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St. Louis Lunch

I am taking a road trip with a friend next month and we'll be driving through St. Louis around lunchtime on my birthday (a Monday). A big part of the road trip for me is eating awesome local foods. I'm planning to get beef on weck in Buffalo, deep dish in Chicago, Tex Mex in Albuquerque, buffet in Vegas, and chain restaurant food in Tulsa. ;)

I don't know anything about St. Louis food, though, so I'm not even sure what to ask for. Are there regional specialties? What would be the tastiest lunch I could get? I don't care about specific cuisine much at all, only about tastiness.

i know this is pretty vague, but I didn't have much luck getting any ideas by reading existing threads (though please feel free to link to some if I missed something helpful).

Thanks very much!

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  1. "St. Louis" covers a lot of ground, geographically, so it would be helpful to know how you will drive through (I-70? I-270? Parts of I-64 that aren't closed?) and how far off the Interstate you are willing to go.

    Here are a few of my favorites:

    Pho Grand www.phogrand.com
    3195 South Grand Blvd.
    St. Louis, MO 63118
    Excellent Vietnamese. I won't pass up an order of spring rolls, #15.03 Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio--or perhaps 18.01 Bo Luc Lac, also known as Shaking Beef. Or one of the crushed rice platters like 20.01, Com Tam Bi Suon Cha. Round it off with a Vietnamese Iced Coffee and all will be well in the world! Just a note--Pho Grand is closed on Tuesdays.

    John D. McGurk's Irish Pub www.mcgurks.com
    1200 Russell
    St. Louis MO 63104
    Located in Soulard, just south of Downtown St. Louis, McGurk's is a great lunch spot. Don't miss the Wicklow Forest Mushrooms appetizer! I love their Smoked Rainbow Trout Salad and, of course, Bangers and Mash. McGurk's is close to the Arch and Anheuser-Busch so if you are taking a tour of either one, work in a visit to McGurk's.

    While you're downtown, drop by:
    Gus's Pretzels www.guspretzels.com
    1820 Arsenal
    St. Louis MO 63118
    Also close to Soulard and the Brewery, Gus's has the best pretzels ever! If you've already had lunch, pick up some fresh from the oven pretzels to keep you company on the road. If you need a little more, try the Salsiccia pretzel sandwich. I guarantee you'll be planning a trip back soon just for more.

    If you are driving through on I-70 in St.Charles, stop by
    Culpepper's www.culpeppers.com
    3010 West Clay
    St. Charles MO 63301
    They are a St. Louis chain and I really think this is their best location. Have a bleu cheese burger with some of the best hot wings around, add an order of toasted ravioli and enjoy! Culpepper's also has a great St. Louis style pizza so if you like cracker thin crust, try the Ultimate Cheese pizza.

    Depending on exactly where you are, you could also go off the beaten path to Cherokee Street for surprisingly authentic Taquerias. One of my favorites:
    Garduno's (no website
    )2727 Cherokee
    St. Louis MO 63118
    Great tacos, great everything, cheap, cheap eats.

    If you find yourself in the Central West End, save your lunch dessert for Bissinger's.
    Bissinger's, A Chocolate Experience www.experiencebissingers.com
    32 Maryland Ave
    St. Louis MO 63108
    Bissinger's is a St. Louis tradition for excellent chocolates. This past year, they opened a chocolate cafe where you can get dessert and drinks, both alcoholic and non. Worth the drive!

    Please let us know where you wound up and what your experience was like.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Socialkim

      Don't try to stop at Gus' Pretzels on a Monday! They are closed.

      1. re: lrstl

        Oh! Thank you so much for pointing this out. I looove pretzels and was all excited for this, but now I will just try to forget that it exists. :)

      2. re: Socialkim

        Oh, I hadn't even considered the Large City possibility. I'm from tiny Boston, so I forget that not all cities can be driven across in 10 minutes. :)

        I love Vietnamese food. And Pho Grand is right by 44 (which is what we're taking). I think that might be the winner, though my driving/dining companion might be too picky. It's my birthday, so I'm gonna go there, but what would be the closest place to Pho Grand for her to get a sandwich or something?

        1. re: maillard

          I'd go from Pho Grand to Amighetti's, which is no more than 10 minutes away. The sandwich is first-rate, particularly since the bread is so good, and it's an incredible bargain. An extremely filling, large sandwich packed with meat and cheese is less than six bucks.

          1. re: maillard

            Forgot to link to the two restaurants.

