South Grand's nightlife scene is thriving
The late-night scene has returned to South Grand, says Danni Eickenhorst. And she would know. Eickenhorst is the CEO of HUSTL Hospitality Group and co-owner of Steve's Hot Dogs (3145 S. Grand Blvd.), which moved to the destination dining strip from Tower Grove East in 2021. It was a hard time for the street: South Grand was hit hard by the pandemic not just in the usual ways, but by the fact that some restaurateurs who’d been at it for decades decided the midst of a pandemic was as good as any time to retire.
But a raft of dynamic new bars and restaurants — and even an events space – have now opened their doors, and to the delight of night owls, many of these places are staying open later.
Eickenhorst recently joined us to explain what’s afoot. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
When did you realize South Grand was back?
I was hanging out with my crew at Steve's Hot Dogs, closing up the restaurant last weekend. And as we're closing up and enjoying each other's company, we noticed that there were just throngs of people moving up and down South Grand, and honestly, it's been a while since we've seen that. Part of the reason we came to South Grand was because of that nightlife and the scene that South Grand has always been known for. Coming in post-COVID, it was kind of a bummer to see that that had really gone away with all the closures and changes in consumer behavior. I reached out to all of our neighbors in the district and said, “Are you guys seeing this? Or is it just us? Was it a one off?” And they all said, “No, absolutely. We're seeing it. South Grand late night is back.”
What's driving that change?
There's all of these new concepts coming in. There is just so much activity between Kenny's Upstairs and New Society and some other new concepts that are starting up. We've decided to go ahead and open up Steve's ‘til midnight on the weekends and a lot of the spots down here are making a similar change this weekend or in February.
We've got Manileño, the Filipino concept coming here next month. There'll be a new bar opening up just down the road above Treehouse (the Nite Owl). So there's a lot happening already, and more coming.
Have you noticed a trend of people who got in the pandemic habit of always ordering takeout getting back into in-person dining?
Yes. I think people are starting to crave that human connection again. It was hard for all of us to return to the office and get back into the swing of things, but we are seeing people that were traditionally just DoorDash orders at Steve's starting to become regulars in the store again. That's refreshing. As a restaurateur, a huge part of your job is creating hospitality and these great experiences in a warm and welcoming environment, and when people made the shift online, you worried about what's next for the industry. To see the takeout trend sort of reversing and people coming out of their shells has been exciting.
Is there a cocktail at one of your fellow South Grand establishments you recommend people run out and try?
My favorite spot right now on South Grand — and it changes monthly, but my favorite spot right now — is New Society with Meredith Barry and Michael Fricker. And my favorite cocktail right now is the Pumpkin Three Ways. It is ridiculous and over-the-top and experiential. It's three drinks in one and it takes you on a journey. They're doing things that nobody else in St. Louis is doing. Every drink is a drink and a snack and an activity. That would definitely be my recommendation: Get a reservation, hit up New Society, get a seat at the bar. Talk to Meredith about how she created these drinks. It's the best date night and a great night out with friends.
Same question, but favorite late-night eat?
I would say the Basic Witch Taco at Terror Tacos is my go-to late night, for when you've been out and you've had a couple drinks.
Finally, what's the go-to Steve's late-night menu item?
Oh, it's our Geddy Lee poutine dog. It's got cheese curds, white gravy, bacon. It is unbelievable. Buffalo fries on top. It's an adventure. Definitely split it with a friend. It is the perfect sort of late-night dog.
This article was originally published by the Riverfront Times.