St Louis Weekend

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toddfleet
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2010/05/19 15:53:38 (permalink)

St Louis Weekend

Hello again Roadfood after a long absence!  We (Todd & Rita from Illinois) posted a few trip reports several years ago and have had little new to report since, but we are BACK and happy to be here!
 
We scheduled a little weekend in St Louis with only a few schedule or location limitations and were determined to try some famous St Louis institutions:  St Louis Style Pizza, The Hill, and Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.  So hoping to inform and entertain, here we go: 
 
FRIDAY DINNER
Pirrone's Pizza, Florrisant MO
We were aware of the characteristics of St Louis style pizza--very thin crust, square "party" cut, and provel cheese (what's that?).  But even though we live only 2 hours away we had never tried it.  So we targeted two places for a Friday pizza, Imo's or Pirrone's, and in good roadfood fashion we skipped the Imo's chain and went local.  www.pirronespizza.com  
   
We arrived at Pirrone's about 7PM and they are in what appears to be a remodeled supermarket--large building for a restaurant, with room for banquets, plenty of parking, and several simple but pleasant dining rooms.  After a very short wait we were seated and immediately felt very comfortable among the neighborhood crowd watching the Cardinals game on TVs.  We were served a basket of bread and (real) butter, always much appreciated and we think a step up for a neighborhood pizza place.  An appetizer of toasted ravioli was quite good and included a thin, sweet marinara sauce that we liked very much.
 
So then came the pizza (no photo, sorry).  Per the St Louis style it had a very thin, crisp crust in a rectangular pan and small square slices.  Tomato sauce was extremely light, Todd likes this, Rita not as much.  But most unique was the provel cheese.
 
Provel cheese is defined as a special blend of cheddar, swiss and provelone specifically developed for St Louis pizza in the 1940s and rarely used elsewhere.  It claims a low melting point and a label as a pasteurized processed cheese food.  Given this description the reader could think about this and conclude that this sounds much like Cheese Whiz, and that was Rita's ultimate conclusion when she proclaimed provel NOT to her liking.  Todd, however, was quite pleased and found the creamy and tangy orange concoction very enjoyable, especially combined with the light use of tomato sauce and generous toppings.  He would love to return, Rita gave the restaurant thumbs up but the cheese, alas, thumbs down.  Oh well, we will try again for breakfast, see you then, Todd & Rita  
 
 
post edited by toddfleet - 2010/05/20 17:46:59
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    Nancypalooza
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/19 15:59:25 (permalink)
    Now I'm really really curious about Provel.  Thanks Todd & Rita!
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    kaszeta
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/19 16:25:06 (permalink)
    I've never actually had St Louis style pizza, but I've experienced Provel in the form of a "Gerber Sandwich" when I've been around St Louis.
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    Jim2903
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/19 16:53:30 (permalink)
    Provel is really ... not good. Chicago has the best thin-crust, square-cut pizza -- with REAL cheese.
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    toddfleet
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/19 17:32:18 (permalink)
    SATURDAY BREAKFAST
    GOODY GOODY DINER
    Natural Bridge Rd, North St Louis

    The reader should know the weekend breakfast experience is very big with Todd & Rita.  We love the diner atmosphere: reading the paper and drinking coffee while waiting for a great breakfast is one of the highlights of the week for us and the Goody Goody is indeed a REAL neighborhood diner.  It is quite famous at Roadfood and has been covered by the Sterns and buffettbuster, who inspired our visit.     www.goodygoodydiner.com
     
    Photos make the building site appear rural roadside, but this is actually (now) a blue-collar city neighborhood of intermittent prosperity, and we noted tight parking and a crowd.  Looking on we became a little concerned that it may be TOO traditional for us, as in too noisy, dirty and crowded for our newspaper-reading comfort.  OR WORSE that this could be another example of a marginal (to us) local joint being elevated to a pseudo-tourist attraction like Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City or the Beacon Drive In in Spartanburg SC, both highly lauded but disappointing to us. 
     
    We need not have worried.  The building has been added to at least twice and considering the crowd it was quite open and comfortable, with big, clean restrooms too.  The host at the door was the owner Mr. Connelly, and after a short wait we were shown to the table by our uniformed waitress and given an impressive menu that even provided a chart for how to order your eggs done to your liking.  Nice touch, we thought.  We noted the crowd was mostly cheerful locals discussing the world's problems and enjoying each other's company, a fine diner atmosphere.  Food was good too, we have photos trying to download.
     

