Talk of the Towns

Talk of the Towns: 12.11.19

downtown west
A ‘For Sale’ sign is posted on the so-hip-it-hurts, curved glass brick walls at the entrance to the former MOOD Ultra Lounge, ultra-closed since two shootings in the wee hours in spring 2018. Two security guards were at the club, which had metal detectors, but what could one do when knuckleheads got kicked out, went to their cars for guns, and returned all hacked off and firing indiscriminately from outside? The second time, club owner Arthur Chikeluba was shot in the leg as he closed and locked the front doors. The gunfire at Locust and 20th streets (two doors down from the Pepper Lounge and catty corner from SLPD headquarters!) broke a front window of the dental office across the street; staff found a bullet in the cushions of the waiting room’s couch. Well, as a 1973 album title suggests, they only come out at night—which means, one would hope, they sleep it off most of the next day. The morning after the second shooting, an unmanned police car was parked outside the dental office, a camera pointed right at the MOOD entrance. This week, the ‘For Sale’ sign clearly stipulates ‘No bars or clubs’ for future use of the 2,900-square-foot ($3,000/month) space. Since the downtown west neighborhood is quiet during the day, perfect for an urban dental office and other professional pursuits, we have several suggestions for alternative uses. A daycare? Turned down really, really low, the sound system could be soothing enough for nap time lullabies, the glass brick ideal to buffer street noise and let in gentle, natural light for preschoolers to chill after lunch. Or, yet another nail salon? Could be a slam-dunk. Why not a breakfast-only place, open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., for late-lunchers or anyone who believes the most important meal of the day is just as important any time of the day … but maybe not at night. So, we called Gary, the guy representing the vacated MOOD space, to weigh in with our top-of-mind ideas. He chuckled. Gary lives in the building, and the other upstairs units are Airbnb rentals. Someone had floated plans for a hookah bar downstairs—but, ‘bar.’ Pepper Lounge seems to be doing well next door, he says; it uses two off-duty SLPD officers for security at night. But Gary has no worries, really. The first floor might do just fine as a third Airbnb, he surmises, what with the new St. Louis Aquarium and Wheel at Union Station, MLS stadium, City Museum expansion, etc., etc., etc.

st. charles
In other metro dining news, this may go down a little easier than the stomach-churning Schneithorst’s development: Guerrilla Street Food has shuttered its restaurant in St. Charles. (“St. Charles?” someone sniffs, eyebrows arched. “My word, isn’t that out where the great unwashed live across some muddy river?”) Four other metro locations remain open for business. Guerrilla, a purveyor of Filipino-American cuisine, rolled out in 2011 as a food truck, which still runs. Guerrilla’s latest storefront, opened last year, is in The Loop. Anyway, it may be worth a nibble: Our friends at the Business Journal rated its food truck third in The Lou behind those of Balkan Treat Box and Seoul Taco. Meanwhile … you’ll have to head to St. Charles now to eat at Culpeppers Grill and Bar. It’s the only location left. Last call Dec. 4 at the CWE locale was the very last call for the neighborhood mainstay that had been on Euclid Avenue since 1935! Details about the abrupt closure to follow in our first 2020 issue Jan. 8.

First it was Busch’s Grove, which has for all intents and purposes lost any semblance of its former identity as a 19th-century stagecoach stop. (Some of you may remember the cabins behind the historic restaurant and watering hole; meanwhile, the remodeled building facing Clayton Road at Price is but a shadow of its former self.) Our intro is just stalling, really—here’s the sad news: Soon to disappear forever is Schneithorst’s, just south of Clayton Road at 1600 S. Lindbergh Blvd. (Like we had to tell you where the iconic establishment is located.) The beloved eatery will serve its last meals on Christmas Eve. Then, the grill will cool off for good. Alas, the stork feeding its young in a nest atop the chimney will go away, as will the chimney itself, as will the rooftop biergarten … it may shed every last shred of its Germanic identity when The Village at Schneithorst’s expands by nearly 9,600 square feet in 2020. In our last issue, when we made “Another One Bites the Dust” get stuck in your head, we had no idea that such a familiar stop for hungry and thirsty St. Louisans would be the next to go. Established in 1956, the restaurant first was known as Hofamberg Inn. Generations of high schoolers craved its burgers and fries (after fibbing to their parents, perhaps, about going to the County Library to study.) In the early aughts, alas, much restaurant space was sacrificed as the property incorporated office and retail to become The Village. Such fond memories: I saw Stan the Man only once in my life, and it was at ‘Schneity’s’ just a few months before his passing at 92. As a matter of fact, my wife and I had just gathered there for brunch on Thanksgiving with a handful of dear friends as we had in 2018, with high hopes of enjoying that warm and wonderful experience for years to come. Nope. Es kommt nicht wieder, Schätzchen. The restaurant, which once featured a drive-thru, has been here since Stan Musial wore a Redbirds uniform. This one is going to be very hard for me, and many of you, to digest.

