Article By Julia M. Johnson
Creative planners, take note: St. Louis city is home to two “newer” gathering spaces that deserve a prominent place on your menu of event venues. Owned by a company known as 23 City Blocks Catering, Lumen Private Event Space and The Caramel Room have spent recent months stirring up the greater downtown scene with a blend of inspiring meeting configurations, palate-pleasing cuisine, and memorable event choreography. In fact, they’ve become so well known for their collective culinary enlightenment that the facilities’ ownership group has branched out into the catering world.
Lumen’s engaging spaces are prime territory for groups of up to 200 seated guests, or 350 reception attendees. Located in an artfully restored vintage building, the venue offers awe-inspiring LED lighting systems and polished hardwood floors. And the elegantly appointed Caramel Room features a variety of room setups, chocolate-factory tours, and hands-on candy crafting experiences. It can accommodate groups of up to 400.
The two properties are located 23 blocks from each other, thus inspiring the ownership group’s name. Lumen lights up the night at 2201 Locust Street; and The Caramel Room caters to gatherings at 1600 North Broadway, home of the famed Bissinger’s candy company. Together, these tempting properties offer unlimited potential for memory-making events. Now in growth mode, their ownership group plans to wow guests with off-site culinary craftwork as well.
While 23 City Blocks’ event facilities continue to shine, the company is launching some new options for groups requiring top-notch catering in the St. Louis area. Amanda Bradham-Little, director of marketing and events, says off-site meals are a relatively new focus for the company, which is offering a range of new boxed and catered meal options.
“With our boxed lunches, you either can have them delivered or pick them up,” Bradham-Little says. “There are lots of options and combinations available. We have everything from salads to what we call ‘sandwich wrappers,’ which are amazing – not your typical boxed-lunch chicken salad croissants.”
Indeed, with names such as the “Slim Shady” and “Notorious BLT,” these sandwich meals-on-the-go are certain to prove memorable. “At $12 per person, they’re a really good value too,” Bradham-Little says. “Customers can choose from sides, drinks and desserts as well. Everyone loves our white cheddar macaroni and cheese, for example, and our Bissinger’s chocolate bars and milk chocolate chip cookies.” The boxed lunch program is available to groups of at least eight.
Any meal can be made vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free to suit guests’ needs, and the results tend to be delicious, Bradham-Little says. “We have an amazing culinary team that can do pretty much anything,” she notes. “Recently, they held a chicken salad competition, with the winner voted on by our staff. I chose the recipe with a vegan chicken substitute, created by sous chef Christopher Bertke. It was so well done, I had no idea it was meat-free. That option went on the boxed lunch menu too.”
Each lunch-to-go is presented in an attractive recycled bag that customers can keep and reuse, or return to the company.
There are lots of options for sit-down meals catered by 23 City Blocks, too, according to Bradham-Little. “We can do breakfasts, lunches, meetings, whatever is needed for groups of 15 or more,” she says. “We like the idea of working with businesses and corporate groups, whether it’s an employee appreciation breakfast, a working lunch, or a planning meeting at your firm.”
Hot off the press
Bradham-Little says 23 City Blocks recently received some savory news, too: The company has been chosen to provide catering for the new Majorette event space in Maplewood; Boo Cat Club in midtown St. Louis; and historic Bevo Mill restaurant property in south St. Louis, all of which are owned by Pat and Carol Schuchard. Majorette and Boo Cat’s operations already are in full swing; the 100-year-old Bevo Mill site is expected to reopen soon as a restaurant and beer garden, following extensive renovations.
The choice of 23 City Blocks as caterer was an easy one, says Erinn Hall, operations manager for Majorette and Boo Cat. “We’ve been thrilled to work with some of the most interesting vendors in the industry, from St. Louis, Chicago, California, Colorado and beyond to seamlessly pull together some of the coolest, most stylish events in St. Louis,” she says. “After one tasting with 23 City Blocks, we were sure that Amanda and Chef Nick Miller would speak the same language we do.
“They have a different brand and product, but the voice in their work is the same,” Hall says. “It’s creative, fresh, unexpected, alive. We know they will bring something to our list of catering partners that’s elevated, innovative, seamlessly executed and most importantly, delicious.”
Hall says she and her colleagues were indelibly impressed with the culinary creations 23 City Blocks presented at its recent tasting session. “Course after course of dishes that Chef Nick brought out continued to rock our taste buds,” she says. The selections included fresh fruit “sushi” rolls with coconut rice; shrimp and corn bisque; white chocolate gnocchi; seared beef tenderloin; parmesan pine nut crusted chicken with jalapeno cream sauce; a “duet” of braised pork belly and black cod; a house-made citrus sorbet intermezzo in three flavors; and a signature Bissinger’s chocolate dessert with broiled bananas and peanut butter.
“I think 23 City Blocks is suited for our guests who are looking for something creative, perfectly prepared and served by a first-rate, professional team,” Hall says. “It’s the difference between just the mechanics of service and true hospitality – we want our guests to know we are on their side, and 23 City Blocks does too.”
“We’re really excited because we have grown our kitchen staff, and with our menus being so popular, it’s wonderful to be able to ‘take our show on the road,’” Bradham-Little says of the company’s new catering endeavors. “We love the idea of letting people at other venues know that we offer amazing culinary experiences.”
As 23 City Blocks’ service menu expands, positive feedback continues to flow in from event venue clients and new catering customers.
“We hosted our company’s 25th anniversary party at the Caramel Room last year,” says Angie Weigel DMCP, president of Destination St. Louis. “There were approximately 150 guests comprising our local clients and industry partners. We received rave reviews on the venue and food.
“We often propose the Caramel Room to clients,” Weigel says. “It’s a great, unique option for groups of all sizes.”
In the coming months, whether you’re planning a gathering in the welcoming environs of Lumen or the Caramel Room… ordering delivered meals to delight your guests… or savoring catered creations at the Schuchards’ new properties, you’ll notice two recurring themes: Inspiring cuisine, and events that impress. Visit www.23cityblocks.com to get the ball rolling.
To learn more about Lumen’s and The Caramel Room’s beautiful spaces, read our Fall 2015 cover story.
23 City Blocks Catering