Next Great Neighborhood: Cherokee Street in St. Louis

November 12, 2013 | By | Comments (41)
Photo by Ashley Gieseking

Photo by Ashley Gieseking

Despite the absence of a master plan, this former no-man’s-land has flourished organically, cultivated by young entrepreneurs. Start on “Antique Row,” a stream of thrift shops dotted with neighborhood cafes. Walk west and the vibe gets more artsy, with progressive galleries, boutiques, and the highest concentration of Mexican restaurants in the city.

“Cherokee Street is to St. Louis what St. Louis is to the rest of the country,” says shop owner Randy Vines. “It’s often overlooked, but anyone who takes the time to explore it will find how special and vibrant it is.”

Here’s nine of our favorite spots along the up-and-coming street:

1. Siete Luminarias
For years, it was the heavy concentration of Mexican restaurants that drew traffic to Cherokee. The latest addition is the kitschy-but-delicious Siete Luminarias. Get the pambazo ($9), a street-food staple rarely found north of the Rio Grande.

2. The Fortune Teller Bar
A throwback to the space‘s previous life as a dive bar run by a tarot reader, the menu honor the owners’ German roots with dark lagers on tap and cocktails such as the Ein Grüne Hut ($8) capped with dill from the garden.

3. Scarlett Garnet
In 2012, the owners behind edgy jewelry line Scarlett Garnet opened a storefront where you can shop from the labels’ newest baubles, as well as hand-sewn tops and colorful accessories from other Missouri designers.

4. STL-Style
Twin brothers Jeff and Randy Vines opened their shop in 2009 as a source for screen-printed shirts and accessories that rep the city they know and love. Slogans such as “You Can’t Spell Style Without STL,” and “Get Your Thrills in St. Louis Hills” make these T-shirts ($22.95) and posters ($32.95) much cooler than your average souvenir. If you find a design you love, but not the color, have a T-shirt custom-made on the spot.

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Photo by Ashley Gieseking

5. Whisk Bakeshop
In the midst of antiques shops that make up the eastern strip of Cherokee, this year-old sustainable bakery promises every pop tartlet, cupcake, and bacon-chocolate-chip cookie is baked fresh daily using local ingredients. “I grew up two neighborhoods away from here,” says owner Kaylen Wissinger.” It’s great to be a part of the renaissance and be surrounded by so many young, creative people to bounce ideas off.”

6. Retro 101
Follow the cool kids, including frequent shopper and local musician Pokey LaFarge, to this vintage shop where you can find anything from pocket squares for under $10 to $25 1950s house dresses and a 1920s beaded chiffon frock for $450. An institution in the area for more than 10 years, Retro 101 is the first stop for those looking for one-of-a-kind furniture, clothes, and knickknacks. 314/762-9722

7. Foam Coffee & Beer
This is where hipsters young and old converge at the end of the day to scope the lineup of emerging indie talent the bar is known for booking. You’ll fit in by ordering a PBR and pretzel croissant ($4). For an added kick, go for a Kosmonaut ($6), Foam’s version of a White Russian.

8. Junk Junkie
When mid-century modern furniture shop MoModerne moved off Cherokee and into the suburbs, owner Luby Kelley kept the space and turned it into a resale home store that offers the same level of taste and quality, but at a much lower price point. 315/495-4095

9. Art Galleries
The shift in Cherokee began when galleries started to move in during the early 2000s. Fort Gondo led the way with its ever-changing collections, exhibitions, poetry readings, and community events. Newer ventures such as Blank Space (2847 Cherokee Street) are more like collectives, where you can encounter anything from a craft sale to an electronic music show. This year, The Luminary, credited with bringing indie names such as Athens rock band of Montreal and mixed-media artist Gabriel Dawe to the area, moves into a 16,000-square-foot space, raising the ante on Cherokee’s art scene by adding shared resources for creatives.

Did we miss anything? Tell us your favorite spot on St. Louis’ Cherokee Street in the comments below. 

COMMENTS

  1. Mike Z

    At Clay….if you just moved here, ‘Welcome,’
    Back in the mid 70’s Soulard was the pits. It took 15+ years and look at it now. It is
    great. The Cherokee Neighborhood will be back. It didn’t get bad overnight & it won’t
    get fixed overnight. But it’s well on its way. And I live in Jeff County, but love the city.
    I spend alot, and I mean alot, of money here.

