Anyone who's spent a considerable amount of time shackled to a desk in a nondescript cube farm knows that on occasion, breaking out for a blowout lunch is a necessity.

Although budgets might make this kind of a lunch the exception and not the weekday rule, soul-restoring meals that don't break the bank can be found in St. Louis, like the recently added lunch menu at the Water Street Cafe in Maplewood.

Lunch service consists of a handful of regular dishes supplemented with a daily soup and flatbread specials. On a recent visit, the soup was a rich, roasted squash bisque with crispy sections of candied bacon and several thin slices of buttered and grilled toasts for dunking or making an impromptu crouton. The toasts show up again as a trio of bruschetta, topped with tomato and mozzarella, a pesto of almond and basil and crumbled Gorgonzola cheese with honey.

White wine, diced tomato and garlic make a heady broth for mussels and slices of spicy chorizo sausage. As we move into the heart of a Midwest winter, this dish is one you commune and linger with, allowing it to slowly warm you from the inside as you debate the best way to sneak back into the office without your coworkers knowing you've stretched lunch well past the customary hour.

Water Street, 7268 Manchester Road, Maplewood, 314.646.8355,

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