St. Louis' Maplewood Captivates With its Independent Vibe

From festivals to finely crafted artisan goods, this St. Louis-area community is a must-visit

"Somewhere between Mayberry and Metropolis is Maplewood," declares this St. Louis-area community on its website, and it's definitely a claim worth checking out. Beware, though. You may find it hard to leave this charming city that loves its festivals and is packed with local, proudly independent shops, many that design and build their products right on site. That spirit of independence may be what led it to create the Let Them Eat Art Bastille Day festival (July 12).

EAT

Start at ecologically minded Foundation Grounds (coffee, tea, espresso), where you can enjoy locally sourced foods, vegan fare and coffees and teas, and where the kombucha is on tap. 

Then grab lunch at Boogaloo (Cuban, Creole, Caribbean). Try the crab empanadas or the creole Jambalaya, or just sway and sip in one of the swings at the bar and enjoy specialty cocktails or one of the 12 beers on tap.

Conclude your day with dinner at Elmwood, where creative cuisine (sweet potato baba ghanoush with pomegranates and mint) is available in small plates and shareables. Entrees vary, but a stellar example is the grilled black bass with salsa verde and candied lemon. 

SHOP

Explore family-owned Silver Lady (superbly designed silver jewelry), which surprises with its gemology knowledge, evident in the stone settings and minerals on display. Check out the ancient Roman glass and coin jewelry.

At Sole Survivor Leather, also family-owned, you'll find bags, wallets, belts, footwear, jackets and more. Much of the inventory is made on the premises by the owners and their daughter. Have a hard-to-fit shoe size? Have a custom sandal fitting right on-site.

SEE

The manufacturing process is on display at Schlafly Bottleworks, one of St. Louis’ premier microbreweries, where free guided tours are on tap Saturdays and Sundays. Schlafly loves its events and sponsors seven annually. This year it celebrates its 20th annual HOP in the City event September 14 with live music, festival food and 40 styles of beer and ale.

At Kakao Chocolate, watch them make small-batch, hand-dipped barks, caramels, dragees and much more from the best-quality ingredients. No artificial flavors or colors, preservatives or sweeteners go into these hand-dipped small-batch temptations. Planning to visit with a group? Call ahead to schedule a chocolate-tasting party, a 90-minute informative and fun event on-site. Bring your own beverage!

PLAY

Join a celebration of the arts and a whimsical tribute to Bastille Day at Let Them Eat Art, July 12 from 6-11 pm, in downtown Maplewood. Expect art demonstrations, special event-only promotions, performances by regional musicians, kids’ activities, food and drink, and extended shop hours at many local businesses.

Get your kicks on historic Route 66, a part of Maplewood since the U.S. highway's inception in 1926 through 1933. Stroll Manchester Road for plaques and information about the original businesses that lured served travelers and the local population.

Or, take history in a decidedly different direction. Enjoy upstairs bowling at 103-year-old Saratoga Lanes, which bears the distinction of being the oldest bowling alley west of the Mississippi. 

David Lancaster
About the author

David Lancaster is an accomplished artist and photographer whose work has been shown in galleries in St. Louis, Chica...