It’s hard to describe one of St. Louis’ latest restaurants as, well, a restaurant. The term is far too limiting for categorizing Circa STL, the new hometown-themed casual eatery located just off Manchester Road and I-270 in Des Peres. The words “attraction” and “museum” need to figure somewhere in its description, or perhaps “memory lane” or “collector’s paradise.” That’s because Circa STL is much more than just a place to grab a bite with family, friends or coworkers. It’s also a look at some of St. Louis’ unique history through an impressive display of collectibles, souvenirs and memorabilia.
Circa STL opened a few months ago as the passion project of Brian and Sheila Walsh. The impressive displays lining walls and filling cases throughout the restaurant are filled with Walsh’s personal collection, which he’s amassed over the past 40-plus years. The eatery is the first place that his collection has ever been publicly displayed.
The entire space is one big heartfelt tribute to the ‘Lou. Cardinals fans, word of warning – your dinner plate might get cold while you admire case after case of team-themed collectibles. Balls, pin-back buttons, beer steins, figurines, books, old cans of pop and more celebrate the best team in baseball through the years, from the Gashouse Gang to El Birdos. Those longing for the bygone days of NFL franchises will enjoy perusing the artifacts from the St. Louis Cardinals football team.
St. Louis’ many beverage companies are on display, with old bottles and antiques representing St. Louis Dairy Company, Stettner & Thoma Brewery, Falstaff Brewing Corporation, Breimeyer Soda, Anheuser-Busch and more. (You may want to have your cell phone handy to Google search all the names you’ll read – even a life-long St. Louisan may not know them all.)
There’s much more to see, from old board games and sporting equipment to crocks and cans to cash registers and stoves to signage and pennants, each item sharing a little look into St. Louis’ history. Thankfully for families with small children, most everything is under lock and glass, so you can roam the restaurant without yelling “don’t touch that!” quite so often.
Wait, did we mention there’s also dining? Yes, for all its indecision about identity, Circa STL is first and foremost a restaurant. But they’ve incorporated their local theme into many of the dishes as well. Starters include Gus’s pretzels and toasted ravioli, of course. Warm up with a cup of Famous Barr French onion soup. There’s St. Louis-style thin crust pizza and BBQ pork steak sandwiches and dinners, along with the open-faced STL prosperity sandwich (ham and turkey with tomato, provel cheese and alfredo sauce). And yes, gooey butter cake for dessert.
The menu also features lots of American and casual fare, like half-pound burgers, BLTs, pasta dishes, steak, chicken and fish, plus loads of sides. Be sure to try the fries, just to sample the ketchup. Our dinner party debated whether it was spiked with barbecue sauce or BBQ potato chip crumbles – either way, it has an interesting kick! Circa also has a children’s menu featuring oversized portions of shell mac and cheese and fun rolled grilled cheese; high chairs are available for the littles. Circa STL also offers you-pick-two options for lunchtime diners and intriguing cocktails inspired by the clubs from Gaslight Square.
Circa STL is located at 1090 Old Des Peres Road, Des Peres, MO, 63131. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Since opening, there’s often been a line at peak times on Friday and Saturday nights, so if you want to avoid a long wait with kids, try dining before the 6 to 8 p.m. rush. Reservations and a private party room are available; call 314-394-1196 to inquire. Browse their full menu, see photos, and get answers to some helpful FAQs on Circa STL’s website at www.circa-stl.com.
Karen Hill is a Florissant native who spent over a decade in communications at the Missouri Botanical Garden. She's currently a SAHM to three young children and owner of Olive + Peony children's clothing boutique. Her family resides in Kirkwood.
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