    November 23, 2013 at 12:35 pm
  2. Gene Kelley

    Thanks for the article! I live in South County, south of St. Louis proper, and I had only been to the Lemp Mansion and not further explored the great neighborhood I didn’t even know I was near!

    After reading this article, I came back and found “The Mud House” coffee and tea. OMG, awesome food and java. The “Red Eye” will definitely get you going in the morning.

    This whole neighborhood is truly one of the “hippest” in St. Louis, and I have explored many of them!

    If you live in or find yourself anywhere near the 314, stop by Cherokee Street for anything you could imagine.

    http://cherokeestreetnews.org/

    Gene Kelley
    St. Louis, MO

    November 22, 2013 at 3:11 pm
  3. Clay Henry

    I moved to St. Louis from Birmingham 3 years ago. I was raised in South Eastern Kentucky. St. Louis is most certainly not a part of the South. I find it rather silly that this argument exists here.

    In relation to the topic above I would point out that Soulard, the French neighborhood here in STL has come a much further way than Cherokee. That street to me only represents antique stores (which are great) and some of the best Mexican food in the city. At least Soulard has a NOLA feel to it. But St. Louis as the South… No ma’am.

    November 22, 2013 at 1:34 pm
  4. Reason #22 We’re Thankful: The Top 5 Next Great Neighborhoods in the South | Your Hub for Southern Culture

    […] 3. St. Louis’ Cherokee Street. A Mexican food district, is now enlivened with art galleries and late-night venues. Read more […]

    November 22, 2013 at 8:00 am
  5. Joshua Loyal

    2720 Cherokee, live entertainment and art gallery since 2009. Our 20,000 sq ft space has brought 40-50k people to the street each year for the past 4 years.

    November 21, 2013 at 11:38 am
  6. Cherri

    I have lived and worked at 2124 Cherokee street for the last 30 years. What I hear Betty saying is that it was just to painful to see her beloved neighborhood turned into a getto..I remember when what she said was all to true and thank God things are changing for the better. I own a antique store called Elders and I love the area. I personaly have never had any problems but I use common sense. There is a strong police presence andalot of money and time put back into this community.

    November 18, 2013 at 8:03 pm
  7. Ashley S

    The Rockin Redhead, is an awesome little salon and jewelry boutique. 1960 Cherokee. Amazing stylists!

    November 18, 2013 at 12:57 pm
  8. MargoC

    LOL Jen- I am a transplant. I blame this whole mess on the Provel LOL

    November 18, 2013 at 11:00 am
  9. Jen

    I didn’t realize just how feisty you stl people are! Catty too!

    November 17, 2013 at 10:59 pm
  10. donniechess

    “If you are so concerned, why don’t you live there for 44 years and straighten things up?”

    Okay, Betty. I’m going to move there and stay for the next 44 years just to prove a point to you. Sounds logical like the rest of your comments.

    November 16, 2013 at 11:02 pm
  11. Betty B. D.

    WOW Jeff, Mike, MM, donniechess, or whatever you are calling yourself this time… what a great mind reader you think you are. In case you haven’t noticed, I have not been mincing my words regarding this subject, I have said what I meant. It’s too bad you suck when it comes to translating. If you want to live in a community that is looking more like a ghetto every day, then you just put on your rose colored glasses and go right ahead, Skippy! I am not going to waste any more time dealing with you folks and the severe tunnel vision responses that I have been reading.
    I AM OUT OF HERE.

    November 16, 2013 at 10:12 pm
  12. pat

    Jeff how long have you live in south st louis? Yes it use to be a different neighborhood and if it is because of color then you think about it. When live here 64 years and watch what are life long neighbor has become then you can make the comments you made to Betty. I do hope the southside comes back. You can clean up your neighbor then you watch some people and if you want to use the ethnic card go heading respect the neighborhood it is sort of discouraging. I was born and raised on the southside, went to school and church here. How about you?
    Long time resident.

    November 16, 2013 at 6:25 pm
  13. Jeff

    Betty, your rampant paranoia is amusing. I live in STL City (south City). I am out after dark constantly in a variety of neighborhoods, including Cherokee Street. You have made it perfectly clear that you are basing your opinion on what you see on TV and read in the newspaper and not based on your own personal experience actually spending time in the area. You have outright said that you left and are not coming back, so how the heck would you even know what the neighborhood is like?

