Day Trippin’: Spending a weekend in the historic Soulard District of St. Louis

Vicki Wood
For the Lake Sun
The quaint neighborhood affords visitors and locals a view of outstanding examples of yesteryear architecture and a taste of more modern cuisine.

A lazy weekday in St. Louis during a slow morning drizzle was perfect to avoid tourists to the historic Soulard District in St. Louis. Antoine Soulard is the namesake of the small district, a Frenchman who surveyed the area. It was just a few fields and farms back then in 1840. German immigrants platted the streets and lots, and an urban grid followed. Two-story brick structures on narrow lots resulted from the mid to late 19th century.

The quaint neighborhood affords visitors and locals a view of outstanding examples of yesteryear architecture and a taste of more modern cuisine.

Don't discount vintage food choices, however. One's first stop should be the famous Soulard Farmers Market. Vendors from all over Missouri and Illinois set up shop Wednesday through Saturday in the historic brick building, operating since 1779 on the corner of Carroll and Lafayette Street.

Sprawling farm stands are covered, but open to air as well. Among some long time vendors are the Ozark Mountain Orchards Farm and The Nut Hut. Besides purchasing locally raised produce, one can find meat and seafood from small batch butchers and hand crafted soaps.

Full-time ready to eat food vendors Cajun Corner and Market Bakery and Cafe are open even before all the weekend vendors arrive. Wednesday was slow for business with only two produce sellers present. But the full-time cafes were open.

A lovely park with lush green grass bordered in old world black wrought iron fencing sits next to the market building. With benches nearby, it beckons market shoppers to sit and enjoy some food purchases.

A stroll across the street is Bogart’s BBQ on the corner and Mission Taco Joint directly across. There is no excuse to go hungry in Soulard Historic Neighborhood. Mission Taco Joint is admittedly hipster, but no apologies for their eclectic menu of taco offerings. At our table, chicken fried bacon flour tacos and smoked duck corn tacos were served by the friendly waiter. The renovated ancient brick store front retains charm from another era, while lined with modern art and bartenders putting on a show of synchronized, rhythmic drink shakers. A portion of the dining room is enclosed, while there is an open air covered seating option, which was very comfortable on a cool rainy day.

Open air dining is available all over Soulard and gets creative as only cities do with limited spaces. Epic Pizza and Subs around the corner hosted a trio of rollerbladers at a sit up serving window.

A walk down the street is The Historic Trinity Lutheran Church, a prime example of the architectural beauty of the Soulard District with its steeple and bell tower rising above all other buildings.

People are friendly here, strangers talk to each other, and locals greet visitors warmly. Two female walking police officers stop to admire cute little kids walking hand in hand with their mom.

The coffee shop back up the block where the car was parked for a couple hours of exploration hosted students working on laptops and drinking cappuccinos. Inside the Protagonist Cafe, readers took every table and studied in comfy chairs. A small gift shop features reading related items and locally handcrafted art and merchandise.

The bakery counter is an array 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 anyway you want it; Frappes, Lattes, Americanos, and just plain cold or drip coffee. They also serve alcoholic beverages if you choose to unwind and have a locally produced glass of wine or beer while you read. The walls of The Protagonist Cafe are lined with shelves containing volumes of books to enjoy while you sip.

The Soulard Historic District is found from I-70 East to I-64S at the Chesterfield Exit. The Soulard Saint Louis fan page on Facebook is an excellent source to plan your day trip. Online at https://www.facebook.com/STLSoulard