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How St. Paul Sandwiches Became A St. Louis Delicacy

A St. Paul sandwich at Chinese Express in Richmond Heights.
Julia Calleo | Sauce Magazine
A St. Paul sandwich at Chinese Express in Richmond Heights.

St. Louis has an abundance of unique culinary creations that locals don’t care to convince outsiders to embrace: If newbies don’t like this stuff, it just means more for the rest of us. We’ll happily keep our fried ravioli, Provel cheese to ourselves, along with gooey butter cake’s havoc on the arteries. 

But one creation that really perplexes the masses is the St. Paul sandwich: It’s an egg patty topped with lettuce, tomato and pickles, and held together by white bread smothered in mayo. Regional eaters can now find variations of the sandwich that include pork belly, ham or shrimp. 

Sauce Magazine’s Matt Sorrell recently delved into how exactly the cult favorite was created.

“Unverified local legend has it that a Chinese-American chef in the city invented the St. Paul in the 1940s to please Midwestern palates … and named it after his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota,” Sorrell writes in this month’sissue. 

Sorrell joined host Sarah Fenske on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air to talk about the sandwich’s rise to fame as a St. Louis classic. Also joining the discussion were Ben Welch, the Midwestern executive chef who’s been eating St. Pauls since he was a kid, and Kristin Liu, whose family owned Chinese Gourmet Restaurant in Florissant from 1984 until it closed in 2017.

Listen to the full conversation:

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.