The food scene in St. Louis continues to evolve, growing, innovating and diversifying. There’s even talk of the city becoming a tastemaker in the culinary world. While we highly recommend dining at our creative, contemporary establishments, it would be remiss of us to not tell you about the emblematic eats in St. Louis.
From breakfast to dinner to dessert, the Gateway City has dishes that delight everyone – from the pickiest eaters to the most ardent epicures – and each one comes with its own history, tradition and irresistible flavor. Let’s dig in!
Inexplicably linked to St. Louis, the slinger is our midnight snack. An amalgamation of potato, egg, chili, cheese and protein, the iconic dish defies the limits of what can be literally slung together on a plate and still taste good.
Although some people see a hot mess, others find that the slinger satisfies not only their cravings but also their souls. We’ll say this: Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
Found on menus across St. Louis, the copious carbohydrates are best enjoyed after a long night with friends. Whether you step, stumble or shimmy through the door, Courtesy Diner will have a slinger waiting for you, 24 hours a day!
Traveling with family? Consider the slinger a breakfast staple. In the Delmar Loop, both Kingside Express and Peacock Loop Diner will give you a proper taste of the culinary sensation, while Rooster’s creation features local andouille, eggs, potatoes and sausage gravy served over thick-cut toast. Vegan? Rooster’s locations in downtown St. Louis and on South Grand also boast a vegan slinger with breakfast potatoes and plant-based sausage, eggs and gravy served over sourdough.
Deep-fried, ground beef-stuffed pillows of pasta – need we say more?
Toasted ravioli – or t-ravs, as the locals call them – are St. Louis’ quintessential bar food. Although a number of area restaurants stake their claim on the invention of toasted ravioli, everyone can agree that the conception was a happy accident. One day in the 1950s, a cook fortuitously dropped a few ravioli into a fryer – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, traditional toasted ravioli – and creative takes – abound. Charlie Gitto’s on The Hill, which offers fine Italian dining, serves “the original” toasted ravioli with housemade pomodoro sauce, while the toasted ravioli at Anthonino’s Taverna was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.
Want to do a t-rav crawl? The Hill is the perfect place. The St. Louis neighborhood encompasses Favazza’s, Lombardo’s Trattoria, Mama’s on The Hill and Zia’s, to name a few more eateries that serve the delectable dish.
For twists on the classic, order the burnt end toasted ravioli at Salt + Smoke or the artichoke toasted ravioli at Katie’s Pizza and Pasta Osteria – both of which have locations at Ballpark Village across from Busch Stadium.
If you’re craving a sweet spin, head to the Food Hall at City Foundry, where STL Toasted makes flavors such as lemon-blackberry gooey butter cake, salted caramel apple cobbler and Oreo cheesecake truffle, along with savory flavors such as Buffalo chicken, pepperoni and Italian sausage and mushroom pot pie.
Designed to cater to American taste buds and served at Chinese-American restaurants throughout St. Louis, the St. Paul sandwich layers a hot, crispy egg foo young patty, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and a smear of mayonnaise between two slices of white bread.
According to popular belief, the St. Paul sandwich was invented by Steven Yuen, owner of Park Chop Suey on Chouteau Avenue, in the 1940s, as a way to draw more Missourians into his restaurant. Unique yet familiar, the sandwich began attracting attention, and its flavor and affordability helped it rise in popularity.
Today, we recommend trying the sandwich at Mai Lee, The Rice House and, of course, Park Chop Suey, where you can order it plain or with an extra protein – think chicken, pork, beef, duck and shrimp.
St. Louis-style pizza – if you know, you know.
Although those on the outside might side-eye our beloved Provel (a divisive processed blend of Cheddar, Provolone and Swiss), once you experience the cheese atop a local pie, you’ll become a believer. Really, there’s no better topping for our thin-crust, square-cut pizza. The gooey wonder melds with the dough, so you don’t know where one ends and the other begins.
Pros know that this presents a hazard, though: Eat the pizza too soon out of the oven, and you’ll likely burn the roof of your mouth with molten cheese. That said, the culinary experience is totally worth the risk.
St. Louisans are fiercely loyal to their favorite pizza joints, but no matter their allegiances, Imo’s Pizza is forever ingrained in the local culinary consciousness. “The Square Beyond Compare,” Imo’s was founded in St. Louis in 1964, and today, it boasts almost 100 franchise locations – plus, it ships its frozen pizzas to 13 states, spreading the St. Louis-style gospel near and far.
Other go-tos for St. Louis-style pizza include Guido’s Pizzeria & Tapas, Farotto’s Pasta & Pizzeria, Monte Bello Pizzeria, Pasta House and Pirrone’s Pizzeria.
What is a pork steak, exactly? Sometimes sold as Boston Butt or pork blade steak, a pork steak is cut from the shoulder of the pig in varying degrees of thickness. The bone-in meat has a large amount of intramuscular fat (marbling), making it especially succulent, and it has a more pronounced pork flavor than the oft-used chop.
A well-executed pork steak, grilled and slathered in tangy barbecue sauce, is a sign of summer around these parts. While pork steaks are a natural fit for backyard barbecues, you can also sink your teeth into the emblematic eat at local restaurants, including BEAST Butcher & Block, Hwy 61 Roadhouse, Sister Cities Cajun, Super Smokers and The Fattened Caf.
Legend has it that St. Louis’ iconic dessert, the gooey butter cake, was concocted when an absentminded baker forgot that he’d already added butter to his yellow cake mix and unknowingly doubled the amount. Ask any local, and you’ll get the same story. After all, we don’t just enjoy our food; we take our food culture seriously.
Rich, moist and tender, gooey butter cake is comfort food at its finest. If you want to take the treat to go, stop by Gooey Louie, where founder Debbie Stieferman puts butter in every part of the cake: the crust, the cake and the “goo.” While classic gooey butter cake is the heart of the bakery, Gooey Louie also offers seasonal flavors such as blueberry, pumpkin spice and chocolate-peanut butter. If you want to try more than one flavor – and why wouldn’t you? – Gooey Louie sells individual servings, which are available at its new brick-and-mortar location as well as online.
If you want to enjoy your gooey butter cake with a coffee, head to Park Avenue Coffee, which has locations throughout the area. Made from scratch, baked to order and shipped worldwide, the famous gooey butter cake comes in a variety of flavors, including turtle, triple chocolate, white chocolate-raspberry and Mom’s Traditional – where it all started.
Blondie’s Coffee and Wine Bar also sells gooey butter cake, alongside breakfast and lunch staples, in downtown St. Louis, while Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery puts a twist on the beloved dessert. Its gooey butter cake flavor features tangy cream cheese ice cream swirled with large pieces of housemade gooey butter cake. It’s so good, Oprah named it to her coveted “O List” in 2019.
It’s difficult to dispute the role that Ted Drewes Frozen Custard plays in the summertime experience in St. Louis. For more than 90 years, the family-owned company has served hot fudge sundaes, ice cream sodas and creamy “concretes,” which are best enjoyed on the custard stand’s asphalt parking lot along historic Route 66. Created in 1959, the concrete is a malt or shake so thick that it’s served upside down!
After spending the day at the Gateway Arch, the Saint Louis Zoo, The Muny or a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game, residents and visitors alike flock to Ted Drewes for their favorite flavors. Try a concrete blended with chocolate and pistachios or a sundae topped with hot fudge, raspberries and macadamia nuts. You can also choose your own toppings, from butterscotch to pecans and cookie dough to tart cherry.
Have we made you hungry? Let these emblematic eats influence your next meal in St. Louis.
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