St. Louis Arch Print by Eric Woods of Firecracker Press
Our St. Louis City Guide comes to us from Andrea Avery, an artist and writer who blogs at andreaavery.com about art, design, photography, cooking, motherhood and her love of all things vintage. Andrea has been active in the local arts community as a gallery director, literature magazine editor, festival director and volunteer, and is one of the organizers of St. Louis’ annual Kick Ass Awards, a grassroots event that recognizes the unsung individuals, businesses, organizations and projects that contribute to the health and vitality of the St. Louis community. Today she shares some of the magic that makes up the many neighborhoods of this Midwest city. Thanks, Andrea, for this wonderful guide!
CLICK HERE for the full guide after the jump!
I grew up in the country but have called St. Louis home for over 15 years. With its incredible arch and eclectic neighborhoods, St. Louis always seemed magical and exotic to me. After all these years, I still find it so. St. Louisans are fiercely protective and appreciative of the city’s many quirks and loyal to their neighborhoods. The affordable living costs and beautifully crafted homes, many in historic districts, make the city an attractive choice for many. The food and art scenes are experiencing particularly exciting growth. Creative and industrious types are taking advantage of the unique opportunities the city offers and making truly inspired things happen. The people of St. Louis are authentic, dedicated, generous and very supportive. I feel lucky to be a part of this creative community.
Things to Know about St. Louis
The city’s population is roughly 320,000, but when you add in the county, it blooms to almost 3 million, making it the 4th largest urban area in the Midwest. The confluence of North America’s two greatest rivers, the Mississippi and Missouri, is located in the heart of the St. Louis area. We are rich in history and culture.
St. Louis can seem pretty spread out geographically, but it is easy to navigate, and parking in most neighborhoods is reasonable to find and cheap, if not free. We have been ranked a top “Bicycle Friendly Community” in the United States by the League of American Bicyclists and have over 75 miles of on-street bike routes. Our Metrolink transit system is easy to use, if not as expansive as many would like.
St. Louis is a big food town. The restaurant scene is thriving, with two local and very high-quality food magazines (Sauce Magazine and Feast) chronicling the trends. I encourage you to check them out for guides to neighborhood dining.
It would be criminal of me not mention the abundance of cultural activities and festivals that happen in this city, many of them free, including our world-class zoo, art museum, science center and history museum. Dozens of parks offer free concert series throughout the summer — from jazz to pops to bluegrass. To find out more about the cultural events happening in the city, check out Artzipper or catch the arts calendar on KDHX 88.1 FM, our outstanding independent radio station.
There is plenty of shopping in St. Louis, but of particular note are our estate sales. They are exceptional. The quality and prices are phenomenal with some legendary scores to be had — I can attest to it. Visit Estatesales.net or Craigslist for area sales.
Over the last 10 to 15 years, downtown has experienced an amazing revival. Former warehouses and industrial and retail spaces along Washington Avenue have been transformed into bustling restaurants, lofts and businesses.
Westin: True to any major downtown metropolitan area, St. Louis has plenty of hotels from which to choose. The Westin is one of the nicest.
SEE / DO
Gateway Arch: The tallest man-made monument in the United States, the Gateway Arch couldn’t be more obvious or a more beautiful example of mid-century modern design. I get a chill every time I return from a road trip and spot Eero Saarinen’s arch across on the horizon. Riding to the top in the little retro elevator pod is a thrill.
CityGarden: Opened in 2009, this urban contemporary sculpture garden has an impressive selection. Having dinner at the Terrace View Café at CityGarden is a special way to enjoy the view.
City Museum: Part museum, part playground, part funhouse where repurposed architectural and industrial objects mix with cranes, planes, buses, a vintage photobooth, an aquarium, underground tunnels, a 10-story spiral slide, a working Ferris wheel on top of the building and so much more. Housed in a former shoe company, City Museum was named one of the “World’s 10 Best Public Spaces” by the New York-based Project for Public Spaces. This destination must be experienced by everyone visiting the city.
Core of Discovery: A downtown St. Louis attractions district with a website offering downloadable walking tour maps highlighting visuals arts and architecture. A history map is expected soon.
Left Bank Books: The oldest independently owned bookstore in St. Louis. This downtown location is a satellite of the original store in the Central West End. Both stores have a stellar staff and loyal customers.
