The slinger is the stuff of good times and bad decisions; a culinary car crash of a dish that is best when staggering sideways between gratuitous nightcap and required hangover remedy.
Although the slinger occupies prime real estate on breakfast menus across St. Louis, its creation story is largely lost to our collective history. Instead, the slinger – at its core an amalgamation of potato, chili, egg, cheese and protein – is something that just is; a beloved local monument and testament to what can literally be slung together on a plate and served unto the masses.
While the slinger as we know it today is undeniably a St. Louis original, its provenance can be traced back to the same gene pool that gave western New York the Garbage Plate, gave heaping mounds of Five-way Cincinnati Chili to the Buckeye State, gave spicy chilaquiles topped with cheese and shredded meat to Mexico, and to Canada, a mass of gravy-soaked potatoes and cheese curds affectionately known as poutine. Each is a member of the same family tree, and each highlights the inherent genius of a simple concept; namely, that the development of delicious delivery systems for copious quantities of filling carbohydrates is a most excellent thing.
With an appreciative nod to its pedigree, we also note with pride that the slinger is inextricably linked to The Gateway City. Much like St. Louis’ relationship with Provel – the cheese that tops our namesake style of pizza – the slinger requires an immersion in our fair city to truly and honestly “get it.” For some, acceptance takes the larger part of a lifetime; for others, it is seemingly instantaneous. For anyone who has called St. Louis home, the slinger is a rite of passage, a badge of honor customized a hundred different ways, each version as soul-satisfyingly tasty as the next.
To pay tribute to the slinger is to pay homage to one another: blissfully winding down a Friday night, laughing as friends barely hold onto worn diner counters, sunglassed and sipping on strong coffee the morning after, returning to St. Louis after time away, or as a last meal before passing the Arch and moving on to other places. The slinger is the humble, everyday story of us, adorned with an unapologetic smattering of yellow mustard and extra jalapeños, if you please.
Hungry for more? Grab a fork and join us as we dig into our favorite classic slingers as well as a few modern takes of this St. Louis treasure. – Andrew Mark Veety