     

     
     
     

    EGGS good    
    BACON good
    HAM nice, the sample included a thin slice of Virginia ham with good flavor
    SMOKED SAUSAGE good
    SAUSAGE PATTY good, average
    GRITS good, a bit sticky but good flavor
    BISCUIT & GRAVY ok.  The biscuit was good-big and fluffy.  The gravy was good with qualification.  Your reviewer is a experienced critic of breakfast gravy and it has brought him much heartbreak over the years.  Growing up in the midwest I found local cafes prided themselves on their daily home-made biscuits and gravy.  Quality varied, of course, but at least they made an effort.  During the 1990s the popularity of B & G grew in apparent lock-step with it's being provided by restaurant supply food processors.  By the time Cracker Barrell arrived to popularize country food their gravy provided us a shocking low.  I can now order B & G only as a side or sampler because to order it as your primary dish is to invite a bad breakfast.  That at the Goody Goody was OK, either a mediocre homemade or likely a dressed up processed gravy.  Better than some, as were the BREAKFAST POTATOES. 
     
    CHICKEN AND WAFFLES are a new venture for us, and the Goody Goody offers several sizes and combinations.  We ordered white meat and were pleased to be served large, plump and juicy pieces that Mr Connelly told us were a special savory recipe developed by his family during their long ownership of the diner.  I'd say probably the best fried chicken we had in a long time, the highlight of the meal.  The waffle was good but our enjoyment was tempered by the fact that it was not served with real butter but a cheap margarine, an all too common slip from an otherwise great place.  See you for dinner!  
                           
    post edited by toddfleet - 2010/05/27 10:26:31
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    toddfleet
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/19 18:01:23 (permalink)
    Hello regulars, we have photos but are having a problem posting them.  The site says it can take JPEG files of 25KB and ours are about 700KB.  Any ideas?  Thanks, Todd
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    plb
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/19 18:14:27 (permalink)
    Provel reminds me of Velveeta.  On a pizza it must be an acquired taste.  Now that I think about it, it might work in a grilled cheese sandwich. 
    I agree about Goody Goody's chicken.
    post edited by plb - 2010/05/19 18:16:13
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    toddfleet
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/19 18:22:17 (permalink)
    It was unusual.  On the pizza the provel does have a soft melt something like Velveeta, not stringy like mozzerella, but it has a sort of tangy flavor with maybe a tiny touch of smokeyness.  I really liked it, but did I like it better or just because it was different?  I recommend everyone try it once.   I have never had the Gerber Sandwich mentioned by kaszeta, but it would be worth a try too, I saw it described as a garlic bread with ham and provel toasted on it.  And YES on the chicken, it was a very nice surprise!  Todd
    post edited by toddfleet - 2010/05/19 18:24:39
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    carolina bob
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/19 18:44:35 (permalink)
    I'm enjoying your trip report, but I sure can't agree with you about Arthur Bryant's and the Beacon. Both of them are among my favorite restaurants.
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    toddfleet
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/19 18:51:45 (permalink)
    I know, I am the odd man out on those two.  I am also a critic of the much-loved Moose Cafe in Asheville after a disappointing breakfast.  So many people love those three places that I often wonder if my own expectations were so high they could not possibly deliver, like a hyped-up movie debut. 

    Or maybe I could try to claim that I resist popular reviews and march to my own beat.  Whatever the case, thanks for checking in, our next stop is the famous The Hill for dinner.  Todd  
    post edited by toddfleet - 2010/05/19 18:58:16
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    carolina bob
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/19 19:37:21 (permalink)
    Todd, your theory about high expectations is a very good one. There's a number of Roadfood-reviewed restaurants that I've come away from disappointed, and that might be because I went in expecting more than the place could possibly deliver. Of course there are other possible reasons ( the place having an off day, my demented taste buds, etc. )... who knows?   
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    Ralph Melton
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/19 20:33:34 (permalink)
    I too went to Arthur Bryant's with high expectations and left feeling unimpressed. Perhaps they or I were having an off day.
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    Nancypalooza
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/19 21:52:39 (permalink)
    Todd, I actually agree with you about the Beacon (I really only like the cheeseburgers), and I have had off meals at the Moose.  You are not alone.

    Are you trying to load pictures directly?  It works better if you use a referrer like flickr or Photobucket.  There's a really useful how-to thread . . .  waiminnit, lemme go find it.


    Here you go: http://www.roadfood.com/F...-A-How-To-m322596.aspx

    post edited by Nancypalooza - 2010/05/19 21:54:10
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    toddfleet
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/19 22:18:07 (permalink)
    Thanks Nancy, we got a few up there, will try to have better results next time.

