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Walking Down Washington

While we've been cuddled up in warm homes for the winter, the Washington Avenue Loft District has been changing daily, flourishing with lots of fun and funky places to imbibe and dine

At 8th and Washington, across from America’s Center’s main entrance, is the beautiful Renaissance Grand Hotel, a stunning combination of old and new construction. The lobby offers Capri, a grill and coffee shop. Now located in what was once the original lobby of the Statler Hotel is a wonderful downtown dining addition, An American Place. Renowned Manhattan chef Larry Forgione opened the restaurant last fall and put Chef John Griffiths in charge of the kitchen. Local cheeses are featured in the salads, which include the butter bibb and American Place Caesar. The roast chicken chowder showcases Missouri mushrooms. One house specialty is Missouri dry-aged steak with Ozark mushrooms. All pasta is house-made. Tasty Michigan cherries are combined with duck breast. Even Missouri wines show up as delicate sauces on this innovative menu. Don’t skip dessert. All ice creams and sorbets are seasonal flavors made on site. Local apples are in a caramelized crêpe, and pears and pumpkins are found in the crème brûlée. The chocolate comes from Maui, and the cheese plate is a collection of the best America has to offer.

Crossing 10th Street, Kitchen K (in the old Merchandise Mart) welcomes with a bright, open kitchen and an enticing menu featuring small plates such as Thai salad, sweet potato fries and an eggplant-goat cheese melt and larger plates such as red chile-mushroom fettuccine and Jamaican jerk chicken. Run by Pablo Weiss, of Hot Locust fame, Kitchen K offers a hip, up-to-date dining experience, with plenty of room for the after-work crowd in the bar area.

A block west is McMurphy’s Grill, a training kitchen operated by St. Patrick’s Center that takes the homeless off the streets and gives them job skills. It also serves a really good lunch.

Just steps north on 11th, the brand-new Mosaic has probably the largest wine-by-the-glass list in the area, and the extensive small-plate menu has great prices. Seafood ceviche, roasted beets with marinated goat cheese, lobster salad and tuna nicoise are some of the cold-plate offerings. Hot plates include soups and small-plate portions of gnocchi in a truffle sauce, petite beef tenderloin, duck spring roll and tuna tempura.

Around Tucker Boulevard, old storefronts are beginning to show signs of nightlife. Several of the nightclubs, such as Ritz Lounge, specialize more in drinks. If it’s breakfast drinks you want, visit Farrago, a coffee shop and espresso bar complete with outdoor grill and movie rentals. It plans to add a premium ice cream bar and a business center. The new hot dining spot on this block is Lucas Park Grille and Market, which offers a full dining room for dinner and late-night munching. The crowds start to gather for the bar scene after 10 p.m. Wasabi Sushi Bar is a first-rate Japanese restaurant and sushi bar.

Another block over is Rue 13, a cool club that also serves sushi. Studio Café offers lunch and dinner. If an old-fashioned pub is more to your liking, check out Flannery’s Neighborhood Pub, where the informal atmosphere makes you feel right at home.

After crossing 14th, where the famed Tangerine and Hungry Buddha once were, a new Irish restaurant called Gallagher’s Restaurant and Pub has great food. Red Moon is just steps south of Washington Avenue on St. Charles in the Terra Cotta Lofts Building. Entrées include snapper with pineapple and chile salsa and an upscale version of pad Thai. The signature dessert is the darkest chocolate tart available this side of Paris.

Joining the ranks of out-of-town restaurants locating outposts in our fair city, Mortimer’s (already in Idaho) is under construction in the East Bank Lofts at 15th Street.

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