Monday, July 15, 2013

Eating BIG in St. Louis

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

-STL Style BBQ, Slingers, St. Paul Sandwiches and More

They say it's the gateway to the West, I say its the gateway to good times. St. Louis is often overlooked when people are planning a road trip but most of the time thats because they've never been. I'm from one of the great cities in this country and can say with confidence I could live and enjoy life in da lou. Its a beautiful city with many parks and tons of its old world charm remains. They like to eat, they love to drink, their passionate about sports and are most always welcoming. If you've never been it's a great place to take a weekend getaway. Lets roll around.

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Good to see you again Louis

First stop of this trip is to Smoki O's which is a favorite of my friend who lives down. He's the original dude I went on food explorations across Chicagoland with. Long before I had a camera or this site, we would ride around looking for good stuff to eat. The family that runs this Popular STL Style BBQ Spot in the North Riverfront neighborhood is really nice, they always have the block smelling good.

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"We keep it clean so you can eat it lean"

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Smoked Wings and Rib Tips

Totally spaced out and didn't order a pork steak which is one of the more popular pieces of meats to smoke in these parts. Sauce comes on stuff here so you need to ask for it on the side if you like it that way. My friend likes their tips and wings. Tips were ok, not up to par with some of the spots in Chicago but the wings were on point.

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The Rollin' Smoker

We spied this guy rolling thru the Northside and honked for him to stop but all they had was sno cones for another 45 or so while the BBQ finished up. Still pretty awesome seeing him roll around. I got my pork steak fix at Pennie's which is a place I had heard had one of the cities best. I doubt what I ate there was as good as Smoki O's and it wasn't like that which I inhaled outside a club in Brooklyn (IL) but the huge piece of steak with tender meat and slightly sweet sauce has to be one of the best fill you up meal deals in town. The folks eating here obviously stopped in for one often.

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BBQ Pork Steak from Pennies

A trip to STL isnt complete without a stop at Crown Candy Kitchen. You'll step back into time at this old world candy and ice cream counter. They've been around since 1913 and four generations later the same family continues cranking out homemade candies and malts.

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The Historic Crown Candy Kitchen

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Try a Johnny Rabbit Special: Fresh banana malt with whipped cream, nuts and nutmeg

They also do lunch and dinner. The biggest seller is what they call the "World's Best BLT" I think I remember seeing the Man vs. Food dudes pic here and him declaring it one of the five best sandwiches he's ever had or something like that. I mean it's a BLT done in the traditional way so no. But that said this isn't a BLT like your mama used to make...unless you're Honey Boo Boo.

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"World's Best" BLT served with at least a package worth of bacon

Well the food itinerary doesn't get any healthier from here. I have a serious/sick love for fried tacos. I've come to find that these seem to be a popular item served at bars and Mexican restaurants in places outside of and around STL. Particularly in some Illinois towns. They're also big in Kansas City but for whatever reason there arent many in St. Louis. The exception is a place called Mi Ranchito. I thought their chicken ones were better than the beef. They had a few options.

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Pan Fried Tacos from Mi Ranchito

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#RandomPics: Turkish Tent from Worlds Fair

The Slinger and St. Paul Sandwich are two of the cities distinct eats. No need for a history lesson here. These stoner creations are what happen when you live in a town where the bars rarely ever close and arent ever empty. The St. Paul is an American-Chinese food creation found in restaurants all over the area. My buddy pulled a sharp turn into some random spot in a strip mall so I could try one. An egg foo young patty is placed between cheap bread and topped with white onions, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo. I had a few bites but all in all it wasn't awful, something that can only get better with each beer and bong hit.

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St. Paul Sandwich from Wong's Inn

The Slinger is something everyone from St. Louis has a favorite version of. My friend loves Tiffany's which is probably a result of its hours (24/7) and the fact they serve booze until 2a. But its not a bar, its a diner and the old lady working the nights is a real treat. She and her grumpy attitude were bringing out some laughs from us.

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Late Night Slingers in St. Louie at Tiffany's

The usual outline for a slinger is two eggs, hash browns, and a hamburger patty or some other sort of meat covered in chili and topped with cheese and onions. Just like the Horseshoe up in Springfield (IL) slingers can come in both breakfast and lunch/dinner form.

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Breakfast Slinger with Sausage Gravy

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Original Style Slinger with Bacon

I enjoyed my original style slinger. I just mashed it all up into one big mush and inhaled the plate. Ya it was late and I was hungry so keep that in mind. There's a blog out there dedicated to tasting all the slingers STL has to offer and I noticed Tiffany's wasn't in the Top 10. I'm going to have to try one that is next time I'm down there.

