3 Specialty Stores for St. Louis Food Lovers

Kakao Chocolate: There is no more perfect gift than its offerings.
Kakao Chocolate: There is no more perfect gift than its offerings. HOLLY RAVAZZOLO
Chocolates at Kakao: What could make a better gift? - HOLLY RAVAZZOLO
Chocolates at Kakao: What could make a better gift?

For this year's Shop Local issue, we profiled 40 shops we love, but we couldn't stop there! Check out this bonus three-pack: a trio of stores that sell basically only a single food product, but still pack an extremely tasty punch.


If you're cutting down on smoking, the setup in south city couldn't be easier: Fill up the tank at Phillips 66, walk across Bates to Vape-One, grab your e-cigarettes and smoke juices and bask in candy-flavored clouds. But who knew that a vape shop also holds one of St. Louis' hot new culinary secrets? Earlier this year, Saucy-One (4385 Bates Street, 314-329-8376) opened within its established sister shop, ensuring that your mouth will smoke in ways beyond what you may have originally intended. (Saucy-One has a second location at 1139 Colonnade Center in Des Peres, also inside a Vape-One.) With half the store dedicated to fiery sauces, jellies and rubs — including brands that you won't find in most stores — there's something on the Scoville scale for everyone. Employees swear by Secret Aardvark, a habanero sauce that works on everything from meat to sides with a moderate amount of kick. For the more daring heat seekers, there's PexPeppers "Painapple," which sets your mouth ablaze with pineapple and Carolina Reaper — the hottest chile pepper in the world. St. Louis makers aren't left out of the fun, either, with Mr. B's products taking up quite a bit of real estate. The south-city micro pepper farm supplies Saucy-One with its signature salsas, pepper glaze and spiced pickles. With most brands priced $3 to $15, Saucy-One already is wallet friendly, but the shop offers additional discounts for sauce packs; choose four or six bottles and get a 10 percent discount and knock out this season's gift buying for holiday party hosts. By combining e-cig shopping with hot sauce variety, Sauce-One unconventionally proves that where there's smoke, there's indeed fire.

Kakao Chocolate

When you pop into Kakao Chocolate (7272 Manchester Road, Maplewood, and 7720 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-645-4446), you may ask yourself, "Is there a more perfect gift than chocolate?" The answer, of course, is no. Good thing you're standing in a glorious all-natural chocolate shop. Here, where treats are mesmerizingly created before your eyes, and smells come free, you won't be able to leave with just a whiff and an eyeful. Whether you seek milk or dark chocolate, both are plentiful, and come in assorted varieties — we're talking barks, hot cocoa mixes, rich truffles and more. We feel a sugar rush coming on just thinking about it. Plus, Kakao crafts other confections and sweets for those who prefer to mix things up between their bites of chocolate, and for those who, poor things, are allergic to chocolate.

Di Olivas

When Robert Palleja and his wife found a small store in Chicago that sold high-quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars, they kept coming back for more, until they finally looked at each other and said, "We should do this in St. Louis." So they did, opening their first di Olivas (118 West County Center, Des Peres; 314-909-1171) store in the West County Center in 2009. Palleja's wife has since passed away, but he's continued their project with stores in St. Charles (617 S. Main Street, St. Charles; 636-724-8282) and the city (115B North Euclid Avenue, 314-367-6457). Di Olivas opened its Central West End location in February 2017, and it's a beaut — the store's polished tin showcases the dark bottles featuring dozens of flavors of oils and vinegars. Palleja says, "Our olive oils are largely gold and silver medal winners at nationally recognized contests." He even keeps lab analysis reports of the shop's extra virgin olive oils. Di Olivas sells balsamic vinegar in flavors that can't be found anywhere else, including maple bourbon, amaretto and even a margarita white balsamic. Palleja has a favorite oil and favorite vinegar, but he won't share — instead, he loves to talk to customers and find out what they love to cook to help them find their perfect pairing.

— written by Allison Babka, Alison Sieloff and Lauren Milford
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