Plant-Based in St. Louis highlights restaurants offering awesome vegan eats in my homebase of St. Louis, a hidden gem of plant-based goodness.
If you read this blog or follow me on social media, you probably know that I’m a big advocate of St. Louis’ vegan food scene. Much to my delight, no food has become more readily accessible and ubiquitous than pizza. While the merits of Pizza Head and Pi are discussed at length on various St. Louis vegan social media platforms (and deservedly so), some spots with awesome options seem to fly under the radar- places like Firecracker Pizza & Beer, which are far too fabulous not to be discussed, celebrated, and appropriately devoured (not necessarily in that order).
From the street, it’s impossible to miss Firecracker, with its vibrant mural, an eye-popping shrine to felines and the all-mighty pizza that almost spans an entire city block of STL’s Grove neighborhood. While more subtle, even the front of the store invites you to stop in for a slice, with stairs pluckily alerting customers to “Get ready” and “Hold Tight”.
The restaurant’s atmosphere is a playful balance of punk rock and pop art, and various pyrotechnic-themed details can be found throughout the space, including (spice lovers, rejoice) the most impressive array of 50-plus hot sauce varieties on the “Fire Bar”.
Upon arriving, I scanned through the main menu, which is mostly comprised of meat-centric appetizers and specialty pizzas. However, the menu helpfully indicates to check their “Build Your Own menu to see our vegan toppings.” After my server brought over the alternate menu, I was delighted by the exciting options- vegan beef! Tamarind chutney! Spaghetti squash with basil and garlic! Firecracker even makes its vegan cashew-based cheese in house. As I’ve mentioned previously, if you’ve never had cashew cheese before, you should be aware that it does not have the same gooey consistency of its dairy-based cousin. Instead, it’s more like a creamy, nutty cheese spread that perfectly complements the pizza’s toppings.
The unique and interesting ingredient options were almost overwhelming, but after much consideration, my husband and I dreamed up a pizza including jalapenos, heirloom tomatoes, artichokes, roasted eggplant, and vegan beef, complete with “zhoug”, Firecracker’s spicy herb house-made sauce and cashew cheese.
After consulting with our friendly and helpful server, we also selected the Whistlin’ Kitty Chaser, a spring mix based salad, with strawberries, toasted pecans, cauliflowers, and an oh so dreamy seasonal berry vinaigrette (just leave off the goat cheese).
While we waited for our food, I took the time to consider Firecracker’s offerings of one of my other great loves- beer. This place takes one of its mantras (“pizza and beer, a perfect match”) seriously and may be one of the most tap-heavy establishments in all of St. Louis, boasting over 65 selections. All of the beers, many of which are locally brewed, are listed above the bar, grouped by style from lightest to heaviest. As a sour fiend, I ordered and happily sipped a Lime Gose, brewed at Mother’s Brewing Co. just a couple of hours away in Springfield, MO. This tart and citrusy beer was the perfect accompaniment to watch the sunset and passerbys out of the restaurant’s’ wall-to-wall windows.
Our salad arrived first, a fresh, bright start to an otherwise glutinous meal. The earthy crunch of the pecans (with just a hint of sweetness), firm roasted cauliflower, and plump, juicy strawberries made for a fabulous textural combination. Better yet, Firecracker definitely nailed the toppings to greens ratio (i.e. enough spring mix to appropriately serve as a vehicle for the bounty of toppings). The housemade berry vinaigrette was creamy and sweet- while some fruit-based dressings can be cloyingly sugary, this subtly tart vinaigrette perfectly balanced out the more savory components of the dish.
Next up was, of course, the main act- pizza! Its cracker-thin crust was golden and crispy, a clear homage to the traditional St. Louis-style pizza. While I suspect Firecracker could stand to be a little more heavy-handed with their cashew cheese (its taste was a bit lost in comparison to the tangy bite of the zhoug sauce), I honestly didn’t even notice until about two and a half slices in, because the rest of the toppings on the pie were so. freaking. good. Gloriously bright and colorful heirloom tomatoes, meaty hunks of vegan beef, and tender slices of eggplant? Yes, please!
Pro-tip- Firecracker offers three sizes for their Build-Your-Own pizza offering- regular, large, and jumbo. My husband and I split a regular- while it would be more than enough food for one, I would probably recommend getting a large if you and your dining companion are especially hungry (or some might just say ambitious).
Although they have continued the genius trend of pizza-by-the-slice, as of the time this was posted, no vegan options are available for those on the go. For now, I guess we’ll just have to get our by-the-slice fix on at Pizza Head.
I think I’ll give Firecracker a pass for this shortcoming, though- from the quick and attentive service to the limitless interesting available pizza options and boundless tap selections that would please even the most hardcore beer nerd, Firecracker will surely play a role in enabling my insatiable pizza addiction.
Firecracker Pizza & Beer is located at 4130 Manchester Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110 (open 11 AM-1:30 every daily).
Have you tried Firecracker yet? What's your favorite spot for pie in your hometown?
Wanna read about other great restaurant options in St. Louis? Check out these articles.