maplewood.
The next morning we rose early to hit the Tower Grove Farmers Market. Since we’d moved to St. Louis in 2010, it has become our favorite resource for organic produce but also features stands such as Companion Bakery and the incredible salumeria, Salume Beddu. Having stocked up on fresh pasta, peaches, and cheese, we decided to try the Southwest Diner in Maplewood. We instantly fell in love with the warm atmosphere and cozy décor of the restaurant, both of which were instantly superseded by the food, which was an incredible and inventive take on Southwestern cuisine. (It also bears noting that the restaurant, appropriately enough, is located on Southwest Avenue.)
After finishing one the best slices of key lime pie that either of us had ever had, we proceeded to Bob’s Seafood Market on Olive to get lobsters to grill for dinner. Once we’d secured two crustaceans to that effect, we dropped them at home and headed to see more live animals – this time at the St. Louis Zoo. St. Louis happily boasts one of the best zoos in the country and … it’s free!
Having completed the trip to the zoo, I dropped Lara off at home and headed over to the North Side Workshop, a non-profit art space dedicated to addressing cultural and community issues in North Saint Louis. It was founded by friends Juan William Chavez and Kiersten Torrez, and their programming “focuses on incorporating socially engaged art and education with the goal of fostering social progress in North Saint Louis communities.” I came upon Juan watering the Workshop’s garden, where they teach local children about gardening, and asked him how the bees in the hives they maintain on-site were doing. North Side is an incredible asset to the city of St. Louis and an excellent example of a new development in contemporary art practice – the engagement of a community as a way of making art.
I headed over to White Flag Projects, an alternative space for contemporary art on Manchester Avenue, to see a more “traditional” presentation of art in the group show “Ghosts Before Breakfast” curated by the founder of White Flag, Matthew Strauss. Established in 2006, White Flag, like North Side, is one of the most welcome cultural endeavors in the city, bringing adventurous new art to St. Louis with strikingly singularity and focus.
Sunday was a bit more low key and at home but we made an exception to try a “new place” for us which is something of a St. Louis phenomenon by now: the soul-food restaurant, Sweetie Pies in the Grove. Now the subject of a reality television show on Oprah Winfrey’s television network, Sweetie Pies treated us to some of the most amazing comfort food imaginable (including the finest examples of fried chicken, black-eyed peas, meat loaf, and pecan pie this or any side of the Mississippi.
Much of the weekend encapsulated what to me are three of the “keys” to the city of St. Louis:
1.) Explore: with an open mind: So many of the best places we’ve found here in St. Louis were discoveries rather than suggestions or recommendations. Simply by taking a chance on a place that looks intriguing—Southwest Diner, for example, is a restaurant we’d passed many times and developed a healthy curiosity about—one can quickly find places that may become favorites forever.
2.) Do the research: We found Bob’s Seafood as a result of following up on things we’d read in the local food magazines Feast and Sauce. (Salume Beddu was a similar discovery – as was the fantastic Cajun restaurant Riverbend in Soulard, which we found on the blog “St. Louie Foodie.”) Getting to know your city by keeping up with pays dividends …
3.) Have high expectations: The reputation of my own institution, the Contemporary Art Museum, was the key reason I moved to St. Louis, yet I’ve been overwhelmingly impressed by the quantity and quality of the other art museums and organizations here in the city. From the aforementioned North Side Workshop and White Flag Projects, to the Saint Louis Art Museum, Mildred Lane Kemper Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park, Isolation Room, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, the Luminary, and others, the vitality and excellence of the art institutions here is indicative of the standards set across the board—from the Missouri Botanical Garden to the St. Louis Symphony every aspect and facet of city life in St. Louis!
Dominic Molon, Chief Curator