Bowling isn't just a kitschy museum subject in St. Louis. It's a kitschy theme for a bar, too. Pin-Up Bowl, in the Loop district, is small (eight lanes), carefully crafted, and upstart, with pinup-girl pictures and Key lime pie martinis. How cool is Pin-Up? Rap star Nelly, who grew up in the area, holds high score at 257.
It's now Saturday night, and craving a dinner worthy of such, Dave and I decide to splurge. Gently. Chez Léon in the leafy, shop-lined Central West End district pays tribute to the city's French roots with a bistro menu of escargots, duck confit, and steak frites. Plus, it has a bargain three courses for $32. We give in to the Parisian murals, vintage cognac posters, and apron-clad waiters and admit Léon is romantic in a classic but schmaltz-free way.
Declining the soufflé, we save dessert for Ted Drewes, the destination Route 66 maker of shakes so thick they're called concretes, and are served upside down to prove it. The place is mobbed at 10 p.m., 20 deep with clots of teenagers, families, dates, even dogs. Splitting the "terra mizzou," a chocolate and pistachio combo, we spy on the swarm of high-schoolers whipping out the custard treats.