RFT Readers' Choice Winners: 2017

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LouFest: Readers' choice for best festival. - THEO WELLING
  • LouFest: Readers' choice for best festival.

Best Park

Forest Park

5595 Grand Drive, 314-367-7275

This one's a no-brainer. With wins in multiple categories — the best place to go biking, best place to go running, best place to get stoned .... need we go on? — it's pretty clear readers are taking full advantage of Forest Park's glorious 1,293 acres. And that doesn't even mention the cultural amenities within its borders, which include the zoo, the art museum and the Muny. Forest Park really is forever.

Best City Neighborhood


St. Louis' most charming neighborhood is also one of its most entertaining — with some great bars and restaurants filling the first floor of charming brick rowhouses. The French feel and walkable proportions make Soulard a great place to go on a bar crawl... or even a totally sober walk. It's beautiful even without beer goggles.

Best Place to Out-of-Towners

City Museum

750 North 16th Street, 314-231-2489

Day or night, there's nowhere in the St. Louis area that's more fun or more unique than City Museum. The late Bob Cassilly created a place where your imagination can run wild, with tunnels, slides, treehouses and even historic artifacts. It's simply a must-visit.

Best Place to Go Biking

Forest Park

5595 Grand Drive, 314-367-7275

The city's largest park is home to dozens of recreational activities, but its cycling opportunities are a huge part of its appeal. A smoothly-paved 12.29 mile trail wends its way around and through the park, offering hills, straightaways and beautiful scenery. The only drawback? The large number of pedestrians who continue to use the bike trail instead of the walking path. Out of the way!

Best Pool

Kirkwood Recreation Station Aquatic Center

111 South Geyer Road, Kirkwood; 314-984-6971

Community pools have gone far beyond the humble rectangle with a single diving board you remember from childhood. These days you need to offer water slides, obstacles and a high-filtration kiddie pool to keep families happy. Kirkwood's Recreation Station Aquatic Center has everything a family could want: a competitive-length pool for the hardcore lap-swimmers, an aquatic playground with a twisty yellow slide for the high-energy kids and a Lazy River for the less-active soakers. Kirkwood even has a "leisure pool" with a beach for the non-active poolgoer.

Best Place to Go Running

Forest Park

5595 Grand Drive, 314-367-7275

Gone are the days of joggers having to be aware for swift-moving cyclists while getting in their road work in Forest Park. A few years back the park constructed a special pedestrian path that runs parallel to the bike path, giving runners a veritable open road for logging miles. Now your greatest threat is those massive, six-babies-wide strollers that dominate the morning run.

Best Museum

Saint Louis Art Museum

1 Fine Arts Drive, 314-721-0072

This past year has been a busy one for the Saint Louis Art Museum, with exhibits covering Eastern and Western art alike. Textiles played a major role in the second half of the year, with shows exploring 300 years of men's fashions, the hats of modern milliner Stephen Jones, a visit from Andre Leon Talley and a small display that showed how politics become a subject for quilts and other textiles. These popular exhibits showcased the breadth of the museum's vision.

Best Gallery

Soulard Art Gallery

2028 South Twelfth Street, 314-258-4299

The Soulard Art Gallery is maintained and operated by resident artists. The former Soulard Art Market is known for monthly multimedia shows based on a theme. This combination of diverse exhibits and a welcoming attitude regularly draws a big crowd to opening nights. Clearly, the organizing artists are doing something right — the gallery is now celebrating eleven years.

Best Place for a First Date


106 North Main Street, Edwardsville, Illinois; 618-307-4830

If you question why readers' choice for a great first date entails driving all the way to Edwardsville, clearly you've never been to Cleveland-Heath. The acclaimed restaurant founded by Ed Heath and Jenny Cleveland is both wonderful and casual, with an energetic vibe that keeps conversation flowing even as you rave about the food. The fact it doesn't take reservations is a great excuse to grab a drink while you wait.

