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Garden Spot 

Savoring the joys of neighborhood at the Soulard Coffee Garden

Our little South St. Louis neighborhood called Soulard is just about as close as we come around these parts to urban utopia: a healthy mix of affluence and working class, froufrou restaurants and plain ol' bars, places to talk, places to listen, funky shops, professional-services firms, active (and activist) churches and, of course, the Market.

Into this mix now comes the Soulard Coffee Garden, a place to sit and sip and nibble -- upstairs or down, indoors or out -- in one of the wonderful old buildings that give the neighborhood such character. It's part coffee shop, part lunch-and-dessert counter, part salon, with the somewhat cluttered first-floor space -- a display case, an order/cashier counter, a coffee-bean rack and a enter island of brewed-coffee carafes, with a half-dozen tables shoved against the far wall -- counterpointed by an airy second-floor room stocked with books and board games. (Indeed, the fine folks of Metropolis have staked the place out as their weekend game gathering, including those guys-and-dolls' version of what may be the oldest established permanent floating euchre game in St. Lou. Check out the calendar at www.mstl.org for updates.)

As would be expected, there are some mean coffee drinks at the Soulard Coffee Garden, and smoothies are also a specialty. But I was especially taken with the made-to-order sandwiches, which feature stuff like roasted portobello mushrooms, garlic-roasted eggplant, fresh spinach and sun-dried tomatoes in various permutations and combinations. A full breakfast menu is served weekdays until 10 a.m., and you can get brunch until 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; an evening menu is expected to be announced soon.

SOULARD COFFEE GARDEN, 910 Geyer, 314-241-1464.

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