Tamara Keefe, owner of Clementine's Naughty & Nice Creamery (1637 S. 18th Street; 314-858-6100)
, discovered Lafayette Square in spite of her real estate agent's best efforts.
"I was relocating to St. Louis for my job, and my realtor kept showing me all of these places in the county that just weren't the right fit," Keefe explains. "It turns out, she had orders to show me every place but
the city because I was a female and my company said it was too dangerous."
A California native who was well on her way up the corporate ladder, Keefe wasn't told this until she stumbled upon Lafayette Square by accident. Her realtor had an errand to run in the city, and she asked Keefe if she would mind accompanying her. "She said, "There's this cute little coffee shop. I can drop you off there and you can wait for me," Keefe recalls. "As soon as we pulled into Lafayette Square, I was like, 'Oh my god — these houses, the trees, the park — I have to live here!'"
Tamara Keefe dishes up Clementine's delicious ice cream in a quaint Lafayette Square storefront.
Keefe's instincts were confirmed when she was welcomed by the owner of Park Avenue Coffee the instant she set foot inside. "Dale [Schotte] came up and introduced himself. Then all of the neighbors in there did the same," says Keefe. "Before I knew it, I had been invited to a neighborhood social. I thought that if people are this nice in this neighborhood, I have to live here."
Though it may not seem like the two have much in common, Keefe explains that she was attracted to Lafayette Square because of its similar feel to her hometown of Laguna Beach. "Yes, Laguna is a beach community, so you really can't compare them that way," says Keefe. "However, both neighborhoods are very community-oriented. In Laguna we have a small downtown area and you can walk to everything you need — exactly like in Lafayette Square."
Keefe took some time away from the ice cream-maker to share some of her hidden and not-so hidden gems in the neighborhood — that is, if you find yourself needing anything more than one of her boozy concoctions at Clementine's.
1. Park Avenue Coffee
1919 Park Avenue, 314-621-4020
"From the moment I stepped foot into the neighborhood, Park Avenue Coffee was the key to my existence. I walked in and everyone (customers and staff) started talking to me, which I wasn't use to coming from Southern California, where no one ever spoke to you including your own neighbors. Everyone was so friendly, Dale the owner was so welcoming, I met my first friends in St. Louis here, my first lover, and more importantly, it is where I discovered Gooey Butter Cake for the first time."
2. Eleven Eleven Mississippi
1111 Mississippi Avenue, 314-241-9999
"I love Eleven Eleven because it has such a beautiful ambience. When I was working my corporate job, I would take our clients to dinner there, but it's also a great place to go if you want to have nice date night. It doesn’t cost a fortune, and they have amazing happy hour deals too. They have an amazing pork chop."
1415 S. 18th Street, 314-865-3522
"Sqwires has these big banquet facilities and they are always donating the use of the restaurant and their food for neighborhood functions. Considering how much it costs to run a restaurant, it's very generous. Plus, they have the best bloody mary bar and brunch in the city. Everything is from scratch, and they use super high-end products for everything; they don't skimp. It's $15 for the unlimited, bottomless bar. I do their bloody mary mix with candied bacon, extra Worcestershire sauce and a blue cheese-stuffed olive, but you can do anything. They have every kind of accoutrement you could ask for. Cookies, fruit, shrimp — you could actually almost eat breakfast from it alone. OK, maybe I have done that."
4. Looking Glass Designs
1917 Park Avenue, 314-621-3371
"Aside from it being a small, woman-owned business, it has the most beautiful embroidered items for any kind of unique gift you want to get — housewarming, new baby, wedding. Andrea, the owner, hand-embroiders everything herself right in there, and it’s reasonably priced; for as little as $10 you can get something that is unique, special and sweet. One time, I went in there talking about a friend was on her third round of IVF, and when I went to check out, she gave me this special 'good energy' bracelet and said, 'Go give this to your friend so she can have good luck and get pregnant!' She is so thoughtful and has such good energy. She's such a delight – one of those shop owners from long ago that don’t exist any more."
5. The Grotto in Lafayette Square Park
2023 Lafayette Avenue, 314-772-5724
"I truly think this park is one of the true hidden gems of St. Louis with its historic boathouse and pond filled with fish. More specifically, though, the grotto is a hidden secret spot and is one of the most romantic spots in all of St. Louis. It's the place to go if you want to sneak a kiss, or bring your sweetheart, or have some time alone with journal or book. People can be in the park, but unless they've heard about it, they won’t know it's there."
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