A new casual plant-forward eatery recently debuted in South City. Utah Station opened in Benton Park on Aug. 8 in a restored former service station, cooking up vegan comfort food including pizzas, sandwiches and more with housemade vegan “meats.”

“Basically, we took a standard menu that would have 90 percent meat and fish options and 10 percent vegan options, and we reversed that,” says executive chef Chris Bertke, who adopted a vegan diet 26 years ago. “We’re doing 90 percent vegan items and 10 percent meat items.”

Bertke, a St. Louis native who has cooked in a number of local kitchens – most recently for a high-end catering business – partners with owner Carrie Bauer for the concept. According to Bertke, Bauer also operates two restaurants with her husband at the City Museum. 

Bauer worked with building developer King Campo, LLC to renovate the former 1930s-era service station to its current state. The approximately 1,200-square-foot space had been vacant for more than 20 years. Restorations included retaining the exterior’s porcelain enameling as well as the interior’s brick walls and window structures.

The dining room seats 40 guests, with two garage doors that, weather permitting, open onto an outdoor patio with an additional 50 to 60 seats. Bauer and her father built picnic tables that include custom wells that can fit herb planters or pans of ice for keeping drinks cool. Additional features include outdoor fire pits and a garden with native Missouri plants.

From the menu, choose from Bertke’s creations including artisan build-your-own 12-inch pizzas.  Topping options include housemade vegan sausage, housemade vegan pepperoni and a variety of veggies including banana peppers, green olives and caramelized onion. Meats such as bacon and ham are also available. Choose from red sauce or herbed, roasted garlic olive oil and mozzarella or a vegan “cheese” blend.

Vegan appetizer options include poutine with fries, housemade brown gravy, vegan cheese curds and fresh herbs. Additional comfort food highlights include takes on fast food favorites, such as a “Big Mak” burger and “Crack Tacos” that riff on their Jack In The Box counterparts with three deep-fried corn tortillas, soy-based “veef,” lettuce shreds, American “cheese,” hot sauce and a side of ranch.

“We’re doing something different here that’s a result of years and years of experimenting,” Bertke says. “Meat eaters are coming in and eating vegan stuff. It’s good to see people have open minds to try new things.”

The menu currently features two options for carnivores: a BLT and a burger featuring grass-fed beef from Dierks Farm, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and your choice of cheese on a sesame bun. On the beverage side, choose from a selection of vegan-friendly wines, local canned beers and mixed drinks such as a refreshing boozy house lemonade with Lifted Spirits jalapeño- and herb-infused vodka, topped with fresh mint.

Utah Station is open Monday from 3 to 10pm and Thursday through Sunday from 3 to 10pm. Lunch hours will tentatively be added soon, beginning at 11:30am.

Utah Station, 1956 Utah, Benton Park, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.588.8099, utahstation.weebly.com