Let's get one thing out of the way before we start talking smack: Not one publication — and we mean not even one — does a great job of covering St. Louis' north side. And we're not even doing our usual kvetching about national publications and their clueless depictions of the Midwest. We're talking about journalists who live here and work for local newspapers, radio and TV stations, and even (alas) alt-weeklies. As a whole, even we city-dwellers are just too white and too rooted on the south side to cover north city's complexity.
But here's the thing. Even judged by our weak-sauce standards, Yelp's attempt to put north St. Louis in its "Neighborhood Spotlight" yesterday was totally pathetic. The San Francisco-based crowd-sourced review site promised to cover "delicious destinations" on the city's north side ("an underdog of St. Louis neighborhoods," in its words) — and yet somehow managed to find just one before turning its attention to various far-flung spots in north county.And when we say they "managed to find" one spot, we're being super charitable here: The sole north-city location on Yelp's list is Crown Candy Kitchen, an Old North institution for 105 years (and counting). Crown Candy is so popular with people otherwise terrified of north city that a satirical blog post about the diner supposedly moving to Edwardsville went viral thanks to hopeful (and gullible) suburbanites. A gem, yes. A hidden one, no way.
Yet other than Crown Candy, Yelp's only picks were in Ferguson (six miles from the city limits), Florissant (ten miles from the city limits) and a food truck known to frequent Spanish Lake (eight miles).
Is this really the best they could do?
The short answer, of course, is no. The slightly longer answer? Not only is the "northside" more like two dozen neighborhoods, not just a single one, but they indeed offer plenty of delicious destinations — destinations that, yes, even the RFT has covered. Spend just a little more time looking, and you can indeed find the wonderful local gems promised by Yelp ... just not via Yelp's list.
Don't believe us? Here are eight options we would have loved to see share the spotlight:
— Smoki O's Bar-B-Que (1545 North Broadway, 314-621-8180), food critic Cheryl Baehr's pick for one of the best pork steaks in town — and barbecue maven Ron Buechele's recommendation for a great place to try snoots.
— Shell City (1330 Auburn Avenue), a one-year-old spot in Fountain Park offering heaping platters of seafood to-go.
— Goody Goody Diner (5900 Natural Bridge Ave., 314-383-3333). Like Crown Candy, it's an institution, but all the more reason Yelp should never have missed it. In addition to great breakfast and lunchtime fare, if you time your trip right, you can even get a custom-made poem with every visit.
— Sweetie Pie's (3643 Delmar Blvd, 314-932-5364) is known for its delectable soul food, to the point that it too deserves the title of "institution": Surely the people on Yelp watch Oprah's network? (The show ran five frickin' seasons!)
— Playboy Cappuccino Lounge (8500 N. Broadway, 314-869-4098) doesn't serve cappuccinos — but it does offer cold beer and sizzling hot shrimp in the city's Baden neighborhood. Definitely worth a visit.
— The Other Place (5084 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, 314-728-5994) doesn't just offer delectable dive bar atmosphere — it also sometimes throws in a free buffet.
— Gregg's Bar and Grill (4400 N. Broadway, 314-421-1152) A blue-collar neighborhood pub in a sea of factories, Gregg's offers hearty eats at a reasonable price. Catfish, ribeye steak, pulled pork — what's not to love?
— Beyond Sweet (5901 Delmar Boulevard, 314-899-5052) offers over-the-top desserts with a festive atmosphere in the city's West End. They're utterly Instagrammable — and completely delicious.
See, that wasn't so hard — and let's face it: There are surely plenty we're missing. Isn't that what we count on crowd-sourcing to help us with?
Even so, if Yelp's intention was to drive more people to Crown Candy Kitchen, that also works. Goodness knows it alone is always worth a visit. Just ask the good people of outer suburbia.
Sarah Fenske is the editor of the Riverfront Times. Follow her on Twitter @sarahfenske or email her at [email protected]