by Mabel Suen
In late April, the Soulard neighborhood -- an area already brimming with an appreciation for art -- gained a new residential and commercial decor co-op complete with a full-service cafe serving espresso drinks, sandwiches, salads, smoothies and more. R-Cafe (1704 South Broadway; 314-681-1509) opened in conjunction with R-Space, currently exhibiting more than twenty artists, artisans and vendors.
"Somebody called me the 'anti-gallery owner' the other day because we're not a typical gallery," says R-Space and R-Cafe co-owner Patrick Reiner. "I think a lot of galleries are unapproachable and intimidating.... We really wanted there to be a sense of community -- to have a very diverse clientele walking through the door -- and food always seems to provide that atmosphere."
Since its opening, the art space and cafe's list of patrons have included business clients in search of series of works as well as visitors from bordering neighborhoods simply seeking caffeine. Employees and students from the neighboring Lift for Life Academy have already turned the contemporary destination into a regular spot.
"It's a very casual atmosphere here," says Reiner. "The main thing with the cafe is that we want things to be fresh and healthy, so that's the basis of our menu."
Reiner, who has a background in apparel and interior finishes, co-operates the concept with partner and chef Mei Yang, who also runs a private interior design firm. Yang prepares an approachable yet flavorful menu that begins with Chauvin espresso drinks and breakfast including sandwiches, wraps and waffles. The cafe also offers fresh juices, smoothies made with real fruit and no added sugar, and a selection of paninis, sandwiches and build-your-own salads served with a grape seed oil and rice vinegar dressing.
With the goal of promoting the local economy, R-Space offers a place for local artists to display their wares. The selection, aesthetically arranged across 2,500 square feet, includes everything from sculptures and textured paintings to pottery and handmade jewelry. The building, which formerly housed medical offices, also has an additional 2,500 square feet worth of rooms to utilize for additional galleries and more.
R-Cafe and R-Space hope to host open mics, board-game nights and more events in the near future. Look for additional parking in a lot out back. Its current hours are Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For the full menu and more information, check out the R-Space website and follow it via Facebook.
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