7 Reasons You'll Want to Visit St. Louis' Delmar Loop
When it comes to city life, all urbanites know that you don’t have to look very hard to find something to do on any given night. Oftentimes, though, cities have one or two or a handful of places that deserve your attention more than others. In the city of St. Louis, Missouri’s second-largest urban hub, one of those places happens to be the Delmar Loop, a vibrant entertainment, dining, and music destination that’s home to more than its fair share of local landmarks.
From the early 1970s onward, the Loop has been on a mission to become the place to be for locals and tourists alike, and thanks to the work of people like Joe Edwards, who owns more than one establishment in the district, that mission has largely been a success. By the fate of the travel gods, I recently found myself in St. Louis for the final days of 2018 and the first couple of 2019, and I was able to experience the majesty that is the Loop for myself, even if only for a couple hours.
I didn’t make it to each of the places I’ll mention below, but with the help of TripAdvisor; USA Today; recommendations made by my girlfriend, who grew up in the city; and various other sources, I can definitively say that these are seven reasons you’ll want to visit the Loop (and yes, I’m aware a good chunk of Delmar Boulevard is actually in University City):
1. The Pageant
Going strong since the turn of the century, The Pageant is a concert venue on the eastern end of the Loop that typically bears a loaded monthly schedule. The venue, which is named after a 1915 movie theatre that once sat three blocks to the east, boasts a large marquee with bright colors and neon lights that make the building one of the most readily recognizable fixtures on Delmar Boulevard.
Whether you’re catching a show in the main concert hall or in the Halo Bar, which hosts smaller shows, the good news is that general admission tickets tend to be wallet-friendly. Some of the big(-ish) names coming to The Pageant during the early part of this year include Jesse McCartney (Jan. 28), Gin Blossoms (Feb. 21), and Joan Baez (April 22).
Originally a drive-in hamburger stand located in Richmond Heights, Fitz’s Bottling Company is a regional soda maker that has certainly made a name for itself in the St. Louis area. Known for making exceptional root beer, the company owes much of its recent popularity to the microbrewery and restaurant it has operated on the Delmar Loop since the early 1990s. Along with a great lineup of sodas (or pop, if you prefer), Fitz’s restaurant, designed in a 1950s art-deco style, also serves up a menu of fine American classics.
3. Mission Taco Joint
Mission Taco has several locations, but the original, which opened in 2013, sits smack dab in the middle of the Delmar Loop. Featuring outdoor seating during the warmer months and a walk-up window for to-go orders, this taco joint offers a variety of options — including such selections as BBQ Duck and Mango-Hop-Anero Shrimp — as well as a bar in case you get a little thirsty while waiting for lunch.
The brainchild of brothers Jason and Adam Tilford, who hail from California, Mission Taco has expanded in the last few years, too. Outside of the Loop, you’ll also find the Tilfords’ taco creations at two other St. Louis locations, as well as in St. Charles and Kansas City.
4. Pin-Up Bowl
Sporting eight lanes, a retro-style lounge, and a bar serving up some local favorites, Pin-Up Bowl is a great spot to be any night of the week. Whether you regularly bowl strikes or gutter balls, this is the kind of place where you’d have to be an absolute curmudgeon not to have a good time. Play a few games with your friends, grab a signature cocktail from the bar, check out the 1940s pin-up girl memorabilia that owner Joe Edwards says you wont’t find anywhere else — it doesn’t matter.
The best part? Pin-Up is open until 3 a.m. every night, with food and bowling available until 2 a.m. Add to that the fact that the venue hosts live DJs each Tuesday and Sunday night from 10:30 p.m. until closing time and, well, you know where I’d be if I was a local.
5. Blueberry Hill
Chock-full of pop culture and music memorabilia, Blueberry Hill, a diner that opened in 1972, is another great place to catch a show in the Loop. I know what you’re thinking: “A diner with live music?” But yes, folks, it’s true. Blueberry Hill started hosting live shows back in the mid-1980s and is undoubtedly most well-known for hosting rock ‘n roll legend Chuck Berry for over 200 performances. The diner’s stage has also been graced by the likes of Ed Sheeran and The Lumineers.
Looking for something other than good food and live music? Blueberry Hill has no shortage of dart boards. The diner even hosts tournaments and league play.
For a slightly different experience in the Loop, stop in at Ranoush, a Middle Eastern restaurant that isn’t shy with its meal portions. Owned by Aboud Alhamid, a Syrian transplant who has worked in the hospitality industry for a dozen years or so, Ranoush has a fun and animated atmosphere and, if the reviews on TripAdvisor are to be trusted, an extremely accommodating waitstaff — not to mention delicious food. With an extensive menu and authentic decor, it is well worth a visit.
7. Vintage Vinyl
Last but not least, Vintage Vinyl, a record store that bills itself as a “St. Louis landmark and legitimate tourist destination” — and they’re not lying! Identified by USA Today in 2016 as one of the “10 great record stores for a musical treasure hunt,” the store maintains an expansive collection of vinyl records, CDs, and DVDs, which it not only sells but also buys.
Having originally opened its doors on the Loop in 1979 — making it one of the country's oldest operating record stores, according to USA Today — Vintage Vinyl also has an online store these days. But similar to flipping through the pages of a physical book, you’d be doing yourself a favor by getting in the store and looking through their collection in person. That way, you’ll be sure to experience all of the sights, sounds, and smells (gotta love that vintage scent!). Plus, they host occasional in-store musical performances.