Best Place to Escape the Heat

Saint Louis Art Museum

1 Fine Arts Drive, 314-721-0072

Summer in St. Louis may mean a sickening combination of high temperatures and higher humidity, but its crushing wet blanket can't touch you when you're inside the Saint Louis Art Museum. The institution maintains a climate-controlled environment, constantly measuring and adjusting the humidity and heat. Browse the galleries in comfort, enjoying room after room of fine art and finer temperatures.

Best Place to Escape the Winter

The Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House

15193 Olive Boulevard, Chesterfield; 636-530-0076

Winter in St. Louis can be a grim affair. The cold, the slush, the flat gray skies stretching on until May — sometimes you just want some heat and a little bit of color. A trip to the Butterfly House in mid-February is downright therapeutic. Its Conservatory Garden is 8,000 square feet of tropical paradise, filled with flights of jewel-tone butterflies and the blossoms that nourish them. With a central vault almost 40 feet high, the lepidoptera flutter freely while you warm up below.

Best Place to Get Stoned

Forest Park

5595 Grand Drive, 314-367-7275

Our leafy green oasis at the edge of the city is RFT readers' No. 1 spot for sparking up a leafy green bowl. With 6.48 square miles of trees, hills, ground cover, waterways and secluded trails, Forest Park is a quick and convenient location for enjoying a session while surrounded by Mother Nature. Yeah, it ain't legal, but that only becomes a concern if you're caught. Keep one eye open for the mounted police patrol — no matter how high you are, you're never gonna outrun a horse.

Best Music Venue

Tin Roof

1000 Clark Avenue, 314-240-5400

Also our readers' choice for "Best New Bar," this Nashville transplant offers live music almost every night of the week. Don't expect anything esoteric or off-putting here — these bands are chosen to help you have a good time. Whether they're covering Prince, leading you in live music trivia or spinning dance hits after a Cardinals victory, Tin Roof knows how to keep the party going.

Best Dance Club


4054 Chouteau Avenue, 314-652-3700

A laid-back neighborhood bar catering to LGBTQ drinkers by day, Rehab becomes a pulsing dance party after dark. Great DJs and reasonable prices keep the party going into the wee hours on Friday and Saturdays, while "all you can drink" specials on Saturdays and Sundays put the phrase to the test. If you're looking for a good time on the dance floor, readers say there's no better place in town.

Best Festival



St. Louis' homegrown music festival has long been a reader favorite — and now that it's back to local ownership, it really is better than ever. Highlights include the great food in the Nosh Pit, the numerous drink options and, most importantly, the killer lineups, which this year included Cage the Elephant, Weezer and a transcendent Snoop Dogg (as usual, don't believe what you read in the Post-Dispatch — Snoop put on a terrific show). There's simply no doubt about it: LouFest is the best.

Best Local Band

Whiskey Raccoons


With John Pressley's delicate finger-picking style and Cara VonderBruegge's soaring, soulful voice, it's no wonder readers chose Whiskey Raccoons as St. Louis' best local band. The acoustic folk duo just released its debut CD, This Is Us, in February 2017 and by August had already been chosen as finalists for a St. Louis Symphony-judged competition to perform the national anthem at a Blues game. While the group didn't win this year, they did make it to the final fourteen, out of 650 submissions — next year's competitors had better watch their backs.

Best Cover Band



FatPocket has been playing high-energy, horn-heavy hits for St. Louis music fans for thirteen years now. Initially formed by members of a Lindenwood University-based jazz quartet, the group has the chops to cover everything from James Brown to Rick James to Bruno Mars, as well as deliver more subdued sets in a solo piano or jazz trio configuration. Regardless of the number of musicians onstage, readers know that FatPocket delivers the goods.

Best Local Politician

Lyda Krewson

It's not an easy time to be mayor of St. Louis, but our readers have appreciation for Lyda Krewson: Where many people might have run away screaming, she's squared her shoulders and dived into to a truly unenviable task. Krewson isn't a showboater — can you imagine how loudly some of our (male) politicians would have screamed if someone chucked a rock through the window of their personal residence? Krewson never made it about her. She just went back to work. Stoicism is an underrated virtue, but our readers know to give this Iron Lady credit where it's due.

