Article by Julia M. Johnson
You’ve probably been there – stuck between the comfortable familiarity of the meeting venue where your groups usually gather, and your attendees’ growing sense of “same old event space” ennui.
In St. Louis, there’s a delicious cure for that conundrum. It’s called the Lucas Park Grille, and it’s been a popular landmark on the downtown culinary map for a dozen years.
Longevity has hardly made it predictable or commonplace, however. Lucas Park is always looking to lend a freshfare perspective to meetings and events, and its staff stands ready to bring groups’ planning visions to fruition with a variety of space configurations and innovative personal touches. Located at the intersection of Washington Avenue and 13th Street, this open and vibrant restaurant lives right at the heart of downtown St. Louis activity.
Depending on the size and needs of your group, there are several enticing space options at Lucas Park’s 8,000-square-foot location.
“There’s what we call the ‘café up’ area, raised a few steps from the restaurant floor, where we can accommodate 15 to 20 people with tables,” says Carrie Pickering, event and marketing coordinator. “There’s also a curtained area that can hold up to 100 seated or 200 for a stand-up event. We also can host 50 people seated, or 80 for a stand-up event, in our Wine Room; or you can reserve the entire restaurant with advance notice.” Wedding and rehearsal dinner groups have made use of the whole space with great success, she says.
Event attendees at Lucas Park are by no means confined to four walls, however. In warm-enough weather, social groups often use the restaurant’s outdoor patio, complete with fire pit, TV, chairs,
tables and a view of Washington Avenue. Pickering says that whenever a group books the patio area, the restaurant also keeps an indoor space at the ready in case of inclement weather.
Go with the group Lucas Park’s meeting clients have included the Thompson Coburn LLP law firm, U.S. Bank, the Group 360 Worldwide marketing firm, and Twain Financial Partners. The Missouri Alliance for
Animal Legislation recently held a gala fund raiser and silent auction at the restaurant, complete with hors d’oeuvres, drinks, a buffet dinner, custom mashed potato bar, and dessert.
And the Missouri chapter of the Kansas City-based American Planning Association, an urban planning organization, held an annual holiday luncheon and trivia contest at the restaurant in December 2015.
The glories of food
The Lucas Park menu tends to evolve with the seasons, but Pickering says executive chef Kevin Sthair’s kitchen is all about creativity as well. “We like doing custom and banquet menus,” she says. The restaurant can provide a range of food and carving tables and setups, including special offerings such as customizable burger, taco, or macaroni and cheese stations.
The restaurant has an in-house sommelier, Richard Ross, and it has received Wine Spectator magazine recognition for its wine list. Lucas Park’s bar staff also can concoct any sort of signature or themed beverage a group desires. Pickering says groups enjoy working with them to craft events centered on local microbrews, too.
Classic dinner entrees have included such favorites as grilled salmon with shiitake mushrooms; braised short ribs with fingerling potatoes and parsnips; and a beef tenderloin with lyonnaise potatoes and creamed kale. The lunch menu offers enticing salads and soups, plus sandwiches such as a house burger with caramelized onion and smoked Gouda; house-smoked pastrami; and tempting panini.
Setting it up
The restaurant has wireless microphones, a projector, and screen, and can bring in other rented equipment as needed, Pickering says. Groups are welcome to add their own entertainment to an event, and the restaurant can be lit colorfully for evening ambiance. “We also can project your company logo or graphics in the lobby area and in the rooms,” Pickering says. One event group from a Disney company projected its cartoon characters in the space for guests’ enjoyment.
Event clients are welcome to bring in other types of decorations; the restaurant works with a couple of linen and floral companies when different color schemes or themes are needed.
Lucas Park is close to exciting new hospitality happenings in the neighborhood, too. This spring, the National Blues Museum has opened just eastward on Washington Avenue, and the recently reflagged and renovated Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel is just blocks away as well.
Groups feel the love
T.J. Lindhorst, a volunteer who plans an annual fund raiser for the St. Louis-based Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, says her organization raves about using Lucas Park for its event each year. The
gathering welcomes about 160 guests, who enjoy a “small-plate” buffet, heavy passed hors d’oeuvres, and special food stations such as a potato bar and seafood crepe table. Lindhorst says her group includes
“carnivore, vegetarian and vegan” guests, so the buffet with plenty of self-serve options tends to work well.
The group uses the entire restaurant for its event, and holds a live auction and silent auction during the festivities.
“There’s such a free flow of guest traffic,” Lindhorst says. “The front of the restaurant is a great conversation, gathering and sitting area, and guests can move easily between the back rooms and the bar area. The Lucas Park staff has perfected all of that movement for us.”
Lucas Park Grille
Josh Wells, general manager
Carrie Pickering, event and marketing
1234 Washington Ave.
St. Louis MO 63103