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Aug 2002 / media shoegaze :: email this story to a friend

St. Pauls, Brains, Snoots
and Tripe

By Thomas Crone
Photos by Kurt Groetsch

While in the employ of a large local website with affiliation to the town's major daily paper, I wrote a story about St. Paul sandwiches, that oddball snack available, seemingly, only in St. Louis. With a name that no one can exactly identify, the St. Paul is made up of the following: an egg foo young patty, consisting of multiple whipped eggs, bean sprouts and minced white onions; white bread, slathered with mayonnaise; and various toppings, usually including some combination of lettuce, tomato, and pickle.

This is an odd sandwich. And, apparently, "A Sandwich That You Will Like."

In late July, a crew of videographers arrived in St. Louis to capture the mystique of the St. Paul sandwich, as part of a midwestern road trip that included stops in Chicago, Louisville and a small town in Iowa. Each town has a specialty sandwich of note, and the St. Paul was the primary hook for St. Louis, with that initial web story among the few published on this egg-y meal. Thus, the "Sandwiches That You Will Like" road show stopped off in the Mound City... finding more than just the St. Paul, mind you.

As it turned out, producer Rick Sebak found some interest in other local sandwiches, including: the fried brain at Ferguson's Pub, also served atop white bread, with sides of slaw and fries; and the multiple offerings of North County's C&K Barbecue, including two versions of tripe, snouts and pig ears. (And, at C&K, potato salad's not just a side; it's actually a condiment, served right in between the bread and meat. Yowzah!)

Sebak and his remarkably good-natured crew (cameraman Buck Brinson, audio mixer and boom operator Bob Lubomski, and lighting man/driver Jarrett Buba), sampled bits of just about everything, including some of the soft-on-the-inside brains. They even tried the pig ears, which were probably the least favored of the lot. While the C&K rib tips were devoured with universal praise, the chewy, sinewy ears wound up unloved, and save for a few bites, were scuttled into the nearest aluminum receptacle. C&K wound up a star-turning warm-up act for the headlining St. Paul.

The St. Pauls were the central hook on Wednesday, July 17, when the WQED crew took over the modest Kim Van Chinese Restaurant, found on Gravois in the Fox Park neighborhood. Kurt and I ate a couple St. Pauls apiece and discussed them on camera. The owners, the Nguyen family, came out to talk about the origins of the sandwich; sadly, no definitive word on where that name came from. Customers filed through, looking amused, for the most part, though one character seemed plenty pissed that his fried rice was slower than normal.

Outside, life in South City passed by: cars speeding down Gravois, towards Jefferson; a pregnant woman discarding her fast-food cups; an insurance inspector stopping to talk about his son's inability to find St. Pauls in Alabama; one fellow relieving himself right there on the sidewalk. Inside, Vietnamese music played softly, as the smells from the hellfire-hot kitchen wafted out into the dining room/guerrilla studio.

The PBS special, "Sandwiches That You Will Like," will air nationally in February, during the pledge drive season. Keep an eye out for the Channel 9 program guide. And hope that we don't wind up on the editing room floor!

[Click a thumbnail image below to see the large version.]


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