St. Louis, Missouri is overshadowed by the bigger Midwestern city north of it, Chicago but St. Louis has its own unique cuisine that is worth a bite.
St. Louis-style pizza is a mix of crisp and creamy, hearty and sweet. The most iconic part of St. Louis-style pizza is the thin crust. The crust is cracker-like and made without yeast, providing a sturdy base for layers of toppings and creating a satisfying crunch when you bite into it. Don’t be surprised when your pizza comes cut into squares and rectangles. The wedge shape of most pizzas doesn’t work well with St. Louis-style’s crunchy crust.
It’s not St. Louis-style pizza without Provel cheese. Provel is a creamy mix of provolone, Swiss and white Cheddar. If you’ve never heard of Provel, you’re not alone. Provel is difficult to find outside of the St. Louis market. It has a slightly smoky flavor and is creamier than mozzarella and provolone when melted.
Traditional toppings are cured meats, spicy sausage, black olives and green bell pepper. The red sauce sometimes has quite a bit of oregano in it and is also usually a little sweet, balancing out the heavy toppings.
You will find St. Louis-style pizza in bowing alleys, Italian restaurants, bars and even upscale dining. The most famous version is Imo’s pizza although my personal favorite is Cecil Whittaker’s Pizza.
Toasted ravioli is simple and delicious. Fill ravioli with meat or cheese, bread it and then either bake or deep-fry. Toasted ravioli, known colloquially as T-Ravs, is served with Parmesan cheese and marinara sauce for dipping.
This snack originated from The Hill, The Italian-American community in St. Louis. Today, you can find T-ravs as appetizers in most St. Louis restaurants and even as a buffet option at some country clubs. The golden crispy outside pairs perfectly with sweet marinara sauce.
Almost every restaurant on the hill has a house version of T-ravs but both Mama Toscano’s and Anthoninos’s Taverna are good choices.
Pork steak reigns supreme in St. Louis-style BBQ. Pork steaks are cut from the shoulder or butt of the pig, grilled, and topped with a sweet and slightly tangy tomato-based sauce.
Pork ribs are another favorite. St. Louis-style spare rib is a cut formalized by the USDA. It’s a smaller and more tender cut than baby-back ribs.
No matter what type of meat is on the grill, you can bet it will be saucy. Pork steaks are often grilled in BBQ sauce, wings are dunked in hot sauce and make a mess when eaten and ribs are coated in sauce after they come off the grill.
Chowing down at a backyard BBQ is the best way to try St. Louis BBQ. If you can’t find a local to feed you, Bogarts Smokehouse and Pappy’s Smokehouse are two great options. My personal favorite is Ethyl’s Smokehouse and Saloon.
Gooey Butter Cake
Thin, rich and with a flavor like warm cake batter, gooey butter cake is a St. Louis dessert staple. The recipe is simple, needing only cake flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. The result is a delicious coffee cake enjoyed for dessert or as a treat.
Gooey butter cake is sold in grocery stores, gas stations and bakeries in St. Louis. You can try making it yourself or, if you want to try recipes that claim to be the original, head to Missouri Baking Company or Federhofers.