Protagonist Cafe, a "Literary Coffee Shop" Serving Sweet and Savory Vegan Treats, Now Open in Soulard

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Menu items include housemade vegan sweet or savory pastries. - COURTESY PROTAGONIST CAFE
  • Courtesy Protagonist Cafe
  • Menu items include housemade vegan sweet or savory pastries.

'Tis the season for staying indoors, ideally curled up on a comfy couch with a hot cup of coffee and a good book. As of December 3, St. Louisans have a new place to do just that: Protagonist Cafe (1700 South Ninth Street) opened in Soulard quietly on Tuesday.

Operated by Laura Leister, Ameet Rawal and James Lettaus, the founders of Pieces: The St. Louis Board Game Bar and Restaurant, Protagonist Cafe is described in a release as a "literary coffee shop." Located just a few blocks from Pieces, the spot caters to bibliophiles with its "impressive library of books" housed in a custom-made 27-foot floor-to-ceiling bookcase and an additional corner bookshelf stocked with more than 2,000 novels, reference books, biographies and anthologies.

“The atmosphere of Protagonist Cafe inspires you to read a story, write a story or start a story,” manager Sam Sultzer said in the release.

Much like your favorite bookstore, works are organized by category, and from there, the last name of the author — but that's not all. "They are also labeled with their dewey decimal designation, but don’t have grade school nightmares, that’s mostly for staff to make sure all books are always organized," states the release. The space aims to be kid-friendly, too, featuring a children’s corner with books for kiddos.



Snag a seat on one of the cafe's many cushy sofas or park at one of its tables for writing and research. Once you've staked out your spot, peruse Protagonist's menu, which is centered around coffee drinks and tea plus a selection of housemade sweet and savory vegan pastries. Eats at Protagonist include a hand-sized cinnamon roll, salted chocolate-pecan cake donut, orange glazed scone and asparagus-tomato quiche.

A peek inside Protagonist Cafe, now open in Soulard. - COURTESY PROTAGONIST CAFE
  • Courtesy Protagonist Cafe
  • A peek inside Protagonist Cafe, now open in Soulard.

Coffee and espresso drinks at the cafe are made with organic, fair-trade-certified beans and roasted in-house. Those fresh beans are then used to make everything from drip coffee to lattes in flavors such as amaretto, strawberry, raspberry, hazelnut, lavender, mint and honey. Other specialty coffee drinks include the Black Forest Mocha and Thai iced coffee, as well as seasonal mocha flavors such as mint and s'mores. By the end of the month, the cafe hopes to add boozy coffee drinks, wine and housemade Old Fashioned cocktails as well.

If you're settling in for a long read or morning, the cafe offers a bottomless cup — and you can even choose your mug, ranging from designs featuring Princess Leia to Jack Skellington. The cafe also offers a selection of loose-leaf teas, tea lattes, hot chocolate, juice and kombucha.

Protagonist Cafe is currently open Monday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. The release states that by the end of December the cafe may extend its hours on Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m.

Follow Liz Miller on Twitter at @lizzaymillah. We are always hungry for tips and feedback. Email the author at liz@riverfronttimes.com.
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