Jul 13, 2016

Diving into a slinger at the Eat Rite Diner, St. Louis

When it comes to places known for cheap comfort food, you have your diners, you have your greasy spoons, and then you have those places that, lovingly, look like a constant health code violation. As a supreme compliment, I’d qualify Eat Rite Diner among the latter in appearance. 

It really is quite charming from the road.
To be completely fair and transparent, though, despite its worn-around-the-edges appearance both inside and out, Eat Rite consistently gets “A” ratings on its health inspections. 

Still, while others may still look at a place like Eat Rite with trepidation to test their taste buds, if you’re like me, you can’t wait for the opportunity to try it out.  That opportunity had eluded me until last fall when I convinced Punky to go there for breakfast during one of our weekend trips to St. Louis.  The fact that their entire menu is available 24 hours a day helped seal the deal … sometimes after a night of fun you just want a cheeseburger.      

See?  Simply charming.

The Eat Rite Diner is perched on the corner of Choteau and 7th Street in St. Louis, coincidentally along an old alignment for U.S. Route 66, where factories once thrived in the area between downtown and Soulard.  Today, the Eat Rite Diner sticks out defiantly like a remnant from either a time warp or a Quentin Tarantino movie among blocks of vacant lots and crumbling buildings. 

You do get a pretty decent view of Busch Stadium from where you enter the restaurant.  Its proximity to the ballpark has put Eat Rite on the radar of quite a few famous people.  But few of them are showing up during the more interesting hours of operation, as this excellent article describes.   

As I entered the Eat Rite for the first time, I tried to determine whether Guy Fieri would love this place or tremble at the sight of it.  I’d like to think he’d be intimidated.  The place is small, even by diner standards – a dozen stools at the counter is all the seating they have.  I loved it, but would Punky approve?

That giddy smile says it all.  You have to love how worn the counter top looks.  Why change or upgrade what has always worked so well? 

The same can be said for the Eat Rite’s menu.  I imagine that, except for the prices and a few minor additions, anyone who dined here 50 years ago would instantly recognize it. 

The entertainment section of Eat Rite Diner
The décor is plain and mostly unchanged from decades ago.  One item worth noting is the antique pinball machine in the back corner.  I was told it still works, too.

The grill directly behind the counter is another thing of beauty.  I love the old, heavy flat iron press to get that extra sizzle out whatever’s grilling.  When we saw that, we were convinced Punky’s burger would be outstanding. 

An American classic, breakfast lunch or dinner.
We were right.  How classic does that look, dressed with all the options?

One delicious slinger all slung together
I opted for a classic of a different sort – the slinger, a St. Louis original.  Some claim the slinger was invented at the Eat Rite, and I can certainly see how that could have happened.  It’s a great hangover breakfast dish combining hash browns, a sausage patty, eggs, chili and toppings.  I’d compare it favorably to a breakfast version of a Springfield, Ill., original – the horseshoe.  Just substitute chili for cheese sauce.  And the greasy diner style chili is really what brings all of the ingredients together.  This was a sloppy, delicious mess.  And, I couldn’t finish it, so you know it was a seriously large plate full of food.   

Perhaps the best part of our breakfast at the Eat Rite Diner was seeing the interaction between the employees and the regular customers who came in while we were there.  Despite a lack of a neighborhood around it, Eat Rite remains a true neighborhood hangout.  Nobody leaves a stranger, it seems. 

Is that where the chili came from?
As we finished our breakfast, I couldn’t help but notice an old (even by this place’s standards), worn out stove with a stock pot on top of it just behind the kitchen area.  I wondered whether they might still be used or if they were simply waiting to someday be discarded, and I thought back to my criteria for what makes a great diner.  Without hesitation, Eat Rite gets “A” grades from me across the board.      

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