Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Slingers

4662 Gravois Rd
House Springs, MO

The slinger, made famous at O.T. Hodge’s Chili Parlor, or Chili Mac’s as it is also known is well known to me. In the two years I worked downtown Hodges was a very popular lunch stop. The slinger itself has been described many ways, one of them: "a hometown culinary invention that might account for St. Louis' high rate of heart disease.” (Eatandcritique ‘Kim’s Café’ 7 Sep 2010)

The Place:

Slingers is a joint we’ve been talking about trying for quite some time. The only reason we hadn’t to date was because it’s in House Springs*, it takes a while to get there because of the skinny, curvy roads.

The place used to be called ‘Eat Rite’ which was probably a bold-faced lie. It’s a diner, a greasy spoon, I don’t think they even offer a salad. It is breakfast and burgers, all day, they even serve what I hear is a pretty good St. Louis style Pizza.

The place is located in a small strip mall adjoining a title loan company, a barber shop, a tattoo parlor, and a little boutique that sells designer handbags… sure it does.

There’s more floor space than a typical diner, it could easily seat a hundred. There’s no banquet room. The floor was industrial tile, well worn and scuffed, not recently polished. The back tables and chairs were low-end metal and faux-wood, the booths were nothing remarkable. Booths lined one wall and the front window, tables in the middle, and a well-worn counter offered a few spinning stools. There were a dozen people or so already there, as well as a man waiting at the counter for his pizza order. A ten year old CRT television was showing the Missouri/Nebraska football game, no one seemed to be watching.

The patrons were, as best could be politely described, as ‘locals’. No fancy dress or airs about them. One lady sat at a table reading a book, sipping some coffee, another table was crowded with some form of rural nuclear family. The lady behind the counter was the only floor staff, acting as waitress, cashier and apologist. (there was something wrong with the man’s pizza order). We seated ourselves at a booth (my choice this time) that afforded us a view of the counter, a little of the kitchen as well as the front door in case terrorists showed up. ( It pays to be vigilant.).

After a few minutes the lady brought us what passed for a menu. It was really just a two-sided printout, cheaply laminated. We ordered our drinks, they were brought out quickly. Tea, Pepsi and Diet Pepsi. The tea was cloudy and bitter.

The selection was simple, calories, cholesterol, served your way. Since the place was called Slingers, I didn’t need to read it thoroughly, it was my destiny to order the eponymous item.
The aroma was a little sickening. The whole place reeked heavily of stale cigarette smoke. It was just that kind of place.

The Food:

The chalkboard showed the daily special, 2 breaded pork chops w/2 sides $5.80. Nah.. too bland, but not a bad price.

I chose the ‘Baby Slinger’ Which was only different form the real thing in that it had one, not two eggs, I’m watching my girlish figure after all. There were choices here that I’d not considered before. I could choose the meat, either a hamburger patty, sausage patties, or bacon. I chose sausage just to try something different. Asked how I wanted my egg, I answered ‘raw’. She wrote it down. Seriously. She gave me an eye, but was apparently perfectly willing to comply with my order. I quickly changed it to 'over-medium'. I could also choose between potatoes, either hash browns or ‘American Fries” (they’re obviously still miffed about that whole French no-fly-zone thing from the 90’s. They hold their grudges proudly in House Springs.) I chose the traditional hash browns. I also had to choose between toast and biscuits, I chose toast. I then had to choose between white or wheat. I was frustrated, one too many choices. I went with white. The waitress/cashier giggled at my frustration so I decided to mock her. “Before you ask, I’d like it served on a plate, not a bowl, and I’d like a fork, not a spoon.” Angel giggled in that completely silent, non-giggling way she has.

Angel ordered the ‘Slammer’ which is the same as a Slinger except instead of Chili, it’s covered in white gravy. Mmmmmmm, gravy! When asked for her litany of choices she went with biscuit, hash browns, scrambled eggs and a beef patty.

Adam decided on Chicken fried steak, two eggs (scrambled), hash browns, white toast, and a side of bacon, not smothered in chili or gravy; commando style.

We didn’t have to wait very long.

Angel and Adam’s meals arrived first, they looked awesome. In a couple of minutes mine arrived as ordered, on a plate.

All I could see was a slice of pasteurized, processed American cheese product slowly melting in the vast pool of chili. I had to dig and poke to find the sausage, potatoes and egg. The chili was pretty good, not too strong. The sausage was a bit salty, though I’m not supposed to say anything is too salty. (See last week’s post about my problem with saltiness.) The hash browns and egg were perfectly prepared. Angel and Adam showed no shame and dug through their meals like Chilean Miners after a significant ordeal. I didn’t eat very quickly. There was nothing wrong with the meal (other than the unmentioned saltiness of the sausage) but I’d had Chili for lunch and was not feeling the heightened passion that Angel and Adam were. I looked at Adam’s naked eggs, taters, bacon and CF steak, it just looked better than mine even though it was essentially the same. Mine tasted like chili. Not a bad thing, but the individual tastes were severely muted. Even Angel’s gravy-soaked fare looked better since gravy is more of a light sauce than a torchy topping.

They finished before I did even after they stopped long enough to search through the packets of jellies and jams to find just the right one. I did stop, finished with nothing left but a glaze of chili and two small lumps of sausage.

We discussed the meal, the place, they unanimously loved it. Angel declared ‘This is the kind of place I like!’ Adam agreed.

We opted against dessert, they had a hand written list of pies and cakes. No apple, but they did offer rhubarb, something you don’t see everywhere.

Summary:

The meal came in at just under thirty dollars, making it similar to Kim’s Café in fare and price. The food was very good, except for….never mind. No frills, no vague promises of anything other than what it was. The place is a dive, a greasy spoon, and pretends to be nothing else.

I would have liked it to have been cleaner and smell less like a damp ashtray, and the service was thin with only one person doing everything out front. But there was nothing overtly unsanitary about it. The atmosphere was low key and very local. No candles, no froufrou, no crystal chandeliers. My biggest complaint is not really a complaint at all. House Springs is further away than DeSoto or Festus, which makes it less than convenient. Say on a Sunday morning I decided to get up and grab a hearty breakfast and a cup of coffee and to read the paper. I’d have to twist and turn bad roads for twenty five minutes or more to get to Slingers. I can be in downtown DeSoto in about fifteen and get the same fare for the same price.

The lady that was reading the book left before we did. We saw her again at the neighboring Walmart (not a super store). She worked there. THAT’s what I’m talking about! A place like this within walking distance of work? Perfect!

By all means if you are in or near House Springs, this is a great, relaxed, low key, low budget place to get your calories on.

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* House Springs:

The community is named after Adam House, who settled there ca. 1796, and for the two large springs there. In the late 18th century Adam House was killed by Osage Indians due to a dispute over stolen horses. Two of House's children escaped; his wife had died the year before of illness. Help from St. Louis arrived too late to aid the family, and House was beheaded. House's cabin was built near the spring about a mile from the Big River. Historical House Springs is located on Main Street off Route MM. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_Springs,_Missouri )

I’ve always been intrigued by this story.



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2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the House Springs history lesson Dennis. I went to Northwest High School but did not ever hear that story. Very interesting.

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  2. Dennis,

    Have you ever tried the "White Grill" on mainstreet Festus? If you like fried onions, order a hamburger with grilled onions. Reminds me of the old-time greasy spoons. (Brought tears to my eyes) Actually the burgers were very good!

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