Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gus’ Pretzels

1820 Arsenal
St. Louis Mo.

Friday night, December 30, Angel asked me what kind of snacks I’d like for New Year’s Eve.  Snacking, grazing, is what we do to celebrate the event. No meal, no party, no fireworks (unless weather allows) we don’t even stay up till midnight, settling instead to celebrate with the east coast. (we used to live there so it’s not cheating)
She’d been to the grocery that day and stocked up on the usual. Baby carrots, chips, dip, cheeses, little weenies and barbecue sauce. I didn’t think much of it at the time, what she already had sounded sufficient.
Later that evening I was struck by a craving. Soft pretzels, I hadn’t had one in years. Saturday morning, recalling the notion, I tried to figure out where I could get some. There are always the frozen varieties in of grocery stores, that would do, I first thought. I then shifted to fresh, like at Auntie Annie’s at the malls. I like those just fine, but they are at the mall, a place I normally only visit under threat of certain and severe torture. Then I started to recall the last soft pretzel  I’d had.   
I was working downtown at that large beer company, whose name I shall not mention. My boss, Tom, and sometimes Wings or Art, and maybe a few others would stop at Gus’ Pretzels on the way in to work and buy a big bag of soft, hot pretzels and pass them around.  I refuse a lot of food at work, I can walk right past massive piles of donuts or bagels, but those pretzels…mmmmm….
I looked them up on the web, thirty six miles from my humble rural compound. A seventy two mile round trip.  The more I thought of it though, the more it seemed worth it.
As luck would have it though Angel was getting ready to make a run into the city to drop off a dog and deliver a blanket for another one. Bennie had stayed with us for a few days but inadvertently left his favorite blanket behind when he was picked up. The blanket portion of the trip would put her a mere five miles from 1820 Arsenal. I showed her the web site, the hours of operation, and directions. She was interested but not infinitely so, the best I could get from her was a tacit, “I’ll see what I can do.”
With fingers crossed and plans B, C, and D being mulled over, I sat back and tended to the needs of the remaining dogs and household while she was out. (Actually I just watched part of the Marx brothers classic ‘A day at the Races’ on TV)
The Place:
Gus’ is ‘in the shadow’ of that brewery I mentioned, so if you’re in St. Louis and taking the tour of the brewery ( I can still recommend that) You’re only a few steps away.
It’s not really surprising for pretzels to be a part of the landscape here. The same Germans that immigrated to the area and started brewing beer also created a market, and brought the requisite skills to create other Germanic institutions, such as pretzels.  And what goes better with beer, than pretzels? Gus’ has been in the same location since first opening in 1920. Three generations of pretzel twisters have managed the shop for nearly a hundred years. It’s not at all surprising that they are quite good at it. They’ve expanded some over the years, and their following has grown with them.  Angel reported, through a mouth full of ‘endz’,  that the place was packed, the parking lot full. People were inside ordering up big batches, twenty, fifty or more to adorn their own party snack tables. Apparently word had gotten around quickly after I first thought it up. We may have created a new tradition here.
The Food:
It’s soft, hot pretzels, just like ‘mutter und vater’ used to make. If you had an old country set of Teutonic parents anyhow.
They offer twists and sticks, and ‘Endz’ as well as pretzel sandwiches, dips and fancy ‘party pretzels’ See the menu for pics and prices.
And those prices!  Unbeatable! Fresh soft pretzels for fifty five cents or less, if you grab a big ol’ bag full. And why wouldn’t you?  Angel brought back a dozen twists, a bag of endz, and some dip, for pretty much less than a single meal at any of our usual eateries would cost, less than $15.
I recommend cheddar cheese for dipping, but that’s not your only option. Sometime I just spread some yellow mustard on them.
They were as good as I remembered, soft, buttery, salty. (I don’t mind pretzels being salty, it seems natural)
Fifteen seconds in the microwave reheats them nicely, the cheese gets all gooey. I love ‘em, Blue and Bailey loved what little I offered them, and Angel and Adam have seen the light as well.
Though not a complete meal, these things are an excellent, low-fat snack or breakfast. The fact that these are freshly made, though frozen are available in local grocery stores, make them a real treat. I highly recommend you make the trip even if you have no other reason to visit downtown St. Louis. You’ll be glad you did.
Frohes neues Jahr!  (Happy new year, in German)

Gus' Pretzels on Urbanspoon


  1. I love Gus' pretzels. Well, I like them a bunch anyway. Never had a pretzel until I moved into this predominately German environment. I converted very quickly to the big soft kind.

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