CoMo’s (Slightly) Hidden Treasures
To find the best new spots in CoMo, you’ll have to venture beyond Broadway and Ninth.
Broadway and Ninth Street have long been vibrant commercial arteries boasting chic boutiques, cozy pubs, and casual and fancy dining. But that downtown axis doesn’t hold a monopoly on food, fun or shopping. To stay atop the latest trends in CoMo, you’ll have to venture off the beaten path.
What was once a cold storage area for the Wabash railroad that serviced CoMo in the 1920s has been turned into one of the hottest places for artists the past four years. Amid the coal chutes, wooden doorways, trapdoors and other vestiges of its rail past, Artlandish Gallery, 1019 E. Walnut St., and its downstairs “catacombs” is home to more than 50 artists producing paintings, pottery, jewelry, metalwork and more. Since November 2013, owner Lisa Bartlett’s “Bohemian paradise” has also been home to the java joint Fretboard Coffee, which is accessible from the catacombs or the rear alley. The outside back of the building plays host to the Farmers and Artisans Market every Sunday from late April through late October.
During a three-month study-abroad trip while a student at Northwest Missouri State University, Lydia Melton came to a life-changing realization: Belgium has really good food. Americans have already embraced the the region’s chocolate and beer; Melton, 25, is hoping we’ll go for German bretzels (bready pretzels — free with every liter of beer) and Belgian Liege waffles as well. She’s been peddling her fine European foods at the corner of Hitt Street and Alley A, the former site of the Pasta Factory, since September 2013. Melton has embraced the space’s printing-house origin with a factory-loft décor of exposed brick walls, metalwork chandelier, polished bar and a 1922 double-door boiler. The lunchtime and after-work drinks-and-apps crowd can enjoy the vibe inside or head out to the beer garden for downtown views.
Two mainstays of Francis Quadrangle migrate north this year, creating a spacious museum complex with an expanded gift shop on Business Loop 70 at Mizzou North, the former site of Ellis Fischel Cancer Center. The Museum of Art and Archaeology moved its more than 15,000 catalogued objects (and several thousand pieces from archaeological excavations) from Pickard Hall (a former chemistry building now closed for radiation testing). The Cast Gallery, featuring 19th-century casts of major works, is open, and the other galleries are expected to reopen in late summer. Missouri’s only museum of anthropology is still open inside Swallow Hall but will leave in June while the building is renovated. It is expected to reopen at Mizzou North in early summer.
CoMo’s “New Age general store” is tucked inside Alley A between Ninth and 10th streets, just south of Broadway. For the past three years, owner Jim Peckham has been quietly building a selection of items a metaphysical-minded store is expected to have, such as spirituality-themed books, incense and crystals. But there’s much in stock that’s unexpected as well, including alpaca yarn, rugs, socks and outerwear from locally raised alpaca, and a selection of unusual drinks, including mead and absinthe.
A bit west of Good Nature sits Kampai, Alley A’s original business. The upscale sushi restaurant opened almost four years ago. It features a variety of Japanese cuisine, from shrimp tempura and chicken bento boxes for culinary conservatives to octopus salad and barbecued eel for the more adventurous. Manager Art Wuttisak says his customers like the privacy the alley provides — and they love the crispy Brussels sprouts.
Kasey Ryan has been running her own catering business for years but always had the itch to open a restaurant. “Cooking is my passion,” she says. Anyone in CoMo who loves chicken and dumplings, grits, mac ‘n’ cheese, or sweet and savory pies will be glad she finally did. Open since November 2013, Café Utopia, 1013 E. Walnut St., fills a comfort-food niche in the bustling North Village Arts District.