The downtown architectural marvel known as Union Station continues to inspire fierce ambivalence in my urbanophiliac soul. On the one hand, it's certainly a masterpiece, and it manages to draw throngs of locals and tourists alike.
On the other hand, the policy of gouging for parking regardless of patronage of the restaurants and shops is atrocious, and the early-on decision to exile the train-terminal function has stuck St. Louis with the civic abomination generally referred to as the Amshack for more than 20 years, with the Post-Dispatch recently reporting that although funding may be in place, groundbreaking for the mythical "multimodal" transportation station is still at least another four years away. Sigh.
Ah, but the good Mohanned Alsaliti, who started a place called Pita King in an out-of-the-way strip mall in West County a little more than a year ago, has provided us with an additional entry in Union Station's plus column. Alsaliti's falafel, doulma, hummus, gyro and other Middle Eastern specialties are now available in the upstairs food court, at the end over by O.T. Hodge's.
We got out of there at lunch recently with a fresh falafel (deep-fried garbanzo beans with seasoned onions and parsley, overstuffed into a pita pocket) and a doulma (pickled grape leaves stuffed with seasoned meat, rice and vegetables) for just about 4 bucks. And even if you work downtown and the Station isn't exactly a short walk, remember that MetroLink is free for the several downtown stops from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. daily.