Are You Hungry?
Over recent years, Ferguson has engaged in a visioning process. There has been a particular focus on planning for the Downtown Area. Participants in the 1999 Ferguson Downtown Vision process included “full-service restaurants” as something they wanted to see in the next twenty years. “Downtown Ferguson was once the heart of economic activity for the northern suburbs, featuring streetcar service to nearly the entire region. Florissant Road was lined with restaurants, department stores, offices…” (Downtown Strategic Development Plan, hereafter DSDP, page 17). In a public open house, September 13, 2008, people described the kinds of restaurants they wanted to see: the desires ranged from franchises (with a view to attracting college students, who identify with brands), to white tablecloth dining. There was also a request for international or ethnic restaurants, kid friendly and non-smoking restaurants, healthy food choices coupled with hamburgers. So: an eclectic assortment of restaurants.
Where is Ferguson Citywalk at today making this a reality?
There are twenty-four or more restaurants in the Citywalk district. It’s “or more” if you include the three bakeries and the potential of grazing at the Farmers Market.
So what have we? First of all, there are currently four pizza places: Imo’s, Little Caesar’s, Papa John’s and Faraci Pizza (a Ferguson Original). There are several franchises: Popeye’s, Quiznos, St. Louis Fish & Chicken Grill and Subway. There are four Chinese restaurants: Chinese Express, New Chinese Gourmet, Ferguson Chop Suey and Queen’s House.
Then there are the Ferguson CityWalk Originals. The beauty of original, non-franchised locations is that they can only be found here in downtown Ferguson (except for Faraci Pizza, established in Ferguson, which has expanded to other locations). It’s great for Fergusonians in two ways: it presents some nice options close to home, and it draws people into the area.
These are the Ferguson Citywalk Originals: Banana Yummies, Cathy’s Kitchen,Celebrity Southern Soul Food, Cork, Corner Coffee House, Drake’s Place, Faraci Pizza, Ferguson Brewing Company Restaurant and Pub, Marley’s, Mimi’s Subway Bar and Grill, Vincenzo’s Italian Ristorante, The (soon to return) Whistle Stop, (Montrey’s Cigar Lounge isn’t technically a restaurant, but it is certainly a Ferguson CitywalkOriginal.)
The restaurant business can be tough. Small businesses do not have the economies of scale that a McDonald’s or Domino’s boasts: small businesses pay more for ingredients and equipment than a big franchise. That means they must charge more than McDonald’s – of course, you get a higher quality menu item for that money. The hours are demanding and create a real balancing act for a family business. With all those challenges, this small area along Florissant Road, Airport Road and Darst has a pretty nice concentration of small business restaurants.
The next few columns will explore the restaurant history of the Downtown District (Ferguson Citywalk). Possibly, by the time the current locations have been written about, there will be one or two new arrivals!