            Pho Grand Restaurant
            3195 S Grand Blvd, Saint Louis, MO 63118

            1. re: maillard

              Here's Amighetti's.

              Pho Grand Restaurant
              3195 S Grand Blvd, Saint Louis, MO 63118

              Amighetti's Bakery & Cafe
              5141 Wilson Ave, Saint Louis, MO 63110

              1. re: maillard

                One more thought: you might want to consider Banh Mi So #1 instead of Pho Grand. It's received consistent high marks on this site, and your friend might enjoy the Banh Mi sandwich there which would save you the trip to Amighetti's.

                Banh MI so 1 Saigon Gourmet
                4071 S Grand Blvd, Saint Louis, MO 63118

            2. OK, it gets dissed on Chowhound, but if you want a true taste of St. Louis, you have to taste a St. Louis-style pizza, toasted ravioli and salad lunch. My favorite place is Cafe Manhattan, on Hanley in Clayton. While this is very accessible to Highway 40 which goes east-west from across the river downtown near Busch Stadium past Forest Park and out through Clayton, Ladue and out to Chesterfield, the construction might make this a difficult destination. If that is the case, go to imospizza.com and look for a location along a highway close to your route. You start your meal with deep-fried "toasted" ravioli, crispy and served with a tomato sauce alongside for dipping. Then comes a salad with onions, cheese, and an Italian dressing. Finally comes the St. Louis pizza, huge in area but very thin, and cut into squares rather than wedges. Crispy light crust, with the tomato sauce and most of the toppings served underneath the layer of provel cheese, a melty, soft, creamy wonderful processed product only available in these parts. I love the stuff, and it is my first and last stop pretty much every visit home.

              Another classic St. Louis option would be the famous sandwich at Amighetti's, in the Italian neighborhood called the Hill on the south side of the city accessible via Highway 44. They do a notable cold cut sandwich, tasty and hefty, on good bread.

              St. Louis has some good bars that serve big burgers and sandwiches for lunch. Many people rate O'Connell's as the best for burgers or big roast beef sandwiches, but unless the law has changed recently be aware that it can be very smoky. My favorite burger is at The Fatted Calf in Clayton -- wonderful fire-grilled burgers made of fine beef, properly cooked to order, with balls of soft cheese available on top, for only $5-6. But Clayton, while centrally located, may be difficult with the highway construction. Blueberry Hill is on Delmar in the Loop area, just north of Washington University, and is filled with rock & roll memoribilia, especially from hometown hero Chuck Berry. Good burgers, extensive casual menu, and fun vibe. Finally, an upscale bar with great food at lunch is Anthony's, associated with Tony's which many feel has been the premier fine-dining St. Louis restaurant for over four decades. Located downtown in the lobby-level of an office building on Broadway, just over the river very close to the stadium.

              Even if it is cold, you don't want to miss getting a "concrete" at Ted Drewe's, on the old Highway 66 on the south side. Landmark frozen custard stand, with a rich soft base that gets mixed with a wide choice of sauces or toppings or mix-ins for a shake that is so thick it can be held upside down.

              1 Reply
              1. re: nosh

                I would totally second Amighetti's... or some place else on the hill. If I had to choose a "cuisine" for St. Louis it would be Italian. So hit the Amighetti's cafe or another place over there... http://www.amighettis.com/

                The only other "St. Louis" place I would say is the Loop- hit like Blueberry Hill or Cicero's.

                If you're on 40 in Chesterfield- I'd say stop at Annie Gunn's and have the French Dip.

              2. Two of my favorite unique St. Louis lunch spots are:

                Crown Candy Kitchen -- a 1913 soda fountain. Great BLTs, chili dogs, egg salad, reubens (did I mention great BLTs?). Hand dipped malts and shakes.


                Adrianna's -- lunch-only spot on "The Hill", St. Louis' Italian neighborhood. Sandwiches, soup, salads, pasta.