    Are there other areas near Cherokee Street that aren’t as nice. Yes, absolutely. But improvement starts with investment in places like Cherokee Street. You seem to be suggesting that it would be better to abandon Cherokee Street and let it crumble just like all of those other “terrible” streets around it.

    People like you are pathetic. I am going to just come right out and say what most people here already suspect: I’m guessing the “color” of the area changed in a way you did not like, and THAT is the true reason you refuse to go back.

    To everyone else who has never been: Cherokee Street is a fantastic place to spend time. Don’t let the Chicken Littles of the world, like Betty, scare you from trying something new. It is a nice area, with nice people, and great shops and restaurants. You will not be disappointed.

    November 16, 2013 at 4:40 pm
  14. Betty B. D.

    Yes, Donniechess, after reading your comment, I can tell just how educated YOU are! If you are so smart, how could you be missing my point? I have been talking about the WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD. Yes, it is good that people can go to Cherokee Street on Saturday to hear music, drink coffee, and watch street plays. So Cherokee Street is getting fixed up with new streets lights and some paint. Why not carry this effort on through the other streets so they will look nice also? How about the other days of the week? Do you walk through the neighborhood with your family at 11pm during a week night and look at the decaying houses? I am not talking about the people who wait until Saturday when there are lots of other people around and drive in from where they live and find the closest parking spot to where all the excitement is. Cherokee Street is just that, It is ONE STREET enclosed by a decaying neighborhood that a lot of residents do not care about anymore. As I stated earlier, I lived there for 44 years. Do you live in the neighborhood? Just because you are looking at the color of their skin doesn’t mean I am. Can’t you see, It is about pride and attitude, not skin color! If you live in a certain neighborhood, you should love it, appreciate it, and take care of it. What becomes of an area that is filled with people that have no pride in where they live? If you are so concerned, why don’t you live there for 44 years and straighten things up? It was not a mess when I left, and I’m not returning. I think it is time that the job be passed on to folks like you, so you can do your share. I’ve already done mine, and it has since been turned into a dump. IT IS NOT ABOUT CHEROKEE STREET…IT IS ABOUT THE WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD!

    November 16, 2013 at 1:36 pm
  15. Donniechess

    Cherokee Street is great. I take my kid there all the time and my wife’s sister goes there to watch street plays/performances with some frequency. People like “Betty,” are embarassment to educated people in the metro area. In her mind north St. Louis = black and Cherokee Street = Mexican. She avoids these areas for her all-white neighborhood. Also, Betty, if you’re so concerned about warning others to this tide of violence why not back up your point with some statistics?

    November 16, 2013 at 8:18 am
  16. Betty B. D.

    Thanks, Long Time Resident. You are the only other person that was brave enough to tell how it really is. I remember a time when I thought I would never live anywhere else but the city. I really loved it there. Now, you couldn’t pay me to live there. It’s very, very sad.

    November 15, 2013 at 8:30 pm
  17. Long time resident

    Some of the above comments are from people who did not live in South City or go to Cherokee Street every Saturday. I have lived in south city for 64 years and I will tell you that is ain’t what it use to be. I own my home and have seen the decay yearly. You say Cherokee street is coming back I hope so but like it was said above the rest of the south city is going down hill and fast. I use to walk down my city block and not worry but now I do not even want to drive it. The city, mayor and aldermen need to start looking around ALL of the south side and start cleaning up the area of crime and drugs, vacant buildings are becoming normal. Homeowners can only do so much and then the governing forces need to step up.

    November 15, 2013 at 11:18 am
  18. Elizabeth McCullough

    Not much mention of the Mexican business owners who have found Cherokee St. a place to build a new life. Hope the higher rents, that are sure to come, don’t run off the young artists and Mexican Americans.

    November 15, 2013 at 11:11 am
  19. SaintLouisIsInTheMidwest

    @ stlouis0724

    If you’d ever been to STL, you’d know that it’s not in the south.

    November 15, 2013 at 10:32 am
  20. Gerald Good

    Mud House is my favorite spot to get coffee and breakfast. It’s also a great place for lunch. Great food, great people, great attitude. Just being there makes me happy.

    Apop Records is a cool eclectic record shop that specializes in off-the-radar music. The local music selection there is tremendous. They also have tons of clothing, books, posters, and music magazines.

    Really, a top 20 list isn’t even enough to capture all the good stuff.

