Steals, Deals & Free Fun: How to make the most of dining, shopping, and more in St. Louis
Illustration by Philipp Dornbierer
Date Night on a Budget
Where to dine in style—without breaking the bank
1) Three Sixty: For the view, it’s tough to top Three Sixty. Executive chef Rex Hale’s menu offers lobster and rib-eye, but the thrifty can split small plates: $9 for a trio of Korean barbecue pork tacos or $11 for chicken skewers. (Tip: Consider the St. Louis Cardinals’ schedule before doing valet. It’s $20 during games, but only $5 for off days.) 360-stl.com.
2) Acero: For a romantic outing, share Acero’s four-course tasting menu, starting at $30, with a $5 upcharge for splitting it; items range from bruschetta to tagliatelle to the renowned egg raviolo. Top it off by bringing along an Italian wine from the 2000 vintage or earlier to skip the corkage fee. fialafood.com/acero.
3) Home Wine Kitchen: Visit on No Menu Monday, when chef Cassy Vires crafts a custom menu based on your answers to just a few questions. At $35 for a three-course meal, it’s a steal—considering a single dinner entrée at a comparable place can run nearly as much. homewinekitchen.com.
4) Vino Nadoz Wine Bar: Chef Chris DiMercurio’s menu offers perhaps the best quality-to-price ratio in town. Nothing’s more than $20—which can be hard to believe, considering the options range from a thick-cut pork chop to sea scallops. Still not convinced of the value? Go between 4 and 6 p.m. for half-price drinks and bar plates, as well as $1 wings. vinonadozwinebar.com.
There’s something to be said—and saved—for cutting out the middleman. Nowhere is this truer than along the western portion of Manchester Road, where you can enjoy a restaurant-like
experience inside a grocery store at a portion of the price. At Fresco at the Des Peres Schnucks (schnucks.com), tipping isn’t allowed. Enjoying a chilled (alcoholic or nonalcoholic) drink with your meal, though, is encouraged. At the Des Peres Dierbergs (dierbergs.com), The Mezz serves wine by the glass daily from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. And both stores host live music on the weekends.
Among the best deals around is the in-house Advantage Member Program at Clayton’s Oceano Bistro (oceanobistro.com). A $20 annual membership gets you half-off wine on Monday, extended happy-hour prices on Tuesday, and other discounts throughout the week.
Trying to keep your family’s dining-out budget under control? Download the smartphone app Kids Eat For (kidseatfor.com) to search for child-friendly deals at restaurants from America’s Incredible Pizza Company to Señor Pique.
Wine Deals by the Day
Before the weekend, vino deals can be enjoyed for less at many of your favorite restaurants.
• Cyrano’s (cyranos.com) knocks 50 percent off regular wine prices (and every night after 8 p.m., you can order bottles of bubbly for 20 percent off).
• Frazer’s Restaurant & Lounge (frazergoodeats.com) comps you a bottle of select wine with the purchase of two entrées when you join the restaurant's mailing list.
• Jimmy’s on the Park (jimmyscafe.com) does 20/20 Tuesdays, when 20 featured wines are only $20 per bottle.
• Mangia Italiano (dineatmangia.net) offers half-price bottles.
• Quintessential (q-stl.com) hosts Martini & Wine Tuesdays & Wednesdays, when you can buy the first bottle of wine for full price and get the next for half off.
• BlackFinn American Grille (stlouis.blackfinnamericangrille.com) hosts Dine & Wine Wednesdays, when bottles and glasses are half price.
• Ernesto’s Wine Bar (ernestoswinebar.com) sells half-price bottles.
• SqWires Restaurant (sqwires.com) sells bottles for half price at dinner.
• Truffles (www.todayattruffles.com) general manager/wine director Aleks Jovanovic leads an informal tasting from 5 to 6 p.m., when you can help pick the next week’s wine special.
The Early Bird Gets the Bread
For those who just can’t get enough of the baked goodness at Companion (companionstl.com), save 35 to 40 percent off retail by visiting the Early Bird Outlet in South City on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday from 7 a.m. to noon. And when you’re making that quintessential St. Louis–style pizza, buy a 5-pound brick of Provel cheese for less than $5 per pound at either DiGregorio’s Market (digregoriofoods.com) or J. Viviano & Sons (shopviviano.com).
Get Plugged In
Passport Dining (passportdining.com) has been around for years, but many folks still don’t know about the program. Once targeted toward business professionals, it forgoes vouchers and coupons, providing an ideal alternative for those who do regular business lunches—or just enjoy a nice meal out. A membership’s $130 per year, but participants receive complimentary second entrées at most places, and you can use the card again and again. Here in St. Louis, the list of participating restaurants spans more than 30 spots, including Acero, Harvest, and Eclipse.
