First Look: Saturn Lounge on Cherokee Street in St. Louis
Saturn Lounge is a unique new entry on Cherokee Street, equal parts cocktail bar and listening lounge. The bar, which is co-owned by KDHX DJ Doug Morgan, is located at 1915 Cherokee St. in South City.
Saturn Lounge is located in an attractive standalone building set a little back from the street, which allows for a streetside patio, rare among neighboring venues. The bar’s charming interior is the outcome of a gut rehab that lasted two-and-a-half years, with attention to detail evident in many of the design features, from the lighting and furniture to the mix of artwork. “We probably looked at 300 lights before we settled on those,” said Morgan. The whole venue has an indoor capacity of 49, with five booths in the front room and 10 stools at the bar. Larger groups can seat themselves in the back room, which is centered around a large sofa.
Some eagle-eyed customers may recognize the main bar, which was recovered from the old Balaban’s in the Central West End. “My partner was walking down the street when they were demoing the place, and he used to work there as a bus boy 30 years ago,” said Morgan. “They said, ‘If you can get it out of here, it’s yours.’ He sawed it down, and then we put it back together.” The booths in the back room were also salvaged from Balaban’s when it closed.
Morgan has been a DJ on KDHX for 32 years, as well as formerly co-owning bars such as Boogaloo and the now-closed Delmar Restaurant & Lounge. His show, The Record Sto’, is on air from 2 to 4 p.m. on Thursdays. Morgan said his idea of a listening lounge was partially inspired by the kissaten culture that thrived in Japan in the aftermath of World War II. Kissaten were nominally teahouses, but are often associated closely with coffee in Japan. Before record players were a common household item, the local kissaten was the place to go to hear new music, including imports from overseas. “There would usually be one guy in there pouring tea or maybe whiskey and playing records,” Morgan said.
At Saturn Lounge, Morgan is that guy, “reading the mood” to pilot customers on a distinct, eclectic musical adventure. Morgan is happy to discuss music with customers, but he reserves the right to deny requests. “It’s not a jukebox,” he said. Instrumental to the vision is a crystal-clear sound system, whose bass rumbles pleasantly without drowning out conversation. “You go to a lot of places and maybe there's good music, maybe there's not, but whatever music is playing either primarily tends to be in the background, just wallpaper, or it's too loud,” he said. “Good quality sound doesn't have to be all that loud.”
Even in the bar’s early days, the cocktail list has evolved in response to customer feedback. Morgan said that current favorites include the Violet Fizz (gin, violet liqueur, simple syrup and soda) and the Bolero (pineapple-jalapeno tequila, mezcal, cilantro liqueur and pineapple), as well as an off-menu ginger mojito. A total of seven cocktails are listed on the menu, but any standard cocktail is available on request. The bar also offers eight wines by the glass, a figure that Morgan said is likely to expand. A large selection of draft, canned and bottled beers is dominated by local brews, and the non-alcoholic drink list includes NA beers and liquor alternatives as well as Sump cold brew.
Food will be added to Saturn Lounge’s offerings “hopefully within six months,” Morgan said. The kitchen will be located in an adjacent building, and Morgan said he’s envisioning a menu that will focus on small plates. “A little upscale, but approachable,” he said.
Saturn Lounge opens at 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday with a closing time dependent on the crowd. “On weekdays there have been nights at 10 o’ clock when the place just empties out, but if there’s people still hanging, we’ll stay open,” Morgan said.
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