Review: The Loop vs. the Central West End

When searching for urban life and culture, one would have a hard time feeding their craving in sprawling, suburban, St. Charles County. When a St. Louisan thinks of urban culture, two distinct districts come to mind: the University City Loop along Delmar Blvd. and St. Louis’ Central West End centered along Euclid Avenue, just east of Forest Park.

While on the surface the two neighborhoods look very similar, a closer look shows that these two distinct districts are exactly that- distinct. Distinct from other neighborhoods and distinct from each other. It’s easy to see why many people assume the two are replicates of one another. Both are centered along a single street. Both possess restaurants, bars, cafes, book and music stores and heck, they both even have a Pi’s Pizzeria. But the similarities just about end there.

You encounter your first difference as soon as you step out of your car. Just by taking a glance at your surroundings, you will notice that The Loop is definitely more of a tourist trap. The whole stretch caters to out-of-towners, whether that be those visiting from other locations in the St. Louis area or vacationers. The stretch of Delmar includes the St. Louis Walk of Fame and nationally known institutions such as Blueberry Hill, The Pagaent, and Fitz’s Root Beer Brewery. The Loop also possesses a great diversity of food selection. Found along Delmar includes anything from large Italian restaurants to hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurants to Mexican cuisine.

The Central West End caters more to locals who live within its radius. Although Euclid Avenue doesn’t contain the same nationally known eating and entertainment establishments and culinary diversity is lacking as compared to its more famous cousin, it makes up this gap in notoriety and diversity with just plain good food and entertainment.

The American-cuisine restaurant, Culpepper’s, was exceptionally good; and it didn’t cost a pretty penny. $8 bought me a chicken club sandwich and fries. I would be hard pressed to get that much food for the price at let’s say Fitz’s on Delmar.

Another attribute that the Loop possesses that the Central West End does not is liveliness. No matter what the time of day it is, Delmar Boulevard is absolutely packed. There are literally thousands of people on the mile stretch at any given time. The population at the Central West End pales in comparison. Granted, it was on a chilly Sunday afternoon when I visited, but you could just tell by the infrastructure that the Central West End wasn’t built to attract the crowds that The Loop does.

The Central West End feels more like a neighborhood than an entertainment district. The Loop possesses very few residences along Delmar Boulevard while the Central West End has many apartment high rises and homes centered along Euclid Avenue. This changes the business scene. While The Loop caters towards visitors with a multitude of establishments and entertainment options, the Central West End caters to residents. Nestled among restaurants and bars are grocery stores and little coffee shops. The Loop may be the place the party, but the Central West End could be the ideal place to live.

So when it comes down to it, it is tough to make a definitive decision. I picture the Central West End as a little slice of New York. Not the New York you see in the movies or on tv, but the New York that New Yorkers actually patronize. I feel you could find a Central West End-esque street in every major city across the country. The Loop on the other hand is distinctively St. Louis. No place else in the United States is quite like it. With its quirks and diversity along with its cultural institutions and nightlife. The fact of the matter is that it isn’t fair to compare these two distinct areas of St. Louis. While at the surface, the two look like carbon copies of each other spaced 3.6 miles apart, the truth is that the two are very different. Both serve distinct purposes, and serve them well. I’d recommend both.