Yeah, summer in St. Louis is sticky and hot. But here's the deal: Were it not for the nearly triple-digit heat and humidity, would you ever fully appreciate St. Louis' great number of outdoor drinking spots?
There's something about drinking an ice-cold cocktail alfresco in defiance of the summer heat that makes your drink all the more satisfying. So get out there this summer, and enjoy one (or two) in the great outdoors. And if you don't have a favorite bar or restaurant patio already, check out the ten listed here.
33 Wine Shop & Tasting Bar
When it comes to enjoying a relaxed, unfussy evening spent sipping wine, 33 (1913 Park Avenue; 314-231-9463 or www.33wine.com) is as low maintenance as it gets. And that's low maintenance in a good way: It's so low-key, there isn't even a sign announcing its presence in Lafayette Square. Once you do find the front door, the backyard patio is a shotgun stretch past the high-top tables and unassuming bar until it opens up into several different sections ideal for private dates or large groups. Separated by a short railing from the noisier crowd next door at Baileys' Chocolate Bar, the wood-beam-flanked outdoor space creates a chill atmosphere that's perfect for enjoying a glass or bottle from the large yet well-curated drink list. The staff is helpful but not overbearing, allowing you to truly take in a peaceful night out in the city.
What kind of outdoor-drinking list would this be if there weren't at least one rooftop view included? Especially if there were a rooftop view not only of our city, but also of our beloved world champion St. Louis Cardinals. The new 360 atop the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark (1 South Broadway; 314-241-8439 or www.360-stl.com) downtown claims the best seat in the city for bird-watching, be it fancy feathers or Cardinal red. Catch the action inside Busch Stadium on game days right over the low glass railing or watch it on the TVs mounted behind the huge, brightly lit bar. Baseball fans mingle with urban butterflies, drinking top-shelf cocktails, grinding to weekend DJs and snacking on small plates from the open kitchen. Yellow and green uplighting as well as fire pits add to the glow of evenings on top of the city, while the daytime opens up to a sunny bird's-eye view of the streets below.
Beale on Broadway
It is hard to find an establishment in St. Louis not showcasing the city's signature tunes on any given night, but to find one showcasing the blues on a true outdoor stage? Look no further than downtown's corner of South Broadway and Cerre Street, Beale on Broadway (701 South Broadway; 314-621-7880 or www.bealeonbroadway.com), where music and booze have been forever blended. Hard to miss, the permanent outdoor structure elevates the performers and their sounds over a large patio and cabana bar with beer-bottle lights. Open, roomy and well-lit by the moon (the complete opposite of the indoor space), this theater is the perfect place on a breezy evening with a date or to stumble into after a Cardinals game. An expansive view of the city illuminated by the night sky behind the stage influences even the lightest drinker to grab one more while taking in the blues this town loves so much.
Sasha's Wine Bar
Nestled among the residences in the Shaw neighborhood, Sasha's on Shaw (4069 Shaw Boulevard; 314-771-7274 or www.sashaswinebar.com) is a charming garden escape. Whether enjoying a drink with your laptop or a group of friends, the patio here transports you from the everyday. Greenery of all kinds, mismatched seating and missing light bulbs from the strings that hang above add a playful touch to the outdoor space. Ornate concrete blocks are strewn along the garden-size waterfall; its water gurgles just loud enough to cover most traffic noises, and a brightly painted lamp post creates a sense of whimsy, like sitting among the ruins of Narnia or Wonderland. Similar to its counterpart in Clayton (Sasha's Wine Bar & Market), the drink selection on Shaw does not disappoint — take advantage of the several pages of by-the-glass pours. Even more options are available by the bottle, and don't miss the small but tasty menu. "Shawshas," as it is lovingly known by the regulars, offers a beautiful space to unwind and daydream away the workweek's stresses.
Molly's in Soulard
In what the natives like to call "The Island of Misfits" — Soulard to all others — sits an oasis known as Molly's in Soulard (816 Geyer Avenue; 314-241-6200 or www.mollysinsoulard.com). Climb out onto the deck and sail away on the wood planks, buy a cocktail at the shuttered, weather-worn bar and relax into one of the private cabanas with some of your favorite people — including four-legged friends. Like most establishments in the Soulard area, Molly's is pet friendly, so stopping in with Fido is no problem; water for your pup is provided. Whether bellying up to the bar or sinking into a plush chair out back, drinks will flow easily and quickly. Add in a Cajun selection from the menu, and this retreat will unexpectedly transport the weekend warriors to a vacation-like getaway.
