Posted On: 10/01/2012
Livery Co., 3211 Cherokee St., St. Louis, Facebook: Livery Company
For years Cherokee Street has clung tightly to its calling as the hottest little out-of-the-way food district. Staple taquerias like La Vallesana and El Bronco, along with newcomers like Tower Taco, provide authentic Mexican fare to diners who avoid the cookie cutter Mexican “platos especials” and opt instead for dishes like cow tongue sprinkled with cilantro and onion and folded into house-made corn tortillas. Recently, Cherokee’s alcohol offerings have blossomed as well, steadily drawing hipsters to decamp from their apartments to toss back a few.
This summer, El Leñador, the German knackwurst hall-turned-nightclub and underground music sensation, gained an equally edgy neighbor in Livery Co. Meant to evoke the spirit of prohibition and the dawn of the cocktail age, Livery Co. styles itself not so much a speakeasy as a vintage dive bar that offers fine wine, an aromatic brew or a delicately crafted cocktail. Does it succeed? Yes and no. The bar itself is a winner: classic, well-arranged and intelligently stocked. From behind an attractive handmade oak bar that was crafted by one of the owner’s fathers (new yet stylishly weathered), a bartender eagerly mixes up tall mixtures of spirits from a short stack of small-batch liquors. Fans of standard hooch – i.e. Jack Daniels, Smirnoff, Jäger – will no doubt be put off. Too bad for them. More adventurous drinkers can take sublime pleasure in the half dozen or so rotating cocktail specials proudly chalked over the bar. Classic cocktails are done up well here with no frills. Standouts include the Pimm’s Cup, a popular European drink and signature offering at Livery Co. that blends Pimms liquor with 7-Up, lemonade and a cucumber garnish. For something more substantial in terms of alcohol, might I suggest a Winchester, which couples a trio of gins with grapefruit juice, lime, St. Germaine, grenadine, ginger syrup and bitters? The beer list boasts a handful of independent labels and hipster classics alike: Stag, PBR, High Life, Lagunitas IPA, Anchor Steam Beer and Angry Orchard Cider (the last being the only draft offering).
While the classic cocktail joint setup works well at and behind the bar, the 1920s-style feel is conspicuously absent. The haphazard decor has the all-too-familiar hallmarks of an indie-rock dive bar. A small stage sitting in the front window serves as a centerpiece, filled on occasion by guitar-strumming open-mic’ers and karaoke fans. The yellow walls are lined with random posters, knickknacks, 3-D paperclip art, even an oversized world map (seemingly torn from someone’s dorm room wall). The smoking area out back (essentially a parking lot) is likewise thrown together, with random chairs and an awkwardly placed fire pit. Also a bit out of place is the offering of pizzas. Though food is always appreciated, it is exceedingly hard to justify this addition in what is being touted as a prohibition-style cocktail house.
Who you’ll meet frittering away at Livery’s bar or puffing on a cigarette on the blacktop out back will vary. The place has the feel of an exclusive house party catered to a close-knit group of friends – the kind primarily made up of young artists along with all stripes of 20-something South Grand, Benton Park and Tower Grove residents continuing in their constant quests for cheap PBR and hip watering holes.
Livery Co. is hardly the ideal venue for an ex frat-boy sporting a Polo shirt. But with an imaginative drink menu, generous pours and a knowledgeable staff, it’s a welcome change of pace. It’s hard to say what will become of this scrappy little Cherokee newcomer, which still needs to come to terms with its theme and décor. But overall, it’s smart, carefree and just on the edge of conceited – a perfect combination of traits for this neighborhood.
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