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Every interesting city has its quintessential defining aspects — the music that’s popular there, the art scene, the outdoor activities, etc. But nothing seems to define a place more than its food culture. In St. Louis, there are several classic foods that are specific to the city and definitely worth sampling. Read on for some of the exclusive tastes and specialties that you can find while exploring the Gateway City:
The first classic dish you need to try in St. Louis is their toasted ravioli. This twist on the Italian dish began on The Hill and is a deep-fried take on the original. The defining factor is that these meat or cheese-filled ravioli are never boiled, and instead are breaded and deep fried. There are two restaurants on The Hill that claim fame for the dish: Charlie Gitto’s and Mama Campisi’s. Today in St. Louis, you can sample this delicious dish at several locations. A couple favorites are Lombardo's Trattoria, where the ravioli are handmade and shaped like half-moons, and Mama Toscano’s Ravioli, where Nick Toscano and his family have been serving this specialty since the 1940s.
Another savory classic in St. Louis is the pork steak. Cut from a pork shoulder, this slow-cooked and tender barbecue specialty is layered with delicious tomato-based BBQ sauce. Your best bet is to attend a BBQ at the home of a St. Louisan to try this, since many of the restaurants don’t serve pork steaks in this traditional way; but there are a couple places in the city where you can experience this delicious classic — at Gamlin Whiskey House you can order their 24oz "Joe's Backyard Pork Steak" and at Smoki O’s Barbeque where they’ve been serving slow-cooked barbecue since 1997.
St. Paul Sandwich
Don’t let the name fool you — this sandwich is a St. Louis original. It’s named after the hometown of the man who invented the dish, who was from St. Paul Minnesota. It starts with an egg foo young patty (cooked with white onion and mung bean sprouts) which is then topped with white onion slices, pickles, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. You can also choose a meat to add to the egg foo young patty — chicken, pork, beef or even shrimp. All of these components are settled between slices of white bread. While there are plenty of restaurants creating upscale versions of this simple sandwich, you need only walk into a casual Chinese takeout restaurant to try the original. If you’re interested in mixing it up, visit the Rice House in Florissant, and order their “Angry Bird St. Paul”, where they add jumbo chicken, jalapenos, cajun spices, muenster cheese, and serve it up on texas toast.
Gooey Butter Cake
This sweet treat is said to have originated from an accident in the kitchen — a German baker in the 1930s mistakenly doubled the butter in a regular yellow cake recipe and created what has come to be an authentic St. Louis dessert. This gooey cake comes in the traditional flavor as well as many different varieties, all dusted with powdered sugar. At Gooey Louie, you can try the classic version and other flavors like chocolate chip or raspberry. At Park Avenue Coffee locations, they have about 12 varieties in store to choose from, and many more that you can special order online.
The St. Louis Slinger
This last dish is known for being the top hangover cure in the Gateway City. After a long night of indulging, many of the college students will head to the nearest diner and recover with the Slinger — a plate consisting of a hamburger patty topped with eggs, hash browns, chili, and shredded cheese. This hearty dish can be found at the Courtesy Diner, the “home of the St. Louis Slinger”, open 24 hours a day. Whether you’ve over-indulged or are just looking for a filling breakfast, head over to give it a try.
There are a few specialties you just can’t pass up experiencing when in St. Louis. Rooted in the traditions of the area, they give visitors and residents a real sense of the unique food culture in the Gateway City. Give one (or all) of these a try, and see why these quintessential dishes are still popular today.