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Wednesdays at St. Raymond's

If you're looking for a good lunch after sightseeing in downtown St. Louis, there are plenty of choices, including Italian, German, and Greek cuisine.

But if it's Wednesday and you're in the mood for something different, head to St. Raymond's Hall, a church hall across the street from the Ralston Purina Headquarters in the La Salle Park neighborhood, a five-minute drive southwest of the Gateway Arch. St. Raymond's is an Eastern Rite Catholic Church founded in 1898. But for three hours on Wednesdays, from 11 until 2, it's also a favorite lunch spot for city aldermen, judges, lawyers, factory workers, housewives, and children. A large community of Lebanese families forms the base of the church membership. In the 1960s, an all-volunteer group of these church-members decided to raise funds for the upkeep of the church by serving cafeteria-style lunch once a week. And they've been doing it ever since. Parishioners prepare Lebanese specialties like meat-and-spinach pies, grape-leaf rolls, kibbi aras (a deep-fried mixture of ground beef, cracked wheat, onions, and spices), and pita bread. These are dished out along with American standards. The very reasonable prices the freshly prepared food, and the unique atmosphere draw a steady and diverse clientele. There is always a line, but don't worry. It moves quickly. 931 Lebanon Dr., St. Louis, MO. 314/421-9151.

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