Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Restaurant: Sweet Art in Saint Louis

We recently went to Saint Louis for a concert and had wonderful meals while we were there. I had searched the web for places to get good vegetarian food in the area and stumbled across some real winners. The first night, we went to a concert at The Pageant in the Loop. There were dozens of good looking restaurants, but based on reviews I found online, we went to Thai Country Kitchen. Even though we have ten Thai places within walking distance of our home here, I’m always up for trying it in a new city because Cincinnati Thai is notoriously candy-sweet. This was really good. I also appreciate the “country” aspect of it as well. The decor reminds me of boating and farming Thai, standing in contrast to the minimalist electronica decor that’s so trendy here.

Enough of that. I’ve been totally overwhelmed looking at the photos from the trip, so I want to do this in small steps. Let’s start with my favorite find of the trip: Sweet Art.

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There is no way we would have found Sweet Art just walking around the landmarks we visited. I can’t even find the blog where I originally read about this place, but I am so glad we went. This is a little neighborhood bakery that serves breakfast and lunch items in addition to cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and other baked goods. The small dining room is bustling and popular; it’s the kind of feel-good place where you’ll share your table with strangers and be glad the restaurant seems successful rather than being annoyed at the lack of seating. (Granted, it was a cold spring day – on a nicer day, the outdoor tables would have expanded the dining room.)

The inside was comfortable and inviting, and reminded me of other places I’ve been but certainly stood on its own. The walls were a pastel lime green, much less severe than at Loving Cafe. The menu was written on a chalkboard like at Melt, but all the choices are vegetarian and most are vegan. They also have a pastry case full of beautiful cupcakes and some vegan baked goods behind the glass. What’s most impressive? The artwork covering the walls. There’s an art studio in the back of the shop and they offer classes. You can read about the couple who runs this place on the Sweet Art website and also see more of the artist’s work here.

Let’s get on to the eats. Everything on the menu looked incredible: They have salads, wraps, and hot and cold sandwiches. They also have chili or chili nachos. I’ll say it again, I’m so glad we found this place, and if we were locals we’d certainly be back regularly. As it was, we were trying to figure out how a second meal there would fit into our travel plans.

Sweet Burger, $7.25

I ordered the Sweet Burger, which is a homemade patty made of lentils and other veggies served with their house vegan spread (which was delightfully spicy), greens, tomato, and ketchup. It was delicious. Many times when I order a veggie patty, I end up leaving the bun because the patty is already so grain-based. This bread, however, was delicious. The other sandwich also had superb bread – I even ate some crust, which is rare for me. Even the chips were exceptional. They offer a choice of chips or fruit, and I’m glad I got these thick-cut chips.

Do you call the bread pictured here a bun or a roll? One of my first roommates made fun of me for saying “bun” and insisted it should be called a roll. I guess there still are some regional differences.

39th, with avocado, $7.75

Alex chose the 39th, which is a fake-BLT. Like Melt (again) they name many of the sandwiches for nearby streets. The facon was really crisp and there was plenty of it on the sandwich. This was also served with the tangy house spread, which I really enjoyed. I think I’ll have to start looking into making something like this. The avocado was such a nice touch to round out the sandwich along with the lettuce and tomato.

Before we left, we picked up three cupcakes to go, which we enjoyed later in the car while waiting for a brewery tour and even trekked the third home and ate it the next day.

This unassuming little box contains three delicious cupcakes. We didn’t order the vegan cupcakes, but they have vegan selections daily. My favorite is the one in the upper left – see it with the pecan on top? This is a Hummingbird. My mom used to make hummingbird cake. I think I need to do something like that as well. The cake is moist with banana and pineapple and spiced with cinnamon. I prefer the cream cheese on top to straight icing, and of course I love the Southern pecan on top. We also tried a Harmony, which is a vanilla cupcake with frosting and chocolate sprinkles, and a double chocolate, which is the one we ate a day later at home. They were all good, but that hummingbird was my favorite.

Eating at Sweet Art was such a positive experience, and I grew even more impressed reading through their website just now. The joy they have in their food and art really shines through to me. Way to go.

Sweet Art on Urbanspoon

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