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Tuesday, July 6, 2021

New Event Offers St. Louisans A Chance To Try Grand Center's Restaurants

Posted By on Tue, Jul 6, 2021 at 12:55 PM

click to enlarge The Taste Of Grand Center kicks off this weekend with food, music and art. - COURTESY OF ROUTE 3 FILMS
  • Courtesy of Route 3 Films
  • The Taste Of Grand Center kicks off this weekend with food, music and art.

A "tasting passport" and an empty stomach is all you’ll need this weekend for the first annual Taste of Grand Center in the Grand Center Arts District. The journey will allow patrons to sample what seven restaurants in the district have to offer — and, maybe, to find a hidden gem.

The event kicks off in Strauss Park (3534 Washington Avenue) on July 10 and spreads out from there, offering visitors a chance to enjoy live music while touring the district and its beautiful public sculptures and murals — and, of course, eating some good food.



“It was important to us to highlight the restaurants that make Grand Center not only a destination for the arts, but also for food,” Rich Simmons, executive director at Grand Center Inc., said in a statement. “We can’t wait to watch people gather in the district and celebrate these establishments.”

Visitors can purchase tickets online and meet in Strauss Park to receive their “tasting passports" — that's all you need to head out to sample the participating restaurants. Maps and signs will help guide the way.

Describing the event as a “one day food-extravaganza,” community engagement manager for Grand Center Inc. Will Strang said the event exists as a way to bring people back after the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the district.

This has been a particularly difficult year for St. Louis' arts community. Amid pandemic restrictions, the Fox Theatre shut down, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra reopened for a shortened season and smaller concerts, and museums had to offer limited viewings. Venues have tried their best to engage people during a “very tough time,” Strang said.

“As a district that is focused on venues and visitors coming down to shows and exhibits, it's been kind of a whirlwind of different things,” Strang said. “One of our intentions is to hopefully spark some interest in some of the restaurants and the outdoor spaces, some of the public art on view, see some murals and statues as you’re walking around.”

With those goals in mind, Strang sat down with his team to brainstorm ideas to bring energy back to the arts district. They arrived at several options, from helping market the restaurants directly to an event that would host patrons and samples of the restaurant's food in a single venue.

Eventually, the team landed on the idea of giving patrons a chance to visit and sample from multiple district restaurants — and thus the Taste of Grand Center was born. Strang said the restaurants in the district were “very receptive” to the idea — even the ones who couldn’t participate since some haven’t returned yet from the pandemic. David Kirkland, chef and owner of Turn (3224 Locust Street; 314-240-5157), was on board after what he described as a year that “sucked.”

“Before the pandemic, Grand Center was really starting to grow with the additions of egg and Bulrush. It's really the center point for fine dining in the district,” Kirkland said. “I think it's good that people get to see we’re still here.”

Kirkland said he’s looking forward to people coming back to the district. He added that Strang and the rest of the team at Grand Center have always taken care of the district, so he’s happy to team up with them to put on the event.

Turn will be serving a specialty cocktail, homemade biscuits and buffalo cauliflower bites as its samples.

Other samples include: Field House’s sliders, Vito’s pizza and arancini, Best Steak House’s gyro, sample cocktails from the Angad Arts Hotel, small samples of the lunch menu from Gary’s Fine Dining and an 8-ounce pour of Urban Chestnut Brewing Company’s Grand Center Pilsner.

Strang is ready to see people in the district once more. He hopes to repeat the event in the future if this one is successful. Overall, he’s hopeful.

“We’re just excited to have people come down and really looking forward to seeing some new faces in the districts,” he said.

Taste of Grand Center opens on July 10 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets are $35 for non-members, $28 for members. Purchase tickets on grandcenter.org. Proceeds from the tickets will be divided evenly between the participating restaurants.

Email the author at jenna@riverfronttimes.com
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