union station 
St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station wishes the metro a very Merry Christmas! The long-awaited, one-of-a-kind attraction opens Dec. 25 from noon to 6 p.m. That should give plenty of us a window of opportunity for a 120,000-square-foot glimpse into 1.3 million gallons of fresh and saltwater exhibits, right here on the left coast of the mighty Mississippi! Only glass will separate you and more than 13,000 creatures, from alligator snapping turtles to zebra sharks, not to mention hundreds of fish as beautiful as the colorful critters in Finding Nemo. (Nothing will separate a lucky few from frolicking with playful otters named, natch, Thatcher, Sawyer and Finn.) The eye-popping, $187 million entertainment complex includes the St. Louis Wheel, an indoor ropes course and unique shopping opportunities. Timed admission tickets to the aquarium went on sale last week; although we doubt any more will be available for Christmas day, you can check for when the attraction starts opening regularly at 10 a.m. Officials say they are dedicated to offering STEM-based programs and supplemental educational resources to educators and students. Assisted by donors and volunteers, the aquarium also will provide free field trips, programs and transportation for the metro’s underserved communities.

notable neighbors

Buses no longer stop in Glendale because of low ridership, according to the Bi-State Metro, but an official Metro sign at Austin Place and Lockwood Avenue still clearly identifies the narrow strip of grass between the road and the northern edge of Westborough Country Club as ‘Grace’s Glendale Bus Stop’ (GGBS). As luck would have it, No. 56 stopped running Sept. 30, and regular passenger Grace Mehan turned 27 Oct. 1. Somehow, she still gets to her three part-time jobs in Kirkwood on time. Her mom, Colleen, sometimes drops her off and picks her up. When the weather’s favorable, Grace may ride both ways on ‘Big Pink,’ her bicycle. Difficult access to public transportation, however, has impeded her desire to live more independently. And it’s hindered her ability to further her mission of demonstrating that men and women with Down syndrome can make important contributions where they live and work. In 2011, her dad, Tom Mehan, built a wooden bench with a tall back at the bus stop for Grace. Every holiday, from St. Patrick’s Day and Father’s Day to Halloween and Thanksgiving, the family decorates the bench and surrounding vicinity for the occasion. They really go big a few weeks before Christmas. ‘Santa Monday’ is at 7:30 a.m. Dec. 16. Dozens of Grace’s friends, co-workers, customers—and, well, fans—come dressed as Santa, elves, or whatever festive getup they choose to wear. There is even a Bassett hound dressed as a reindeer! That’s right, if you don’t show up to wave or give a thumbs-up to folks driving to work or taking kids to school, you may get coal in your stocking. Younger sister Maggie has been there (in red P.J. britches); she and older brother Brendan live in NYC. Maggie, 24, is a grad student in sports medicine. Brendan, 30, is a bartending, drumming graphic artist. But if he ever got coal in his stocking, Grace had nothing to do with it. She’s the most transparent, unpretentious 20-something you’d ever hope to meet. She does have a little something extra—one-third more of the chromosome 21 couplet than she needs, actually. “Don’t underestimate her,” Colleen emphasizes. Anyone who’s met her isn’t likely to. And that’s even before you find out that she taught herself sign language from watching YouTube. Or, that she’s won silver and gold medals at the Special Olympics … in surfing. In the Mehan living room, having come up the street from GGBS in a Christmas sweater, pushing Big Pink, Grace is getting warm. As she gets up to go change, I say we’ll talk about her while she’s gone. Before leaving the room, Grace pauses and says, “You’ll talk about me when I’m gone? That’s so sweet of you!” You can meet her on Santa Monday. (In the StL, of course, it may be sunny and 78—maybe not a teeth-chattering 3 degrees, as it was in 2017.) Or you can see her around Kirkwood on any given Tuesday through Saturday at Starbucks, Crushed Red or MOD Pizza. Grace interrupts with a three-word clarification: “Made on demand.” See more of her on Facebook at Grace’s Glendale Bus Stop.