You have been warned: Serious conversations cannot happen at the Venice Café (1903 Pestalozzi Street; 314-772-5994 or www.thevenicecafe.com). The distracting décor makes it extremely difficult to hold anyone's attention for long, no matter how serious the subject might be. It does not, however, ruin the concentration of serious drinkers. The eclectic patio at this neighborhood bar has been meticulously curated over the years for the enjoyment of nightly visitors and the surrounding community that bears witness to its ongoing creation. You'll come for the musical acts or the weekly drink specials but stick around for the lights, stone sculptures, graffiti, mosaic and all the funky elements that contribute to the excitement of drinking in this colorful environment.
Nellie Glenn's (6109 Gravois Avenue; 314-457-8766 or www.nellieglenns.com) is a traditional south-city Irish bar with a little ginger love for everyone; find drink specials on top of already-reasonable prices, rousing trivia, plenty of flat-screens, shuffleboard and even a weekly DJ night called "Count It." Warmer months spread the love with the newly renovated outdoor patio, which was created for the ousted smokers, but it features elements that even nonsmokers won't be able to walk away from. Watch the game alfresco under the new tents shielding TVs from the weather or cozy up to the fire pits on cooler nights. Game-day food and drink specials make Nellie's even more enticing. This is a beer-drinking kinda bar, but if celebrating is on the agenda, the bartenders here have been known to make some mean shots — throw in some delicious loaded fries, and you've got yourself a great night out. Whether you are Irish or not, you'll be in good hands at Nellie's.
The lush back yard of the Map Room (1901 Withnell Avenue; 314-776-3515 or www.themaproomstl.com), tucked away in the Benton Park neighborhood, is a hidden gem waiting for explorers who seek a secret garden. An alternative to the bustling bars of nearby Soulard, this coffeehouse has created an outdoor haven where adult beverages should be savored and enjoyed without crowds or DJs. Wrought-iron furniture and brick paths fill the space with purpose, reminiscent of bygone days. Sip a spiked coffee with the paper or share a pitcher of the homemade sangria (at least two seasonal flavors are available at all times) with a friend; wine, tea and tempting pastries round out the offerings. It is possible on any given day to stumble into live music or an outdoor movie, but one of the best ways to spend a day at the Map Room is to just sit and watch the neighborhood pass by through the open fence facing the sidewalk. After all, true observation of human life is best studied with a boozy lemonade in hand. The key has been handed to you; now go and take the time to uncover this treasure.
To some, the idea of drinking at a hotel bar is a treat reserved for traveling: the intrigue of being the out-of-towner, ordering a cocktail you might not usually consider, a new environment begging you to step outside of your comfort zone. For St. Louisans the Chase Park Plaza may be intimidating if you are not in the tourist state of mind, but don't be scared away or you will miss out on Café Eau (212 North Kingshighway; 314-454-9000 or www.chaseparkplaza.com), a fabulous outdoor drinking spot. This award-winning bar is the perfect place to act like a visitor without actually having to be one. The building looks vintage and the location is well established, but its charm is timeless. A beautiful, contemporary patio awaits casual drinkers of all ages looking for a classy evening away from home. The pool, fountains and palm trees lend a beachfront-like atmosphere while the outdoor fireplace creates warmth on cool spring nights. Sunday brunch, weekend music, happy-hour deals and late-night specials are still more reasons to keep coming back.
Right now St. Louis is more in touch with its German side than ever, especially the beer-swilling side. With more and more new breweries and brew pubs popping up, it is becoming a challenge to stand out and be noticed. In the growing Midtown Alley neighborhood, one pub in particular works the Deutschland angle to the max, even boasting a brewmaster from the homeland. Urban Chestnut Brewing Company (3229 Washington Avenue; 314-222-0143 or www.urbanchestnut.com), which just opened last year, has already infiltrated many area bar taps. But to truly experience the beer in its native habitat, pay a visit to the beer garden, an outdoor space created solely for enjoying the suds. UCBC's building is a converted garage, and it takes full advantage of the concept with a contemporary spin on the garden: The clear garage doors on three sides open up during the warmer months to let the outside in and still allow the feeling of alfresco when closed during cooler months. Seating of all kinds is available for groups, and there's a small menu as well as games that will challenge fellow beer geeks. Plus, Urban Chestnut Brewing Company recently purchased the space next door, which will house a 400-seat expansion complete with German-built benches and tables.