Located on the original Route 66, the city of Maplewood offers a charming mix of historic spots and up-and-comers: This is where an iconic corner diner and vintage second-floor bowling alley intermingle with hip brunch spots, beer bars, and nationally acclaimed regional and local breweries.
Maplewood is a mecca for artisan craft products and goods, including fresh cuts of responsibly sourced meat at Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions, curated teas from around the world at Traveling Tea and tempting confections at Kakao Chocolate.
“Maplewood is really foodie central – we’ve got a nose-to-tail butcher, we’ve got a specialty-food store, we’ve got a spice store, we’ve got artisan chocolate, we’ve got beer,” says Kakao owner and chief chocolatier Brian Pelletier. “If you’re interested in food and you like to eat or you like to cook, this is a great place to be.”
Inside the chocolate shop, Kakao staff hand-dip all the goodies behind the counter while you watch and shop the wares – the best-selling sea-salt caramels, for example, are made with all-natural sugar, fresh cream, real vanilla beans and rich butter, cut and dipped in Kakao’s house chocolate blend by hand and sprinkled with sea salt crystals. The vanilla-bean marshmallows and marshmallow pies – a recent addition that’s been flying off shelves, according to Pelletier – are flavored with fruit, spices and liqueurs. Each visit brings new seasonal sweets like cardamom-peach truffles, gazpacho pâtés de fruit and street-corn bark.
“If we get an idea, we can make it happen in just a couple hours and sell a new confection we’ve never offered before,” Pelletier says. “The small batches are important because they allow us to put a lot of love into what we’re doing and also be really creative.”
Kakao collaborated with neighbors Schlafly Bottleworks on a Schlafly Expo IPA Beer Brittle toffee. “We love being neighbors with Schlafly because they bring so many people in to Maplewood,” Pelletier says.
The brewhouse is The Saint Louis Brewery’s second location. It, opened in 2003 to support growing demand for Schlafly beer and allowed the brewery to produce and bottle here in town. Free tours of the brewing vessels and bottling plant, which fills up to 2,000 cases and 300 kegs a day, are full of history about the St. Louis craft-beer scene and allow visitors fresh samples of its flagships and newest releases. After your tour, stay for lunch or dinner. The from-scratch kitchen’s top-sellers include baked goat cheese, grilled trout and a stuffed turkey club. While you dine, listen to live music on the covered patio and shop the on-site outdoor farmers’ market on Wednesday afternoons.
Nestled among the retail shops along Manchester – the old Route 66, as noted on plaques along the avenue – is Foundation Grounds Coffeehouse, shortened to “FoGro” by locals, a community-oriented, sustainable coffee shop that features locally roasted beans from Goshen Coffee Co. and Blueprint Coffee, organic juices and smoothies, bakery items and a light breakfast and lunch menu of grilled sandwiches, quesadillas and fresh salads, many of which are vegan. In 2014, the Green Dining Alliance (GDA) awarded Maplewood’s Special Business District its Green Dining District designation because 25 percent of the independently owned dining establishments are GDA-certified. FoGro was the first Maplewood location to earn GDA certification.
The Muddled Pig Gastropub is another worthwhile destination focused on local and responsible sourcing. As the name implies, the upscale pub offers pork-centric fare, including poutine, a massive dish of fries topped with stout-braised pork, fried cheese curds, pickled red onion, jalapeños and a poached egg; the Muddled Cuban with andouille sausage, molasses-cured Black Forest ham, Muenster cheese and Dijon mayo; and roasted bone marrow with a pepita-blue cheese crust served with bacon-onion marmalade, Granny Smith apple slices and a baguette. The “From the Trough” drink menu offers craft cocktails like its epynoymous The Muddled Pig that, as you’d expect, includes pork: Bacon-washed Old Grand-Dad bonded bourbon combines with dry vermouth, absinthe, grapefruit shrub, maple and rosemary.
“Here in Maplewood, there are no big corporate giants,” says Muddled Pig chef-owner Austin Hamblin. “If you walk in to almost anywhere, any day of the week, you can meet the owner and see him or her at work. Everyone is here to help one another – if Maya Cafe and Bolyard’s are busy, that’s just more people who walk past our storefront.”
As Hamblin mentioned, Maya Cafe, legendary for its handmade, hand-squeezed Margaritas and Sangritas, is just across the street from Muddled Pig. The dining room and bar were designed by local artist Bill Christman, of City Museum fame. The eclectic artwork is matched with the pan-Latin menu, which, according to owner Jay Schober, features cuisine from Guatemala to Honduras and Bolivia to Central America.
Take the Guatemalan pollo en pepián dulce. It’s an authentic Mayan dish of grilled chicken breast topped with a sauce made from pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds, red bell peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic. Or, the puerco con café y chile marrón is a Cuban dish that consists of grilled pork loin rubbed with coffee, chiles and brown sugar topped with a colorful black bean-corn salsa.
“You can walk to any corner and find something really cool,” Schober says, who’s seen his café thrive in its 16 years. “We have our steel tugboat [patio] in back – where else can you find that? And then right across the street is 100-year-old Saratoga Lanes bowling alley – everyone has stories of being a pin-spotter when [he or she] was 10 years old back in 1920. And The Focal Point next door brings a variety of musicians from all over the city, country and world.”
Nearby, locals line up for their morning fix at Strange Donuts. This flagship location opened in 2013, and since then, Strange has expanded across the city and even boasts a newly opened shop in Mexico City. The creative “dones” fall into three categories: Classics (jelly-filled, sprinkles, glazed), Creations (creative options like gooey butter cake, maple bacon, s’mores) and Strangers, which are off-the-wall concepts and collaborations only available Thursdays through Saturdays, such as the Holy Cannoli with chocolate chip-ricotta whipped cream, fudge, pistachios, raspberry jam and black sea salt.
As these business owners will attest, Maplewood jam-packs a lot into a small, walkable area. “One of the greatest things about Maplewood is that the city has really decided to be what it is – it’s really rolled out a welcome mat to us small businesses,” Pelletier says.
Foundation Grounds Coffeehouse, 7298 Manchester Road, Maplewood, Missouri, 314.833.6460, foundationgrounds.com
Kakao Chocolate, 7272 Manchester Road, Maplewood, Missouri, 314.645.4446, kakaochocolate.com
Maya Cafe, 2726 Sutton Blvd., Maplewood, Missouri, 314.781.4774, mayacafestl.com
The Muddled Pig Gastropub, 2733 Sutton Blvd., Maplewood, Missouri, 314.781.4607, themuddledpig.com
Schlafly Bottleworks, 7260 Southwest Ave., Maplewood, Missouri, 314.241.2331 ext. 2, schlafly.com/bottleworks
Strange Donuts, 2709 Sutton Blvd., Maplewood, Missouri, 314.932.5851, strangedonuts.com