Prefer to skip the membership fee, but still get to feel like an insider? Many restaurants offer specials if you sign up for their email lists. J. Gilbert’s Wood-Fired Steaks & Seafood (jgilberts.com), for instance, offers $15 off the next visit for signing up, plus a complimentary entrée on your birthday.
Happy Hours to Know
Remy’s Ecstatic Hour
The name’s apt. Small plates are $4.95, glasses of wine and cocktails are $5.95, and beers are $2.95, 4:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. remyskitchen.net.
Morton’s Bar Bites
Starting at $6, options range from mini crab-cake BLTs to petite filet mignon sandwiches, before 6:30 p.m. and after 9 p.m. Sunday through Friday. mortons.com.
Fleming’s 5 for $6 ’til 7
Choose from five cocktails, five glasses of wine, and five appetizers—not to mention burgers and beer—for $6 each, before 7 p.m. flemingssteakhouse.com.
Best Blue Plate
Every weekday, Farmhaus (farmhausrestaurant.com) offers a single three-course lunch—plus iced tea and a house salad—for only $10.
Blush: A seven-year anniversary party with Vogue Footwear and denim line trunk shows is March 7 from 5 to 8 p.m. shopblushboutique.com.
Byrd Style Lounge: An STL Sample Sale is in mid-June. 314-721-0766.
Carries Boutique: Discounted spring and summer items are available in June. carriesboutique.com.
Clique: The VIP program ($100 per year) gives you 10 percent off all items and early access to sales. It also includes a free resale shopping tour, during which you get 20 percent off. cliquestl.com.
Dazzle Me Twice: The store holds a 30 percent–off sale in April. 314-367-0857.
East + West: In May, it hosts a Memorial Day Weekend Sale; its Summer Sale is in late June. Spend $100 or more on five separate occasions to receive 20 percent off on your sixth visit. eastandweststl.com.
Femme: Take 20 percent off during the weeklong Memorial Day sale. 314-781-6868.
Klutch: The boutique hosts a spring/summer sale at the end of June. klutchstyle.com.
Mister Guy: Its rewards program includes $20 off the first purchase and 5 percent off all later purchases. misterguyclothiers.com.
Moris Fashions: The Central West End men’s-clothing store hosts a Memorial Day Weekend Sale in May and its annual Summer Sale in late June. morisfashions.com.
Pulse: Mention SLM to receive 25 percent off a purchase of $100 or more during March. pulsestl.com.
Rung: All green items are 30 percent off March 1 through 17; skirts are 30 percent off in March. In April, there’s a $3 clearance rack. In May, check out the Mother’s Day Sale and Kentucky Derby Hat Sale, and in June, take 40 percent off dresses. shoprung.org.
Upscale Resale Boutique: In May, get 30 to 50 percent off select items. upscaleresaleboutique.com.
Vie: Let the store know your birthday and email address, and get $50 off a purchase of $100 or more on your special day. 314-997-0124.
Von Maur: Look for sales every Wednesday and Thursday throughout the year. vonmaur.com.
Some beauty schools offer great deals, as long as you’re OK with supervised students or newly graduated stylists doing the work. SKIN Institute (skininstitute.edu) accepts customers for free haircuts and coloring, while The Salon Professional Academy (tspastlouis.com) offers haircuts, facials, and manicures, with a color and style starting at $25. And Elaine Steven Beauty College (elainestevenbeautycollege.com) offers haircuts for $4 on Wednesdays, pedicures for $12, and manicures for $9.
Want to look your best, but can’t afford $100 foundation? Thankfully, there are comparable choices for far less. Local makeup artist Danielle Erb points out that a $7.44 bottle of Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream is similar to a $39 bottle of Estée Lauder BB Creme, with comparable benefits for your skin. Erb also equates the $7.49 Revlon ColorStay Liquid Liner with the popular $20 Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner.
Sundays in the Park
It’s harder than you might expect to find free dog parks and off-leash areas—many are privately owned or have steep membership fees. Yet there are a handful of exceptional ones, if you look hard enough and are willing to travel.
Broemmelsiek Park: The off-leash dog area here includes a pond and a rinse zone. 1615 Schwede, Wentzville, parks.sccmo.org/parks/index.php.
DuSable Dog Park: Small dogs will be happy to hear there’s a separate section just for them in the 2.5–acre off-leash recreational area. 2598 N. Main, St. Charles, stcharlesparks.com.
Paw Park: This off-leash park has separate spaces for small and large dogs, plus a fire hydrant and a doggie water fountain. Arnold City Park, 1695 Arnold Park, Arnold, arnoldmo.org.
