It’s summer time, and where are we? We’re stuck at school! No vacation for us this year. No traveling and discovering new places. No new faces and no new food. But wait! This is Dave’s Cheap Eats, so we will find some new food usually at pretty cheap prices. This summer we are going on an exotic field trip to discover an interesting, if sometimes scary, place on Delmar Blvd that straddles the St. Louis Line/University City Line called “The Loop.”
It’s not scary because of any crime. It’s actually a fairly safe place that is beginning to find its own with the tourists. Nevertheless, it is still the home of the “Fringe” in St. Louis with such places as Iron Age Studios, Vintage Vinyl, Subterranean Books and the offices of Riverfront Times. Today we will be sampling the foods from some of the better and lesser known establishments along The Loop.
This dining hotspot is one of my favorites, and it’s popular with both the tourists and the locals. Many famous music acts play in the Duck Room. Customers can see their pictures on the wall. The menu changes regularly, but anyone can find something they like from salads to burgers to more exotic fare. My wife’s personal favorite summertime treat is a cup of Gazpacho for $2.75. Burgers and sandwiches run from $4.50 to $6.00 without any real chance of sharing, but it’s still fairly cheap. Plus you can “people watch” through the large windows or gawk at owner Joe Edward’s oversized collection of Americana.
I have never done this before, but I am including a restaurant that I don’t like. I feel pressure to include Fitz’s because everyone talks about how much fun it is to eat where they brew root beer. People I know rave about the great food. The root beer is one of the best I’ve had, but the food is just like what you would find at Applebee’s. The cheapest sandwiches will cost you $7.00 to $8.00 a piece. My advice: go for dinner somewhere else in The Loop, then go to Fitz’s for a creamy root beer float.
Their motto is “Where Garlic is King,” so it probably wouldn’t make a great restaurant to take a date. They are known for the best Lebanese food in town, which isapparently very heavy on the garlic. They aren’t cheap, but doesn’t their motto just pull you in?
This is my personal favorite in The Loop. It’s actually just off the loop on Westgate, which is the light east of Blueberry Hill. If you want some great, freshly-made, real Middle Eastern food, then this is your place. They have the best falafel ($4.50) outside of Israel, and I’ve tried a lot! My wife’s favorite is Haifa’s salad ($4.95), named after one of the owners. Our kids love the meat, spinach, or cheese pies ($2.50 a piece). This is truly one of the great cheap eats in St. Louis!
Thai Country Café:
There are at least a couple of Thai restaurants in The Loop just north of Skinker. Any of these are good, but Thai Country Café has the reputation for being the best bet for good cheap eats; nothing on menu is over $7.00. Their authentic cuisine will take you to Southeast Asia, even if the wagon wheel leaves you a little confused!
There are so many more places in The Loop that deserve mention, but I can’t write about them all! One Saturday afternoon first take a summer vacation to The Loop. Park your car, walk around, and find a restaurant that will take you someplace new. For more information on these or other restaurants go to: http://www.ucityloop.com/ and explore new cuisine options.
(This article orignially appeared in the July, 2005, ATT)