Regional Foods: St. Paul Sandwich of St. Louis
There are a few regional food items that are so obscure that it goes unnoticed in the surrounding community. This is what I encountered when visiting two minor league ballparks in St. Louis, Missouri. The St. Paul sandwich is one secretive little regional food item.
The sandwich is served at many Chinese restaurants throughout the metro area and even in a select few areas throughout the state. It is egg foo young served crispy on white bread with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and a dollop of mayonnaise. The egg foo young either contains beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, or no meat at all. The price for the sandwich ranges between $2 – $3.50, a very inexpensive menu item.
And like the hamburger and hot dog, the St. Paul sandwiches origins are somewhat disputed. One account has that its creation in the 1940s in St. Louis by a chef who named it after his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota, while some have insisted that the sandwich was first served at logging camps in Denver, Colorado, in the early 20th century. The St. Paul sandwich seems to be a clear fusion of Chinese and American cooking.
I enjoy having a food origin debate; however, if it was not invented in St. Louis, then why can it only be found in the city? The only other areas that the sandwich is served is in Missouri in the cities of Columbia, Springfield, and Jefferson City. Good luck ordering this sandwich in Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, or St. Paul, Minnesota.
The sandwich is not served at any of the two minor league ballparks on the outskirts of the city CarShield Field home of the River City Rascals in O’Fallon and GCS Ballpark home to the Gateway Grizzlies in Sauget, Illinois. The Rascals do serve its own Asian-American fusion sandwich at their ballpark.
The Arch Nemesis sandwich is a teriyaki chicken between two patties of burgers with four slices of cheese – bacon is optional. The sandwich was invented by Rascals prep cook Alex Funkhouser, so at least we know its origins. It comes in at 900 calories and costs only $6.
Meanwhile, the home of the Grizzlies is known for its own interesting take on ballpark food that has gained national attention. The donut burger, deep-fried slider, cheesesteak nachos, and hot dogs with grilled onions, bacon, and nacho cheese are offered or have been offered at one time. However, the St. Paul sandwich is not one of them in the small Illinois town outside of St. Louis.
If ordering it without meat, the St. Paul sandwich makes a great vegetarian option and its price is extremely economical for tight budgets or a quick snack. There also does not seem to to be an upscale version anywhere in the town. I am sure an egg foo young patty with lobster, served on a brioche bun, with garlic-lemon aioli is just around the corner.
I have been told that the best St. Paul sandwiches are served with crispy edges, just like a great old-fashion burger, and that many Chinese restaurants in the city are not serving the sandwich. You can still grab the sandwich at many locations in St. Louis and perhaps this could be your new favorite bite to eat in a city that has its share of regional items.
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