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Photography by Anne Matheis
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The sun is burning away the morning haze as a few regulars amble into Dave & Jacquie’s Place (2999 S. Highway 94, 636-987-2300). All of them look old enough to belong to the AARP, and some tuck into a “country” breakfast: eggs, bacon, hash browns, biscuits and gravy. Banter flies about this and that. “If you go up to Leo’s deer stand,” one drawls, “he’s got recliners.”
Welcome to Defiance, Mo., which … well … defies all expectations of a 21st-century urbanite. Just 40 miles west of St. Louis, it feels far more distant in space and time alike—a throwback to the late Eisenhower era, perhaps. No malls. No strip shopping centers. No McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Starbucks. Indeed, Dave & Jacquie’s only apparent competition sits right across the blacktop: Terry & Kathy’s Bar & Grill (3006 S. Highway 94, 636-987-2441). Within this St. Charles County hamlet, rustic tranquility reigns.
Bed and Breakfasts
Elysian Fields Inn
2981 S. Highway 94, 636-798-7426
For visitors seeking a base from which to explore the tranquility, Defiance offers a brace of sweet B&Bs. The first and smaller of the two more or less occupies the hamlet’s center: the terraced, gray-and-white Elysian Fields Inn. (The proprietors really should have double-checked their Bulfinch, though.) Possibly the inn’s main selling point? A gourmet breakfast menu that includes praline pecan French toast.
Das Gast Haus Nadler
125 Defiance Road, 636-987-2200
Das Gast Haus Nadler, the other B&B, sports a belvedere and an inviting white veranda that runs its length. Westward from it and the neighboring St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Defiance Road fast transforms into a country lane—something as quotidian as the center striping looks intrusive, even futuristic—as it winds toward the homestead where frontiersman Daniel Boone died, 5 miles away.
Wine Country Gardens
2711 S. Highway 94, 636-798-2288
Landscapers, rejoice! Per capita, Defiance boasts a disproportionate number of nurseries—three, to be precise. The grandest, Wine Country Gardens, tops a hillside due north of the city limits and sprawls across 42 acres. Visitors to this palatial operation can inspect 80,000 perennials, shrubs and trees—among them more than 60 varieties of hostas and fully 3 acres of day lilies.
Tennant Farms Nursery
2920 S. Highway 94, 636-798-3900
Bluff View Nursery
3135 S. Highway 94, 636-798-2565
More green-thumb goodness awaits just down the pike. Equidistant between Wine Country Gardens and its other competitor, Tennant Farms Nursery specializes in Japanese maples as well as dwarf and “unusual” conifers. Then, due south of Defiance proper, beyond a tidy white rail fence, Bluff View Nursery boasts an intriguing selection of saplings, among them an especially spruce array of spruces.
Bikes, Bric-A-Brac and Bacchus
Katy Bike Rental/Robin’s Nest on the Katy Bike Trail
2998 S. Highway 94, 636-987-2673/
These two concerns—established by the husband-and-wife team of Todd and Robin White—share the hamlet’s former general store. Katy Bike Rental offers bicycles (including two-seaters and accessories) for sale and for rent, both hourly and daily. Robin’s Nest, meanwhile, tempts browsers with handicrafts, garden art and snugglicious quilts like fabric kaleidoscopes. Among other items, the shop, whose rafters are wrapped in grapevines and Christmas lights, stocks a number of Missouri artists like Nancy Gronemyer of Paper Petals (www.paperpetals.com) and local jewelry makers, such as Jan Wisland of Jan Bon Jewelry (janbonjewelry.com), as well as antique furniture.
Yellow Farmhouse Vineyard & Winery
100 Defiance Road, 314-409-6139
A metropolitan kennel contains fewer doglegs than Highway 94, and at the main one in Defiance sits a relatively new, lemon-hued surprise: the Yellow Farmhouse Vineyard & Winery. Once the site of the hamlet’s smithy, it grows Norton and Traminette grapes and sells a select assortment of wines, among them the intriguingly named 2006 Chat Bizarre Chardonel—“curious cats,” take note.