Eve’s Apple Vintage: Offers a selection of vintage for men, women and kids.
EAT / DRINK / LISTEN
Rooster: You can’t go wrong with any of Dave Bailey’s restaurants, and his breakfast café is well known for crepes and a wide selection of Bloody Marys.
Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar: With a dazzling number of beers, a kitchen that stays open until 1:00 a.m. and homemade bar snacks like spiced nuts and popcorn, this is one of the most popular new places in downtown. Recently voted best-looking restaurant in the city.
Schlafly Tap Room: One of two distinct Schlafly brewery/restaurants in St. Louis. (See Maplewood Bottleworks for the other.) This original location was instrumental in the revitalization of the downtown area. The seasonal beers are always highly anticipated, and the sticky toffee pudding is quite special. Music upstairs.
The Broadway Oyster Bar: Try this lively spot for outdoor dining and live jazz and blues nightly.
Also worth considering: Rosalita’s Cantina is popular for Tex-Mex. Lola gets high marks not only for the variety of food (crepes, small plates, late-night noshing) but for its variety of music (DJ, jazz and funk). Mango Peruvian has excellent sangria.
Soulard and Lafayette Square
Just south of downtown are two national historic districts. Lafayette Square is known for its charming Victorian houses, and Soulard is known for its Mardi Gras celebration, second in size only to New Orleans’. I suggest you skip Mardi Gras and attend the annual Pet Parade and Wiener Dog Derby (YES!), which happen the week before.
Dwell 912: This modern two-story private apartment and third-floor studio offers a more contemporary oasis.
SEE / DO
Soulard Market: The oldest farmers’ market west of the Mississippi. While not always as local/organic as some of the other markets in the area, it offers superb people watching, excellent prices, a heavenly spice shop and a booth where tiny little donuts are dropped into a fryer and churned out on a small conveyer belt. Magical!
Mad Art Gallery: This gallery hosts exhibits, readings, concerts and other cultural events in a former police station from the art deco period — with the jail cells still intact. If there is an event happening during your visit, you should check it out.
These areas are more noted for dining and nightlife, but there is a bit of shopping to be had. Trova Gifts and Schwaig Art Glass Works are in Lafayette Square. Soulard Art Market is a funky artist collective that sells affordable pieces, and Paste offers arts-and-crafts supplies along with classes.
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The Venice Café: In the shadows of the behemoth Anheuser-Busch brewery, you will find this fantastically funky bar and restaurant owned by artist Jeff Lockheed. The entire place is comprised of mosaic tiles, mirrors, bottle caps and thrift store finds, and the patio is otherworldly. Music every night, and don’t be surprised to see one of Jeff’s many art cars parked on the block.
Niche and Sidney Street Café: Both of these restaurants are considered by serious foodies to offer some of St. Louis’ most innovative, exciting and satisfying dining experiences. Both have James Beard-nominated chefs.
Bailey’s Chocolate Bar: This hot spot boasts a prime Lafayette Square location and popular patio dining. Besides the obvious focus on chocolate, the pizzetas and cheese plates are quite nice.
Rue Lafayette: Francophiles praise Rue Lafayette for its authentic macarons and croissants. French-inspired antiques and accessories are adjacent to the space. Stop in for treats and a coffee to go, and then take a walk in the picturesque Victorian Lafayette Square Park across the street.
Known for antique shopping and authentic Mexican cuisine and groceries, this diverse area is experiencing a renaissance with many new businesses and artists setting up shop. The annual Cinco de Mayo celebration showcases all the fun, funk and creative going on in this lively district.
SEE / DO
Snowflake: This art space consistently shows interesting work and has a “drive-by” gallery on the west side of the building — literally an installation in the window meant as a drive or walk by.
Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts: Galen Gandolfi shows experimental and emerging artists and hosts some of the best happenings in town. One of the pioneers of the Cherokee district.
Antique Row: Six blocks of antique, vintage and thrift shopping all on Cherokee Avenue. I’ve scored a pink typewriter and numerous sweet vintage dresses on this street.
