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Best Place to Live St. Louis 2008 - Dogtown

During the Ancient Order of Hibernians' parade each St. Patrick's Day, the corner of Clayton and Tamm avenues is the place to soak up one's Irish heritage, and suck down a lot of beer. The other 364 days of the year, Dogtowners revel in the peace and quietude of a city neighborhood that most who live here consider a village. Dogtown has conveniences, but thankfully not so many — and not of the proper quality — as to attract hordes of yuppie realtors dubbing them "amenities." The grocery and hardware stores closed years ago. Despite a couple of high-end real estate projects that threatened gentrification, Straub's is nowhere in sight. The frame shop, the barber, the dog groomer, the salons and the liquor store are still going strong. Students live here — you'll see them studying at Cairdeas Coffee — but they hardly dominate the scene. "Scene," in the hip sense, is the last word that Dogtown brings to mind. Felix's martini bar and La Gra, an Italian tapas restaurant, are lively at night, but Pat's Bar & Grill and Seamus McDaniel's still pack 'em in for fried food and drafts of Bud. Dogtown will not be staging a "comeback," for the simple reason that many people have never left. That includes the old folks living out their last days in tiny bungalows, and people like Patrick Wrzesinski, the fortysomething owner of Patrick's Dogtown Liquors. Wrzesinski has owned the corner store at West Park and Tamm for the past 10 of the 51 years in which booze has been sold there under one name or another. Living in the neighborhood as a student, he liked the central location — Forest Park, downtown, and parts of St. Louis County all within easy reach. After twenty years, Wrzesinski has no desire to live outside the boundaries of Manchester, Oakland and Hampton avenues. He's seen the neighborhood change, but, he says, "The foundation is laid. It's down-to-earth, good people."

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