Best St. Louisan to Follow on Twitter

Sarah Kendzior


St. Louis-based freelance journalist Sarah Kendzior has developed a huge following on Twitter (292,000 followers, and counting) for many reasons, but we'll stick to two: She's interesting, and she's damn smart. A progressive with an interest in authoritarian governments, Kendzior not only knows of what she tweets; she also manages to make it compelling in 140 characters or less.

Best Louisan to Follow on Instagram

Jeff Vines


Jeff Vines is one half of the STL-Style duo (identical twin brother Randy is the T-shirt company's co-founder). Jeff Vines is also our readers' choice for the best Instagram follow in town, and it's easy to see why. Vines' Instagram depicts the St. Louis we're proud to live in: gorgeous old brick houses, quirky scenes and some truly clever T-shirts. We only wish St. Louis always looked this good.

Best Radio Personality


Weekday mornings from 6 to 10 a.m., there's no one readers would rather spend time with than the anchor of 105.7 FM the Point's Rizzuto Show. Scott Rizzuto, better known as "Rizz," is a veteran of the alternative rock station. Previously one-half of "Woody & Rizz," he's shown in the last three years that he's just as likable with a gang of "weirdos" as he was with a co-host.

Best TV Personality

Mike Bush

For 32 years, KSDK's Mike Bush has kept St. Louis informed — news junkies and sports fans alike. But that's not the only reason readers named him the city's best TV personality. It's also that he seems so damn nice. For many St. Louisans, the father of four seems almost like their dad ... the good kind of dad, who doesn't ground you and delivers the news in a reassuring tone.

Best Morning Radio Show

The Rizzuto Show

Not only is the eponymous "Rizz" our readers' pick for Best Radio Personality, but the Rizzuto Show also won honors for best morning radio show. With regular features like "Real or Fake?" and "Craiglist Freak of the Week," Rizz, Patrico, Burton and Moon keep the laughs coming. Listening to their show on 105.7 FM the Point is kind of like hanging out in a basement with your funny guy friends — only it's happening in your car at 6 a.m.

Best Salon

Ginger Bay

Two locations, including 437 South Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood; 314-966-0655

Ginger Bay gets raves from insiders in west county and the Kirkwood area, who love the salon's Aveda products, relaxing vibe and talented professionals. Whether you come for a facial, massage or cut and color, you'll leave looking — and feeling — better.

Best Barber

Union Barbershop

1264 Gravois Avenue, 314-328-2411

The newest barber shop in Soulard, Union Barbershop, has much to commend it, even beyond the talented folks cutting your hair. Not many places in town can boast stacks of Playboys, a comfy waiting room, Kaldi's coffee, beer and even shots for those who like some liquid courage with their haircuts. The hip-hop soundtrack doesn't hurt either.

Best Hotel

Moonrise Hotel

6177 Delmar Boulevard, 314-721-1111

Joe Edwards' boutique hotel on the edge of the Loop is a terrific place to visit and an even better place to stay. It's not just its proximity to the Pageant, though that can't be beat. It also has a killer rooftop bar, a lovely restaurant and well-appointed guest rooms. It's not cheap, but it's worth it.

Best Tattoo Shop

Enigma Tattoos & Body Piercing

6635 Delmar Boulevard, 314-863-8288

Toph and Ty, the co-owners of Enigma Tattoos, both got their start as fine artists, and it shows in their ink work. The pair bought the shop from its longtime owner two years ago after a stint as employees, and they've made it a comfortable spot that aims to please even as its delivers quality designs.

Best Place to Get a Body Piercing

Iron Age Studios

6309 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-725-1499

Iron Age Studios in the Delmar Loop has been the place to go for tattoos and body piercing since 1994. Owner Brad Fink and his crew have earned a national reputation for their designs. But it's not just about a touch of ink; their piercings are top-notch, too.

Best Yoga Studio

Urban Breath

Two locations, including 4237 Manchester Avenue, 314-421-9642

This yoga studio, with branches in both the city's Grove neighborhood and Maplewood, earns high marks for its mellow atmosphere and diverse group of instructors who are capable of working with any skill level. Readers says Urban Breath is great for beginners; new students can get a pass allowing unlimited classes for just $30 in a 30-day period.

