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There’s a case to made for Gravois being the truest example of an honest, no-nonsense St. Louis street—the long, meandering road snaking through a wide variety of the City’s 675 designated-and-named neighborhoods and without too much urban do-goodery interfering with the actual business of business. Some City districts have been stimulated (and others aggravated) by widening traffic lanes, tightening traffic lanes, building out curb cuts, planting trees or creating East Cost, West Coast or European conceits.
Gravois is minus all that. Gravois just exists, comfortable in its unique, quirky-as-hell, as-is skin. Especially between the Meramec viaduct and the Affton/City limits.
Within those blocks, you’ve got everything from a voodoo shop to a barber supply store, with engine rebuilders, metal works, Bosnian bakeries, Albanian butchers and head shops competing for attention alongside the usual chains: 7-11 and QT, CVC and Walgreen’s, each of them jockeying for the perfect intersection placement. It’s a working street, no doubt. But the bars, long stuck in the amber of Reagan-era America, are starting to change with the blocks around them.
Now that’s just in terms of the old-school joints, caught as they’ve been in a tragic,‘80s-night-is-every-night vibe. Even over the past two-decades, as dozens of Bosnian restaurants have come and gone, the old-school joints had held their place. But in the past couple years, they’ve begun to actively fade away. We’ll use Shot Heaven as Example A.
Once upon a time, a spot like Shot Heaven could be found on every third corner along Gravois. It’s the kind of place where you can score a Bud and, yes, a shot for less than $5. The kind of place that Peter E. Parisi would’ve haunted with his World Wide Magazine camera. The kind of place that flies into a tizzy whenever a single woman walks in, especially is she’s a brassy broad who’s ready to trade insults and BS with the rowdy, off-duty painters who’ve put away a bucket of Busch apiece during happy hour.
Shot Heaven’s a spot to go when you want to gaze at last month’s beer boxes still stacked in the corner, served up by a bartender either too friendly, or too sour. You go to Shot Heaven when you wanna listen to someone undress the President’s economic policies or shout at Tony LaRussa via the TV. It’s real, yeah, it’s real, all right. But Shot Heaven’s got company on Gravois these days. Surprising as that may be.
Nellie Glenns, 6109 Gravois, 314-457-8766, nellieglenns.com
Maybe there’s a spiritual connectivity that unites Nellie Glenns to its feeder bars. Relatively quiet until the 1:30–closing taverns start to shutter, Nellie’s then explodes into a party bar, the type of place that, literally, can have you three-deep at the rail at 2 a.m. on the weekends, waiting for the 23-year-old-in-the-bustier-behind-the-bar to acknowledge your life’s sad existence. It might be a long wait, because all her friends are there, and they’ve had the just the craziest time you imagine at (insert Lemay bar name here) and now they’re going to hit it hard until the lights come on and did you see who just walked in...?
Whatever we name the St. Louis equivalent to the stars of Jersey Shore (if not the stars, then the type), well, these are the people that take up space at Nellie’s. Maybe they’re not in the majority, but they dominate the air and they’re the ones who burst into song as 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” segues into Papa Roach’s “Last Resort,” thinking that no two songs could ever blend together better. The beers are domestic, the shots are colorful, the bartenders show a lot of leg, the air is thick with “woo” calls.
Once, these people would’ve partied, as their aunts and uncles did, on the Landing. Today, they stay closer to home. That’s ecologically sound, so we should probably be glad that Gravois now has this type of place, home to let-it-all-hang-out hoosier chic and a late last-call, seven-days a week.
Quincy Street Bistro, 6931 Gravois, 314-353-1588, quincystreetbistro.com
Once upon the time, if you lived in Bevo or Princeton Heights, you’d have to go halfway across South City to get a decent plate of pasta and if you wanted a steak to celebrate that birthday or promotion at work, you might have to go all the way to the County to get a bite to eat. Geez. These days, Quincy Street Bistro is providing that closer-to-home option, in an expansive, two-story, brick building that’s got plenty of seating and enough New American fare on the menu to make a foodie from any part of the region stop by for a bite.
Built from what had been Jimmie’s Saloon for a goodly bit of time, Quincy Street’s opened up the first floor, added a major kitchen and turned the upstairs into a second dining room. The food tends to flirt with reasonable prices; mid-teens for the entrees and a host of starters, salads and classic comfort foods for less than a 10-spot. The beer list, not necessarily expansive, per se, is a good one, with your expected titles alongside those of local micro-breweries, like Six Row.
There’s a quirky TV monitor above the bar, which rotates photos of the QS construction phase, one shot of refurbished floors after another. You don’t necessarily need the reminder, as the place still has that shiny, new, outta-the-rehabbed-box feeling. It’s a nice place, sure. And, with time, it’ll develop just enough well-placed dents and nicks to feel lived in. As the neighborhood grows into appreciating this place as the default for “where are we going tonight?” the room will continue to reflect the straight-up, no-nonsense feel of the area it calls home.
The Heavy Anchor, 5226 Gravois, 314-352-5226, theheavyanchor.com
The young owners of The Heavy Anchor—Joshua Timbrook (above) and Jodie Whitworth—might not have attempted it, but they’ve founded a club that’s hinting at the spirit of the great, come-as-you-are rock clubs of our recent history, places like the Way Out Club and the late Frederick’s Music Lounge. Instead of hundreds of pieces of pop cultural bric-a-brac, though, they’ve got graffiti and murals; and instead of funky, mismatched tables and chairs in their club space, they’ve got sliding, sectional stadium seats. But the overall feel? The vibe of relaxed gemutlichkeit, especially during the late afternoons, or on nights with no shows? Well, on those days you’ve got a real keeper of a venue, especially in the window nook, which doubles as a reading room, right down to the leave-one-take-one bookshelf policy.
Located on a busy stretch of Gravois, just a stone’s throw from the landmark Bevo Mill—and almost-directly across the road from our aforementioned Shot Heaven—the Heavy Anchor’s located in a hub of varied nightlife. It’s not surprising that the most back-and-forth business is shared with the nearby Silver Ballroom, just off Gravois on Morganford. Both clubs feature a rock-heavy selection of music and each is home to a regular clientele of the hip, young, pierced and tatted. But you get the feeling that the Anchor, in particular, will find regulars through a few different hooks.
They’ve got a large, wide-ranging bottled beer selection for one, rivaling some of South City’s best beer bars. They’ve also got a St. Louis vibe tied to their food, whether it’s snacks like Billy Goat Chips or Gus’ Pretzels, or locally-made vegan pizzas. This former home to the short-lived Antartica venue also has a full-service bar, with oddball selections like Four Loko (on the discount card this week) alongside all the usual spirits. Boxed wines? Check. Those they’ve got, too. Whatever your call, you’ll enjoy in a room that’s already finding an audience and that’ll go down as one of the best nightlife additions to this town for 2011.