If you ever lived in St Louis, you understand. If not, I feel a little bit sorry for you…
It’s 9 PM on a Saturday night and I’m into the third day of my four day visit to St. Louis. At the moment I can’t move. I’ve eaten too much pasta and had a bit too much wine. Yet again.
It’s good to be back!
I wasn’t always like this. I used to be a relatively normal woman with normal appetites and culinary desires. Maybe a bit of a sweet tooth. And then we moved to St. Louis. Paris isn’t the only place that’s a moveable feast…
Seriously? St. Louis? Now what state is that in….? Illinois, Arkansas, Kansas? You know those midwest cities in those midwest states… Can’t keep ‘em straight. Fly over territory. Who know and who cares?
St. Louis is one of the best kept secrets in the U.S. Not only does it have one of the best universities of the nation – Washington University – and free (yes free!) museums and a free zoo and the second largest urban park in the U.S. and amazing old school architecture and a kick ass Mardi Gras celebration and a dedication to their professional baseball team that most cities can only dream of and Clydesdale horses roaming free in the fields at Grants Farm BUT they have some of the best food in the country.
Let me explain…
I moved to St. Louis in 2010 after living in Atlanta for five years. Big change. But having grown up in western Pennsylvania and then lived in southern Ohio for nearly thirty years, it felt a bit like coming home. Medium sized midwestern city with midwestern sensibilities (translation: the mantra is shut up, suck it up, deal with it and don’t give me any crap about it.) Minimal botox big lips, sun bleached teeth, fake tans and boob jobs.
What I didn’t expect was the food. The incredibly amazing food. Wondrous food. And it was all no more than ten to fifteen minutes from our house. During rush hour. I gained five pounds in twelve months.
There’s The Hill. This area was originally settled by Italian immigrants and was, in a much less politically correct world, referred to as Deigo Hill. Imagine every wonderful Italian restaurant and sandwich place you have ever been to. Then imagine they are all within a ten square block area. Then imagine that the prices on the menu are 30% less. That’s The Hill. Throw in some totally authentic Italian markets (where the clerks and some of the partrons still speak Italian to each other), Italian bakeries, salumarias, and gelato places and…well…you get the picture.
Then there’s the frozen custard. Not only is there the famous Ted Drewes on old Route 66, but a bunch of mom and pop places. Fritz’s, Mr. Wizards, Doozles, Silky’s, Spanky’s. All selling rich, creamy frozen paradise with the option of mixing in nearly a unlimited combination of sauces, candies, fruits and nuts to create a “concrete”. Think a DQ Blizzard on lots and lots of steroids.
Everything from local bbq and chicken joints to soul food (Oprah made Sweetie Pies famous) to restaurants that serve only locally sourced foods to wonderful microbreweries (in the heart of Budweiser land!) to elegant, formal establishments and everything else in between. It’s all there and tastes fabulous!
But St. Louis is so modest and unassuming about it’s food. That’s so Midwestern… I honestly don’t think the people living there realize how good they have it. Until they leave.
To natives who had to move away and those of us who were transplants then then yanked out, we know. We understand. And we eat when we come back to visit. Oh yes – we eat. Fried chicken at Hodak’s, char grilled oysters at The Broadway Oyster Bar, the pasta a Zia’s, toasted ravioli at Lombardo’s, the smoked duck breast at The Shaved Duck, pretzels from Gus’, cupcakes from Sweet Art, pies from Sugaree, and on and on and on… In a very Pavlovian response, I start salivating when I catch a glimpse of the Gateway Arch from the air or driving in on I-64 through Illinois.
So I only have one more day. And my list of places to go is far larger than one day’s worth of eating. Something has to go. Or maybe not…
I wonder if it’s a coincidence that Tums are made in St. Louis?
[Full disclosure – I wrote the bulk of this on Saturday night, but did some editing today when I was less under the influence of tortellini and Chianti. Also – just so you don’t think I’m a shill of the Greater St. Louis Restaurant Association – of the food items that are indigenous to St. Louis, I do not like gooey butter cake (too sweet), provel cheese (click the link) and their cracker crust style pizza (no explanation needed.)]