February 03, 2017

St. Louis' Signature Foods: a Countdown

We all love pork steak, Provel and toasted ravioli, but which do we love best? After rigorous research and careful scientific analysis, we are pleased to announce the only definitive ranking of St. Louis foods that you will ever need. Save it, study it and prepare to think about local food in a whole new way. Written by Alec Herr

We all love pork steak, Provel and toasted ravioli, but which do we love best? After rigorous research and careful scientific analysis, we are pleased to announce the only definitive ranking of St. Louis foods that you will ever need. Save it, study it and prepare to think about local food in a whole new way.

Written by Alec Herr

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We all love pork steak, Provel and toasted ravioli, but which do we love best? After rigorous research and careful scientific analysis, we are pleased to announce the only definitive ranking of St. Louis foods that you will ever need. Save it, study it and prepare to think about local food in a whole new way.
Written by Alec Herr
Red Hot Riplets photo by Jaime Lees
We all love pork steak, Provel and toasted ravioli, but which do we love best? After rigorous research and careful scientific analysis, we are pleased to announce the only definitive ranking of St. Louis foods that you will ever need. Save it, study it and prepare to think about local food in a whole new way.

Written by Alec Herr
Red Hot Riplets photo by Jaime Lees
#8 Pork steaks
What makes them great: The first time you bite into a tender piece of BBQ pork steak can be life-changing. You'll find yourself wondering why pork isn't beating out both chicken and beef as the most commonly consumed meat in America. Pork steaks are a luxury in the world of tailgates and barbecues, and we pity anyone who hasn't been lucky enough to try them. 
Photo by Shutterstock/ff-photo
#8 Pork steaks

What makes them great: The first time you bite into a tender piece of BBQ pork steak can be life-changing. You'll find yourself wondering why pork isn't beating out both chicken and beef as the most commonly consumed meat in America. Pork steaks are a luxury in the world of tailgates and barbecues, and we pity anyone who hasn't been lucky enough to try them. Photo by Shutterstock/ff-photo
Why they're ranked last: Unfortunately, as good as pork steak is, it is problematic as hell. First, it's a pain in the ass to cook; pork steaks have a lot more protein than beef steaks, which means cooking has to be much longer and slower to break down the tissue, and unless you drown it in BBQ sauce, the meat can be disappointingly tough. And not only are pork steaks considered a cheap, fatty cut of meat, they've also been implicated in homicide. Proceed with caution. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / Barsan ATTILA.
Why they're ranked last: Unfortunately, as good as pork steak is, it is problematic as hell. First, it's a pain in the ass to cook; pork steaks have a lot more protein than beef steaks, which means cooking has to be much longer and slower to break down the tissue, and unless you drown it in BBQ sauce, the meat can be disappointingly tough. And not only are pork steaks considered a cheap, fatty cut of meat, they've also been implicated in homicide. Proceed with caution. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / Barsan ATTILA.
#7 Red Hot Riplets®
What makes them great: If Flamin' Hot Cheetos® had a baby with BBQ Lays®, that baby would wish it tasted even half as good as Red Hot Riplets®. Many a St. Louis high school student has left the area for college, only to be confronted with the sad reality of no longer having these spicy slices of ruffled heaven in every vending machine. The heat/sweet combination mixed with the thick-cut, fresh-tasting potato chip make it a perfect snack food and the ideal chip for any St. Louis BBQ. Photo by Mabel Suen
#7 Red Hot Riplets®

