Meet Me in St. Louis, Day 1

Oh boy did we ever need a vacation. We didn’t really have the time or funds necessary for the vacation, but it was a must-do for the sanity of the family. Since we are pretty good at a budget-trip when necessary, the four of us loaded up in the new van [hereafter referred to as the family truckster] and set out for St. Louis.

Why St. Louis?
1) It is a place we haven’t really visited. The husband and I did a quick overnight with my sister once for a concert, but we only did the generic downtown stuff (i.e. the Arch). So basically the city was unexplored.
2) It is close. The road trip is only six hours. I’m not ready to try and fly with the little man, so a nice comfortable road trip was really the only option. Six hours is totally doable.
3) It is a city and the tacky family is a city-visiting family. Outdoors is nice – for a night – but I’ll take good eating and high-quality museums over nature any day of the week.

After dropping the dogs off for boarding, we pointed the family truckster north and immediately noticed our gps trying to reroute us. I assumed – wrongly, it turns out – that it was being a stickler about picking the shortest route over the easiest route and ignored it. A couple of hours later when the navigator (me) went to sleep and we needed the gps however, it took us on a country detour through every business district imaginable. Turns out we still had the thing set to avoid highways from our trip to Austin (when we wanted to explore the city more). I should point out that we weren’t on the interstate here; setting the thing to avoid highways meant avoiding the biggest state highways in the area too. It added 1 ½ or 2 hours to our trip. Luckily we all found it funny. It helped that we weren’t hungry, tired, or cranky since the drive really wasn’t that long to begin with.
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The longer drive only left time for eating dinner and doing a little neighborhood exploration when we finally arrived. We stayed in an extended-stay suite hotel in The Grove* neighborhood and it turned out to be a great pick. Quiet, easy to navigate, visually interesting. I highly recommended an extended-stay for families traveling with wheelchairs. Even with a simple studio suite (king bed and pull-out sofa), we had plenty of room and no one had to fight with the chair for space.

Let me stick in an aside here to talk about St. Louis roads. We are not friends. The city doesn’t seem to be set up on any reasonable pattern. The sheer numbers of signs I passed that said “Street Not Thru” was astounding, as was the number of large planters severing what used to be normal streets. Don’t even get me started on the X-shaped intersections with multiple additional streets bisecting the X. I’m a good navigator and I like to explore cities based on a general feel for how the roads run. Impossible.

Anyway, we headed to The Kitchen Sink for dinner. It was highly rated and recommended on several sites. I called first to make sure they had a back entrance that was wheelchair accessible (the front had stairs) and we were on our way. Hmmm . . . well, service was bad. Wait, let me qualify that. Our server was wonderful when she was able to make it to us, but they were clearly understaffed. The two(!) servers were running around like crazy and just couldn’t keep up. A table next to us left after no one came to take their order for ten minutes or so. I don’t fault them for this – it was clearly an unusual situation.

But let’s talk about the food. It was good. Nothing amazing – certainly not “unique” like many of the reviews and the restaurant’s own website described. I don’t live in what you would consider a foodie town, but can get something like this in any local restaurant. The daughter had a waffle, the husband had the 4 Horseman (small helpings of sausage/beans/rice, jambalaya, etouffee, and gumbo), and I had the Doc Holiday (a coffee-rubbed ribeye sandwich with mushrooms and cheese). Again, it was good. Nothing to write home about. Maybe they were having an off night. Maybe we ordered the wrong things. Maybe I was just annoyed by the dish on their menu called the “Special Ed.” Maybe their American food with a Cajun twist just wasn’t twisty enough for a family from below the Mason-Dixon Line.

4 Horseman - the husband like it, especially the, and eventually ate all of his leftovers over the course of our stay.
4 Horseman – the husband like it, especially the jambalaya, and eventually ate all of his leftovers over the course of our stay.

*”The Grove is a growing vibrant business and entertainment district along Manchester between Kingshighway and Vandeventer in St. Louis City. In the Grove you can find a diversity of independently owned restaurants, nightlife, retail, and services. It is also home to the premier nightlife in the area, and is a thriving center for the LGBT, artist, and cycling communities in the St. Louis area.”

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