side project cellar manager shae smith photos by r.j. hartbeck

Explore St. Louis bars, vegetarian eateries with The Side Project Cellar's Shae Smith

Shae Smith, tasting room manager at The Side Project Cellar, started her career as a host at Pi Pizzeria. She eventually ended up behind the bar, which stoked her burgeoning interest in craft beer and the culinary scene. “I fell in love with the industry and didn’t look back,” she said. 

Four years ago, Smith’s love of beer led to an opportunity to help open Side Project. “I knew that was where I needed to be.” When she’s not on the job slinging brews, Smith likes to make the rounds, sampling fine wines, quesadillas and everything in between that St. Louis has to offer. 

1. The Whiskey Ring
The Whiskey Ring is one of Smith’s favorite post-shift hangs, and she especially likes to kick back on the bar’s recently finished patio. “I’m there all the time after work drinking Stags and fernets and unwinding after a busy day,” she said.

small change in benton park // photo by david kovaluk

2. Small Change
“Ever since Small Change opened, I’ve loved going in there in the early afternoon with my computer and catching up on emails,” Smith said of the Benton Park watering hole. “There are always dogs there, which I love. I know I can go in and get a Last Word – my favorite cocktail – and relax a bit.”

3. Louie
“It’s a nice place to sit by yourself at the bar and drink delicious wine and eat some amazing pizza,” Smith said. For Smith, the service is the epitome of above and beyond. “One of the first times I was there, I saw the manager take off his jacket and give it to someone sitting on the patio because she was cold. I was like, ‘Is this a real place?’”

4. Turn
“I like brunch a lot,” Smith said, and one of her go-to a.m. eateries is Turn in Grand Center. She enjoys browsing through the menu looking for new tastes, though she has favorites. “The biscuit flight – let’s talk about the biscuit flight! Where else can you get one? It’s so good!” she said, adding the polenta cake is also a frequent order.

civil life brewing co. in south city // photo by david kovaluk

5. The Civil Life Brewing Co.
“I live within walking distance, so we go to Civil Life a lot on Sundays. We call it church. Some of us meet up there and just drink Civil Life – what could be better?” she said. “If I can go to Civil Life and drink a beer and have a little bit of wine after, it’s kind of a dream.”

As a vegetarian, Smith has several places she frequents for meat-free meals. “I love SweetArt,” she said. “It’s impossible to leave that place without getting cupcakes or brownies, and if you’re lucky enough, one of their cinnamon rolls.” 

Other favorites include Living Room in Maplewood (“They have awesome veggie options.”), Lona’s Lil Eats (“That bamboo stew is so good!”) and one particular guilty pleasure: 

“I love Taco Bell,” she said. “I’m a sucker for quesadillas. I try not to eat it too much, but sometimes you just need it. And, as a vegetarian, it’s easier for me to eat there than most other [fast-food] places.”

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine.