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St. Louis Famous Foods

St. Louis natives are faithful to their home teams, to their beloved Arch…and to keeping toasted ravioli in the freezer. There are many things that make St. Louis a city rich in traditions and notable in the culinary arena.  The food scene in St. Louis dates back way before such notables as the Arch and the Cardinals were created.

Some of the dishes that make St. Louis notable came from humble beginnings.  Others were inspired by a former presidents’ promise of a bright future.  Some of the most notable include a soup, a sandwich and a mixture of ingredients that make it suitable for any time of the day.

It was the first air-conditioned department store in the United States. Famous and Barr Co. opened in Downtown St. Louis in 1914.  If you grew up or lived in St. Louis before 2006, odds are you have one or more memories of buying something or having been inside a Famous-Barr store.  For almost a century, Famous-Barr offered spectacular window displays and legendary luncheons.  It was a voyage into sophistication for many. Ladies in hats and gloves, young gentlemen in ties, and girls in scratchy party dresses sat up straight. Models swirled by, stopping at tables to explain what they were wearing and tell diners where it could be found in the store.  They had signature dishes, chief among them the French Onion soup.  

Chef Manfred Zettl’s version—thick with long-simmered onions and topped with slices of baguette and gooey Swiss cheese—is the best-known. It must have been incredibly exotic when it was introduced. Zettl brought in a crew of bakers just for the French bread, another unusual item, sold in the stores’ bakeries.

Famous Barr French Onion Soup:

Ingredients (recipe and photo credit

3 Pounds sliced onion, 1/8” thick

4 ounces unsalted butter

2 tablespoons paprika

1 ½ teaspoons coarse-ground black pepper

2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)

¼ cup flour

3 quarts beef stock

1 cup dry white wine

1 bay leaf

24 slices crusty French bread

2 cups Swiss cheese, grated


How to make it:

Peel onions, cut in half, then in half again, then in 1/8″ slices (usually a 5lb bag of onions peeled will equal 3lbs).  In large soup pot, melt butter. Add onions and sauté over low heat, until translucent, about 1-1/2 hrs.  Add paprika, salt & pepper to onions, blend well.  Add flour and stir constantly to combine to roux.


Add beef stock, wine & bay leaves, stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 2hrs.

(optional). Add kitchen bouquet for rich brown color.  Check for seasoning and adjust to taste.  Put in icebox overnight.


Heat soup. Fill individual fireproof bowls with 8oz of soup, top with three slices of French bread and 1-1/2oz grated Swiss cheese. Place under broiler approximately 550° until cheese starts to brown and soup bubbles.


Born in the roaring ’20s, this St. Louis hometown special is a hot gooey cheesy wonder. Prosperity Sandwiches are good, straightforward food, with a name that is apparently a snide joke. History says that President Hoover’s constant Depression-era promise that “prosperity is just around the corner” provided the jokey title.  The Prosperity Sandwich was created at the Mayfair Hotel by chef and executive steward Eduard Voegeli shortly after the hotel opened. These are knife-and-fork sandwiches, open-face concoctions layered with meat, tomato and cheese sauce.

Prosperity Sandwiches

Ingredients (recipe and photo credit KCET)

Serves 4
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin
1 shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 (3/4-inch-thick) slices rustic white bread
8 ounces thinly sliced roast turkey
8 ounces thinly sliced deli ham
2 tomatoes, cored, cut into 8 (1/4-inch-thick) slices, and patted dry


How to make it:

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, shallot, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to bowl.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in now-empty saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in milk and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 4 to 6 minutes. Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup cheddar, mustard, Worcestershire, and pepper; set aside.

Adjust oven rack 5 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with vegetable oil spray. Arrange bread slices on prepared baking sheet and broil until toasted, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Divide mushroom mixture among toasted bread slices. Arrange 2 ounces turkey, 2 ounces ham, and 2 slices tomato over mushrooms on each slice of toast. Spoon 1/2 cup cheese sauce evenly over each sandwich and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar. Broil until cheddar is browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Serve.


The slinger is considered to be a St. Louis late-night culinary original. It is described as “a hometown culinary invention: a mishmash of meat, eggs, hash browns and a hamburger patty topped with chili, cheese and onions.”  If you’re pulling an all-nighter in St. Louis, make sure to stop into the nearest 24-hour diner for a slinger.

The Slinger

Ingredients (recipe and photo credit Courtesy Diner)

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 cup shredded hash brown potatoes (refrigerated or frozen)

1 3-oz hamburger patty, cooked to desired doneness

2 eggs, fried or cooked in preferred style

2 Tbsp diced yellow or white onions

1 cup prepared mild chili with beans (such as Edmond’s Chile), heated through (see variation below)

½ cup grated mild cheddar cheese

2 slices buttered toast


How to make it:

Melt butter in a 6-inch skillet; add hash browns and pan-fry until crispy and browned. Spread hash browns in a layer on a large plate or oval platter.

Place hamburger patty in center of hash browns. Set two cooked eggs over hamburger. Sprinkle with raw onions.  Cover everything with chili, then top with grated cheese.  Serve with buttered toast.


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