Quail Ridge Park: Located near Interstates 64 and 70, this spacious park has an off-leash dog area and a covered sitting spot. 5501 Quail Ridge, Wentzville, parks.sccmo.org/parks/index.php.
Ellen Clark Sculpture Park: This Saint Louis University park is the region’s most artistic dog park, with myriad colorful, abstract sculptures, plus off-leash roaming allowed. Lindell and Grand boulevards, slu.edu.
Even if your pup’s an only child, there are free ways to ensure its social calendar stays full. You could take up a hobby, such as Frisbee (stlouisdiscdogs.com) or herding (slhc.org). For less strenuous outings, consider sharing your dog’s affection with others through nonprofits like Love on a Leash (loveonaleashstl.com). Or if your goal’s simply to connect with other St. Louisans—and canines—try a Meetup group. Local canine meetups range from the Gateway Lo-Downs (meetup.com/gatewaylodowns)—a group for dachshund owners—to the St. Louis & St. Charles Small Dog Play Group (meetup.com/stlsmalldogplaygroup).
Wag + Wash
Sure, you could save money by using your own tub—and create a complete mess when Fido makes a suds-covered escape. Here’s a better plan: Visit a local groomer, and wash your pooch like a pro, without spending what it would cost to have someone else do it. These spots stock the shampoo, towels, brushes…everything but the dog.
Four Muddy Paws: Pay $14 for a basic wash, $16 for a premium wash, or $12 if you use an eco-friendly shampoo purchased on-site. fourmuddypaws.com.
Pets in the City: Pay $10 per pet, with every sixth bath free with a frequent washer card. thecitypet.com.
Shakers Bath House: Pay $21 per dog; add a $3 upcharge for specialty shampoo. shakersbathhouse.com.
Sudsy’s You Wash Dog Wash: It’s $17 for any dog under 35 pounds and $20 for a larger dog, with a $1 discount for each additional dog you wash. sudsysyouwashdogwash.com.
Need a pet sitter? Consider students who commute to a school near your home or young adults still living at home but eager for a break. Better yet: Ask your vet’s young vet techs.
Flicks for Free
Where to see movies without a markup
Don’t feel like forking over a Hamilton to see Oz: The Great and Powerful in 3-D? Instead, opt for a free movie night. Area libraries regularly screen flicks, notably the beautifully restored Central Library. And some theaters offer free screenings for families during the day; Wehrenberg Theatres, for instance, hosts the popular Family Summer Series. Here are a few other nontraditional ways to take in a film (and in some cases, music and food beforehand, too).
Frontyard Features: Martin Casas and company screen films outdoors across the city; see fyfoutdoormovies.com.
Manchester: Go to Schroeder Park on June 21 at 8:30 p.m. to watch The Lorax, and return July 12 at 8:30 p.m. for Dolphin Tale; visit manchestermo.gov for details.
Forest Park: On Fridays in July, catch movies on Art Hill in Forest Park at 9 p.m. (the entertainment starts at 7 p.m.).
St. Peters: The serene St. Charles County burg plans to host free flicks on May 31 and June 28. Visit stpetersmo.net for locations, times, and other details.
Old North St. Louis: Old North Gallery is the place to gather for occasional screenings of locally inspired films, such as the Kevin Kline–narrated documentary The Gateway Arch: A Reflection of America.
Chess novices might consider a $3 day pass when visiting the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis (saintlouischessclub.org)—or a free visit to the World Chess Hall of Fame
Beyond Fair St. Louis, it’s no secret that you can unwind by attending free concerts at some of the area’s most beloved attractions. Try the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Whitaker Music Festival (Wednesdays at 7 p.m. in June and July), the Saint Louis Zoo’s Jungle Boogie (Fridays at 5 p.m. from late May through August), and the St. Louis Public Library’s NOT SO QUIET! Concert Series at the Central Library (every third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m.).
Beyond Left Bank Books (left-bank.com) and local libraries, you can find some additional low-cost literary events, including St. Louis Poetry Center’s Observable Reading Series (stlouispoetrycenter.org/observable); River Styx readings (riverstyx.org); and events at Fort Gondo (fortgondo.com) and The Hinge (thehingestl.com).
The next time your gas gauge tilts toward empty, go online before filling up.GasBuddy.com highlights the best stations for topping off your tank without emptying your wallet. (Tip: Get the free GasBuddy smartphone app for Android, iOS, or BlackBerry.) While no particular neighborhood in St. Louis offers lower gas prices on a consistent basis, prices do tend to be lower where there’s a higher concentration of stations, says senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan. He also suggests filling up in Missouri, rather than in Illinois, where gas taxes are higher. And when, exactly, should you plan to take a longer trip? “After Memorial Day weekend, prices seem to drop,” DeHaan says. “Prices tend to go up again during late July and August.”