Best Book Store

Left Bank Books

399 North Euclid Avenue, 314-367-6731

Big enough to hold a huge variety of books but not so big you get lost or feel like you're at one of those chain stores, Left Bank Books offers a perfectly curated selection of new books upstairs and a great used section in the basement. The children's area, too, is simply wonderful.

Best Clothing Store


Multiple locations, including 110 East Jefferson Avenue, Kirkwood; 314-965-3655

A homegrown chain that's grown to four stores in St. Louis County, Paperdolls offers a curated assortment of chic women's clothing. Prices are reasonable (just about everything is under $150) and styles are on-trend without being stupid. Ask a well-dressed woman in Kirkwood or U. City where she got her look, and odds are good it will be Paperdolls.

Best Gift Shop

The Porch

1700 South 9th Street, 314-436-0282

A charming (and surprisingly large) gift shop in Soulard, the Porch features everything from furniture to art to a great reasonably priced collection of wine. Pick up a gift for a friend, something for your garden or just something to drink — you can't go wrong with this selection.

Best Antique Store


9410 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-962-7300

A frequent winner in Best Of St. Louis contests for both "best antiques" and "best furniture store," Emporium has done it again in 2017 with wins in two categories. The Maplewood store features vintage, one-of-a-kind home decor items, with a great, ever-changing selection.

Best Thrift Store


Multiple locations, including 4140 Forest Park Avenue, 314-371-1296

St. Louis loves Goodwill. The national chain of thrift stores often shows up in Best of St. Louis rankings, and there's little wonder why. Goodwill has been upcycling and recycling since way back, while also providing work experience, education and literary programs and career counseling for its employees. Also, you can buy a massive '70s-era Zenith TV console for a good price any time you get the urge. What's not to like about that?

Best Bike Shop

Big Shark

Multiple locations, including 1155 South Big Bend Boulevard, Richmond Heights; 314-862-1188

Whether you're buying a brand-new bicycle or just need to tune up your existing wheels, Big Shark is ready to serve, with shops downtown, in Richmond Heights and in Chesterfield. Knowledgeable staff and a low-pressure environment keep cyclists coming back time and again for all their cycling needs.

Best Furniture Store


9410 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-962-7300

Why go to a big box store and get a particle-board dresser that will fall apart in months when you can get something made to last? The furniture at Emporium, a "unique marketplace" in Maplewood, isn't brand-new, but it is expertly crafted to stand the test of time. Multiple vendors means a selection that changes with regularity.

Best Record Store

Record Exchange

5320 Hampton Avenue, 314-832-2249

Vinyl albums continue their surprising comeback from the brink of extinction, but for Jean Haffner's Record Exchange, the format has never gone out of style. Offering 10,000 square feet of sales floor inside a former library, at Haffner's house of music, long players retain their place of pride. With everything from show tunes to novelty albums, if you can't find something to take home at the Record Exchange, you must not have been looking.

Best Jewelry Store

Paramount Jewelers

7348 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-645-1122

Since 1946, generations of St. Louisans have gone to Paramount Jewelers for engagement sets, club rings and the latest in fine jewelry. The friendly and knowledgeable staff is happy to help people find the perfect anniversary gift or design a custom piece for that once-in-a-lifetime special occasion. Paramount is the exclusive retail source for Tissot Watches and also handles battery replacement and watch repair. Speaking of repairs, if you have a beloved family heirloom that's been damaged, Paramount specializes in fixing antique jewelry.

Best Art Supply Store

Blick Art Materials

6300 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-862-6980

Blick's expanded location in the Loop has what you need. Whether you're looking for a respectable price on Winsor & Newton paint brushes, sculpting chisels or poster board for a last-minute science project, you can rest easy that the shop has it. (They can even frame the award if your kid wins.) With regular sales on essentials and overstock items, you can get something for practically nothing if you're patient. And don't forget Blick's free preferred customer program, which guarantees Blick will match competitors' prices and nets students and educators a ten percent discount. You can't beat that.