Saint Louis cuisine

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
St. Louis style pizza, cut in squares on a crispy crust, with Provel cheese

St. Louis cuisine, the food culture of the St. Louis, Missouri area, has a rich history and broad range of influences. It consists most obviously of Italian, German, Irish, and French influences, but includes many essentially American contributions, and many contributions to food nationally, even globally. It has its own unique forms of pizza, barbecue, ravioli, pork, pastries, and more.

History and composition[edit]

St. Louis has a history going back to a French fortress in the 17th century, but its cultural styles are seen as centering most significantly around immigrants from Italy, Germany, and Ireland. Those three cultures immigrated heavily during the city's booming growth to dominance in the 19th century. Oktoberfest, sauerkraut, and bratwurst are still popular, today, as are Irish pubs, and Italian restaurants on The Hill dominate the local culinary topography.

The Joy of Cooking[edit]

Considered one of the most popular cookbooks in American history, The Joy of Cooking, was written by St. Louis native Irma Rombauer, whose charming, fun writing is seen as having taught generations of Americans how to cook.[1]

St. Louis foods[edit]

A number of foods are specific to or famous as originating in St. Louis:[2]

Toasted ravioli[edit]

Toasted ravioli, from The Hill

St. Louis boasts what locals[who?] consider some of the best Italian food in the country, in a region known as The Hill. One food that originated there is toasted ravioli, which is a kind of ravioli coated in breading and toasted dry or fried, instead of being boiled or baked wet. Credit for its invention is generally given to a restaurant called Oldani's, which is now known as Mama Campisi's.

St. Louis style pizza[edit]

Much is made of "New York style" and "Chicago style" pizza, and the rivalry between them. But an equally unique, and regionally popular, variation is St. Louis-style pizza. Among its unique traits:

  • It is cut in squares, not wedges. This better supports the toppings, and is known as a "tavern cut."
  • The crust is thin and crisp, almost like a cracker, made with no yeast, giving it greater strength.
  • Greater crust strength is needed because the toppings are traditionally in much larger pieces, often sliced instead of diced.
  • A unique cheese blend known as Provel cheese (composed of provolone, Swiss, and white cheddar) is used to allow the eater to bite cleanly through it.
  • It is seasoned with more oregano and less basil than typical pizza sauce.

Among the archetypical St. Louis style pizza makers are Imo's and Cecil Whittakers.

Gooey butter cake[edit]

A slice of an atypical contemporary gooey butter cake, flavored with pumpkin, and garnished with whipped cream, instead of powdered sugar

Allegedly originating with a botched cake recipe in the 1930s, gooey butter cake (or gooey butter cookies) is a favorite of the region.[who?] The cake is flat and dense, made with typical cake ingredients, but is much heavier and moist with butter or cream cheese, and dusted with powdered sugar, not iced. It is served as a snack rather than as a dessert, and for formal celebrations. Nationally, foodies became aware of this treat when Paula Deen "borrowed" the recipe, publishing it nationally under her own name.[citation needed]

St. Louis–style BBQ[edit]

Pork steaks cooking, St. Louis style

Listed by Kingsford as one of the top ten barbecue cities,[3] St. Louis–style barbecue involves direct grilling rather than indirect heat and smoking, and a larger volume of the style's sweet, sticky, acidic tomato-based sauce. It is used with two local meat cuts:

Pork steak[edit]

In St. Louis, perhaps[weasel words] the most common pork dish is the pork steak, a shoulder cut that is slow-cooked until very tender, then barbecued.

St. Louis–style ribs[edit]

St. Louis–style ribs are spare ribs with the sternum, cartilage and rib tips removed to create a rectangular-shaped rack. This cut of ribs, formally recognized by the USDA as "Pork Ribs, St. Louis Style," allegedly originated with numerous meat-packing plants located in the region in the mid 20th century.


The Slinger is a St. Louis diner food consisting of two eggs, hash browns, and a hamburger, steak, or other meat, all covered in chili, onions, and cheddar or American cheese.

Gerber sandwich[edit]

The Gerber sandwich originated at the locally famous Ruma's Deli. It is an open-faced sandwich, with Italian or French bread, garlic butter, ham, and provel cheese. It is sprinkled with paprika and toasted.

