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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Eating in North City

In a discussion on the St. Louis Rehabbers' Club listserv about the eating habits of rehabbers living without kitchens, our neighbor Barbara Manzara offered this spirited and informative post:

I have to admit to also eating off the table saw. I have finally reached a point where I can boil water, so my culinary options have dramatically increased. I too am single, which is good, as I problably could not keep a husband that I was feeding with eggs scrambled in a pan on top of the propane heater! (Works great, by the way.)

I have hired (it seems) half the teenagers of north city to help me out on one project or another. I don't always have cash for same-day pay, but I always tell them, "If you work, you eat". So I have become extremely familiar with every carryout location north of MLK and east of Grand. McD's is considered upscale luxury food by the quasi-homeless "staying at auntie's place tonight" kids who have fallen so far out of the system they are no longer even truant. So they send me to all their favorite cheap places -- Burrells at St. Louis Ave and Grand for pork steaks, J&W Package Liquor on W Florissant for an amazing array of non-Coke soda pop (where you can also buy hair extensions and Maull's BBQ sauce).

The food flavors change as you go north in St Louis... suddenly there is an upswing in the number of fried fish & shrimp places, parking lot BBQs that smell like they've been continuously smoking since 1945, which maybe they have, and the truly incredible North St Louis Chop Suey, aka "Hood Suey". One night after a particularly demanding day digging out the basement floor, I took the kids to The Best Steakhouse on Grand. It is a pretty cool place where you can get steakhouse quality food while wearing soot-covered overalls, sitting next to Fox theatre-goers, listing to some "fresh cuts" (aka rap on your young neighbor's iPod).

Then there is the challenge of delivery on the north side. There is one pizza place that delivers -- Domino's on Tucker. BUT, the employees there are au courant with the latest in neighborhood rehab. The SECOND time I called they recognized my voice, remembered my address, gave me some history of the previous owners, correctly identified my building as First Empire with a mansard roof, and commented positively on my gutter design decisions. Positively spooky.

And of course, there is our beloved Crown Candy, and in its own way, equally beloved White Castle at Florissant and 19th. The former is for when you want a perfect sandwich and a sympathetic ear in fellow rehabber Andy Karandzieff. The latter is for folks who can't afford to turn on their gas, who hang out and chat endlessly about the neighborhood, politics, land speculators, brick thievery and how to crash a cop party. I became something of an entertainment for the crowd -- I wasn't visiting the Castle for the heat, but for the indoor plumbing. So the guys would see me coming and call out, Hey Baby, you still don't got a toilet??? When you gonna come home with me??? Ain't got no heat, but you are welcome to pee in my pot!

Who could ask for nicer neighbors?

2 comments:

CMcDermott said...

Now that Papa John's is open again, i think they are delivering up in ONSL. I saw one of their delivery cars on Sunday driving down Hebert, so you can add that to your list.

Michael Allen said...

Papa John's actually has decent pizza, so I'd be glad to have that as an option.