What makes them great: If Flamin' Hot Cheetos® had a baby with BBQ Lays®, that baby would wish it tasted even half as good as Red Hot Riplets®. Many a St. Louis high school student has left the area for college, only to be confronted with the sad reality of no longer having these spicy slices of ruffled heaven in every vending machine. The heat/sweet combination mixed with the thick-cut, fresh-tasting potato chip make it a perfect snack food and the ideal chip for any St. Louis BBQ. Photo by Mabel Suen
Why they aren't the best: Let's not kid ourselves: These chips are fucking hot. And that's putting it lightly. It's not like tortilla chips or Cheez-its® where you can accidentally finish a whole family bag in one sitting; you'd need about five glasses of milk and two sticks of celery to take down a large bag of Red Hot Riplets®. Some say that's what makes them great, but the competition here is fierce: Other St. Louis food stuffs can surely paint the Riplets' searing strength as a liability. Photo by Alec Herr.
Why they aren't the best: Let's not kid ourselves: These chips are fucking hot. And that's putting it lightly. It's not like tortilla chips or Cheez-its® where you can accidentally finish a whole family bag in one sitting; you'd need about five glasses of milk and two sticks of celery to take down a large bag of Red Hot Riplets®. Some say that's what makes them great, but the competition here is fierce: Other St. Louis food stuffs can surely paint the Riplets' searing strength as a liability. Photo by Alec Herr.
#6 Gooey Butter Cake
What makes it great: It's easy and cheap to make, it tastes amazing, and it cuts easily without making a mess, which means you can cut it into squares and nobody in the family can argue about having gotten a smaller piece than anyone else. The signature dessert of the city is a classic among St. Louis households, and although it was created by mistake, it's probably the best mistake we've ever made. Photo by Thomas Bohlen.
#6 Gooey Butter Cake

What makes it great: It's easy and cheap to make, it tastes amazing, and it cuts easily without making a mess, which means you can cut it into squares and nobody in the family can argue about having gotten a smaller piece than anyone else. The signature dessert of the city is a classic among St. Louis households, and although it was created by mistake, it's probably the best mistake we've ever made. Photo by Thomas Bohlen.
Why it's not the best: In terms of St. Louis' contribution to the culinary world, gooey butter cake definitely made its mark. In the pantheon of great desserts, however, it falls a little short. Gooey butter cake is delicious and it makes you feel great, but it really is one of those "every once in a while" desserts like fudge or tequila. Not to mention, "gooey" is kind of a horrendous adjective for food, so that doesn't help. Photo courtesy of Lubeley's Bakery.
Why it's not the best: In terms of St. Louis' contribution to the culinary world, gooey butter cake definitely made its mark. In the pantheon of great desserts, however, it falls a little short. Gooey butter cake is delicious and it makes you feel great, but it really is one of those "every once in a while" desserts like fudge or tequila. Not to mention, "gooey" is kind of a horrendous adjective for food, so that doesn't help. Photo courtesy of Lubeley's Bakery.
#5 Provel
What makes it great: Where do we even start with Provel cheese? Transplants are frequently baffled at how they've lived an entire cheese-loving life without ever coming across this miraculous creation. Natives can't imagine how they'd do without. This marvel of science earns bonus points by serving two purposes: It's both the go-to cheese for pizza and the ingredient that makes any salad 400,000 times better. Don't argue; any true St. Louisan will acknowledge its truth. Photo courtesy of Instagram / saicalgirl.
#5 Provel

What makes it great: Where do we even start with Provel cheese? Transplants are frequently baffled at how they've lived an entire cheese-loving life without ever coming across this miraculous creation. Natives can't imagine how they'd do without. This marvel of science earns bonus points by serving two purposes: It's both the go-to cheese for pizza and the ingredient that makes any salad 400,000 times better. Don't argue; any true St. Louisan will acknowledge its truth. Photo courtesy of Instagram / saicalgirl.
Why it isn't the best: We have to face the facts: although this cheese has saved countless dishes and transformed pizza into a regional treasure, it remains just a topping (and kind of a Frankensteinian one at that). On its own it isn't bad (don't act like you've never eaten a string of Provel by itself), but it's hardly a must-eat. RFT photo.
Why it isn't the best: We have to face the facts: although this cheese has saved countless dishes and transformed pizza into a regional treasure, it remains just a topping (and kind of a Frankensteinian one at that). On its own it isn't bad (don't act like you've never eaten a string of Provel by itself), but it's hardly a must-eat. RFT photo.
#4 St. Louis-Style Ribs
What makes them great: There is a reason Kansas City barbecue mavens prefer St. Louis-style ribs over the "baby back" alternative: a higher meat-to-rib ratio and a more tender cut. When you have people in other cities asking for anything St. Louis-style, you know you're doing something right. (You don't always see that with St. Louis pizza.) Photo by Ian Froeb.
#4 St. Louis-Style Ribs

What makes them great: There is a reason Kansas City barbecue mavens prefer St. Louis-style ribs over the "baby back" alternative: a higher meat-to-rib ratio and a more tender cut. When you have people in other cities asking for anything St. Louis-style, you know you're doing something right. (You don't always see that with St. Louis pizza.) Photo by Ian Froeb.