The Queer Girl's Guide to St. Louis

Picture this: you’re new to St. Louis, you’re a lesbian, you’ve got, like, one and a half friends, you just downloaded Tinder and have become a serial swiper… You’re me circa August 2018. I was a terrified freshman that knew nothing about the city I’d just moved to. I wanted so badly to explore STL and make new friends. So, one coffee shop at a time, that’s what I did. While on this mission, I found a bunch of queer-owned, queer-accepting, or just plain queer-appealing places that every gay should know about.

Restaurants

1.  Mokabe’s Coffeehouse, located off Arsenal and South Grand. Even though the rest of this list is absolutely not in any order of importance, Mokabe’s has the top spot for a reason. A coffee shop with an impressive Sunday brunch and a mean turkey club, Mokabe’s is known for being politically active and accepting while having, biasedly, the best lattes in St. Louis (the Sarahbucks? Undefeated). Unfortunately for my wallet, I find myself at Mokabe’s at least twice a week and starting a tab each time. Mokabe’s made me like coffee, so it pretty much changed my life. If you’re going to go anywhere on this list, make it Mokabe’s.

2.  Shameless Grounds, located off Withnell near Anheuser Busch. While I haven’t made it to Shameless yet, I’ve heard amazing things and plan on going soon! It’s an openly sex-positive spot, which most find wonderful; however, if sex makes you uncomfortable, proceed with caution. Customers rave about the great food and coffee at Shameless, but what makes it special is its free library consisting of a wide assortment of queer, feminist, and sex-related books.

3.  Hamburger Mary’s, downtown off 44. While Hamburger Mary’s is a chain, I still think it’s cool enough to mention. Hamburger Mary’s is an American cuisine restaurant that hosts drag shows, trivia, bingo, and the occasional brunch. A word of advice: go on the weekends for the best crowds and the sassiest drag shows. I went once on a Wednesday, and it was the opposite of poppin’.

4.  The Fountain on Locust, a short five minutes from SLU’s campus. Let me be clear: there’s nothing queer about the Fountain. It’s just got really, really good ice cream. The atmosphere is ~quirky~ and set in the 30’s-40’s. The booths have curtains you can close and a personal speaker playing soap operas you can’t hear anywhere else. And the grilled cheese? Slaps.

5.  Blue Ocean, in the Loop. Again, not explicitly queer, but a very cool, younger clientele and staff. Blue Ocean is a Japanese restaurant with my absolute favorite sushi. My girlfriend and I are frequent fliers at Blue Ocean (the dim lights make it seem like a fancier date night for a cheaper price). My personal favorites on the menu are the Hello Kitty roll, the fried California roll, and the crab rangoons.  

General Areas

1.  The Grove. The Grove runs parallel to 64 and consists of a few blocks of restaurants, bars, clubs, music venues, and shops. The Grove is explicitly queer: there’s pride flags left and right all down the street. I also love the murals the Grove hosts, mostly because they remind me of downtown Kansas City (my main girl, shout out to Blue Springs). Key highlights include, but are not limited to, the following: Rise Coffee, Layla Lebanese Restaurant, Sauce on the Side (calzone restaurant), Vincent van Doughnut, and the Ready Room (concert venue).

2.   The (Delmar) Loop. The Loop is in WashU’s territory and hosts many restaurants, shops, and concert halls… and also has a trolley for some reason. While not as queer as the Grove, the Loop is geared towards college kids, which makes for a pretty accepting crowd. I’m honestly in the Loop more than I am the Grove, mainly for Blue Ocean, Baked Bear (the BEST ice cream sandwiches), the Pageant (concert venue), Meshuggah Café, and Pitaya (clothing store that has drained my bank account on more than one occasion).

3.  Tower Grove Park. On South Grand, Tower Grove Park is Forest Park’s cooler, older sister that’s way less crowded and far less intimidating. Tower Grove Park is a fun place to grab your latte from Mokabe’s (across the street, not just another shameless plug), set up a hammock, and forget about the crippling anxiety college has put on you. Tower Grove Park also annually hosts the Festival of Nations, a fun weekend event with tents of food and gifts from lots of different countries. There’s also a lowkey pride celebration in June in the park that’s more chill and family-friendly.

Nightlife*

*Disclaimer: I have never once in my life taken part in any kind of night life because I am the lamest homebody you’ll ever meet. So, this section will be brief.

1.  Rehab Bar and Grill, in the Grove. I’ve heard from many a gay that Rehab is a fun time. Dancing, drinks, and drag shows, what more could you want?

2.  Atomic Cowboy, in the Grove. I’ve heard less about Atomic Cowboy, so there’s not much I can say either way about it. But, apparently, they’ve got Mexican food and live music, so that’s fun!

3.  Attitudes Nightclub, in the Grove (I’m noticing a theme). From what I’ve heard, Attitudes and Rehab seem pretty similar (drag, gays, drinks), except at Attitudes, you can get in (legally) at 18. Both sound fun if you’re not a complete shut-in like I am.

Resources

1.  Planned Parenthood, on South Grand and on Forest Park Ave. In this house, we love, respect, and commend PP and all that it does for the community. Visit Planned Parenthood for low-cost or free STD testing and treatment, birth control, hormone therapy, cancer screening, and free dental dams, condoms, and other safe-sex necessities (UGH, look at all those amazing services. We LOVE Planned Parenthood).

2.  MTUG: Metro Trans Umbrella Group, near Tower Grove East. MTUG unites the city’s vast trans resources in one place. Upon visiting MTUG’s website, you can find a list of therapists, medical resources, support groups, and helplines. I, admittedly, know little about MTUG, but I’d like to learn more and will be doing so!

3.  St. Louis Queer+ Support Helpline, available Friday-Sunday, 1:00-5:00pm.  The helpline recently (September 2019) launched as a peer support hotline run by volunteers. According to their Facebook page, the helpline provides, “free, confidential, and identity-affirming emotional support, resources, and referrals.” The helpline’s local number is (314) 380-7774, but if that number is unavailable, try (844) 785-7774.

4.  Rainbow Alliance @SLU, office in the Busch Student Center (BSC) by the mail room. Rainbow Alliance hosts meetings every other Wednesday at 6:00pm in BSC 127, where there’s a heck-ton of queer resources, the Queer Closet, and pride buttons! The e-board for Rainbow holds office hours (posted on the door) where you can talk to them confidentially about whatever your little gay heart desires. Keep up with Rainbow Alliance on Instagram @slu_rainbow.

Last-Call Miscellaneous 

Just a dump of other cool places in STL you should know about!

1.  The Old Rock House, a tiny concert venue near the river where I first saw the one and only lesbian god, Lauren Sanderson (stream Hotel Room).

2.  Notch STL, a queer-owned, queer-friendly hair salon in the Grove.

3.  Flowers and Weeds, a hip little plant shop off Cherokee. Great for all the gay, artsy plant moms out there.

4.  Pridefest, downtown STL every June. Sweat it out with the other local gays while stocking up on rainbow accessories and watching the parade.

5.  Arch Apparel, off Hanley in Brentwood. A brick-and-mortar store offering STL streetwear for you to rep your new city with.