Dining together for the first time, Chancellor Andrew D. Martin told Anna Gonzalez, the newly named vice chancellor for student affairs, that St. Louis boasted a world-class food scene.
Gonzalez was skeptical. A self-identified foodie (she lists it between “vice chancellor” and “dog mom” on her Twitter bio), Gonzalez had lived in and visited the globe’s preeminent dining destinations. How could St. Louis possibly compare?
“Let’s just say my expectations weren’t that high,” recalled Gonzalez with a laugh. “But I am happy to say that Chancellor Martin was right. Not only does St. Louis have a lot of great restaurants, there is so much variety — great cheap eats, fine dining, cuisine from every corner of the globe.”
Now it’s Gonzalez’s turn to educate newcomers. During Bear Beginnings orientation in August, she and Martin took first-year students on a food tour of the South Grand neighborhood, where they dined at Steve’s Hot Dogs, Terror Tacos and Salve Osteria and shopped at the beloved grocery store Jay’s International Foods.
And this month, Gonzalez has launched the food blog, “Good Eats with Chancellor Martin & Dr. G,” which will showcase a variety of restaurants and the people behind them. Schedules permitting, Gonzalez and Martin hope to visit a new restaurant every few weeks and share photos and recommendations. Their first trip was to Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, the south St. Louis landmark that Martin used to frequent during his days as a PhD student.
“Uncle Bill’s is perfect for hang outs (or study sessions!) and will fill any cravings you may have for classic homestyle cooking,” Gonzalez wrote.
In addition to budget-friendly options, the duo also will recommend trendy bistros and special occasion destinations for when visiting parents want to treat their Bears. Martin remembers the arrival of culinary trailblazer Gerard Craft and his cutting-edge restaurant Niche in 2005. Soon, more and more chefs put down stakes in the city, debuting innovative cafes, cocktail lounges and food trucks.
“This incredible community of chefs helped reactivate parts of the city and propelled the local food scene to national prominence,” Martin said. “New York City restaurateur and former WashU parent Danny Meyer now calls St. Louis one of the nation’s more exciting food cities.”
Martin also credited the entrepreneurial spirit of St. Louis’ immigrants for the region’s wide variety of dining options.
“St. Louis has over and over again really embraced immigrant populations, whether that be the Vietnamese in the 1970s or Bosnians in the 1990s or Afghans today,” Martin said. “Those folks have brought their food with them and have enriched the food scene here.”
Gonzalez hopes the blog will inspire students and their families to explore different neighborhoods and meet the people of St. Louis.
“One of the best ways to get to know a community is through its restaurants,” Gonzalez said. “Food brings us together. During the pandemic, we really learned just how important these spaces are in building community and that the people who prepare and serve our food are truly ‘essential.’ Going out to share a good meal is not only fun, it’s a way to honor that work.”