Water from the Ted Drewes spigot

Ted Drewes, 4224 South Grand Boulevard, 314-352-7376.

Aug 2, 2006 at 4:00 am
Power thus restored, we race down South Grand at breakneck speed, like HI McDunnough in Raising Arizona looking for his baby's diapers on the highway. Hell-bent, sweat stinging our eyes, our proverbial muffler shoots proverbial sparks over each proverbial bump: concrete concrete concrete. We're hitting all greens and a few meaningless yellows as we shoot through the business district, past the White Castle, past Merb's Candies, then the Feasting Fox, and there it is on the left.

Put on your welder's mask before it blinds you with its glory! Tucked beneath the tall trees like a pearly camp lodge, this shining florescent beacon, purveyor of sweet treats. Sound the choir of angels: Ted Drewes!

Dodge the pedestrians, park the car, join the scrum in front of the windows, make a plan, recite it in your head. Concentrate.

Drink of the Week has two favorites. There's strawberry shortcake, which we get 25 percent of the time. We're most devoted, however, to a creation of our own devising, a simple concoction that yields profound results: pistachio and tart cherry. It arrives a dark maroon, the color of the velvet on a church pew, and has nice, noticeable chunks of cherries. Ted Drewes' employees, those lily-white minions, toss in a generous handful of lightly salted pistachios, which contrast gloriously with the tart.

Lift a spoonful to your mouth slowly and carefully, as though you're handling a time bomb. Then place it in your mouth — don't shovel it — because if you treat this bite in any way disrespectfully, it's liable to blow your head off. Greet each offering with a steady breath: mindfully, as though you are in deep meditation, the force of your brainpower, your entire existence, focused on your mouth hole, on the vast mine field of taste buds within. With concentration and patience, you can turn an otherwise fleeting fancy into a deep, spiritual experience.

You come for the custard, but stay for the water, which Ted offers free on the south side of the hut. Reach for a cup and a wiseacre friend standing by the fountain tries to charge you a quarter for it. No way, Jose, this elixir is free. The green and yellow Dixie cup is the kind from your midnight childhood bathroom. When you were four the cup held a Big Gulp. Now you're an adult, and the cup's so tiny it makes your hand look like Andre the Giant's.

Water at Ted Drewes is to a good concrete what ketchup is to a French fry, the lemon butter for the artichoke, the whiskey to the beer. With the soft sweetness of cream still lingering in the mouth, chilly liquid washes through, releasing any captive flavor nestled in the mouth. Toss it back like a shot of tequila, refill and drop another. You're young; you can handle it.

Go ahead, have a third shot; you are driving, after all. A little liquid courage on a hot summer night will do you some good. We jump back into our car, pop on the chopped-and-screwed version of Chamillionaire's "Ridin'." No longer in a hurry to be anywhere, we can relax, we can chill. His lyrics crawl through the St. Louis night: "We can't be touched/And tell them they shoulda known/Tippin' down, I'm sitting crooked on my chrome."