Some folks consider East Saint Louis part of Missouri, but this small city actually sits on the southwestern edge of Illinois. A quick 3-mile drive over the Martin Luther King bridge takes residents to downtown Saint Louis, Missouri in less than 10 minutes, but residents can find plenty of fun things to do, from visiting nightclubs to dining in sit-down restaurants, without leaving their hometown.
Informational sites paint a grim picture of East Saint Louis, but residents and city officials have been working hard to rebuild this once-industrial city over the last few years. A dedicated police team patrols neighborhoods and businesses regularly, and minority-owned businesses thrive in this city. Women own approximately 52 percent of the businesses in East Saint Louis, and black business owners manage more than 73 percent of the companies in this area.
Restaurants & Nightlife
East Saint Louis has an exciting nightlife scene that draws in visitors from both Illinois and Missouri. The area has several adult clubs for guests who are over the age of 21 as well as a gambling venue called the Casino Queen for folks who enjoy penny slots and poker. If you prefer to shake and sway to loud music yourself rather than watching other dancers twirl around on a stage, you can visit Oz Nightclub seven days a week for bass-heavy music and ice-cold beers. Avoid crowds by visiting this popular dance club before 3 a.m; bar hoppers often head to the Oz around this time because no other club in the area stays open this late.
Chow down on a plate of smoky ribs or sauce-slathered pulled pork at Big Mama's BBQ, a local restaurant known for its made-from-scratch cakes and plates piled high with fresh-from-the-grill barbecue favorites. Don't head home without trying a crispy pig snoot, as the locals say that nothing compares to this unique menu item. If you prefer something fancier, join the growing number of fans at Blood & Sand downtown. This exclusive eatery caters to members only, serving up gourmet fare and craft cocktails with upscale ambiance. Order the octopus and truffle butter tater tots for a meal as pretty as it is tasty. When a craving for authentic Mexican strikes, stop by Tienda El Ranchito for dishes you can't find anywhere else in town, including tacos and gorditas stuffed with your choice of often-overlooked delicacies, such as steamed goat and beef tongue.
Finish off the evening by driving across the bridge to watch a concert at the Scottrade Center, which is the place where the Blues play hockey, in downtown Saint Louis. You can also find live musical acts, including saxophone players and guitar-strumming performers, on the streets of Saint Louis.
History & Culture
East Saint Louis was once a bustling industrial area, and cross-country truck drivers still carry cargo through the city via one of East Saint Louis' four main highways. The city was established in 1865 and had a population that surpassed 82,000 at one point, but now the city only has around 27,000 residents.
East Saint Louis does not have many historical monuments, but the city proudly houses the Gateway Geyser, which is the tallest fountain in the United States and the second-tallest fountain in the world. Residents typically travel to downtown Saint Louis for museums, such as the art museum and history museum, as well as annual events like the balloon races and 4th of July fair. Sunshine Cultural Arts Center helps at-risk youth embrace their creative side through dance recitals and art shows, and folks of all ages can typically attend the shows that these children perform.
East Saint Louis has several MetroLink stations scattered throughout the area, so visitors can easily commute to work or visit friends by boarding the Metro at stops like Emerson Park and East Riverfront. The St. Clair County Transit District also services East Saint Louis. Uber does not run through East Saint Louis, but the company does pick up passengers a few miles away in downtown Saint Louis. Alternately, folks can call local companies to request a taxi for work or school, or they can walk or bike through the streets of East Saint Louis.
Pay close attention to your surroundings if you choose to bike the streets of East Saint Louis as many streets do not have bike lanes. Residents on foot should also be careful as East Saint Louis does have a crime rate higher than the national average.
Residents enjoy affordable housing and budget-friendly groceries in East Saint Louis. The average renter pays around $865 for an apartment in Saint Louis, Mo., while renters in East Saint Louis can easily find one-bedroom properties for less than $450 a month. Residents can take the Metro to downtown Saint Louis for just a couple bucks, and nearly every amenity costs less in East Saint Louis than it does in the Saint Louis metro area.
A domestic draft runs around $3 at local bars, and residents can also find cheap alcoholic beverages in grocery stores and at gas stations. Gasoline prices run around 12 percent lower than the national average, and drivers can fill up for significantly less than the Illinois average at stations in East Saint Louis.
East Saint Louis shoppers stock up on designer fashions at Glik's, a large department store in the city. Many of the city's specialty boutiques have shut down due to renovations or relocation, but residents can pick up holiday decor, toiletries and other necessities at the Dollar Tree in Shiloh Shopping Center.
The Soulard Farmers' Market sits near downtown Saint Louis, less than 5 miles from the outskirts of East Saint Louis. Shoppers can stock up on eggs, fresh produce and pork rinds at the market, and some vendors accept debit cards and food stamps. Shoppers who prefer to shop at chain grocers can visit the Shop 'n Save and Schnucks in East Saint Louis for bread and milk or buy snacks at local gas stations, such as Speedy Gas.
East Saint Louis inhabitants stay fit by walking the trails of local parks, such as the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, with their kids and dogs. The Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park hosts eruption viewings of the city's famous monument, the Gateway Geyser, several times a day.
Frank Holten State Park occasionally hosts festivals and events, but most visitors stop by the park to play a game of golf or go fishing. The park has an on-site concession stand where guests can buy soda and sandwiches after playing basketball or racing around the cross-country track. Large groups of minors must be accompanied by an adult over the age of 18.