There’s a certain comfort that comes with familiarity.
POSTED BY PINKY
Free from the pressure to tick off a long list of must-sees typical of a first visit, I can genuinely say I enjoyed the city of St. Louis, Missouri so much more the second time around.
The city that produced the likes of T.S. Eliot, Chuck Berry, Maya Angelou, Akon, Kimora Lee Simmons, and the distinct sound of St. Louis blues. It is also home to the global headquarters of Anheuser-Busch (think Budweiser), Energizer (think Bunny), and Purina (think cat food).
St. Louis, however, is best known as the Gateway to the West. Called such in reference to the most famous exploration in U.S. history that began near the city, the Lewis and Clark Expedition from 1804 to 1806, which expanded U.S. sovereignty westward towards the Pacific, with native Shoshone indian Sacajawea as the group’s guide.
The city’s most iconic landmark is, of course, The Gateway Arch along the banks of the Mississippi River, a monument to the city’s role in the U.S.’s westward expansion. Accessible inside, you can reach the observation area at the top via a 40-passenger tram on each leg of the arch. I’d already done that bit when I came for my sister’s wedding in 2000, so this time, she and my brother-in-law decided to show me a different side of St. Louis – the city after dark.
This visit was around Thanksgiving (November), where temperatures ranged from below 0°C to 15°C, so there were times it did get pretty cold. But as long as you’re dressed appropriately, you’ll be all right.
Driving around Downtown St. Louis
Seeing it in the daytime was awe-inspiring enough, but seeing the Gateway to the Midwest at night was magical. Like an old friend welcoming me back with open arms!
Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser Brewery Lights
For over 30 years, American company Anheuser-Busch, which now also owns Stella Artois, Corona, Beck’s, Hoegaarden, and Leffe, has been bringing joy to the people of St. Louis with their holiday lights display. And I was lucky enough to catch it when they opened their doors to the public!
People of all ages enter free of charge and guests 21 years old and up are given a wristband redeemable for beer samples. A complimentary bus ride takes you inside the grounds where you can take a self-guided walking tour of the historic Brewery while enjoying the season’s festive lights.
You could also buy a S’mores kit and toast them on an open fire, or St. Louis-style holiday favourites at the Biergarten food station. But the piéce de resistance for me was the chance to enter the historic stables of the world-famous Clydesdale horses, all decked for the holidays.
The best Italian food in St. Louis can be found in The Hill neighborhood, an Italian-American enclave in the southern part of the city, called so because it’s located on high ground. Try out any of the countless restaurants proudly serving food that highlights the residents’ rich Italian heritage.
My sister, brother-in-law, and their two boys took me to Anthonino’s Taverna on Macklin Ave., owned by the Greek-Italian Scarato brothers. Typical of a neighbourhood restaurant, Anthonino’s felt like a perfect meeting place for an after-work drink or dinner with the family. The restaurant was packed when we got there, so we had to wait a bit by the bar for our table. Meanwhile, my brother-in-law got us some excellent Italian beer to enjoy while waiting.
With lots of tempting food on the menu, we zeroed in on the hummus plate and Toasted Ravioli for appetisers. Handmade in-house, the ravioli were filled with ground beef, ricotta and pecorino romano cheeses. Featured on The Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”.
For my main dish, I chose Beef Spedini, charbroiled round steak rolled and filled with Genoa salami and provolone cheese topped with cherry pepper relish and served atop polenta. Yum!!
I then ended my meal with a cup of coffee and a Cannolo, a Sicilian pastry that’s a favourite of my boys back home but is difficult to find there.
Guerrilla Street Food
I must admit my expectations weren’t very high when my brother-in-law, an American-born Filipino (he and my sister met in business school), said they were taking me to this Pinoy restaurant that started out as a food truck business and was featured on The Food Network. I hadn’t been away from home long enough to miss Pinoy food, but sure, I was game for anything.
Boy, oh, boy, was I glad they did! Pinoy food with a twist, I think, is an understatement.
Growing up eating and loving Filipino food prepared the traditional way, I could see how few foreigners actually enjoyed it beyond the requisite adobo or lechon. Admittedly, it’s taken a while for what’s comfort food to us to gain international appeal.
Now I’m no food expert, but I think Guerrilla Street Food, owned by chefs Joel Crespo and Brian Hardesty, is helping bridge this gap in the U.S. by introducing Filipino flavours to western tastebuds in a way that can be easily appreciated. Like their bestselling dish, Flying Pig, which is “slow roasted pork, calamansi, hoisin, sriracha, fried garlic, toasted black sesame seeds, scallions and a one hour egg, over steamed jasmine rice”. All I can say is it was a big bowl of yumminess that tasted both familiar and new.
Filipino-inspired, Filipino fusion, call it any way you want, Guerrilla Street Food is helping put Pinoy food on the map.
Watch out for more posts on my visit to the great state of Missouri.
St. Louis is a mere 1-hour plane ride from Chicago O’Hare.