by Ian Froeb
When the Del Taco at 212 South Grand Boulevard in Midtown closed in the summer of 2011, a grassroots coalition of urban preservationists and locals who just like cool things, damn it, banded together to save the iconic midcentury-modern "flying saucer" building from demolition. The result of their efforts: The developer agreed to renovate the building for its new tenants, which would split the space: Starbucks and Chipotle Mexican Grill.
The Starbucks opened this morning.
For comparison, here's what the Del Taco looked like when the fast-food chain's corporate officials came to take away the signage:
Here's a view of the exterior from the parking lot alongside Grand. This Starbucks does have a drive-thru window -- to the left and back from this viewpoint -- and the drive-thru lane wraps around roughly half of the Flying Saucer. This makes for tight quarters in the parking lot that surrounds the building, and that's before the Chipotle has opened.
You enter into the seating area, which includes standalone tables as well as the large communal table pictured here. The interior features a nice balance of the inevitable Starbucks branding and the Flying Saucer's quirks, the latter notable namely in the shape of the space, the ample natural light and the high ceilings with exposed ductwork.
One difference between this Starbucks and the others in the area is the emphasis on the chain's Starbucks Reserve brand. This refers to limited-offer coffees that the chain has deemed "exceptional." You can order a cup of these Starbucks Reserve coffees brewed in the ultra-fancy, ultra-precise one-cup-at-a-time Clover machine.
This is the first area Starbucks to have a Clover, though not the first St. Louis coffeeshop: The downtown Clayton location of Kaldi's Coffee Roasting Company (187 Carondolet Plaza, Clayton; 314-726-2900) installed one a few years ago, before Starbucks purchased the Clover company.