St. Paul sandwich[edit]

The St. Paul sandwich originated in St. Louis in the 1940s. It is made with white bread with an egg foo young patty inside, served with dill pickle, white onion, mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato. Its inventor, Steven Yuen at Park Chop Suey in Lafayette Square St. Louis, named the sandwich after his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Famous contributions[edit]

Other foods were originally invented or originated in the St Louis area, but are now integrated into wider cuisine.

St. Louis World's Fair[edit]

Festival Hall, at the St. Louis World's Fair

The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, popularly known as the St. Louis World's Fair, is famous for originating, or more often introducing to the world, a great many foods that have worldwide popularity, today, including:

  • The ice cream cone, especially the waffle cone. George Bang, owner of the Bannery Creamery allegedly ran out of bowls for his ice cream at the fair, and started using rolled up waffles.
  • Hot dogs (frankfurters in buns): Anton Ludwig Feuchtwanger, a Bavarian sausage seller, is said to have served sausages in rolls at the World's Fair–either the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago or the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis[4]–allegedly because the white gloves provided to protect the customers' hands were being kept as souvenirs.[5]
  • Iced tea had existed as a novelty for some years, but became world-famous at the Fair.[6]
  • Machine-spun cotton candy was invented in 1897 by the dentist William Morrison and confectioner John C. Wharton and first introduced to a wide audience at the 1904 World's Fair as "Fairy Floss"[7] with great success, selling 68,655 boxes at 25¢ per box (equivalent to $6 per box today).
  • The fair introduced the phrase, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."[8]
  • The hamburger (a cooked ground meat patty served on a bun) gained national recognition at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair when the New York Tribune described the hamburger as "the innovation of a food vendor on the pike".[9]

Concrete (Blizzard)[edit]

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis, Missouri, Route 66 location

The local ice cream shop, Ted Drewes, originated "Concrete", frozen custard mixed into a milkshake so thick that you could hang a spoon in it upside-down. This was imitated, years later, by Dairy Queen as the Blizzard.[10]

Mayfair salad dressing[edit]

Mayfair salad dressing is a salad dressing incorporating anchovy, created at St. Louis's first five star restaurant,[11] The Mayfair Room, at the Mayfair Hotel, downtown.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
    Provel Cheese, Pork Steaks, and TUMS: St. Louis Food Traditions
    In 1931 St. Louis resident, Irma Rombauer, self-published her book, The Joy of Cooking. It went on to be one of the most popular cook books sold in the U.S. It has taught several generations of Americans how to cook. Simple yet delicious recipes along with Rombauer’s humor and common sense made it a must have in depression-era kitchens. Successive editions have kept up with the country’s changing tastes.
  2. ^ Top Five St. Louis Signature Foods
  3. ^ "St. Louis 101". The Kingsford Products Company. 2011-01-12. Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  4. ^ McCullough 2000:240
  5. ^ Jakle & Sculle 1999:163–164
  6. ^ "Iced Tea: The Distinctively American Beverage". Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  7. ^ "Cotton Candy". The Straight Dope. February 7, 2000. Retrieved November 30, 2011. 
  8. ^
    Foods of the World Fairs
    As the 20th century dawned, popcorn was popularized at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Vendors enticed hungry visitors by chanting rhymes like, “Lovely eyes come shine and glitter; buy your girl a popcorn fritter.” “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” was first coined at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair by Missouri fruit specialist J.T. Stinson.
  9. ^ Nancy Ross Ryan (February 6, 1989). Great American food chronicles: the hamburger. (restaurant marketing). Restaurants & Institutions. Reed Business Information, Inc. (US).
  10. ^ The New York Times. Dairy Queen's Blizard is Hot. Dairy Queen officials give credit for developing the Blizzard to Samuel J. Temperato, who is a franchise holder of 67 Dairy Queens in the St. Louis area. Mr. Temperato agrees that he introduced the Blizzard to senior officials at Dairy Queen, but he says credit for the invention should go to Ted Drewes, Jr., also of St. Louis, "who has survived the onslaught of Dairy Queens by just selling frozen custard." Frozen custard has a higher butterfat content than Dairy Queen's ice cream, and also contains egg yolk.
  11. ^ Treacy, Patricia (2005). The Grand Hotels of St. Louis. Arcadia. p. 72. ISBN 9780738539744. Retrieved 28 January 2013.