In Soulard, a new café features more than 2,000 books for guests to enjoy on site. Protagonist Cafe, a “literary coffee shop,” debuted on Dec. 2 and offers organic, fair-trade certified coffee alongside sweet and savory vegan baked goods.

The concept comes from the team behind Pieces: The St. Louis Board Game Bar & Cafe: Jim Lettau, Laura Leister and Ameet Rawal. Pieces is located two blocks away in the neighborhood.

“We’re big nerds who love reading and love coffee, and we thought the neighborhood could really use a nice relaxing community space to spend the day working or relaxing,” Lettau says.

Protagonist Cafe fills the approximately 2,000-square-foot space previously occupied by boutique gift shop The Porch, filling it with seats for 60 to 70 guests. Renovations include a fresh coat of paint, refinished floors and a custom-made 27-foot-wide bookshelf with gold scroll work details constructed by Lettau and his brother.

The on-premise book selection ranges from fiction to non-fiction, organized by genre and author as well as with a Dewey Decimal designation. Categories include everything from cooking and gardening to sci-fi and humor, and the collection is searchable via the Protagonist Cafe website. A small “take a book, leave a book” lending library is also available as well as a children’s book corner.

In addition to house coffee beans roasted at community roaster First Crack Coffee in Maplewood, Missouri, Protagonist Cafe carries local products including Big Heart Tea and Companion Kombucha. Popular picks from the beverage menu include a s’mores mocha, a lavender latte and a London Fog Earl Grey tea latte. In the future, wine, boozy coffees and a selection of cocktails will also be added.

All pastries are sourced from the kitchen at Pieces and are vegan with the exception of some specials such as an egg frittata. Favorites from Pieces include baker Amanda Leone’s cookies and donuts. Items new to Protagonist Cafe include her quiches made with navy-bean puree, available in options such as broccoli and soy chorizo or asparagus and tomato. Additional rotating selections include apple pie, cinnamon rolls, scones and German chocolate cake. 

“We’re excited for the community to come in, enjoy our space and have a place to kick back and take it easy,” Lettau says. 

Protagonist Cafe is open daily from 7am to 7pm.

Protagonist Cafe, 1700 S. Ninth St., Soulard, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.833.3085, protagonistcafe.com

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