Chef Tour: Ashley Rouch of Union Loafers
Ashley Rouch always knew she’d work in a kitchen. “I was always fascinated with food,” she said. After stints at Baileys’ Chocolate Bar and Pint Size Bakery, Rouch is transitioning from her job as Reeds American Table’s executive pastry chef to the bread baking team at Union Loafers Café and Bread Bakery this month. Her culinary background means she values fine food and drink, but ultimately, it’s good service that makes Rouch a repeat customer. “I want to be in an environment where I always feel welcome,” she said.
1. Southwest Diner
Southwest Diner is a frequent stop for Rouch since it’s on her daily route to Reeds. “You can tell they take individual care with each ingredient.” One dish she can’t pass up is the sopapilla, and she said Southwest’s guacamole is also something special. “It steals the show – it’s the best guacamole in St. Louis.”
2. Taqueria El Bronco
“I’m a big fan of Mexican food; hands down, it’s my favorite,” Rouch said. When she needs a dose of the real deal, she heads to this Cherokee Street staple. “They have some of the best authentic tacos in town,” she said. Her favorite? “Al pastor all the way. There’s just something about the pineapple with the savoriness of the pork that’s so comforting.”
“On the higher end [of Mexican food], I love Público. Their pork belly taco I could eat every day,” Rouch said. “They don’t get as much press as I feel they should. Their service is always great.”
4. Union Loafers Café and Bread Bakery
“I love them for both lunch and pizza,” Rouch said of this Botanical Heights standby. “They’ve spoiled me on the pizza front – now it’s hard to go anywhere else.” She’s also a fan of Loafers’ sandwiches and salads. “The amount of care and quality they put into their work is amazing.”
5. Coma Coffee Roasters
Rouch takes her coffee seriously. “I’m a huge coffee person, and my husband used to be a barista,” Rouch said. Coma Coffee is her go-to to satisfy caffeine needs. “Connor [James], their roaster, is so talented in what he’s doing with their coffee. They supply our coffee at Reeds, so I get to see them and talk to them all of the time. They’re really doing great things.”
6. Tick Tock Tavern
“It’s right by our house, so we can easily walk there,” Rouch said of the south city spot. “I just love the super old-school vibe. It reminds me of Iowa, where I grew up.” Rouch also likes the fact that Tick Tock is conveniently located next to Steve’s Hot Dogs, in case happy hour turns into dinner. Plus, “Who can argue with a $3 Schlitz?”
Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine.
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