Create a modern food court, but make it Gotham. That is how it feels when walking in the City Foundry for the first time. Located just south of Saint Louis University's campus on Forest Park Parkway, occupying a 15 acre property originally founded over a century ago as Century Electric, the City Foundry represents another step in the growth of the Midtown/Cortex corridor of the city, bringing the growing concept of the food hall to our region.
So, what is a food hall anyway? The easiest way to describe it would be to picture a dozen food trucks one day decided to permanently park together in the middle of a huge building, with plenty of tables and chairs filling in the spaces between for patrons to sit and dine. But this is not like a mall food court, where chain restaurants fling pizza and chicken nuggets en masse. These are local food creators, experimenting with new food trends, testing out new concepts, or creating the first brick and mortal locations for previously mobile business models.
Even the space itself, the old foundry building, is trendy, in a dirty(yet clean) and grungy city way. The creators of the City Foundry fully embraced the building's history, clearing out only enough space for the kitchens, sales counters, and seating areas. If a remnant of history could be left behind, it seems they left it in place, and even up-cycled some pieces. Support columns throughout the food hall still bare the spray paint placed by vandals or prior construction crews. Every table is stamped REFAB on the edge, indicating the use of refurbished materials. A large fluid tank on stilts hovers over The Kitchen Bar, where patrons can grab drinks and sit around the bar. Two large pipe stacks are converted to seating areas with counter tops and stools surrounding them, and a mosaic of moss squares reaching skyward up the stacks. Following even higher, you see probably three or four stories up into the support beams of the building, where natural light streams in through windows and weathered steel beams cast shadows across the hall. It is straight out of a Batman movie. It seems the only fresh thing in the building are the food vendors and the food. Was that a conscious decision? I hope so, because someone should take credit for that idea.
With this opening, only eleven of the many planned eateries opened within the space, and one can clearly see that there are open kitchen bays waiting for other tenants to move in. This made for fairly long lines at some of the counters, but it helped to remind myself that if you took the large crowd that showed up for the first few days of business, and spread them out amongst a few more food options once they open, it will significantly improve the long lines that some took to social media to complain about.
Best Bite: Let's start right off the bat with best thing I ate after two visits to the City Foundry. I will preface this by saying, nothing I ate was disappointing. Everything was good, but some things were great. And the greatest of all were the tacos from Kalbi Taco Shack. This is the kind of food you want to eat at a place like this. A la carte asian/mexican fusion tacos. Great flavor, a few different vegetarian & vegan options as well. Tasty stuff.
Best Bite Honorable Mention: Patty's Cheesecakes was serving up a small selection of different desserts, and being a good St. Louisan, opted for the Gooey Butter Cheesecake, because GOOEY BUTTER CHEESECAKE! It was really really delicious, easily my favorite thing I ate. So why the honorable mention? Because it wasn't really a gooey butter cheesecake. It was a perfect piece of cheesecake, that had an exactly same shaped piece of equally perfect gooey butter cake just sitting on top of it! That just bothered me a little, but regardless, taking a bite with both cakes was devine. At $8 it wasn't a cheap dessert, but I would honestly say it's worth it.
Best Menu: SubDivision Sandwich Co. is serving up some great sandwiches, but the menu makes you stop for a moment and ponder, because all of their sandwich names are based on famous movie quotes. My favorites, in name only because I didn't try them all, were a pesto, mozzarella and tomato sandwich called the "Have You Seen My Stapler?", and a sort of turkey, bacon, avocado club called the "I'll Have What She's Having." The news is still out on if the sandwich is really good, or if it's just faking it.
Longest Lines: Do you think long lines are an indication of slow counter service, or of pure popularity? This early in the life of of a food hall, it's really too early too tell. But for what it's worth, the longest lines during my lunch visit both days were at Hello Poke! and Kalbi Taco Shack.
What's missing: The people were there. The food was good and diverse. Parking was easy. The infrastructure is there for more food vendors to join soon. So what is missing at the City Foundry? Not much, but a few things could be added to make the experience better. Off the bat, more trash cans are needed. Both visits, I found myself standing up with my trash, and had to go hunting around corners for a trash can. There was also no recycling, but I wouldn't be surprised if that is planned, just not implemented yet. Lunch beverages also seemed to be rather basic. Every vendor had canned & bottled beverages of varying brands, but I really desired a fountain soda or a big iced tea with lots of ice.
Have you been to the City Foundry yet? Share your experience, and what you ate, with us on social media using #ChewInTheLou!