St. Paul Sandwich Adventure!
Our dining adventure began with the task of finding the Chop Suey house that invented the St. Paul Sandwich!
First, Don and I had to drive to St. Louis... not St. Paul. Then we had to find the place, which had moved from Park Avenue to an old gas station on the not so deluxe Choteau Avenue.
We were pretty intrigued about the idea of a white bread sandwich, stuffed with Chinese food! For at least 40 years,
in-the-know St. Louis locals have craved this sandwich and we wanted to find out why it was such a big deal.
Even though Don and I once lived in St. Louis, we had never tried the food invented by Steven Yuan. Yuan was once the owner of Park Chop Suey, when it was near St. Louis' old Lafayette Square.
When we found the place on a recent visit, there were no cars in front, but we ventured in. There were no tables for dining, so we figured we'd order a few things and find a park for a Chinese Picnic!
Lots of Signs
Besides the giant illuminated menu, there were lots of handwritten signs taped to the sliding glass window. Was that bullet proof glass? "No Cell phones at the window. Thanks." There was a frown face drawn, along with the words, "No Public Restrooms! Please Don't Ask!"
In contrast to the not so welcoming handmade reminders, I noticed a colorful display of Chinese Buddhas, plastic flowers and silk banners behind the counter. That seemed pretty friendly.
Behind the display I could see some cooks, who seemed to be all business, working over big stoves in the corner. I tried not to think about the fact the kitchen was where the service garage had been.
There it was, on the menu! The sandwich we'd heard about! For $3.25, we went all out and ordered the mixed meat sandwich which had chicken, beef, pork and shrimp, along with a fried egg foo young patty, pickles, lettuce, tomato, sprouts and dressing... served on 2 slices of wonderful, "wonder-style" white bread!
A Nice Surprise
Maria, who took our order turned out to be quite delightful and helpful. When she wasn't taking phone orders, she chatted with us about moving from San Francisco to St. Louis and about her grown kids.
Then a woman came in to get her order and seemed to recognize that we were first timers. She smiled and assured us, "Oh, you'll like your St. Paul Sandwich!" Another woman came in with a couple kids in pajamas and suddenly the place seemed lively and friendly.
Where to Eat?
We took our carryouts down the road to Lafayette Square Park. Chinese carryouts... in a lovely park... in an old St. Louis neighborhood...filled with Victorian houses. That was an odd combo.
Swans and a Bench
A few swans seemed seriously interested in our food as we made our way to a pond-side bench. (We feared for our safety at one point)
We were unable to find a table, since the few picnic tables were occupied by folks who appeared to be permanent city park residents. But we settled onto our bench and went to work on our food. Everything about our meal seemed a bit comical!
Back in 1910, when the park was filled with parasols and walking sticks, I'm sure there weren't any picnics like ours. But our St. Paul sandwich turned out to be pretty darn tasty. Maria talked us into ordering a duck leg, which was very sloppy, but flavorful. The Vess soda was another St. Louis tradition! I just wish we'd gotten Chop Suey instead of fried rice... since we were at a Chop Suey House, after all!
Duck and Swans
Maybe the swans were interested in the Wonder Bread from our sandwich. We didn't tempt them with any pieces.
Ice Cream cone, Toasted Ravioli and St. Paul Sandwich! Now I can say I'm a fan of all 3 foods invented in St. Louis! Yay!
Memphis in September 2014
Our first stop in Tennessee was outside of the gates of Graceland, where we read words written by Elvis fans on the stone wall and worked up an appetite for southern cooking. We searched the internet for some nearby food. Uncle Lou's sounded like just the place!
What to Eat?
Lou's Place made it nice and easy for us with all their food photos! We didn't even need to know how to speak English or read or anything. The foods were staring down at us. But the lively folks in green shirts behind the counter were ready to throw out their ideas, too!
This is not Lou. This is Juan, the guy who helped us decide what to order.
He asked if it was our first time, but didn't wait for an answer before he was rattled off his food suggestions, so quickly I could barely understand him. "You'll need the 7-piece!" He insisted, but Don ordered the cheeseburger and I ordered a 3-piece with a mix of spicy and mild sauces. He was very pleased when I ordered the Corrupted Carrots, but he shook his head at Don's choice. He for some reason was quite sure Don was going to try to steal my biscuit.
We were on the early side for lunch, but there was a bustling vibe as if they were gearing up for crowds. The walls were covered in posters and pictures and lots and lots of Cowboys Football stuff. A TV entertained a few in the corner.
There were about 8 tables and just as many guys wearing green shirts, including one young boy of about 8 wearing an eye patch. There was lots of laughter and hollering behind the counter and a couple voices shouting from the doorway, playfully inviting customers to enter.!
Waiting on Food
While waiting for food to cook, I read a few of the write ups framed on the wall. I learned that Lou got his recipes from his grandmother. I learned that the place became even more popular after Guy Fieri paid the restaurant a call and raved about Uncle Lou's chicken on Diner, Drive Ins and Dives. I didn't really care about Guy, but I was wishing I could meet that celebrity named Uncle Lou.
Lou was attending his mother's funeral. Evidently Lou's mom was pretty well loved at the restaurant, as well. There was a moment when all the staff stopped in their tracks and turned towards the front windows. Suddenly, every green shirt raced towards the door.
Moments later that group returned and apologized to customers for deserting them.
The Food Arrives
My 3 pieces of Uncle Lou's chicken arrived with my order of Corrupted Carrots! The carrots were lightly fried with Lou's special seasoning. The carrots added a nice hint of sweet to accompany my spicy chicken.
Don was actually pleased with his order and enjoyed his cheeseburger, but Juan must have looked over at the very moment when Don looked longingly at my biscuit! We suddenly heard Juan from behind the counter, "Don't take her biscuit!"
Juan Protects Me and My Biscuit
Juan was pretty busy, but did make time to dash over to our table for a photo op. He pointed a finger at Don once again, as if to say "Don't you dare steal her biscuit" and then he laughed.
Good Food and Fun Atmosphere!
RIP to Uncle Lou's Mom. I have a feeling some of her history and love went into that chicken I ate! Pretty good memory!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.