Central West End (St. Louis)

This week my oldest daughter is on a mission trip, so my little one wanted an adventure with mommy!    While I love visiting one of St. Louis’s many awesome attractions, I felt like exploring a neighborhood with my audacious little girl.  Since I adore Jeni’s Ice Cream (I rated it as my fave in my St. Louis ice cream post), we decided to check out the Central West End, which we normally only visit during Bookfest.  

When we arrived we parked along the street (there are parking structures, but I’ve never needed one) and we were ready to find some lunch!  CWE has restaurants every few feet, so my daughter was determined to suss out the best option.  We had a pleasant walk down Euclid, seeing and smelling barbecue, Mexican food, Middle Eastern food, diners, sushi, and just about anything else you might be in the mood for.  The walk itself was gorgeous as we walked by neighborhoods full of huge historic homes with meticulously maintained gardens.  Finally she finished where she began and where I suspected she would settle, Pi Pizzeria. (A 10 year old and pizza, I think we all knew how this would end.)   Pi Pizzeria  is a cool pizza/bar that only exists in St. Louis and Washington D. C.  The restaurant was historical looking with black and white tile and a giant wood bar.  There were also paintings of St. Louis up all over the walls.  I was thrilled when we were sat in a window booth, so we could people watch during our lunch.  Sticking with their pi theme, my diet Coke came in a glass with the number for pi printed on it, which my daughter started rapping for our lunch entertainment.  

The pizza options themselves come in deep dish or thin crust with regular and premium toppings. We went simple with the St. Louis style thin crust, spicy sausage, pepperoni, and kalamata olives (a special treat because we’re the only ones in the house that like olives).   The kid and I’s eyes grew big with our first bite, because it was THAT good.  She immediately declared this her favorite pizza and no other pizza would be up to her standards.  The sausage was perfectly seasoned and in giant chunks and the olives were cut just right, so they added a little flavor touch without making the pizza too salty.  Needless to say, we’ll be back.

Next we decided to just wander and window-shop.  We saw beautiful art gallery displays, including a sculpture made of silver platters!   There was a shop with all St. Louis and Central West End themes, clothes shops, jewelry shops, and even a tearoom we may visit soon.  Eventually, a giant king chess piece caught our eyes and drew us to it.  I had forgotten that the World Chess Hall of Fame resided here!  We went over and gawked at the life-size chess set and the bigger than life king piece. 

Inside we were greeted by extremely friendly staff and directed towards the three floor museum.  The first floor features chess sets from around the world and had out a San Francisco and Texas set you could play with.  We spent a lot of time in this room, marvelling at the intricate jade carvings from China, the delicate porcelain from Italy and the African offerings.

  The Second floor features Chess Dining and Decor, which had us laughing.  There were unique food themed sets like, a Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, or Campbell’s soup set, which looked particularly impractical.  Then there were chess themed dining accouterments, like this chess impression rolling pin I’ll admit I kind of wanted.

The last floor focused on child chess prodigies.  We were particularly intrigued by Tanitoluwa Adewumi, who is an African immigrant and has had a picture and chapter book written about him.  While I don’t think my daughter will be aiming for prodigy status anytime soon, she was at least interested.  We finished off our visit with the gift shop that has books on chess, all sorts of chess sets, and even some local fare.  The shop alone is worth a visit if you’re looking for a gift for a chess enthusiast!

We finished our time with Jeni’s Splendid ice cream.  Her ice cream is my favorite, because you can taste that everything is fresh and not artificial and of course the homemade waffle cone.  I got my usual vegan coffee sorbet with coconut cream (I’m not vegan, I just really like it!) and little one tried the Rocket Pop which was a tart mixture of blueberry and pineapple.  We get ours in a cup with a small piece of waffle cone. 

Normally we would also go to the Left Bank Books, which is one of my favorite independent book stores, but with kiddo tuckered out, we just did a little window-shopping, as I added to my ever-growing book wishlist.  

The Central West End, right across the street from Forest Park, offers restaurants galore, and a great place to just wander and explore.  I know it won’t be long before we make another trek!  In the comments below, tell me your favorite St. Louis neighborhood!

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