    I could try to argue with the trolls but I won’t. I’ll just say that I live in the neighborhood, I walk around at night and I don’t have any fear of violence. I say hello or talk to nearly everyone I pass on the street and I’ve made a lot of friends that way. The influx of motivated immigrants, artists and restaraunteurs that have picked up the detritus of white flight has really made this a great place to live.

    November 15, 2013 at 9:36 am
  21. Betty B. D.

    MM, Why should I have to come back to the city and clean it up? My area was still in good shape when we left it. I lived on south St Louis for 44 YEARS! I was there BEFORE those so called “pioneers’ were even needed. I owned my own home, I took care of my place, I paid taxes, I voted, as did my parents and siblings. I only moved out 14 years ago. My neighborhood was still nice. I did everything a good city dweller should do. But, WHEN IT GOT TO THE POINT THAT I COULD SEE THE SCUM SLOWLY STARTING TO INVADE US, YES, I MOVED OUT! I was not going to keep my children nor myself in harms way because the SCUM would rather tear up a neighborhood, and rob their neighbors.. Besides, I worked very hard at taking care of my home and neighborhood. YOU are nuts if you think I should have to come back and clean it all up again. After all, I didn’t leave a SHELL, I left LEFT A NICE HOME. I just couldn’t stand to see what I worked so hard for a wasteland. I think 44 YEARS was long enough, let someone else do their share.

    November 15, 2013 at 12:39 am
  22. M M

    Betty is everything that is wrong with St. Louis. Moves out, then turns around and criticizes the shell left behind. Pioneers move in to clean up the mess, only to be criticized further by cynics who haven’t even been in the area for decades. To top it off, she even says to get “decent people” to move back & clean up – just not willing to do it herself.

    I make twice weekly trips to Cherokee for Whisk or tacos at El Bronco. There’s something new to see weekly. It’s incredible. Street improvements, lighting, and the sense of community down there really has transformed the neighborhood – and it keeps chugging along.

    November 15, 2013 at 12:09 am
  23. Betty B. D.

    Mike L, I agree that this is not the place to debate the condition of Cherokee Street. You could be right, maybe Cherokee Street is becoming a lovely place to be. However, my issue was with the entire NEIGHBORHOOD, not just one street, which is why I used the word “area” to imply that. If Cherokee Street is really changing, then I truly hope it spreads throughout the other streets because those other streets need help.

    November 14, 2013 at 10:04 pm
  24. South Sider

    Does the area still have a lot of scum who are just burdens on society? Yes, but Cherokee Street in and of itself has improved tenfold since I moved here a few years ago. And with positive press maybe the neighborhood will continue to improve.

    November 14, 2013 at 7:14 pm
  25. Mike L.

    I don’t want to debate on this blog, but II feel the need for a response.

    First, drive-by shootings are NOT embedded on Cherokee Street. A few months ago there was a high-profile murder that was the result of a disgruntled former employee going psychotic and attacking his former employer. This can happen in the best of neighborhoods, and isn’t an indication of the quality of the neighborhood.

    I play in a band that has been playing at the Casa Loma Ballroom at Iowa and Cherokee one Friday night a month, virtually every month, continuously for the last 15 years (most recently about 3 weeks ago), so I’ve seen the area on a very regular basis. My only real inconvenience happened a few months ago when I was delayed getting to my gig because Cherokee Street was closed so it could be used for the performance of a Shakespeare play.

    I’ve seen the neighborhood by the Casa Loma go from a wasteland to a vibrant neighborhood over these last few years. Sure, there are still problems, but they are problems you’ll find in any city, and the neighborhood continues to improve. The faces on the street on and around Cherokee are of varied ethnicities and range from young children to retirees.

    Cherokee east of Jefferson has been doing well for a long time, and west of Jefferson is steadily improving. Change takes time, and usually works one street at a time.

    November 14, 2013 at 7:12 pm
  26. Betty B. D.

    Mike L., why don’t YOU take a walk around that neighborhood late some night? I don’t mean just on Cherokee St., but all over. I was raised just east of Jefferson, and the last time I was there was the day I knew I would never be back. Have you stopped watching the news and reading the paper. The garbage is not just in north St. Louis anymore. Drive-by shootings, murder, and drugs have been embedded in that area. Do you really think the only place you are safe is on Cherokee? It’s just that for the last 20 years , I’ve have been reading about ‘Up and Coming’ that area is. I think it would be wonderful if the WHOLE south side area would ‘Come Up,’ not just one street.

