On paper, it may seem that proprietors Jeremy and Casey Miller run a single business, The Mud House, in St Louis, Missouri. Mr. Miller dismisses that feeling.
“We run three businesses out of this place,” he says. “We do a small bakery. We do a coffee house and a cafe. I guess the umbrella term would be a cafe, but you can count on us that all those things are going to be at the top of their game”
The Millers, former part-time antique dealers, took over the space formerly known as The Mississippi Mud House in 2008. The original owners wanted out of the restaurant industry, and sold their renovated café and coffee connection, Mississippi Mud Roasters, to the Millers.
According to Jeremy, they learned about the shop through Casey’s mother, an antiques dealer, and loved the area due to the architecture and vibe of the street.
Their cafe sits along Cherokee, a formerly sleepy street in the city filled with antique shops. In its heyday, the Lemp Brewery anchored one end of the street in the mid 1800’s and still stands today mere blocks from the Mud House. During recent years, the street has slowly been evolving and boasts numerous restaurants and establishments.
Many artists also make Cherokee Street their home, as well as their canvas. The artistic flair is evident in many businesses, including the Mud House. A large canvas of nurses stares over the pastry case, coffee bar and main dining area. The side room has a menagerie of fun pieces, as well as a bookcase with books for sale next to an old orange couch. Sunlight from large windows is broadcast over taxidermy heads, wood grains and exposed bricks.
Mud House's gradual shift towards premium coffee selections originated during several trips to San Francisco in 2009. The Millers experienced the Ritual, Sightglass, Four Barrel, and Blue Bottle locations during their visits. They enjoyed the pour-over coffee so much they bought “all the Hario stuff,” but waited to unveil the gear at their café until there were more like-minded shops in the marketplace. Miller credits shops such as Sump Coffee, Blueprint Coffee, Kaldi’s Coffee, and Comet Coffee for pushing coffee forward in St. Louis.
The last 2.5 years have been focused on slowly improving the coffee program, including a new espresso machine and renovated brew bar, with coffee director and front of house manager Aaron Stovall steering the ship for the last year and a half.
The Mud House features Kansas City’s Broadway Roasting Company for house drips. The rotating guest roaster list can be brewed in a variety of methods and include fellow St. Louisans Blueprint Coffee, Counter Culture (Durham, NC) MadCap Coffee (Grand Rapids, MI), and to come full circle, San Francisco’s Sightglass Coffee.
“It’s really neat to see what all of these people are doing around the country..to see how each different roaster's handling the evolution,” says Stovall. “Because a lot of times, I’ll get the same lots, the same origins from different roasters, but they’re roasted just a little differently. The changes are so subtle, and it’s just helped further our education more than anything and allows people to try stuff from across the country that they wouldn’t normally get to.”
To go along with their coffee selection, the Mud House’s food and pastries are all home made in accordance with the café’s original vision. The Millers spent a lot of time building out the kitchen, focusing on relationships with local farmers for their product. Breakfast and lunch menus are served all day long and include a breakfast burrito and a pork confit sandwich. Vegetarian dishes are prominent on both menus, such as the Breslin: curried lentils, two poached eggs, tomatoes, greek yogurt and toast.
Both Miller and Stovall are excited to keep the Mud House up to date with the growing coffee culture in St. Louis.
“A lot of that's due to the customer base that we have that's loyal and trusts us to do good things,” Miller says. “We're not going to put out a product that's mediocre. We're going to try it and test it before we put it out. They come back. It's great.”
This is Evan C. Jones' first feature for Sprudge.