by Sara Graham
Sometimes you just need a drink. And sometimes...you need a drink somewhere beautiful.
We at Gut Check are not immune to the romanticism that comes from a beautifully appointed bar, so we've decided to share our most favorite immersive spots with you. From whimsical to merely gorgeous, here are the ten most beautiful bars in St. Louis.
Grand Hall (1820 Market Street; 314-421-6655) The Grand Hall, Union Station's hotel lobby and lounge, just reopened after a major renovation that has restored the space to its original 1894 grandeur. The soaring 65-foot ceiling, Romanesque archways, frescos, gold-leaf details, mosaics and stained glass windows are an art deco feast for the eyes. And if that wasn't enough, every hour brings a "one-of-a-kind" 3-D projection show on the ceiling with imaginative scenes and historical vignettes.
Planter's House (1000 Mississippi Avenue; 314-696-2603) Bartenders Ted and Jamie Kilgore and business partner Ted Charak opened Planter's House in homage to the cocktail. The main room retains the building's original brick archways and large glass windows and is defined by a stately bar. A few steps up is the cozy Bullock Room where bartenders wax poetic about cocktails, their ingredients and history. Just sitting in the room is an experience, surrounded as you are by the dazzling wallpaper.
Blood & Sand (1500 Saint Charles Street; 314-241-7263) The bar at the front of the members-only Blood & Sand was designed to be functional as well as beautiful. From the apron farmhouse sink behind the bar to the shape and dimensions of the granite bar top (designed for optimal height and width for the bartender and the guest), every consideration was given for elegance in the presence of functionality. Likewise, the bar menu has been crafted by TJ Vytacil with the same attention to excellence and beauty. The living wall adds a touch of natural beauty.
Element (1419 Carroll Street; 314-241-1674) Element's upstairs lounge has several great features, including a large wooden bar, comfortable couches and chairs, and large windows with downtown views. However, the focus is on the dramatically lit tiled bar. It's the perfect accompaniment to the space's historic roots as part of the restored historic City Hospital Complex built in 1906.
The Libertine (7927 Forsyth Boulevard; 314-862-2999) The Libertine's beautiful bar is from the eco-friendly commercial furniture line of Mwanzi and is set off by a back wall of white subway tile. The cocktails are just as artful and fun as the space. Created from scratch with fresh ingredients sourced from local farmers, the drink menu includes housemade cordials, bitters and tinctures.
Olio (1634 Tower Grove Avenue; 314-932-1088) This wine bar is sure to be one of the most interesting ones you'll ever visit. Housed in a former gas station, the original garage door and windows have been retained and paired with new marble counters and modern light fixtures to create an elegant, clean and bright space. Likewise, every drink at Olio is served in gorgeous glassware, often on vintage trays, for a presentation just as tasteful as the surroundings.
Bar Les Freres (7637 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton; 314-725-8880) Enjoying a drink at Bar Les Freres is almost a palpable experience: You're surrounded by blood red walls, stunning chandeliers, marble tables, rich ivory upholstery and an elegant front window. All combine to create a romantic, French-style bistro experience. The extensive aperitif and digestif menus provide a perfect complement to the lavish setting.
Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar (1004 Locust Street; 314-241-8141) Bridge was named in honor of owner David Bailey's late brother and violinist, Tom. "I wanted people to walk into a space that calls to mind a subtle beauty, much like Tom's playing, so Bridge is named after the perfectly honed and delicately crafted bridge of a violin," says Bailey. The bar is constructed of dark wood and is abstractly angled while glasses hang from the ceiling, sway gently, suspended on long metal strings, giving the illusion of vibration.
Vin de Set (2017 Chouteau Avenue; 314-241-8989) Vin de Set's brick walls and soaring ceilings reflect the character of historic Lafayette Square architecture. However, what is perhaps the bar's most striking feature is the statue of King Louis IX behind the bar, a replica of the original in front of the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park. Owners Paul and Wendy Hamilton found the statue in the building during the 2006 renovation. "We have been told by St. Louis historians that only four statues were given out during the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis and currently we know of two statues still in existence, including ours," says Wendy.
801 Chophouse (137 Carondelet Plaza; 314-875-9900) 801 Chophouse was designed to invoke a classic 1920s New York steak house. The space features high ceilings, dark wood and sumptuous leather booths and bar stools. Immediately upon entering, a grand, oval-shaped bar welcomes and draws guests into the space. Gleaming wood and polished fixtures add to the inviting atmosphere. And if the bar weren't enough to impress, a golden bull guards the entrance to the dining area.