Northern Italy’s Soave Wine Region Featured in New Wine Enthusiast Column Monday, Jun 20 2011 

Northwest St. Louis County, particularly the historic municipalities through which St. Charles Rock Road runs, have begun a suburban image renewal effort. St. Charles Rock Road began as an “Indian trail” and has a fascinating local history that may come as a surprise to those in the metro St. Louis area unfamiliar with it.

St. Charles Rock Road is the main drag through St. Louis, and long-time St. Ann resident, Steve Erdelen, has taken a lead in the image renewal strategy. He has begun a new publication (in newspaper “tab” format for now) to bring good attention back to the businesses and residents of this Northwest St. Louis County area just south of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. I am doing my part to support the publication by writing a wine column for it.

Click on the link here to see the column.

**  Rock Road Reporter_Summer Wine Column  **

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Today, in terms of place-marking, the best known image along St. Charles Rock Road in St. Ann is probably the animated majorette sign at the Airway Centre. The sign dates back to the mid-century days when the Airway was one of multiple drive-in theaters along “the Rock Road.” Mid-century describes the vintage vibe the area largely retains.

In addition to the Airway sign, other familiar mid-century landmarks here include:

  • Chuck-A-Burger, and its summer “Cruise Nights”
  • McCarty Studio Photography, and its retro Lustron building storefront
  • Carhop Auto Sales, and its “bat-wing” service station building (formerly housing a vintage modern Phillips 66)
  • Post-World-War II housing styles in a walkable village environment
  • Commercial buildings dating to 1943 in a small-town downtown strip (corner of St. Charles Rock Road and St. Gregory Lane) originally occupied by a grocery, hardware store, realty office, drug store, barber and beauty shops

St. Charles Rock Road was laid out by the Spanish in 1772 and was the first road through St. Louis County, largely following the old “Indian trail.” It served as the road to St. Charles, Missouri—the state’s first capitol.

I hope you enjoy the column and will enjoy a bottle of Soave while reading it!


Omar’s Italian/Mediterranean Restaurant Opens in St. Ann, Mo., at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 18, 2009! Friday, Jul 17 2009 

Please come support our St. Ann community businesses!

olivesOmar’s opens Saturday.

The hours are 11 a.m. to 10 pm on Saturday and Sunday. It’s right in the heart of the old downtown at 10111 St. Charles Rock Road & Wright Avenue.

Please come out and congratulate Omar, his brother in law, John (who did the construction/construction management), and the rest of their family and friends for the “soft opening” of this fabulous addition to our St. Ann community.

Chicken Shawerma

Chicken Shawerma

Chicago style pizza

Chicago style pizza

Order something from their extensive and surprising menu: brick-oven, Chicago style pizza; kabobs; falafel; chicken shawerma, delicious desserts, and many other things.

Shawerma is a Mediterranean staple similar to a Greek gyro. According to one source, the classic shawarma combination is pita bread, hummus, tomato and cucumber, and the shaved meat itself (pictured on the spit, at right.)

Hummas, for those who might be new to this style of cooking, is just garbanzo beans, aka, chick peas, that have been made into a paste and seasoned with olive oil, garlic, and other things. It’s often used as a dip with pita chips. MMmmMMMmmm!!!!!

Typical additional toppings for shawerma include tahini (sesame sauce), pickled beets and amba (a sweet-and-sour condiment, similar to mango chutney.) In outward appearance, shawerma resembles the gyro in that both use pita-wrapped meat, but the sauces are distinctly different.

chick peas_garbanzo beansNote:  If you get addicted to hummus (hey—it happens) and if you want to make your own, Shop n Save sells garbanzos.

bonappetitGreat food, a pleasant atmosphere with thoughtful touches, and gracious hosts. This is a nice, casual place.

Let’s visit Omar’s and become regular diners there. Let’s help it thrive, and in the process move St. Ann forward in its quest to add the kind of businesses WE ALL WANT in our community!


Image of brick oven pizza chef from via the Web.
Image of Bon Appetit sampler from via the Web

Come one, come all Saturday, July 18: Support a NEW Mediterranean restaurant, enjoy gracious hospitality and delicious food! Tuesday, Jul 14 2009 

Omar, himself

Omar, himself

Omar’s Italian/Mediterranean Restaurant plans its opening THIS SATURDAY, July 18, 2009.

It’s at 10111 Saint Charles Rock Rd., St Ann, MO 63074-1810 – (314) 429-6881. You will see the sign beckoning you from streetside, St. Charles Rock Road & Wright Avenue. Here’s a link to Google map >MAP<.

Come and enjoy the healthy, amazing menu that includes Chicago-style pizza from a brick oven, hummus, falafel, kabobs, and shawerma (something I don’t think you can get anywhere else I’ve been in the area.) Omar uses fresh herbs from his herb garden along side the restaurant.

The build-out has been built “from scratch,” with thoughtful touches and something St. Ann has not had for quite some time: a restaurant with tableclothes (covered with glass.)

img118St. Ann (and Omar & John & Omar’s family) really need your support for this restaurant. Please come out to support it, and enjoy a cozy dining room, a friendly welcome, delicious and healthy food from an extensive and affordable menu, and linger over a nice espresso or other coffee drink after dinner.

Omar’s Italian/Mediterranean Restaurant to Open Soon in St. Ann Saturday, Jul 4 2009 

Omar's Restaurant Building

Omar's Restaurant Building

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.

Espresso Machine

Espresso Machine

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.

Sign that caught my eye.

Sign that caught my eye.

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!

Outdoor fountain Northwest Plaza 1960s

Outdoor fountain Northwest Plaza 1960s

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.

Landscape architecture at its best: Northwest Plaza 1960s

Landscape architecture at its best: Northwest Plaza 1960s

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