Best Of 2005

Best Old Building
Forty seasons after its opening, the stadium that was home to Gibby, the Wizard and Prince Albert is perched over history's dustbin. The unique ballpark is revered by baseball fans and architects alike. Redbirds fans love it because, well, it's chock-full of memories. Archophiles adore it for its use of formed concrete and steel, its subtle interplay with the Gateway Arch and its first-class lineage as one of Edward Durrell Stone's modernist masterpieces. Yes, despite its rusting rafters, aging mechanics and crumbling concrete, Busch is beguiling to the bitter end. Thanks for the memories.
Best Free Beer with Rodents
Free beer goes well with damn near everything: free cocktail napkins, free pretzels, free advice from the bartender. But it's even better at Grant's Farm. The (free) tram winds through their 281 acres -- past flamingos and llamas, through a covered bridge, past Ulysses S. Grant's cabin, alongside a fence made from 2,563 rifle barrels. The depot is the Anheuser-Busch Tier Garten. A short walk will also take you past parrots, eagles, elephants and, finally, the capybaras -- the world's largest living rodents. They're from South America, four feet long and would give the most experienced exterminator a heart attack if he discovered one lurking in your kitchen. But they are rather cute, in a guinea-pig-on-steroids kind of way. But back to the beer: True boozers on a budget know that free beer goes best with free beer. And the generous folks at the farm's Bauernhof will give you two.
Best Public Restroom
The whole point of Erato Wine Bar is the extensive and expert selection of wines, spirits and beers, but a major component of its magic is the interior design. It's a warm and sophisticated array of subtle details designed by owners Tim Foley and Adam Pashea, who borrowed ideas from favorite places and distilled them into the Erato sensibility. All well and good. But the most magical spot in the place is the bathroom. It's a single-toilet room, a clean and quiet place, all sage green, dark cherry and wenge finishes. The faucets are Moen, the floor is tile, the minimalist TP stand is stainless steel, the folded paper towels in the wood basket are just a thread-count away from cloth. Method's Sweet Water in the soap dispenser somehow smells richer than it does at home. The room looks like a West Elm catalog page and feels like the definition of luxe accommodations. Even men -- who, let's face it, don't normally notice such things -- will comment on how splendid these bathrooms are.
Best Public Library
In case you haven't graced one since your mom let you pick out ten board books a week, libraries have changed, my friend. No longer just a hushed room holding books and well-thumbed copies of National Geographic (the only sanctioned nudity kids ever saw, back in the day), they're now, by necessity, competing pretty well with the layout and amenities of the ubiquitous upscale book chain. For all the ways it's the epitome of the modern library, we love the St. Louis Public Library's Schlafly Branch. First, there's the location: on a busy corner in the Central West End, easy to fit into an afternoon stroll around the neighborhood's other hotspots. The location was conceived as a way to -- gasp! -- make use of the street level of a new parking garage that went up in 2002. Where else can you go to devour Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and then, for comparison's sake, trot next door to a movie theater to check out the film version? Floor-to-ceiling windows cover the perimeter, providing a great vantage point onto the street theater that is Euclid at Lindell. Inside, sleek, modern furniture offers comfy seating, even in the kids' area, which looks like a small IKEA amphitheater. But what really puts Schlafly over the top among local libraries is the breadth of its special events: From a discussion series on the theme "Your Heart's Desire: Sex and Love in Jewish Literature" to signings and appearances by visiting authors at nearby Left Bank Books to a wizard punk-rock concert by Harry and the Potters, this branch offers the baddest-ass lineup in the area.
Best Place to Meet Single Men
Can't nothin' beat a man who favors mahogany over maple and marble to metalaminates; a guy with his own tricked-out kitchen who still prefers somebody else's cooking; a dude who smokes, but only Macanudos. We're talking about a fellow with a good sense of timing, direction and certitude. The kind whose inner compass knows when it's happy hour; the kind who, when he's aching to see you, picks up the phone and announces: "Cigar Club. Six o'clock. Be there."