    And I haven't forgotten you sticking up for me when I first wrote of the Beacon--thanks again, Todd
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    Nancypalooza
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/19 22:35:34 (permalink)
    Hey, those look great!  I've never had chicken and waffles (together at least) either--I would gladly eat that.
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    greypatches
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/20 07:36:16 (permalink)
    I guess Provel is an acquired taste. Since I've always lived in the St. Louis area, I'm used to it. I like melting it on top of pasta and with burgers. Also shredded in a green salad.
    Maybe too St. Louis-y, but I've also had barbequed pork steak sandwich with provel on it. I just don't notice the funny tang, if I ever did.
    Of course I never had a problem eating just about any sort of food which makes it hard to turn anything down...
    Great report Todd! I'm enjoying the descriptions of all your adventures so far.
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    toddfleet
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/20 10:12:59 (permalink)
    Thanks greypatches, glad a local guy like yourself thinks we are on track! 

    Just being on the Illinois side we have been in St Louis and vicinity many times but usually are shopping or going somewhere or otherwise end up at a chain in the suburbs.  St Louis really has some Roadfood favorites and we have been remiss in not seeking them out more, hope to spread the word over here, Todd C

    PS--your note makes me aware that I used the word "tangy" twice talking provel and that may be a bit over-descriptive.  My referenced "tang" was certainly not funny or overpowering, just a touch more flavor than the average mozerella and I liked that!
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    toddfleet
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/20 11:10:34 (permalink)
    Nancypalooza

    Hey, those look great!  I've never had chicken and waffles (together at least) either--I would gladly eat that.


    We hadn't either, we had seen them on TV shows over the years as a sort of soul food and thought the combination seemed odd but intriguing.  Actually we thought these were especially popular in southern cities in your region, such as Atlanta.  Part of the deal is apparently to prepare your waffle with syrup and then the fried chicken should mix with the syrup for a sweet and savory mix.  Very nice, as it turned out, and as we said the Goody Goody chicken was especially good, waffle or no.  See you for dinner later today! Todd   
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    mayor al
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/20 12:52:50 (permalink)
    On our visits to St Louis earlier this year we really liked the 'Old Tavern Food' we enjoyed at O'Connells Bar on the SW side of town, just off I-44. We reported on it at the time and when topped off with a stop at Ted Drewes a few minutes away, the whole meal-deal took on an even better rating !!
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    toddfleet
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/20 13:01:08 (permalink)
    Mayor Al, it is great to see you checking in after all this time I was away!  You were very supportive of my big mid-south trip report in 2006.

    At that time I was asking you about Lynn's Paradise Cafe and a Hot Brown, and since then we were able to try both.  Lynn's is a real experience and have a unique biscuit & gravy.   Our Hot Brown was much to our liking, as was Kaelin's where we got it, I understand it is gone now.  We also got to Marks Feed Store and the Homemade Pie Kitchen. 
     
    On our last trip through Louisville our timing was off and we passed by all the local places to eat at Joe's Crab Shack downtown.  Both Todd and Rita blame them for food poisoning, serves us right I guess.  Good to see you are here, Todd C
    post edited by toddfleet - 2010/05/20 13:12:19
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    toddfleet
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/20 15:25:46 (permalink)
    SATURDAY DINNER
    Mama Campisi's
    The Hill, St Louis

    We have long been aware of the reputation of St Louis' famous "The Hill" neighborhood and felt we could not have real roadfood cred without finally getting out there.  We had attempted a visit years ago on a Sunday and found everything closed, but this time we would not be denied--Saturday dinner on The Hill was the plan and to be a highlight of the trip.

    We did not make a reservation anywhere as we did not want to go in sight unseen.  Plus we would need an establishment with a certain feel.  The focus of our weekend was a performance at the famous Fox Theatre (Young Frankenstein) at 8:00, one of America's grandest 1920s movie palaces, beautifully restored for popular live performances.  As we would be dressed for the theater we did not want to go to a loud sports bar atmosphere, but we also did not want to be too fancy (or expensive) either.  Plus, on Saturday about 6:00, we needed somewhere we could get in.

    So with those and other factors in mind we set out with the thought that (a) we could find an appropriate place and look at posted menus and (b) that if we were early they could squeeze in a party of two.  We decided to cruise through the neighborhood to see our choices and then set out on foot.  Green, white and red lightpole banners announced we were in the right place, as did green, white and red fire hydrants.  Navigating the narrow streets took us through a tidy working class neighborhood of 1920s bungalows, all immaculately kept with pride.  On the corners were the restaurants in their 1920s buildings, some with diners already waiting outside.  When we drove past the St. Ambrose Church (with the Father welcoming worshippers) and the Amighetti's Bakery we knew this must be the center of the action and parked.  A sign for an upcoming Bocce tournament was the final signal we were about to experience the real deal.