Firecracker Press: This graphic design studio and letterpress print shop combines antique printing technology with contemporary design. Owner Eric Woods and his sister Jennifer produce the gorgeous literary magazine The Lumberyard, which Dwight Garner of The New York Times called, “the most physically beautiful new journal I’ve seen this year.” Eric and his crew are all amazing and generous artists, and their shop has some gorgeous and unique letterpress items.
All Along Press: A cooperative print shop that specializes in letterpress printing, screen printing, fine art prints and book arts. The owners came to St. Louis to study art, fell in love with the city and the rest is printmaking history.
The Archive: An independent bookstore and reading room frequently hosting local and national authors. It is small, cozy, dusty and lovely — like your eccentric aunt’s library.
STL-STYLE: This establishment belongs to brothers Jeff and Randy Vines, who are proud of their hometown and have built a t-shirt empire to prove it, taking their love the city of St. Louis to a whole new level.
APOP Records: Sells underground, rare, exotic and experimental records, books, videos and ephemera.
Cranky Yellow: Part retail, part gallery and part performance space featuring an eclectic mix of art, fashion, music, literature and kitsch. Their display of fan mail is incredibly charming.
Ruth’s Vintage Clothing is small but jam-packed with great vintage clothing finds. And Ruth is a sweetheart. No website. 2001 Cherokee Street, Saint Louis, MO 63118 (314) 865-1091
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FOAM Coffee and Beer: Great coffee. Great beer. Great events. Atmosphere is super cute.
The MudHouse Coffee and Café: Relaxed coffee space with delicious baked goods and a selection of sandwiches that seems to continuously delight.
Black Bear Bakery: A worker-owned collective. All baked goods are made from scratch using local, organic ingredients whenever possible, and they grow many of the ingredients used in the café in a garden behind the bakery.
La Vallesana: Cheap outdoor eats and, most agree, the best authentic tacos in town. No website. 2801 Cherokee Street, St. Louis, MO 63118 (314) 776-4223
Tower Grove and South Grand
This hip area is known for its numerous ethnic restaurants and grocers and for the lush Tower Grove Park.
The Fleur-de-Lys Mansion: A fine choice if luxury accommodations are in your budget. Consistently rated as one of the top inns in the country.
SEE / DO
Tower Grove Park: Nearly 300 acres of urban beauty with an abundance of gorgeous and historical pavilions and a free summer-concert series. The park hosts many festivals throughout the year, including the outstanding Festival of Nations each August. Within the park is Café Madeleine, serving an excellent Sunday brunch.
Tower Grove Farmers Market: Quickly becoming one of the most popular Saturday markets in a city with a growing number from which to choose. Located in close proximity to a playground and wading pool, this is my summer market of choice. The variety is outstanding, and the cheeses, heirloom tomatoes and yellow watermelons I’ve bought here make my heart ache with longing during the winter months. A wonderful experience on many levels.
Missouri Botanical Garden: World renowned with a great (free) summer concert series and permanent Chihuly’s surprising you throughout the grounds. The Japanese Garden is especially stunning in the spring. I find this place very special and visit almost weekly during the summer.
The Vintage Haberdashery: Offers a phenomenal selection of vintage clothing and accessories with a large rental/costume business as well.
TFA (The Future Antiques): I have a groovy kind of love for this place. Hands down the best mid-century modern shopping spot in the city with a huge selection of glassware, furniture and clothing. I’ve actually heard customers squeal in this store.
Dunaway Books: One of the best and largest used bookstores in the city. Three floors of well-organized reading materials await your arrival. The English-accented proprietor is beyond charming.
EAT / DRINK / LISTEN
Sweet Art Café: A “made from scratch” bakeshop and art studio owned and operated by Reine (baker) and Cbabi Bayoc (artist). The café specializes in vegetarian and vegan delicacies. Cupcakes and quiche are outstanding here, as are the sandwiches. Do yourself a huge favor and try a Harmony cupcake. Owners are super sweet and following their bliss.
Local Harvest Grocery and Café: Grocery offers locally produced foods that are organic and sustainably produced. Shopping here is a real joy — staff is earnest in the best possible way. The café is, in a word, fresh.
Gelataria del Leone: Enjoy the sweet back patio with gelato or coffee. Everyone (and every flavor) is so nice here.
