Station No. 3's Diego’s Margarita, Frida’s and Pimm’s Cup set against the restaurant's patio.
Colorful umbrellas top wooden picnic tables that dot the outdoor patio at Station No. 3 (1956 Utah St, 314-925-8883, www.station3stl.com).
A lush collection of purple coneflowers and wild grass line the perimeter, the occasional tiki torch brightening their path. As the sun sinks behind the red brick buildings of Benton Park, the growing dinner chatter mixes with the warbling of a fountain at the far end of the patio.
The restaurant’s indoor seating is equally atmospheric, with its exposed-piping ceiling, brick walls and ambient lighting. On a cool summer night, however, outdoors wins.
Station No. 3, clearly, was made for summertime.
Station No. 3 has been open for just over a month, but owners Natasha Kwan and Rick Roloff (the minds behind Frieda’s, Diego’s and Bonito Bar) have worked hard to cement themselves in the surrounding community. Although a small parking lot sits next to the restaurant, it’s almost always empty — according to Kwan, most diners have simply walked over from nearby apartments. Pets are welcome, and various neighborhood dogs make frequent appearances. The pair often brings their own pet bird to join in the fun.
The inside is atmospheric with exposed-piping ceiling, brick walls and ambient lighting
The menu is almost entirely vegan except for a handful of items denoted as “flex,” or flexitarian. Far from a collection of salads and Beyond Burgers, however, the menu offers all the delights of a classic gastropub, such as mozzarella sticks, a crispy chicken sandwich and a brisket sandwich — all vegan.
Kwan, Roloff and their team have worked tirelessly to craft the perfect recipes for the vegan dishes. Kwan is especially proud of the vegan soft serve — which comes in flavors from chocolate and vanilla to s’mores and boozy Mexican chocolate — and their recently perfected vegan burnt ends, which taste surprisingly like the real deal.
“I've had people that are downright meat eaters, and they're like, ‘There's absolutely no way I would be able to tell that this is vegan,’” Kwan says.
Station No. 3 is located in the space formerly occupied by Utah Station, which closed abruptly in June 2021 after the co-owner shot a teen who tried to steal the tip jar. Kwan cites the story of the property’s previous tenant as one of the biggest challenges to getting the word out about their own establishment.
Station No. 3's garage doors open onto the patio, blending inside with out.
“Some people have said to us, ‘I was apprehensive about coming because I really liked the place before us,’ and we’re not the place before us,” Kwan says.
Decades before Utah Station rented the property, it was the site of a full-service gas station. It is this aspect of its history that Kwan and Roloff hope to highlight. The autoshop’s bright green garage doors are still fully functional and, when the weather is nice, can be opened to join the indoor dining room to the outdoor one. Inside, a series of black-and-white photographs near the entrance pay homage to Kwan’s grandparents, who proudly owned a Shell gas station in the Philippines before they moved to the United States.
A selection of Station No. 3's offerings (from far right, clockwise) Diego’s Margarita, the Station burger with pickle fries and ranch, Pimm’s Cup, burnt ends, Frida’s Hibiscus Margarita and barramundi Sandwich with skinny fries.
Kwan emphasized that though vegan options feature heavily on the menu, she and Roloff have been deliberate in keeping the restaurant accessible to all. They hope they’ve established a neighborhood spot where people can kick back and enjoy each other’s company, regardless of dietary preferences and restrictions.
“It's a place you don't have to be vegan to go to,” Kwan says. “We have flexitarian items so everyone can have a meal around the table together. This is heart, and this is family.”