     
    We took an enjoyable stroll down the quiet street and it occurred to me that this quaint little neighborhood was just like my grandparent's must have in the 1940s.  I could guess everybody knew everybody and was happy these nice people had stood in defiance of the urban blight that greeted so much of the rest of St Louis and other cities.  We walked past a few places (had a list of possibilities from roadfood.com) and literally followed our nose to Mama Campisi's corner.    www.mamacampisis.com   

    I went inside to beg for a table from the hostess and she said they could probably squeeze us in in less than 30 minutes.  The place smelled fabulous and was just the right feel we wanted--smaller than we expected, just a little crowded but not too much, warm and inviting, looking right for a special occasion but without being stuffy or high dollar about it.  As we waited outside a tuxedoed gentleman came across the street and greeted us as he entered, reminding us that a good restaurant almost always requires some wait.                 

    We were soon seated in a small table in the middle of the room, but would hardly quibble about that.  Our waiter Sam had the confident air of a guy welcoming us to HIS neighborhood, HIS dining room.  He served our drinks and a basket of bread, with both (real) butter and a little oil for dipping.  Here we both knew that self control would have to be exercised, as we were going to eat a fine Italian dinner with garlic then go directly to sit in a theater with vulnerable strangers very close beside.  In the interest of good citizenship we brought extra breath mints, mouthwash, and, in case of emergency, toothpaste and toothbrushes.  Tonight we would need the toothbrushes.

    The garlic oil was UN-believable, by far the best I ever had.  Rita bravely resisted but I weakly caved in to temptation.  Sam came back with a bowl of fresh grated parmesian and instructed us to forget the butter (normally I would laugh off such a suggestion as ridiculous) and mix up a little garlic oil and parmesian.  WOW!  I began to pity our neighbors at the theater, but not enough to stop now.  And it was time to order.

    The menu was extensive and reasonably priced, but once again we had conditions.  Locally we will order large portions and take them home for another dinner, but when on the road we cannot do that.  We also did not want to be uncomfortably full at the theater, AND we wanted to save room for desert at Ted Drewes after the performance.  We noticed the pasta dishes were entree only, no soup or salad, and Rita decided maybe that would be good.  So we ordered two favorites, Lasagna and Seafood Linguine, both seen on the web page link.  Shortly after ordering who stepped up to our table but Mr Tuxedo, who signalled the bar to turn on his microphone for his performance singing Sinatra and Dean Martin standards while strolling the dining room passing out flower buds to the ladies and kissing babies.  A little cheesy, we first thought, but after a while the warm, old school mood soaked over us both.  THIS was a great place!  
     
    While we waited Rita asked what was this "wedge salad" she had seen on the menu?  I knew then this was a REAL old school happening and in describing it with "Mad Men" and Walnut Room references (hello Chicagoans) I cautioned her that it would be much more than a mere side salad.  Her curiosity is peaked to try one soon.  The food arrived and the portion was large, but we were ready.  The lasagna was delicious, described on the menu on our link and some of the best I have ever had.  The seafood linguine featured a crawfish as a centerpiece (my crawfish cracking skills were a little rusty) and enormous shrimp and scallops, with a linguine in a lobster and crab cream sauce.  All delicious.  There were only four scallops and shrimp each, but they were the biggest I have ever had.  The scallops were bigger than an old Silver Dollar and the shrimp were half again as big as my thumbs--to ensure even distibution I could cut each into four quarters and have each bite almost as big as an ordinary shrimp.  But I did find the linguine to be a bit bland.  I sprinked some parmesian on it, and then it hit me--what I really needed--a spoonful of garlic dipping oil.  PERFECT!   Sorry fellow theatergoers.   