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24 Hour Grease Pit (Eat Rite Diner)

We also came thru this 1940's style diner late one night after a show at the Old Rock House down the block. The burgers were frozen so it's not comparable to other old time classic like Powers in Fort Wayne. But they were a good quick fix.

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Cheap Cheeseburgers to soak up the booze

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#RandomPics Down by the River

Long day, lets get some rest before heading out for the eve. This would be my 2nd trip back to Hodak's  which is a place that comes with heavy praise for its fried bird.

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Locals favorite since 1962

Hodak's chicken is a St. Louis tradition. They love their fried bird from Hodak's down there. The people that swear by it live for it and even a few friends from Chicago of mine who make regular trips to see our friend agree with him that its the best fried chicken there is. I've been before and remember it for being good but not the best so I was glad to get a 2nd taste of it and see what was up. Especially since its been a few years and I've been around since then. We started off with an order of sticky wings and also some fried mushrooms. Wings were tasty and the 'shrooms were pretty damn good with their fried chicken breading and they give you an absurd amount for the $5 pricetag. Hodak's has very good fried chicken and a unique batter to taste. I'll give my friend that.

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Hodak's Fried Mushrooms

But I cant go so far as to say its the best fried chicken in the world. Still its a great place to eat. No doubt about that. Dinners dont come in 1/4 bird portions. A 1/2 order of golden fried chicken or an order of 5 whole wings are your options. They come standard with fries and slaw but other sides are available and a BBQ sauce comes with it. At $7.95 this is a great dinner value and the chicken comes juicy although I dont think it was freshly fried. Anytime it comes out fast I can sense that. I liked the fact it came with BBQ sauce which was also pretty good dipped with the chicken. Some say STL people feel like their city comes second to KC in an unfair way in many things such as BBQ. I haven't been to Stroud's but I hope Hodak's isn't better as far as fried chicken goes. Because with the hype Stroud's gets that would be disappointing. Rip's is still king for me.

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Fried Chicken Dinner from Hodak's

The food scene in St. Louis is really coming up. On top of all the old school long visited places theres some new spots making a name for themselves. One of the musts on a trip is Salume Beddu.

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Salume Beddu in the Lindenwood Park Neighborhood

"Salume Baddu is a small, artisan company, dedicated to the craft of Italian and European cured meats, fresh sausages and regional Italian specialty food items" Only the highest quality natural and local is possible ingredients are used here. It's a must stop in my book.

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Free Samples

If you're stopping thru here plan to spend at least $50 on cured meats and fresh salsiccie. Its a small space but they pack their display case with a wide range of offerings all made on site. Their mostarda is a must if you're bringing some of their salume to put out on a spread with cheese and crackers. They offer a traditional Roman Guanciale as well as a Spanish spiced one. Pancetta and Coppa always go into my basket as does Finocchiona Salame and fresh Diavolini sausage.

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Display Case

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Cured Meat Platter with Cheese

Lunch is served here so we feasted like some old Roman emperors on this visit. All three of the sandwiches we tried were excellent, I liked the hot Italian best with the Beast (Fresh sausage with roasted hot peppers and onions) right behind it. These guys are giving the Lou the goods.

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Porchetta Sandwich

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Hot Italian

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The Beast Salticia Sandwich...see you again soon.

Every now and then I have to sit thru a baseball game of watching my two least favorite teams play. I've been to alot of Cubs (Love/Hate) vs Cards (Hate/Hate) games over at Wrigley thru the years but never at Busch Stadium until last year. I will say the place is very pretty and all things considered (free tickets and drinks with passionate fans) a really fun time. I'm glad I can now say I've been to the new Busch Stadium and encourage all baseball fans to go at least once. Not many cities these days where baseball comes first but St. Louis is without a doubt one of them.

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Busch Stadium: Home of the Cardinals

-A day of eating in the Soulard Neighborhood

Its only fitting that an area that was settled at and developed by a Frenchman named Antoine Soulard be one of the bigger drinking communities in the country. Reason being is that Soulard is the French word for a drunkard. But I think that's just coincidence and the fact that the 'hood is so heavily loaded with bars and celebrations, such as the largest Mardi Gras party outside NOLA, is due to its roots. This was a neighborhood where many of the early day brewery workers built their homes. Today it's still filled with beautiful old school brick buildings which have been turned into bars, eateries, lofts and other places that intend on keeping the historic charm of the old world neighborhood intact.

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Soulard Neighborhood in St. Louis

I've gotten around da Lou due to my aforementioned friend who lives down there and never lets me come thru without eating well. A few lots down from my friends house is Luvy Duvy's. A great little spot on the corner that gets packed with locals there to eat and of course drink. I just had a bite of my buddy's biscuits and gravy which I thought were good but kind of plain. Nothing life changing but alot of the sandwiches I saw people chowing on looked very tasty. It was a lively place and my friend who lives there loves it. 

