A good week got even better for me, when I checked out the recent activity in a small commercial building that has been vacant for a while on St. Charles Rock Road today. I met Omar, the proprietor of a much-needed new restaurant in St. Ann. It’s right in the heart of the old downtown at 10111 St. Charles Rock Road & Wright Avenue.
Omar has been a chef for 15 years, I learned from my conversation with him, and with John, a member of Omar’s extended family, who is in charge of the build-out for the restaurant.
I was completed charmed by the thought and workmanship that went into the total transformation of the interior of this building. It had been a car-stereo shop, with stereo installations done in the garage part of the building. Omar and John have put in a commercial kitchen, small & charming dining room (tables with table clothes covered with glass, in St. Ann—YES!) I noticed one of the hugest espresso machines I’ve ever seen.
I got to see the menu—extensive, and things that you don’t get everywhere else in the area. First the brick-oven and Chicago-style pizzas, which John says will blow you away. Then, kebabs, and something I had not heard of called shawerma. They will serve healthy, delicious, fresh breakfast, lunch and dinner.
There is a nice area in front of the building (see first photo, above, and remember that this is all still under construction) on St. Charles Rock Road suitable for patio dining. The City of St. Ann requires a fence around it, so that will happen in the near future, hopefully. It all takes $$$$$. Omar has planted rose bushes along the front of the building. Again: thoughtful, artful touches. He also has planted an herb garden on the side of the building, so he can use his own fresh herbs in his dishes. This is so COOL for St. Ann: I almost felt like I was on South Grand or in Maplewood while I was hearing this!
St. Ann is a diverse community, though—sometimes I think St. Ann’s residents “hide our light under a bush” here. Yeah, Northwest Plaza is a crumbling disaster, but it doesn’t reflect the community as a whole. Northwest Plaza will be redeveloped, whether as a lifestyle shopping area, or commercial/office space, or mixed-use residential and commercial. It took a long time for the property to get to its current state, and there’s not an easy fix, but it will happen.
After the brilliant developer and original owner >Louis Zorensky< sold the property, it was destroyed by negligent owners, who not only killed off St. Ann’s major source of tax revenues in their mismanagement of it, but also destroyed an internationally recognized jewel of landscape architecture in misguided renovations and updates. Water under the bridge, I’m afraid, but there are many people working behind the scenes to make sure that property is redeveloped. Some day in the future you will be reading about St. Ann as the next older suburb coming back to life like Ferguson, Maplewood, Olivette.
Meanwhile, you can help that potential along by supporting our local businesses, like Omar’s, supporting the people making things happen in these older, inner suburbs. It’s what you do, if you don’t want people to move out, move west, add to the sprawl. I told Omar that the St. Louis Design Community supports redevelopment vs. sprawl and will put their money where their mouth is and would be a great group to inform about his restaurant. So that’s what I’m doing.
I will let you know when Omar’s is open for business, and I hope to see you support my neighborhood, as I’ve supported all of yours.
PS St. Ann is worth a trip some weekend to visit Orlando Brothers outdoor produce stand (which takes debit cards), several carnicerias, >Taqueria el Jalipeno< (a modest, storefront authentic Mexican restaurant getting great reviews), and a 9-hole public golf course that you might also enjoy on your next trip this way. St. Ann was the first master-planned community in St. Louis County and has a permanent installation in the Missouri History Museum detailing its history. It was planned and developed and built by Vatterott Company, still in business and headquartered in St. Ann today, still building top-quality homes in the metropolitan area. In case you didn’t know … .
Images of Northwest Plaza from mall-hall-of-fame.blogspot via the Web