Wednesday, December 11, 2019

First Look: High Low, a Literary Hub and Cafe, Now Open in Midtown

Posted By on Wed, Dec 11, 2019 at 9:51 AM

click to enlarge The cafe brings together coffee from Blueprint Coffee and eats from Bulrush chef-owner Rob Connoley. - ELLA FAUST
  • Ella Faust
  • The cafe brings together coffee from Blueprint Coffee and eats from Bulrush chef-owner Rob Connoley.

Situated in an industrial brick building on the corner of Washington and North Leonard avenues is High Low (3301 Washington Avenue, 314-533-0367), a new destination for the literary arts in St. Louis.

Located in Grand Center, the concept is the latest from the venerable Kranzberg Arts Foundation. Fresh off of its recent grand opening, High Low is already bustling with diners, artists and team members setting up for a slew of upcoming gallery and writing events. The space is an airy, cozy library-meets-cafe-meets-gallery and aims to provide a home for the literary arts to thrive. 

Chris Hansen, executive director of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, notes that he and his team work to create facilities in response to "a place of need" or "a call to action." High Low is no different — it was conceptualized in response to an expressed desire from the St. Louis literary community for a dedicated space where literature and art can interact under one roof.



The space is made up of two levels. The top floor (the High portion of High Low) is meant to be a place for writers, playwrights and poets to focus in and create content. The first floor (the Low in High Low) is described as a space for public assembly, at the center of which is the cafe.

Designed as the concept's hub, the cafe brings together coffee and coffee drinks from Blueprint Coffee and serves light bites and pastries from Bulrush chef-owner Rob Connoley. The goal of the cafe is to serve as the "access point" of the whole space, Hansen says — anyone can come into the cafe to study, read a book or have a cup of coffee. In turn, the hope is that those guests are pulled into the larger literary world that High Low offers.

Guests will find a small menu of eats designed by Connoley and served under his Squatters brand, including four plates and bowls. These larger dishes range from cinnamon-infused salted caramel oatmeal with maple cream balls, malted milk crumb and pepita granola to biscuits and gravy (a brunch favorite at Connoley's former Squatter's Cafe) with seeded scratch-made biscuits and sausage gravy.

This portion of the menu is rounded out with unsweetened blackberry yogurt with thyme sauce, milk crumb and pepita granola and a delicata squash and carrot grain bowl with onions, wheatberries, pear, fennel-orange dressing and housemade yogurt. As for pastries, Connoley offers eight options, including maple-pecan cookies, cherry-sesame biscotti and vanilla-orange-spice cake.

To complement Connoley's small but curated selection, Blueprint Coffee offers its usual range of drip and draft hot and cold-brew coffee, espresso, filtered coffee and espresso drinks, plus a hot or iced chai latte, hot chocolate and bottles of chocolate or vanilla milk from Rolling Lawns Farm in Greenville, Illinois.

click to enlarge A view of the cafe's lounge area. - ELLA FAUST
  • Ella Faust
  • A view of the cafe's lounge area.

In addition to the cafe, the first floor is also home to a library, which will feature themed rotating selections of books, journals and other works. The library is currently focused on promoting St. Louis' literary past and present, featuring a wide array of texts produced by St. Louis natives. There's also a gallery focused on literature and text-based visual arts; currently, the gallery features a poetry-infused photography exhibit, "Wig Heavier Than a Boot," a four-year collaboration between photographer David Johnson and Poet Philip Matthews.

The first floor is also home to an event space called the Listening Room, which will host poetry readings, open mics, storytelling and author events and more. 

On the top floor, guests will find a dedicated writing space for a forthcoming writers-in-residence program, which High Low offers in collaboration with institutions such as The National Conference for Community and Justice of Metropolitan St. Louis, St. Louis Poetry Center and the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis. The program’s ultimate goal, Hansen says, is to uplift and inspired the creative process for local and international writers.

To Hansen, the goal of the space is encapsulated in the name itself.

“The name has got everything to do with leveling the playing field and making more accessible what would be considered 'high' or 'low' art —where art starts and where art graduates," Hansen says. "The desire for the space is to be an area that many different communities can find a way to build capacity in, and a place where everybody feels comfortable coming in no matter what affiliation they hold with the literary arts. It aims to always stay in that space of approachability.”

High Low is open Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

click to enlarge The exterior of High Low in Midtown. - ELLA FAUST
  • Ella Faust
  • The exterior of High Low in Midtown.
click to enlarge The top floor is meant to be a place for writers, playwrights and poets to focus in and create content. - ELLA FAUST
  • Ella Faust
  • The top floor is meant to be a place for writers, playwrights and poets to focus in and create content.
click to enlarge The library offers a rotation of local literature. - ELLA FAUST
  • Ella Faust
  • The library offers a rotation of local literature.
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