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Situated along the Mississippi River in the heart of the United States is the city of St. Louis. Nicknamed the Gateway to the West, this Missouri town is made famous for its iconic arch, finger-lickin’ BBQ and world-class sports teams. While known nationally for its up-and-coming gastronomical scene and powerful social movements, this city, rooted deeply in Midwest culture, is recognizable locally for its trademark sayings. Here are the 10 phrases any St. Louisan knows all too well.
Whether it’s Cardinals baseball or Blues Hockey, sports are folded into the DNA of this river city. On cold winter nights, the chorus of “Let’s Go Blues” or LGB, flows out of the Scottrade Center, while summer evenings bring the melody of “Gooooo Cards” from Busch Stadium. No matter if you’re a seasoned fan or a budding STL sports enthusiast, scream these simple phrases on cue and you’ll feel right at home among the country’s sports fans.
Picture this: meat or cheese-stuffed ravioli, breaded and fried ‘til they’re crispy, and served up with marinara sauce. These golden treats are toasted ravioli, t-ravs for short, and originated in St. Louis. While it’s certain that this famous appetizer was invented in famed Italian neighborhood The Hill, many restaurants stake their claim as the true inventors. Head on over to Charlie Gittos, Anthonino’s Taverna or Mama’s Kitchen to try this St. Louis treasure for yourself. Or bite into some other St. Louis culinary classics—gooey butter cake, Gerber sandwiches, St. Paul sandwiches, St. Louis style pizza (provel cheese for days) and spare ribs.
This is what you’ll hear from every adult crouched over their front stoop on Halloween night. As children run around the streets of St. Louis on October 31, not only are they armed with a pillowcase full of candy and a stellar costume, but also, a joke. Unlike the rest of America, a simple “trick or treat” won’t work here. Requesting a joke for a piece of candy is a long-standing St. Louis tradition and is unique to the city.
When describing Highway 40, the stretch of Interstate 64 that runs through St. Louis, you’re bound to get a glimpse of the St. Louis whiny “a”. Although firmly rooted within a Midwest state, St. Louis developed a Northern Midland vowel swap (a for o) after the construction of Route 66 linked Chicago with St. Louis and brought with it the Windy City’s dialect.
The Gateway to the West is known for its distinct collection of neighborhoods, each with their own personality. St. Louisans choose to soak up these unique subcultures when the sun dips low. For locals, a night on the town is often a matter of choosing the neighborhood, or really, the vibe of the night. There’s Soulard, St. Louis’ oldest neighborhood, known for its iconic red brick town homes and some of the best brews in the city. Or, steps away from Forest Park are the swanky spots of the Central West End. St. Louis’s hipster heaven, the Loop, is the city’s live music hub, while Ballpark Village is STL’s newest sports epicenter across the street from Busch Stadium (mechanical bull included). Or there’s the Grove, the colorful, LGBTQ-friendly district known for its elaborate street art and killer dance floors.
While commonly referred to as Panera nationwide, the bakery-cafe chain will forever be named St. Louis Bread Company in the town where it was founded. Mention Panera to any St. Louisan, and expect a prompt, albeit polite, correcting.
A far cry from the stuffy museums of your youth, the St. Louis City Museum is a 600,000 square-foot jungle gym made entirely of repurposed industrial materials found within the city limits. Located in a revamped shoelace factory on Washington Avenue, the City Museum was dreamt up by late sculptor Bob Cassilly, hoping to create an artistic haven in playground form. Here, children and adults alike are not only encouraged to touch the art, but interact with it. Crawl through replicated Missouri caves, shimmy amongst life-sized trees, whip down a seven-story slide or climb to the suspended airplane outside. Paying homage to St. Louis’ unique Art Deco style, this urban playground is a whimsical masterpiece.
The crowning joy of this humble river city is the monument that put it on the map—the Gateway Arch. Completed in 1965, the tallest arch in the world, at 192 meters (692 ft.) tall, stands as a testament to American westward expansion. Today, visitors can take an elevator pod to the top, to get unmatched view of the city, or wander the Lewis and Clark museum below. But for the St. Louis local, a mere glimpse of the arch sparks a deep pride in the city they call home.
Forest Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country, is a common geographical landmark for any true St. Louisan. Created as the grounds of the 1904 World’s Fair, Forest Park is home to some of the city’s most visited sites—the St. Louis Art Museum, the Zoo and the Muny amphitheater.
Ah, the pièce de résistance of any St. Louis list. The mother of all questions, and the single most defining phrase in the St. Louis area. Your answer can not only tell a St. Louis native of your geographical upbringing, but the caliber of your education, the worthiness of your sports teams and most importantly, if you know anyone in common. So goes the nature of a close-knit town. Expect the obligatory, “Do you know [insert high school acquaintance here]?” as a follow-up question.