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On the corner of Arsenal & Jefferson across from Benton Park

After a few drinks at Luvy's it's off to an old neighborhood favorite called Gus' Pretzels. They've been around and all in the family since 1920. They weren't the only ones who started serving twisted dough though. As expected with the brewery being in the store's shadows and pretzels being of German heritage they were a popular snack both for work and play (drinking) for the locals who worked at the brewery back then and those who still do today. They must make 1,000's a day on the weekend as was evidence from the line where you could see the employees hard at work making them and then baking them and then letting them rest in a large room amongst many more with fans blowing down on them.

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Pretzel stick and a twist...good eating for $2 and change

St. Louis has a really great marketplace called Soulard Farmers Market. It has roots all the way back to 1779 when it was just a flat area of land where farmers could come sell their crops, dairy and livestock. "In 1795, Antoine Soulard was given a 122 acre plot that included the market grounds by his father-in-law, Gabriel Cerre. But, when the United States made the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Antoine's claim to the land was put in jeopardy. It wasn't until 1836, after a lengthy legal battle and Antoine's death, that his widow, Julia Soulard, acquired the deed to the land. In 1841, she officially set aside two city blocks to be used as a farmers market..." from their Website.

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One of the two main buildings as it stands today

Every visit I take to a place that has a permament market like this I get more and more frustrated at the fact Chicago is lacking one. Whats wrong with my city? Their market is open Wed-Sat all year long. However only certain portions of it are open on days leading up to Saturday which is when the entire space is 100% occupied and thus the day to go. It's especially busy during summer months and was very vibrant the day we visited. If you needed further proof that its either Milwaukee or St. Louis for the biggest non tourist destination drinking city in America, check the 2nd pic of the collage below. That's the first vendor and sign I saw when we walked in.

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The Soulard Farmers Market

Soulard's Market is like a mixture of your local farmers market with a little bit of your local meat packing plant with the vending people of a Phish show and an Asian Flea Market mixed in. Add to that the fact you can shop and drink and it's got a little local tavern vibe going on as well. It was the most integrated market I've been to as there was all sorts of different folks shopping this Saturday. I liked what I was seeing even before the eating began. Its not the best idea to walk thru such a big selection of grocery goods while being hungry so first things first, some food and drink.

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Whats not to like?

There's a little section amongst one of the entry ways where theres a few vendors who sell food and baked goods and the rest of the good stuff like fresh butchered meats, shaved ice, sausage and beer. A couple stands sell sausage and one of them has a really good brat while the other sells their specialty, a German garlic sausage. It's a 100 year old family recipe and they sell them to take home at the butcher shop across from the stand where you can buy them ready to eat. The German Garlic's were fantastic and something I wish we had access to here. The next time I'm in town I hope I can get a bunch to take back. A local specialty of freshly baked gooey butter cake for the 3rd course and break in between meals was the only way to go while in St. Louis.

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Bloody Mary and Chicken & Dumplings from Julia's Market Cafe

There's a few other vendors selling food you can eat while shopping and I stopped in at Julia's Cafe at one of the entry ways to order a Bloody Mary and saw they had chicken and dumplings too. Very good but not nearly on par with Arnold's down in the Music City. After all that it was time to walk around see what else was going on.

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A look around the market

There was some really good looking stuff and pretty much everything you needed here from freshly grown local produce that was in season to Cardinals players t-shirt jerseys, bootlegged DVD's and beanie hats for hippies. Fresh flowers, cheeses, pasta and fruits and veggies too. The local stuff looked really nice as most every stand is occupied by local farms from around Missouri. We got a really sweet, juicy watermelon from one of them that was fantastic.

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Who says farmers markets are all about teaching people to eat healthier?

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A cool old business turned home in Soulard

You have to have some BBQ while down in da Lou. I was very much tempted by Bogart's when I first saw it as we were pulling up to the Farmers Market. It had a line out the door and my buddy said that their pastrami sandwich was amazing. I looked it up on google for a little bit while we were walking around and then before taking off I made a last second decision to grab something to go for the road.

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A popular BBQ spot in the Soulard neighborhood

I prefer the old school found on the side of the road pits to the newly opened places that get alot of hype which alot of the time is undeserved. I trust my friends taste for good BBQ as he's been with me for many good sessions. I don't consider much of anything from yelp as credible info but when a place has over 200 reviews and stays near five stars I dont see that as a bad thing. Usually even the most popular places get served single stars bc of something stupid. The reviews were good as were other things I read about the former pitmaster at a local favorite Pappy's and his new place. I was going to get the smoked pastrami but they were out of that which was a blessing in disguise as I went with the ribs instead. Another friend tried the pastrami and dint like it. The ribs however were really good.

