Short List: Cornbread

While humble grits has made haute cuisine inroads under its European alias, polenta, the same success eludes that other Southern staple of ground corn goodness, cornbread. Equally adept in both sweet and savory combinations, it’s a wonder more chefs haven’t latched on to its versatility. And though there’s no topping the aroma of roasting corn in your own kitchen and grabbing a slice from the still-hot iron skillet, some dedicated sleuthing around St. Louis turned up some local varieties that might just convert you to the cornbread cause.

8143 Maryland Ave., Clayton, 314.352.4770 and
9781 Clayton Road, Ladue, 314.352.4770

There’s a fine line between bread and cake here. Unapologetically sweet, this towering, golden slab paired well enough with a bowl of turkey chili, but its true vocation would be crumbled in a bowl of cream and topped with fresh peaches or berries or drizzled with maple syrup. If you’re in the sweet cornbread camp, this is your stuff – a sneaky way to get dessert without actually ordering dessert.

4198 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314.535.9700

Served up in a cast-iron pan, Sanctuaria’s cornbread would look picture perfect on any Southern supper table. But it gets the upscale tapas bar treatment with a slab of honey butter and a topping of smoky tomato salsa – so you can take it sweet or savory. A scattering of jalapeño bits adds some barely-there heat, but it was the crispy sear around the edges that really made this bread irresistible.

Sweetie Pie’s
4270 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314.371.0304 and 9841 W. Florissant Road, Ferguson, 314.521.9915

A broad, brown scorch mark across an otherwise golden plain. A jagged crevasse where the heat had torn a faultline in the top crust. Imperfections? No, sir – these were home-baked hallmarks of all that was good about Sweetie Pie’s cornbread. A bit more coarse than its peers, and with the barest hint of sweetness, it proved the perfect tool for pushing juicy black-eyed peas onto the fork. This is mama’s cornbread, y’all.

To see this month's Short List Runner-Up, click here.