    November 14, 2013 at 6:03 pm
  27. stlouis0724

    I think what was missed from the great was the proposal for the new shipping freight car restaurant, Empire Cafe, proposed for a vacant parking lot.

    November 14, 2013 at 5:28 pm
  28. stlouis0724

    @SaintLouisIsInTheMidwest,

    City Latitudes

    Nashville: 36°10′00″N
    Louisville: 38°15′15″N
    St. Louis: 38°38′53″N
    Cincinnati: 39°8′10″N
    Philadelphia: 39°57′12″N
    Pittsburgh: 40°26′30″N
    New York City: 40°43′N

    Geographically, St. Louis is truly a melting pot of the Midwest and The South. And some would sprinkle it with a dash of the East Coast.

    November 14, 2013 at 5:21 pm
  29. stlouis0724

    @SaintLouisIsInTheMidwest, St. Louis is the Southern Midwest like Cincinnati. In fact, St. Louis is more “southern” than Cincinnati – and Cincy’s metro area includes Kentucky, which is a southern state.

    November 14, 2013 at 5:11 pm
  30. stlouis0724

    @SaintLouisIsInTheMidwest, St. Louis is the Southern Midwest like Cincinnati.

    November 14, 2013 at 5:08 pm
  31. Mike L.

    2 things…
    First, Betty, you obviously haven’t been on Cherokee recently. The area east of Jefferson has been improving for many years, and the area west of Jefferson has improved greatly over the last 2 years.

    Second, you didn’t mention Saxquest, an internationally known saxophone store which includes a saxophone museum (including some Adolphe Sax built instruments) on its second floor. Also, every so often they bring in noted jazz artists to host free music clinics and concerts … check them out on the internet for details.

    November 14, 2013 at 3:48 pm
  32. DRH

    Yo Betty

    Glad you don’t live there anymore.

    November 14, 2013 at 3:27 pm
  33. DisasterCupcake

    It’s also a great Street for ingressing. Enlightened agents swarm the area, blue doesn’t last long!

    November 14, 2013 at 2:56 pm
  34. Betty B. D.

    Cherokee Street the “Next Great Neighborhood”…ARE YOU KIDDING? Cherokee St. has been proclaimed ‘The next Up and Coming Neighborhood” for more than 20 years! One street won’t become special for anything unless the WHOLE neighborhood can once again considered to be SAFE! I grew up there in the 60’s and 70’s. When we were just kids, we would walk over to Cherokee Street and shop every Friday evening. Often, it was dark by the time we started waking home. We never thought a anything about it, and we never feared for our safety. You were as safe being out after dark as you were during daylight hours. All the good, decent, hard working people have been ran out. I know LOTS of people who say that the Cherokee Street area has gotten so bad, they wouldn’t even DRIVE in that area during the day. It is so sad to see how the once thriving neighborhood has become terribly decayed and filled with scum that would shoot you like it was no big deal. You can’t fool the locals by showing a photo of one small cafe with friendly looking people sitting in front. CLEAN UP THE NEIGHBORHOOD. Get rid of the crime and fill it once again with good, decent people, instead of low-lifers that just don’t care.

    November 14, 2013 at 2:02 pm
  35. Cray

    MIDWEST

    November 14, 2013 at 9:38 am
  36. Cara

    *Nebula Coworking!

    November 13, 2013 at 10:14 pm
  37. Cara

    Nebual Coworking is probably the coolest place to work in St. Louis: nebulastl.com

    November 13, 2013 at 10:03 pm
  38. Elizabeth

    Don’t forget Tenth Life, a stray cat rescue with a unique storefront office near STL Style! Pet kitties and sip tea or coffee on a chilly afternoon.

    November 13, 2013 at 9:01 pm
  39. Velvet Elvis

    You missed Velvet Elvis Cherokees newest boutique to be seen at!!!

    November 13, 2013 at 8:28 pm
  40. SaintLouisIsInTheMidwest

    Southern living? (scratching head) St. Louis? It’s nice to see good press, but I think you put this in the wrong magazine. It kind of belongs in Midwest Living.

    November 13, 2013 at 5:43 pm
  41. Debra Allen Batey

    It is great to see Cherokee Street getting some Love and good press : ).

    November 13, 2013 at 5:26 pm

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