Nov 2, 2015

A commoner dines at Crown Candy Kitchen, Saint Louis

When it comes to dining establishments, it’s one thing to be trendy by trying to replicate the past.  It’s another thing entirely to stand the test of time year after year, generation after generation.  The Crown Candy Kitchen, a Saint Louis tradition since 1913, definitely qualifies as a prime example of the latter.  After all, fewer dining experiences are as old-school as a turn-of-the-century -- as in 20th century -- family-friendly soda fountain.  And while Crown Candy Kitchen may not be the last of its kind, it’s a good bet they’re one of the best still going.

Part of Crown Candy Kitchen’s enduring popularity as a must-try destination in Saint Louis has to stem from the fame it received from the Travel Channel’s shows “Man vs. Food” and “Best Sandwich in America,” (What is it about Adam Richmond’s love affair with this place, anyway?) although I’m proud to say I discovered this place before its cable TV fame.  

It’s a fairly safe bet, however, that you’re not going there as part of a larger tour of the Old North Saint Louis neighborhood.  As original as the storefront looks, it certainly stands out amidst the urban blight.

A for effort.  Looks like fun.
That isn’t to suggest that revitalization efforts aren’t helping.  I was impressed by the farmer’s market we saw across the street while waiting for the Crown’s doors to open.

The Kiddo found a good place to sit to check it all out.

But I do recommend you get there early, or there will be a wait.  Part of Crown Candy Kitchen’s charm is its originality, so it has never expanded or moved to a larger location.  That means the seating arrangement is the same as it’s been for 100 years.  

The booths are small and somewhat cramped …

… and the table settings are right out of “Happy Days” … or earlier.

I'm such a ham.
The menu is classic diner fare -- burgers, sandwiches (the 14-slice Heart-Stopping BLT earned them “Best Sandwich in America” consideration) and chili.  All of it is excellent, and over-sized, of course.

I opted for the roast beef cheddar melt on sourdough.  As you can probably tell, it was literally dripping with savory goodness.  The April had a tuna salad sandwich (not pictured) with enough filler to feed an entire picnic.  Nothing fancy, just tuna salad on toast. It’s amazing sometimes how a simply prepared sammich still beats the gourmet fancy ingredient-filled one.

So, yes, the food is excellent.  But let’s not kid ourselves.  The main reason people come here is for dessert -- specifically the shakes.

I struggle when there are so many good options.
And there are always plenty of classic flavors to choose from.  

On this day, however, The April was feeling a little unconventional and ordered the coffee-flavored shake.  I’d like to say it was good to the last drop …

… but honestly, who could finish one?  This is the leftover from the canister it was served in.  That’s another complete glass full and a little to go.  The Crown’s famous food challenge says if you can finish five of their milkshakes in 30 minutes, you get them for free (along with a huge tummy ache and a brain freeze, no doubt.)  The reality is that’s more like 12 shakes.  I can’t even imagine coming close.

So. Many. Choices.  Classic board menu behind the counter.
If a milkshake or malt isn’t how you prefer you ice cream, their old-fashioned belly buster sundaes might do the trick.  

French sundae decadence
The Kiddo was certainly game.  In fact, her French sundae was her entire meal.  With a combination of strawberry, chocolate and marshmallow sauces, sliced bananas, cashews, chocolate sprinkles and a cherry on top, it was definitely enough to fill any kid up.  And although it’s a little pricey at $6 plus change, its size, taste, presentation and kid-satisfaction level made it worth every penny.

I'll salute that!!
For me, in an unexplainable fit of patriotism, I ordered the Uncle Sam sundae off the menu.  I think it was the combination of pineapple and pecans that sold me.

It’s also worth mentioning that if you have a sweet tooth and don’t want ice cream, remember what Crown Candy Kitchen is named for -- their candy.  The candy counter is the first thing you see when you walk in and the last thing you see when you leave.  It’s hard not to take something home with you.      

Despite the sketchiness of the neighborhood, it’s rather easy to find Crown Candy Kitchen, and it’s worth the trek.  It’s probably no more than 10 minutes from downtown and fairly close to Interstate 70.  It may take a while to get in, but I guarantee you’ll waddle out, full and happy.  And if you split your pants overeating while there, don’t say I didn’t warn you.  

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