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Bogart's BBQ Baby Back Ribs

Skip Steele who is co-owner of Bogarts is one of the founders of Super Smokers BBQ and a seasoned veteran of both the competition BBQ circuit and restaurant/smokehouse scene. He and a former GM of Pappy's BBQ opened Bogart's which has fit into the BBQ scene real well or so it would seem. It's not just ribs and pulled pork here. I heard great things about their smoked prime rib but would be hard pressed not to get the ribs again. They finish them with an apricot glaze that's caramelized with a blow torch giving them a sweet crisp exterior to pair with tender juicy meat with just the right amount of smoke flavor and perfect resistance off the bone. The baked beans and potato salad were as good as either or I have had. We took it al on an excursion along the Mississippi thru some IL river towns, stay tuned.

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A smokey, sticky, succulent delight of a bite

An excellent option for dinner in the city is the Sydney Street Cafe. It's my friends favorite spot down there and that was clear when everyone there knew him upon entry. It sits in a century old historic building with in informally elegant atmosphere. Just three of us on this trip and my friend did the ordering. They specialize in in continental and contemporary American cuisine.

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Pasta with Chorizo and Veal Dumplings at Sydney Street Cafe

Both apps were fantastic. It looks like the fresh made pasta with sausage dish over a colorful puree is no longer on the menu but it was one of the best dishes I've ate of late. My friend the regular got us three orders of the veal dumplings with a cilantro salsa. So good. The Crab and the Egg was also a winner for all. Not pictured were some amazing rolls served pre-meal a charcuterie plate served on a Boos block and a really spot on soup to start off. The pastry chef here is highly acclaimed and the Apple Brown butter cake with a caramel apple puree, spicy walnuts, caramelized Jonathan apple and foie gras ice cream was sensational.

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Crab & Egg: Jumbo lump crab, green goddess, crispy soft boiled egg, pancetta vinaigrette

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Apples Brown Butter Cake

We always spend some time at my friends local watering hole for some boozing and schmoozing while in town. I really like the vibe around the Soulard neighborhood. It keeps getting better each time I visit. I dont know if John's Donuts is located in Soulard but my boy had the first batch of the night delivered fresh to us at Trueman's Place as we drank one visit. I dont think they deliver, this was a guy working there doing him a favor. St. Louis as he told me is a donut town and these while still hot were as fantastic of a batch I've had in sometime.  The apple fritter, blueberry and maple bacon donuts were all fantastic and nowhere near $3 a piece. Donuts arent trendy here, they're traditional.

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Great drinking eats

Shortly after the donuts arrived that I experienced my only unpleasant vibes while in da 'lou. Some meatballs at the bar who I was getting bad feelings from all night I guess were either unhappy that my friend was enchanting all the waitress' or that he brought some Cubs fans with him to join in, or maybe they were just jealous they didn't get offered any donuts? But a couple of them decided to play tough. They were held down until bigger men came and then kicked out. Poor guy I hope is elbow isn't as bad as Wainwrights was a couple years back. Damn Cardinals fans, just because I'm from Chicago doesn't mean I'm a threat to you. Besides the Cubs and most of their yuppie fans suck, Ill be the first to tell you that.

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See you again soon St. Lou...

Smoki O's
1545 N Broadway
St Louis, MO 63102
(314) 621-8180

Pennie's BBQ
4265 Reavis Barracks Rd
St Louis, MO 63125
(314) 544-1661

Crown Candy Kitchen
1401 St Louis Ave
St Louis, MO 63106
(314) 621-9650

Mi Ranchito
887 Kingsland Ave
St Louis, MO 63130
(314) 863-1880

Wong's Inn
2666 S Big Bend Blvd
St Louis, MO 63143
(314) 647-1176

Tiffany's Original Diner
7402 Manchester Rd
St Louis, MO 63143
(314) 644-0929

Eat Rite Diner
622 Chouteau Ave
St Louis, MO 63102
(314) 621-9621

Hodak's
2100 Gravois Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63104
(314) 776-7292

Salume Beddu
3467 Hampton Ave
St Louis, MO 63139
(314) 353-3100

Luvy Duvy's
2321 Arsenal Street
St. Louis, MO 63118
(314) 776-5889

Gus' Pretzels
1820 Arsenal Street
St. Louis, MO 63118
(314) 664-4010

Soulard Farmers Market
730 Carroll Street
St. Louis, MO 63104
(314) 588-1206

Bogarts Smokehouse
1627 South 9th Street
St. Louis, MO 63104
(314) 621-3107

Sydney Street Cafe
2000 Sidney St
St Louis, MO 63104
(314) 771-5777

John Donut Co
1618 South Broadway
St. Louis, MO 63104
(314) 241-3360

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On Crown candy. In mid 60's there was a D.J. on am radio named Johnny Rabbit. Same Guy?

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