South Grand is an avenue where delicious cheap eats abound. Pho Grand and Lemongrass are long-time Vietnamese favorites. For the best spring rolls in town, travel farther south on Grand to the modest and homespun Banh Mi So. Popular Thai spots include the King & I Thai and the more casual Basil Spice Café. Also popular are City Diner, known for its hand-cut fries and hand-dipped milkshakes, and Mangia Italiano, known for fresh pastas, late-night drinks and an incredible and ever-evolving mural by local artist Wayne St. Wayne.
The Royale Bar and Grill: On the far west fringe of the Tower Grove neighborhood, educated-hipster types enjoy the great patio, eclectic DJs, signature drinks and microbrews offered by The Royale. One of the most popular hangouts in the city, it hosts unique events from the Presidential Beard Party to the weekly Cocktail Museum Club.
Mid-Town includes the St. Louis University campus and the Grand Center Arts District, which many cultural institutions call home.
Hotel Ignacio: A new boutique hotel with unique room themes that reflect the artistic makeup of the neighborhood, like Fine Art, Performing Arts, Architecture and Music.
SEE / DO
Contemporary Art Museum: Exhibits relevant art by international artists and produces nationally recognized education programs. Always something cool going on here.
Pulitzer Arts Foundation: Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando. The foundation has odd hours but fantastic programming, including a chamber music series.
EAT / DRINK / LISTEN
Pappy’s Smokehouse: The place to get great barbeque. The brisket will bring a tear to your eye.
The Fountain: Not your typical ice-cream-soda-fountain shop. The art deco interior is almost as incredible as their hot fudge. Tasty sandwiches and retro cocktails.
Good Pie: A refreshing addition the large St. Louis pizza scene with crispy, wood-fired pies using the freshest ingredients.
Music venues in the area include Jazz at the Bistro, Firebird and the Sheldon Concert Hall, which has perfect acoustics and gorgeous stained-glass windows. The David Byrne concert I saw here was supernatural.
Central West End, Forest Park and The Grove
The pedestrian-friendly Central West End has a plethora of shopping and many outdoor dining options, along with galleries and historic homes. Just west of Kingshighway is Forest Park, site of the 1904 World’s Fair, and one of the city’s most popular tourist spots. The Grove is just south of Forest Park and the Central West End.
The Chase Park Plaza: Historic luxury hotel with restaurants and a movie theater.
SEE / DO
St. Louis Zoo: One of the leading zoos in the country, and it has free admission. Recent renovations include a fabulous sculpture installation at the south entrance. Don’t miss the Penguin and Puffin Coast, carousel, train or the Flight Cage constructed for the 1094 World’s Fair.
St. Louis Art Museum: Also a product of the 1904 World’s Fair, this free museum has an outstanding collection and is currently undergoing a renovation that will add 24,000 square feet. Sledding down “Art Hill” is a timeless winter tradition. The view from the top of the hill is breathtaking.
Steinberg Skating Rink: Plenty of fun and nostalgia at Steinburg. Popular with both kids and romantics, the rink also has a café so you can warm up with the requisite hot cocoa.
White Flag Projects: An alternative gallery space showing the work of international, national and local artists.
EAT / DRINK / LISTEN
The Boat House: Nothing says summer in St Louis like casual lakeside dining and leisurely boat rides in Forest Park.
Bissinger’s: Upscale but friendly chocolate shop with a staff eager to offer suggestions, which you will need because there is a staggering number of truffle flavors. Fine wines, coffees and desserts.
Duff’s: A real neighborhood gem, Duff’s opened over 30 years ago and has an excellent reputation, especially for brunch. Home of a long-running poetry series.
Brasserie by Niche: The newest restaurant from Chef Gerard Craft gets rave reviews not only for the food but also for the boisterous and fun atmosphere.
Taste Bar: The highly anticipated venture from a former chef at Niche and from mixologist Ted Kilgore, whose cocktails have received national accolades. You should really check out his truly inspired drink menu.
Sweetie Pies: Heartfelt love abounds for this family-oriented eatery run by Robbie Montgomery, a 1960s backup singer and former Ikette (of Ike & Tina Turner fame). Truly dreamy mac and cheese. It was recently announced that Sweetie Pies will be the subject of a new docu-series on the Oprah Winfrey Network. No website. 4270 Manchester Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110 (314) 371-0304
Atomic Cowboy: Dine, drink or dance. Diverse clientele and programming (jazz, swing, folk, hip-hop), funky décor, large patio and lack of “attitude” all add to the allure.
