Of course, a little morning-after recovery might be needed, and I suggest Rise Coffee (4176 Manchester Ave. Tel: 314-405-8171. www.risecoffeestl.com), the area’s major (non-alcoholic) gathering place. It’s bright, colorful, and comfortable, and after you’re done admiring the mural of reindeer and mountains, check out the sign that proclaims: “Compassion is the radicalism of our time.”
Duly caffeinated, I head down Manchester to the west side of Maplewood. As I step in Foundation Grounds Coffeehouse
(7928 Manchester Ave. Tel: 314-833-6460. www.foundationgrounds.com), the guy behind the counter is wearing a t-shirt for the St. Louis Gay Men’s Chorus (Tel: 314-287-5669. www.gmcstl.org). As I order my espresso, I ask him about what the chorus is up to, and he’s thrilled that they’ve just performed at the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team’s Pride Night. A few steps away, I stop in Kakao Chocolate (7272 Manchester Ave. Tel: 314-645-4446. www.kakaochocolate.com), my go-to spot not only for amazing truffles and comfy setting, but for take-home treats like their homemade mole sauce or cocoa spice rub.
Back in the “city,” I stroll through the Central West End, one of the first City neighborhoods to be revitalized (spearheaded, of course, by an LGBTQ influx) . I love coming here for a meal, some shopping, or just a stroll among the brick buildings of this classic neighborhood now filled with boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and bars. It’s a great way to appreciate some of the grandeur that St. Louis once held and see urban renewal in action. After all, Tennessee Williams lived here, as did T. S . Eliot, and William S. Boroughs. How’s that for an eclectic collection of artistic neighborhood sons?
In the area known as The Loop you’ll find all three, and many more St. Louis celebrities, on the St. Louis Walk of Fame (www.stlouiswalkoffame.org) on Delmar Blvd. Here you’ll find tributes to a roster of local luminaries from Chuck Berry (there’s also a statue of him) and Scott Joplin to Maya Angelou, Tina Turner, Vincent Price, and The Rockettes (yes, they began in St. Louis). While you’re at it, stop in Blueprint Coffee (6225 Delmar Blvd. Tel: 314-266-6808. www.blueprintcoffee.com) for the absolute best coffee in St. Louis.
For flora fans, Forest Park isn’t the only major spot: there’s also Tower Grove Park (4256 Magnolia Ave. Tel: 314-771-
2679. www.towergrovepark.org), and the next-door Missouri Botanical Garden (4344 Shaw Blvd. Tel: 314-5770-5100.
www.missouribotanicalgarden.org). In Tower Grove, I wander through acres of ponds covered with lily pads, gliding geese, low stonewalls, and pathways past Victorian pergolas.
In the Botanical Garden, I roam past the many environments of this wonder that’s been open since 1859: Japanese,
English Woodland, Ottoman, and Chinese gardens, camelias, azalea, and lotus gardens. I visit the Climatron, a
1960 geodesic dome that holds plants from a variety of tropical locales, where I stroll among ginger lilies, baobob, palm,
and banyan trees, past glass flamingoes reposing among the water lettuce. It’s one of my favorite spots in the city, and always has been.
I don’t know about you, but all this walking makes me hungry, and luckily, some of the best dining is on South Grand, on the southeastern edge of Tower Grove Park. Here you’ll find a diverse array of offerings, from the Vietnamese food at Pho Grande (3195 S. Grand Blvd. Tel: 314-664-7435. www.phogrand.com), to the winning Guerrilla Street Food (3559 Arsenal St. Tel: 314-529-1328. www.guerrillastreetfood.com), at the corner of Arsenal and Grand, where Filipino street food is given a lift in such classics as lumpia, chicken adobo, and their specialty, The Flying Pig (pulled pork seasoned with Sriracha, hoisin, and calamansi). They began life as a food truck and with the great food, reasonable prices, and amazingly nice staff, it’s easy to see why they’ve become a hit.
For Sunday brunch or coffee any day, LGBT-friendly MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse (3606 Arsenal St. Tel: 314-865-2009. www.mokabes-coffeehouse.squarespace.com), diagonally across the street from Guerrilla Street Food, is always fun, whether your order a “Big Al’s Buttery Nipple” (butterscotch/caramel latte), strawberry lemonade, or plain-old coffee.
Enjoy them on two floors with signs that proclaim “Gender is a lie,” “Darwin loves you,” and (my favorite) “Read a f**king book.”