He Said/She Said: Warm and chewy for the win

Emily: A little dough, a little salt – and voilà – you’ve got pretzels. The perfect snack.
Dennis: But how chewy are they? What’s the salt-to-surface-area ratio? Cheese or mustard for dipping? All of these questions and more must be answered to uncover the ideal soft pretzel experience.
E: Boys make everything so complicated.

Dennis’ pretzel profile: Firm outside, chewy inside and I’ve yet to come across an oversalted pretzel.
Emily’s pretzel profile: Serve with beer. (See how uncomplicated I am?)

The Schlafly Tap Room
2100 Locust St., St. Louis ∙ 314.241.2337
Mon. and Tue. – 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Wed. and Thu. – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. – 11 a.m. to midnight, Sun. – noon to 9 p.m. (Bar – Mon. and Tue. until 10 p.m., Wed. and Thu. until 1 a.m., Fri. and Sat. until 1 a.m., Sun. until 10 p.m.)

D: I love the beer, there are talented people in the kitchen and there are few better beer nibbles than pretzels. Why, then, were these pretzels subpar?
E: On my second visit, they arrived at the table warm, soft and deliciously salty. But it’s pretty hard to get past our first experience, when no one at the table could swallow more than a single bite of pretzels that must have been a day – or two – old.
D: The problem stemmed from no clear distinction between breadstick and pretzel. They looked like breadsticks, thick and pale with some ashy brown coloring but none of that deep, shiny, golden color. The texture was more sandy or mealy than chewy. The salt-to-surface ratio was solid, but the pretzels are served with white Cheddar cheese sauce. I prefer the excellent mustard service I’ve encountered before at The Tap Room.
E: I was actually OK with the cheese sauce. It was milder than some others we tried but worked well with the pretzels’ saltiness.

Dressel’s Pub
419 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis ∙ 314.361.1060
Mon. to Thu. – 11 a.m. to 11:15 p.m., Fri. and Sat. – 11 a.m. to 11:45 p.m., Sun. – 11 a.m. to 10:15 p.m. (Bar – Mon. to Sat. until 1:30 a.m., Sun. until midnight)

D: Dear other soft pretzels, I’m leaving you. I have found another that so exceeds you; you are but an inconsequential squiggly line in its peripheral vision. Maybe we’ll hook up from time to time at ballgames and movies but, let’s not pretend, it’s well and truly over between us. Dennis.
E: That’s harsh. Especially because I’m not even sure what we just ate was a pretzel. Lookswise, I’d describe it as the offspring of a small loaf of bread and twisty doughnut.
D: This massive Möbius strip of truly golden-hued dough may not look traditional, but it’s what’s inside that counts.
E: Ah, that’s sweet.
D: I’m more concerned with the salt … and what’s underneath that impeccably salted, almost crunchy exterior is the most gloriously chewy pretzel dough I’ve found yet.
E: Here’s what I liked: Upon arrival at our table, it was literally steaming hot, fresh out of the oven. But most important, this was the only place where we didn’t need to request more of the sauce, yummy rarebit made with white and yellow Cheddar, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce, among other ingredients.
D: Cheese and mustard? No wonder I landed on this dish like a skydiver without a parachute.

Square One Brewery and Distillery
1727 Park Ave., St. Louis ∙ 314.231.2537
Mon. to Thu. – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. – 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Late-night bar menu until midnight), Sun. – 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Bar – Mon. to Sat. until 1:30 a.m., Sun. until midnight)

D: Pretzel day was starting to take its toll on my wife. Her eyes were glazed and she wasn’t laughing at my crazy-hilarious observations. I fear she has not the desire or will for marathon eating sessions. I pity her.
E: I was thanking God for Square One’s house-made, so-spicy-it-makes-your-nose-tingle mustard. I seriously couldn’t have eaten another speck of cheese.
D: The mustard paired well with the brewpub’s Park Avenue Pale Ale and both played well with the ample salt of the pretzel sticks.
E: Didja know that the mustard is, in fact, made with the pale ale?
D: I’m brilliant!
E: And modest.
D: And overachieving. I checked with a beer dude I respect who echoed my thoughts about pairing beer with pretzels: Pair to the dominant flavor. If you have a strong or complex sauce such as the spicy mustard or the multifaceted rarebit, pair to the sauce. If you are dipping in a crappy cheese sauce that comes out of a machine but the pretzel is superb, pair to the dough.

Gus’ Pretzels
1820 Arsenal St., St. Louis ∙ 314.664.4010
Tue. to Sat. – 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sun. – 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

D: Speaking of crappy cheese sauce that comes from a machine.
E: Your claws are really out today. I thought the plethora of salt on these pretzels would be enough to sedate you.
D: Gus’ does have one of the best salt-to-surface ratios going, and the stick pretzels are the perfect shape for dipping. So maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but like it or not, those warm, chewy sticks are one of our city’s culinary treasures. Serving them with glop, the taste of which dies on your tongue with all the grace of a squished worm, isn’t fair to the city or itself.
E: Speaking of warm and chewy: I asked the woman behind the counter when the best time was to obtain them this way. She said usually in the morning, but that it all depends because new batches are baked throughout the day. She then went in the back and put pretzels in my bag right out of the oven. And when it comes to pretzels, hot rocks.