Spending a weekend in the historic Soulard District of St. Louis
A lazy weekday in St. Louis during a slow morning drizzle was perfect for avoiding tourists in St. Louis’ historic Soulard District. Antoine Soulard is the namesake of the small district, a French who overlooked the area. Back then there were only a few fields and farms in 1840. German immigrants tiled the streets and lots, and an urban grid followed. From the middle to the end of the 19th century, two-story brick structures were built on narrow plots.
The quaint neighborhood offers visitors and locals a glimpse of outstanding examples of past architecture and a taste of more modern cuisine.
Don’t cut down on vintage food choices, however. The first stop should be the famous Soulard Farmers Market. Merchants from across Missouri and Illinois have settled in the historic brick building that has been on the corner of Carroll Street and Lafayette Street since 1779 from Wednesday through Saturday.
Extensive courtyard stalls are covered, but also open. Longstanding providers include the Ozark Mountain Orchards Farm and The Nut Hut. In addition to buying locally grown produce, you can find meat and seafood from small butchers and handcrafted soaps.
The full-time ready-to-eat grocery vendors Cajun Corner and Market Bakery and Cafe are open before all weekend vendors arrive. Wednesday was sluggish as only two salespeople were present. But the full-time cafes were open.
Next to the market building is a lovely park of lush green grass bordered by old-world black wrought iron fences. With benches nearby, it invites market shoppers to sit down and do some grocery shopping.
A stroll across the street is Bogart’s BBQ on the corner and Mission Taco Joint right across the street. There’s no excuse to get hungry in Soulard Historic Neighborhood. Mission Taco Joint may be hipster, but no excuse for the varied selection of taco offerings. Fried bacon flour tacos with chicken and smoked duck corn tacos were served at our table by the friendly waiter. The renovated old brick shop front retains the charm of a different time, while it’s lined with modern art and bartenders showing off synchronized, rhythmic drink shakers. Part of the dining room is closed while there is covered open air seating which was very comfortable on a cool rainy day.
Open air restaurants are all over Soulard and get creative like only cities with limited space do. Epic Pizza and Subs around the corner hosted a trio of rollerbladers at a seating window.
A stroll down the street is the Trinity Lutheran Church, a prime example of the architectural beauty of the Soulard district, with a steeple and bell tower rising above all other buildings.
The people are friendly here, strangers talk to each other and the locals give visitors a warm welcome. Two policewomen walking stop to admire cute little children walking hand in hand with their mother.
The cafe behind the block where the car was parked for a few hours of exploring was home to students working on laptops and drinking cappuccinos. In the Protagonist Cafe, readers took each table and studied in comfortable chairs. At a small gift shop, you can find related items, as well as locally handcrafted art and merchandise.
The bakery counter offers a selection of freshly baked cookies and pastries such as Cookie Monster Samoas, Orange Zest Scones, and homemade strawberry pop tarts. The Java is good and bitter here; you can have it as you want; Frappes, lattes, americanos and just plain cold coffee or filter coffee. They also serve alcoholic beverages if you want to relax and have a glass of local wine or beer while you read. The Protagonist Cafe’s walls are lined with shelves that hold tons of books for you to enjoy with a sip.
The Soulard Historic District is located from I-70 East to I-64S at the Chesterfield Exit. The Soulard Saint Louis fan page on Facebook is a great resource for planning your day trip. Online at https://www.facebook.com/STLSoulard