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For a St. Louis transplant, Doyle's 'Guidebook' is clutch

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 25, 2011 - I am not a native St. Louisan. I'm from Arkansas, just a few hours down I-55. Being in such close proximity to the Gateway City, I grew up a Cardinals fan and enjoy St. Louis, but never as much as when I moved on up two years ago.

I noted, as many do, St. Louis' unique structure: a collection of smaller communities united along a series of interstates as one large city. The feeling is of being in the middle of a booming metropolis while having a certain small-hometown feel.

For out-of-towners, and even those who may have been in one pocket of the city their entire life, author Amanda E. Doyle's new book, "Finally! A Locally Produced Guidebook to St. Louis, By and For St. Louisans, Neighborhood By Neighborhood," is an illuminating look at some of the hidden corners of the region and city, neighborhood by neighborhood.

Finding the book was especially easy for me as I sit right next to the author's husband every day at work. Yes, there is a Beacon connection here.

The book is as meticulously detailed as the title is long. There doesn't seem to be a stone unturned, a cafe unvisited or an artifact unrecorded by Doyle (slight exaggeration). Written with Kerri Bonasch, "Guidebook" lists not only where to get your meals, drinks and shopping, but the historical significance of every single area.

Doyle begins with downtown, weaving her way in and out of every neighborhood, including county and Illinois parts of the region and even attractions that are hours away, but would be enjoyed by St. Louisans.

The book is a remarkably utilitarian read; for example, after finishing it, my girlfriend and I needed to grab a bite to eat, without going to the same places we always frequent, but without leaving our neighborhood either. A quick flip of some pages and we found ourselves in a pizza shop we didn't even know about. We have been back to it since.

But what truly makes this a must-have for anyone in or around St. Louis is, of course, the richness of the subject of the book: each and every neighborhood. When discussing things I had learned from the guidebook with natives, even they were surprised by how much they didn't know about their hometown.

Did you know about the motorcycle museum in Grand Center? You know about Ted Drewes, but how many flavors of his concrete are there? Famous for its pasta, the Hill also has a lot of delis -- how many? Did you know that Blueberry Hill isn't made of blueberries at all, but of brick and iron like every other building in the Loop?

So for St. Louisans and for transplants alike, this could be the definitive guide to show you how lucky you are to be here now.

Note: Amanda Doyle's husband is the Beacon's web developer.