The Handlebar: This friendly bar is aimed to those who love bikes and beer. Where the cycling crowd hangs out.
La Dolce Via: Serves a fantastic weekend brunch from its unassuming spot in a highly residential neighborhood. The desserts are exceptional.
The Sanctuaria: Claims “wild tapas” and one of the best bartenders in the city, who incorporates the restaurant’s freshly grown herbs into homemade infusions.
The Gramophone: Catch live music — everything from jazz, rock and throwback country to hip-hop.
The Hill and South Hampton
Foodies will especially love this historic Italian neighborhood filled with family-owned grocery stores, bakeries, sandwich shops and fine restaurants.
SKIF International: Designer Nina Ganci launched SKIF with hand-knitted sweaters, but her line has expanded to include shirts, pants and accessories sold in over 300 boutiques worldwide. Headquartered in a really cool rehabbed building, Ganci’s office is an all-in-one boutique, sales center, design studio and workshop. Inspired and fun shopping destination.
JIPSI: Part “Alice in Wonderland meets Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters” according to owner, stylist and artist Jenny Baca. The boho living boutique is a mix of vintage and repurposed home accessories and furnishings. Located in the north end of the SKIF building.
Herbaria: Located next door to SKIF, this super-smelling establishment specializes in all-natural soaps and skincare products. Very friendly owners who don’t mind chatting about their business.
Knitorious: A bit farther west of The Hill but definitely worth a visit for any serious knitter.EAT / DRINK / LISTEN
Missouri Baking Company: An authentic Italian bakery with a very loyal clientele. The traditional Italian cookies are very popular. No website. 2027 Edwards Street, St. Louis, MO 63110 (314) 773-6566
Shaw Coffee: Located in a former bank, and a low-key and relaxing spot for your morning cup.
Adriana’s: This place bustles at lunch. Nothing fancy, but cute, fantastic Italian sandwich shop that is always a hit when I take out-of-town visitors. The Gorgonzola Dip is my pick.
Modesto: Offers outstanding tapas and sangria. My favorite place to go with girlfriends.
Lorenzo’s Trattoria: This Italian eatery is a bit more contemporary than most of the Italian dining on The Hill.
Anthonino’s Taverna and Grill: Italian AND Greek with fabulous pizza and baba ghanoush. We are regulars here.
Pop’s Blue Moon: A tiny neighborhood bar featuring live music nightly.
South Hampton eateries include Trattoria Marcella, known for their lobster risotto; Stellina Past Café, specializing in handmade organic pastas; and Aya Sofia, serving Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine in a romantic atmosphere.
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard: On historic route 66, you will find the famous home of the original concrete-custard mixed with your ingredients of choice and served upside down. The lines are long but move quickly. Don’t be surprised to see a bridal party limo pull up — a St. Louis post-wedding/pre-reception tradition.
Delmar Loop / University City
Often recognized as one of the ten great streets in America, Delmar is home to many eclectic eateries and shops.
Moonrise Hotel: A luxury boutique hotel with a popular rooftop terrace bar experience.
SEE / DO
St. Louis Walk of Fame: As you walk the Delmar Loop, make sure to look down and take note of the sidewalk stars honoring over 100 individuals for their major national contributions to our cultural heritage.
The Tivoli Theater: An independent art-house theater consistently rated as the best movie house in the city. An extensive remodel in 1995 restored this three-screen beauty inside and out. Frequently shows midnight features on weekends.
Craft Alliance: Contemporary crafts gallery and studio offering classes in a variety of media. The gallery shop has an amazing selection of jewelry and other fine craft items. Popular is the annual invitational exhibition of innovative teapots made of clay, metal, glass and fiber. A second location is now open in Mid-Town.
Vintage Vinyl: Established in 1979 and with 7,000 square feet of music — this is truly vintage and one-of-a-kind.
Star Clipper: A bookstore with an emphasis on graphic novels and comics but also offering an interesting array of handmade books and zines.
Subterranean Books: Small but wonderful independent bookstore with many fans. Their slogan is “from high-culture to sub-culture,” and the selection truly reflects that.
