The French Toast of the Town

Dennis: Slingers. Ribs. Gyros. That, my friends, was the reviewing run I was on for the last year. An unprecedented streak of self-serving picks, geared to my tastes, with little regard to my better half. Alas, I knew my savory ride would eventually end, and I'd find myself glazed over, trying to remember if my taste buds could discern anything beyond sweet.

Emily: Get over it, man, and grab your ticket. The sugar train is pulling out.

Emily's French toast profile: I'm passionate about my syrup.

Dennis' French toast profile: Ideally, there should be more bacon than bread.

The Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery
6116 Second St., Kimmswick ∙ 636.464.3128
Tue. to Fri. ' 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sat. and Sun. ' 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(Breakfast: Tue. to Sun. ' 10 to 11:30 a.m.)

E: It was our first stop. We arrived before the doors even opened. I felt prepared ' until I saw a convivial crowd already gathered outside, waiting for a coveted table.
D: What Emily didn't know was that I'd suggested Blue Owl under false pretenses. Yes, I would eat the French toast, but my heart lay elsewhere. More specifically, in the outlandishly tall pie box that would hit our table at the end of the meal.
E: The end of the meal? Upon exiting our car, I was just hoping to score a seat.
D: My focus was squarely on the future, knowing I would soon attempt, and likely fail, to efficiently carve an apple pie the size of a basketball.
E: I hate all these secrets between us! And I'm never opposed to following up a sugary meal with more sugar, but for now, let's stay focused. For this article, it's all about the toast.
D: It was nice, straightforward French toast.
E: The ratio of crunchy outside to soft center was quite pleasing. It also arrived with plenty of syrup. This means that even after the original coating soaked in, more could be applied and perfect squishiness secured.

Kopperman's Specialty Food & Delicatessen
386 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis ∙ 314.361.0100
Mon. to Thu. ' 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Fri. '
7:30 a.m. until Sun. ' 5 p.m.; closed Fri. and Sat. from 5 to 11 p.m. (Breakfast always available)

D: 'I received what turned out to be the most delicious French toast sampled.' Emily wrote that about Kopperman's French toast back in 2004.
E: Wow. I'm not often quoted. I'm ever so honored. And impressed by your memory.
D: It was this very memory that brought us back during our tour de French toast four years later and, by God, it was better than I remembered. Thick slices of French bread cut on the bias, soaked and grilled so the outside was crunchy and the inside was soft but not gooey, with a whiff of cinnamon. This was French toast worth being a glutton over.
E: It's also a great vehicle for sucking up syrup. They gave us half a pitcher of the sweet stuff ' and yet I was tempted to ask for more. I think this will be the article benchmark. I can't imagine anything better.
D: And, yet, as massively awesome as it was, I couldn't escape breakfast without a bit of disappointment. My $2.95 side of bacon turned out to be just three scrawny slices so thin as to be translucent.
E: Maybe that'll teach you to sneak something salty on a plate meant to be sweet.

The Shangri-La Diner
2201 Cherokee St., St. Louis ∙ 314. 772.8308
Thu. ' 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri. ' 11 a.m. to
10 p.m., Sat. ' 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun. '
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; brunch: Sun. ' till 2 p.m. (Breakfast always available)

D: I can't believe I'm back at a vegetarian brunch.
E: He's referring to the one other vegetarian brunch he's ever been to. Almost five years ago.
D: Uh, hello, you've dragged me to two. Let's keep the numbers straight. I've since sworn off them because of my membership in SBMADL (Salty Breakfast Meat Anti-Discrimination League). And, seriously, if you value your soul, don't tell me that the vegan sausage patties count.
E: Obviously, I was keeping a pretty close eye on him as we entered the front door.
D: She may have been justifiably worried, but The Shangri-La had me after one forkful of the sugary, sublime cr'me br'l'e French toast.
E: It was described to our 3-year-old as 'birthday cake for breakfast,' and that pretty much sums it up.
D: It's simply too jublicious to pass up. (Yeah, I had to make up a word to adequately describe it.)
E: No syrup is needed. It's straight sugar. I always knew something was missing from other French toasts, and now I know it's the crystallized sugar coating. We have a new benchmark, people!

Chris' Pancake and Dining
5980 Southwest Ave., St. Louis ∙ 314.645.2088
Sun. ' 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Mon. to Thu. ' 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. ' 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Breakfast always available)

D: Sure, it may seem counterintuitive to go to a pancake house for French toast ' but, well, OK, it is.
E: Our breakfast arrived topped with a mountainous dollop of butter and a generous dusting of powdered sugar. A beautiful presentation, if I say so myself.
D: While it wasn't the best French toast on our little journey, it was tasty, and it was, by far, the quickest delivery.
E: We ordered, and ' poof! ' it arrived. It's like there's a French toast fairy on site.
D: As for my dish, I ordered the French Slam, two pieces of French toast, two eggs (your call) and SBM of your choice. Like I said earlier, the French toast was tasty, but when it mingled with the egg yolks and syrup and bacon, it became much more than the sum of its parts.
E: Wait! I just saw that I could have topped mine with blueberries, strawberries or chocolate chips for less than a buck. Go sugar!
D: When we were leaving, I told Emily about the coffee and cookies available on weekends for those having to wait for tables.
E: Cookies? Arriving before the rush was just bad planning on our part.