                1. I second Crown Candy Kitchen. Get a malt and a BLT. If you are not a meat-eater, get the egg salad sandwich.

                  1. I would agree---get the Amighetti's Special (sandwich) at Amighetti's ON THE HILL (there are a couple of other Amighetti's in the area---you want to go to the original one on Wilson). We lived in St. Louis about 20 years ago, and still get there 1-2 times per year. We always go back to Amighetti's. We tried Adriana's instead last time (on a Chowhound recommendation) and were very disappointed---we'll be going back to Amighetti's! Get a cannoli for dessert (or the gelato--it's very good). http://www.amighettis.com/

                    1. If you care about foodie level tastiness and have lived in other major metropolitan areas, I wouldn't go by what stl is famous for (i.e. Imo's St Louis style pizza, toasted ravioli, amighetti's). sorry. ted drewes tastes good but I don't believe it deserves its cult-like phenomenon. I second Crown Candy Kitchen and Bissinger's though. Also a little off the beaten track is Blue Owl Bakery for their famous apple pie. I'd recommend stopping at Forest Park. Hopefully it's not too cold.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: ankimo

                        Agreed--St. Louis has so much delicious, affordable food that is locally sourced and not "St. Louis style".

                        Crown Candy is an experience, definitely. I will always swear by the chocolate banana malt.

                        If you're more of a foodie, I would also suggest Newstead Tower Public House (at Newstead and Manchester), or Five (at Manchester and Tower Grove Ave). Both have lots of incredible local meats, and pretty reasonable lunch prices.

                        1. re: robotarms

                          Skip Culpeppers, skip Pho Grand.

                          Thumbs up on Crown Candy and Amighetti's. Toasted ravs are great if they are cooked correctly, they hard to chew on and tough if they are not.

                          Oh yeah, 40/I-64 is closed going through town so you will need to take surface streets or take the I-70 and wind around the north of town, which is perfect because it takes you close to Crown Candy Kitchen.

                          1. re: robotarms

                            I believe Five ceased to serve lunch when Newstead opened.

                        2. As a non-native I'd suggest hitting O'Connels (just south of hwy 44, Kingshighway exit) for a burger, roast beef or rueben sandwich, or a take-out chinese place for a St. Paul sandwich (several blocks north of hwy 44, Jefferson exit). Crown Candy kitchen is an old time lunch counter place that might be worth while if you're coming down hwy 70. I wouldn't bother with any of the other suggestions. If you live in Boston you've had far better subs, pizza and vietnamese food.

                          1. As much as I'd love to steer them to something that is actually good, and I really hate to say this because I don't personally care for most of it, but the original poster is looking for "St. Louis" food and that equals:

                            St. Louis style pizza
                            toasted ravioli
                            soggy salad
                            pork steaks
                            gooey butter cake
                            st. paul sandwich

                            As far as originality of the experience, I agree with Crown Candy and Blueberry Hill. While the food is not phenomenal, I think most out-of-towners find those places pretty unique.

                            1. Now the thread has come around again. Please bear in mind that the post wanted regional St. Louis food, not the best or most convenient lunch in St. Louis. On a road trip where the destination in Las Vegas is a buffet, not the ultimate branch of another big-city gourmet restaurant. If a traveller is stopping after deep dish pizza in Chicago, our local specialty and trademark is not pho.

                              They may love or more likely find much to criticize in the local pizza, but at least they would have experienced the St. Louis style with its provel cheese glory at least once. Even if they hate the pizza, I think they'd enjoy the toasted ravioli. Or failing that an Amighetti sandwich or big plate of pasta or good burger or roast beef sandwich with a cold beer at a local bar with a grill. And top it off with a Ted Drewe's. Otherwise we are just another fast food stop on the long highway...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: nosh

                                I've got to agree with the Imos, Tedc drewes idea for T-ravs, pizza (bacon is the best), Italian salad and then Ted drewes. The Webster Imos on Big Bend is right off 44, and Serendipity, another hometown ice creamery, is right across the street, if there wasn't a good Mapquest route, or not enough time.

                                Good Luck to you, and make sure to let us know where you went and how it went! Enjoy STL!

                              2. I second Amighetti's for a tasty sammich - if you're looking for interesting local atmosphere Iron Barley is cool and they have delicious munchables - also Fast Eddie's (which is technically in Illinois) is really fun and really cheap (although it's absolutely a dive restaurant/bar)

                                1. Just wanted to report back... Due to an extremely late start that day, we didn't end up having lunch in St. Louis, just a coffee break. We went to Kaldi's to try their Clover machine coffee. (I actually completely hated it, but that might've been due to the bean rather than machine?) I noticed that they had gooey butter cake bars, so I grabbed one of them too. It was delicious! It did take me 3 or 4 days to finish, though. That thing was seriously rich. I'm not sure how close the bars were to normal gooey butter cake (or if it's always in bar form?), but these were very tasty. And I at least got to try one St. Louis specialty.

                                  Thanks to everyone who responded with suggestions. I'll keep them in mind for my next cross-country trip.