    We much enjoyed watching the crowd, listening to Mr Tuxedo, and finishing our entrees.  Ted Drewes or no we decided a little tiramisu and coffee was in order to sweeten the palate and cut through the garlic (didn't really work, but that was our excuse).  Sam assured us he would get us out in time to get to the theater and the tiramisu was pronounced excellent.  An average cannolli was also consumed to little fanfare.  And off we went, looking for a place to brush.  Mama Campisi's and The Hill were great.  Now, buffetbuster, we just need to get some Gooey Butter Cake.  Todd & Rita
    post edited by toddfleet - 2010/05/20 17:42:39
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    zataar
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/20 15:53:29 (permalink)
    I'm enjoying your report. We love St. Louis and get there as often as we can. We were there a month ago and I vowed to skip Ted Drewes and the Hill, because we go EVERY time we are in St. Louis, but once there, we couldn't skip either one! I can see Mama Campisi's included in our next trip.
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    toddfleet
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/20 15:58:18 (permalink)
    SATURDAY DESSERT
    TED DREWES FROZEN CUSTARD
    St Louis

    During our theater performance we were pleasantly full and had had a tiramisu for desert immediately after dinner, but I had still planned for us to go to the famous Ted Drewes, a roadfood and Rt 66 landmark well documented here on the site.  We had never gone there before and were not far away, and by the time our show was over it had been over three hours since dinner so we decided to go for it--a decadent second dessert.   www.teddrewes.com

    I understand Ted Drewes claims credit for inventing the concrete-- a cup of custard with a candy, fruit or nuts mixed in with a blender.  This type of treat of course was later adopted by Dairy Queen (the Blizzard) and Culvers, among many others.  So it was no longer exclusive in any way, but we are all about paying respect to any roadfood innovator, and if ice cream or custard is involved so much the better.

    We arrived at the Ted Drewes late on a cool and rainy night, so the usual crowd was not there--we had the place almost to ourselves.  As a test case we ordered a concrete with Heath bar, our usual default for Dairy Queen or Culver's and thus a way to compare the desserts apples for apples, so to speak.  The price and configuration was much like the other chain competitors, as expected.  The Ted Drewes custard was delicious, at least as good as Culver's, probably better than DQ.  Smooth, creamy, satisfying; a delicious cap to our time in town.  Tomorrow we would be headed home to the burbs and the chains, but we look forward to another road trip to share and some more and better photos.  See you all down the road, Todd & Rita 
    post edited by toddfleet - 2010/05/20 17:51:48
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    toddfleet
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/20 16:01:09 (permalink)
    zataar

    I'm enjoying your report. We love St. Louis and get there as often as we can. We were there a month ago and I vowed to skip Ted Drewes and the Hill, because we go EVERY time we are in St. Louis, but once there, we couldn't skip either one! I can see Mama Campisi's included in our next trip.


    Well, we thought it was pretty great zataar, what are your favorite places there?  We could use a tip for OUR next visit, and have been talking about getting to KC too.  Thanks for reading along, Todd
     
     
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    Ahi Mpls.
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/20 16:39:22 (permalink)
      Now I know how to keep those pesky theater vampires away!   Wonderful trip, thanks so much for the report.  ps. to me PROVEL resembles those crazy BABY-BEL cheeze foods.....  Not bad, but not really cheese...
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    toddfleet
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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/20 16:45:28 (permalink)
    AHI MPLS Now I know how to keep those pesky theater vampires away!  

     
    Hmm....you know, if I had been thinking that way maybe I should have used my affliction to get a bigger share of the armrest.....

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    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/20 16:46:30 (permalink)
    Wow, awesome finish!  Hope you enjoyed the movie as much as your meal!
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    toddfleet
    Hamburger
    • Total Posts : 79
    • Joined: 2006/10/16 12:05:00
    • Location: Forsyth, IL
    • Status: offline
    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/20 17:11:36 (permalink)
    AHI MPLS to me PROVEL resembles those crazy BABY-BEL cheeze foods.....  Not bad, but not really cheese...

     
    On that, I did notice they specifically label it a pasteurized processed cheese food, so I guess that tells the tale.  I liked it though. 

    #28
    wanderingjew
    Sirloin
    • Total Posts : 7967
    • Joined: 2001/01/18 18:49:00
    • Location: East Greenwich/ Warwick, RI
    • Status: offline
    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/20 20:12:45 (permalink)
    Toddflleet

    I'm glad to hear of your good experiences at Mama Campisi's.
    I was there a decade ago and had excellent toasted ravioli and a superb antipasto salad. I was wondering how the restaurant held up through the years.

    I've also had excellent experiences at both Lou Boccardi's and Cunetto's House of Pasta.

    Unfortunately I wish I could say the same about Rigazzi's
    #29
    RobynK1993
    Junior Burger
    • Total Posts : 1
    • Joined: 2009/05/31 13:24:00
    • Location: Decatur, IL
    • Status: offline
    Re:St Louis Weekend 2010/05/20 20:15:55 (permalink)
    STL is a source of good food and the surrounding areas have much more to offer as well! Glad to hear you enjoyed your trip! If you are ever in Clinton County, stop on over to Breese for a Wally burger--that is, if you love Krekels.
    #30
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