Bottomfeeder: The 5-Spot Celebrates St. Louis’ Cuisine

It’s about damn time.

The 5-Spot, like other Chow Foods siblings, is perhaps best known for its rotating regional menu, which typically focuses on the cuisine of well-known locales like Italy and Jamaica or, stateside, Chicago and New Orleans.But through mid-January, the Queen Anne eatery is currently spotlighting the cuisine of...St. Louis, Missouri. As someone who lived there for four years, I can attest that the River City is somewhat underrated as a culinary destination, but the dishes it's known for are decidedly lowbrow—and all but one notable currently appears on the 5-Spot's menu.St. Louis is a big Catholic town, so much so that otherwise liberal Democrats tend to be pro-lifers. Hence, church-hosted Lenten fish fries abound—and lo and behold, there's a "St. Ferdinand Fish Fry" on the 5-Spot's St. Lou menu. Also present are toasted ravioli—sort of a misnomer because the ravioli isn't actually toasted, it's fried—and pork steak, a barbecued slab best accompanied by multiple cans of Busch.But my personal favorite is the Soulard Slinger, named for one of America's great drinking neighborhoods, Soulard, which sits in the shadow of the enormous Anheuser-Busch brewery and hosts one of the nation's largest Mardi Gras celebrations. There's literally a bar on every corner, and the slinger—a mountainous mashup of hash browns, eggs, chili, and hamburger (the 5-Spot substitutes a slender sausage patty)—is a shrewd cure for the nectar Soulard offers on a nightly (hourly?) basis."[The slinger] has all of the elements in it," says the 5-Spot's assistant manager, Jen Gleer, who was raised on St. Louis' south side. "You get your protein, your carbs, and your fat. And we can call the beans in the chili a vegetable. That's actually one of the top sellers off our St. Louis menu. It's unfortunate that we don't serve it at two in the morning."General manager Rich Gantner also hails from the St. Louis metro area. It was Gantner's idea to celebrate his hometown cuisine atop Queen Anne, but he made the curious decision not to include perhaps the Lou's most polarizing delicacy: Provel cheese. "We looked at bringing it in, but I don't know that it would be received up here in the Seattle market," explains Gantner. "It's essentially processed cheese, and we try to keep things wholesome and natural."As Gantner lets on, Provel isn't really cheese—it's a processed "foodstuff" that's supposed to taste like a hybrid of Swiss, provolone, and cheddar. To me, Provel resembles a cross between Tang, Cheez Whiz, and freshly excreted diarrhea. And unfortunately for pizza purists who don't hail from the Lou but happen to live there, it's the preferred topping for many St. Louis pie pushers, including the venerable Imo's chain.Yet Provel has its defenders, among them Gantner. "Without question," he says, "if you go to St. Louis, you have to have Imo's." To each his own, I suppose.mseely@seattleweekly.com

 
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