Ziezo: Even after 25 years, Ziezo offers some of the trendiest and best-made fashions and accessories in town. No website. 6394 Delmar, St. Louis, MO 63130 (314) 725-9602
Big Shark: Bicyclists will want to stop in a bike shop known for its superior customer service and ranked as one of the top-100 bike shops in the US.
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In the same neighborhood you can catch a concert at The Pageant, bowl a quick game and have drinks at The Pin-Up Bowl and have a casual dinner at the legendary Blueberry Hill — all owned by Joe Edwards, whose creative vision has helped transform The Loop into one of the most vibrant restaurant, shopping, arts and entertainment districts in the country. Blueberry Hill has an incredibly fun Dart Room, and in the basement is the Duck Room, a music venue featuring national and local acts, including Chuck Berry, one night a month.
Pi: This pizza place now has four locations and a roaming pizza truck that is very popular. President Obama is a fan.
Also worth considering: Gokul, a 100% vegetarian Indian restaurant; Fitz’s American Grill & Bottling Works, where you can watch their special rootbeer rolling off the line while you enjoy your meal; and Momos, a lively Greek eatery just west of the loop.
Maplewood, a small suburb just southwest of the city limits, has experienced a tremendous revival over the last decade. Both Manchester Avenue and Sutton Avenue boast many new establishments.
SEE / DO
Saratoga Lanes: This second-floor bowling alley with no electric scoring is the oldest of its kind west of the Mississippi. Pool tables and a juke box add to the throwback atmosphere.
Hoffman LaChance Contemporary: A small gallery consistently showing some of the most interesting and quality local art.
Mezzanine: Offers high-end fashion, jewelry, shoes and accessories from established and emerging designers. I always love the jewelry here, and owners Paul and Anna Spector are incredibly down-to-earth and friendly.
Roots: Antiques, vintage and salvaged goods displayed casually.
Maven: The ultimate pamper-yourself store with bath and beauty goodies. The” My Boyfriend’s T-Shirt” is a favorite soap scent.
Femme: A small boutique with lovely clothing and accessories from well-known brands and emerging local designers. No website. 7270 Manchester Road Saint Louis, MO 63143 (314) 781-6868
K. Hall Designs: A few miles west of Maplewood proper, K. Hall is the maker of fine fragrance goods for the home, bath and body. Fine linen wearables and home goods.
Big Bend Antique Gallery and Treasure Aisles Antique Mall: If vintage is your style, you can score a one-two punch with these two very large antique resale shops next door to each other. Both seem to go on forever, and I never leave empty handed. Treasure Aisles (no website): 2317 South Big Bend Boulevard, STL MO 63143 (314) 647-6875
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Schlafly Bottleworks: The sister restaurant to downtown’s Tap Room, this locale specializes in local and organic food, hosts a fabulous weekly farmers’ market and is home of the annual Art Outside festival each September, celebrating local artists and handmade goods. Outdoor music and a Hefeweizen on a summer day is pure joy. Free brewery tours are provided.
Foundation Grounds: Fair-trade coffee and fantastic scones. This is my most frequent coffee spot.
Acero: Magnificent Italian food, including house-made salumi and polenta specials prepared at your table. The homemade pastas are always to die for. Tasting menu is a particularly great value. One of my favorite restaurants in the city.
Kakao Chocolates: Handmade, with all-natural ingredients, small-batch chocolates that are so divine. Treat yourself to the chile-vanilla truffle.
Maya Café: Pan-Latin cuisine with a main dining room and funky bar designed by St. Louis artist Bill Christman.
Boogaloo: Cuban, Creole and Caribbean food with excellent mojitos that you can drink from a bar swing.
Laumeier Sculpture Park: About 15 miles from downtown, this 105-acre park offers an impressive collection of art. Walk on wooded paths and discover magnificent surprises like Beverly Pepper’s Cromlech Glen. Anyone can appreciate this place, but art lovers should not miss it.
Writers: Maya Angelou, Jonathan Franzen, Jane Smiley, Mark Twain, William S. Burroughs and T. S. Eliot
Musicians: Miles Davis, Chuck Berry, Sheryl Crow and Scott Joplin
Actors: The dreamy Jon Hamm, Kevin Kline, John Goodman and seemingly half the cast of The Office (Jenna Fischer, Ellie Kemper and Phyllis Smith)