If you’re coming to the Show-Me State, you best be ready to eat. The classic staples of St. Louis cuisine aren’t, shall we say, health food – instead, be prepared for gooey butter cake, toasted ravioli and plates upon plates of barbecue. It’s all bound to leave you with a few extra pounds by the end of your trip. But who cares? It’s time to let loose”¦literally (we recommend loosening that belt a few notches in preparation for the indulgence to come).
St. Louis Barbecue
It would be a cardinal culinary sin to visit the Gateway City without diving into a towering plate of the barbecue for which it is justifiably renowned. And when it comes to St. Louis-style barbecue, one meat stands head and shoulders above the rest: pork, which comes in a variety of forms but is nearly always topped with lashings of sticky, sweet barbecue sauce. Pork steak is a popular plate around these parts, pulled pork is a constant, while only a fool would pass up the chance sample some St. Louis-style ribs. As with all devotees of barbecue, St. Louisans have strong opinions about where’s best to get the goods, but Sugarfire, Bogart’s Smokehouse, and Pappy’s Smokehouse all win accolades.
Gooey Butter Cake
As its name suggests, the accurately titled gooey butter cake won’t win you points with your nutritionist, but it will make you deliriously happy. Made from multiple sticks of butter, dollops of cream cheese and mountains of icing sugar, it’s sweeter than sweet and dangerously moreish. To get your fix, make a beeline for the family-owned Gooey Louie, which has staked a reputation on its recipe, handed down through four generations.
What’s better than a forkful of plump, cheese-filled ravioli? Why, toasted ravioli, of course. This staple of St. Louis cuisine, which is thought to have originated from the city’s predominantly Italian “˜Hill’ neighbourhood, sees frozen ravioli breaded, deep-fried, and served alongside a dipping bowl of marinara sauce. Crunchy, piping hot, and topped with a shower of freshly grated parmesan, it’s hard to find a better snack to pair with your beer (another St. Louis specialty, of course). For authentic T-ravs, Mama Toscano is an always-popular spot.
No, not the nickname of a professional fighter, though it also trades in TKOs: The Slinger is an unholy combination of rib-sticking stuff that’s guaranteed to satiate you whether you’re drunk, sober, hungover, or very, very hungry. Comprising eggs, hash browns, meat, cheese, chili con carne, and a number of other optional add-ons, one plate could just about feed you for a week. But where’s the fun in that? Follow the locals to the well-rated Courtesy Diner and prepare to chow.
St. Louis Style Pizza
You’ve heard of New York pizza, and you’ve heard of Chicago-style pizza. But St. Louis-style pizza? It’s well worth sampling – though some warn it’s not as appreciated by the outside world as it is by locals. Credit for that goes to the super thin and crispy crust, as well as provel, a St. Louis “˜cheese’ that’s a little bit smoky and a whole lot of gooey (gooey is, evidently, a way of life for St. Louis food lovers). Lose your associations with what you thought you knew about pizza, and just enjoy (and if you’re going for pizza, you can’t begin anywhere but Imo’s) – this is just one more St. Louis-made guilty pleasure that’s well worth the calories.
Virgin Atlantic and Delta operate frequent flights to St. Louis, so it’s time to start your culinary adventure.
Which of these classics of St. Louis cuisine are you most keen to try? Any others we missed? Let us know in the comments below.
Written by Claire Bullen