He Said | She Said: Diving into the infamous slinger

For years, when friends come in town for the holidays, one thing has been certain. At some point during their visit, they are chauffeured to Eat-Rite between 2 and 5 a.m. and reintroduced to the slinger.

D: My wife never joins us in this holiday tradition. In fact she never even had the desire to try a slinger. Blasphemy, you say? I agree. So it was with excitement and glee that, as the result of an e-mail from the best man in our wedding, the editorial staff had scheduled slingers for our next article. And while versions of this story will vary depending on the teller, one thing was certain: Emily wasn’t too happy about it. Well, that’s all I could discern, bent over laughing as I was.

E: It’s strange because the individual items that make up a slinger – either hamburger or sausage patties, eggs, potatoes, cheese and onion – are good on their own. But all slopped together and then topped with chili, it’s just wrong.

D: Contrary to popular belief, slingers can be enjoyed without … alcoholic enhancement. And we did just that on each of our visits, arriving bright and sort of early for breakfast.

Dennis’ slinger profile: Eggs over easy, lots of chili.

Emily’s slinger profile: I’ve put in my time. Never again.

1104 Locust St., St. Louis | 314.241.8118
Mon. to Fri. – 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sat. and
Sun. – 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

D: To show Emily that I’m not a truly heartless guy, I eased her into the slinger experience with a gourmet version.

E: Although the basic components were all represented, the dish was more of a doctored-up biscuits and gravy than a traditional slinger. First off, the presentation was quite inviting – with each item kindly given its own space on the plate, instead of all piled on top of each other. The traditional burger patties were replaced by andouille sausage, and spicy breakfast potatoes stood in for basic hash browns. Best of all, it was delicious sausage gravy, and not scary chili, that covered the tasty concoction. Although, admittedly, there were no “biscuits,” the toast (which was served on the side everywhere else) was placed on the plate with the rest of the items and also lovingly covered with gravy.

D: While it was delicious, I simply can’t get behind the use of “slinger” in its name. If out-of-towners were to have this set in front of them, they wouldn’t react all funny and questionably. There wouldn’t be that edge of fear about what they were supposed to eat.

Tiffany’s Original Diner
7402 Manchester Road, Maplewood | 314.644.0929
24/7, except closed from 2 p.m. Sun. to 5 a.m. Mon.

D: A great diner vibe engulfed us as soon as we walked in the door, and when the man behind the counter greeted Emily’s order with a rousing “atta girl,” I knew this would be the real beginning of the slinger trail.

E: The swivel chairs at the bar, vintage pin-ball machine and jukebox – along with a group of obvious diner regulars – did add to a slinger-friendly atmosphere. But this made my task no less daunting. And just to be sure I didn’t go home hungry, I ordered my son a large serving of pancakes that I could share if necessary. (Funny, though, he had no interest in “sharing” my slinger …)

D: Some nice spice punctuated a generous amount of chili atop my hamburger, hash browns and eggs, while cheese and onions added flavor and texture. As I was tearing up and mixing everything together, I finally saw what I had been waiting for: Emily’s fearful questioning of that first bite. She scrunched up her face and was clearly considering holding her nose on that first taste.

E: That is an egregious exaggeration. I would never hold my nose in public.

D: Why was I enjoying my wife’s torture so much? I guess because I knew it wouldn’t hurt her, but mostly because it was really funny.

E: I’ll admit it wasn’t as bad as I expected, but it does seem unfair that after all I’ve been through, two more of these breakfasts must also be consumed.

O.T. Hodge’s Chili Parlor
250 S. Florissant Road, Ferguson | 314.522.2020
Daily – 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Remains open till 8:30 p.m. on Fri.)

E: According to owner and manager Joe Schaumberger, O.T. Hodge’s has been selling slingers for more than 100 years, and I found myself begrudgingly looking forward to this version. After all, chili is literally the “icing” on the dish – and chili is O.T.’s specialty.

D: So then why was the dollop of chili on the slinger so small?! A slinger, if nothing else, is about excess. It’s a platter of food smothered in chili, mounds of cheese and onions. O.T. doesn’t seem to be celebrating the spirit of the slinger as it could or should. Oh sure, the foundation was fine, with two large burger patties, crunchy/fluffy hash browns and pleasant eggs, but then it pulled up lame. There was just a touch of the acclaimed chili, a sprinkle of onions and a dusting of cheese. Criminy, it’s a chili parlor and there was so little chili that its taste was only a distant accent to the dish.

E: Although I don’t necessarily consider a lack of chili on top a deficit, I have to admit that if I was an avid slinger-lover, I’d probably stick with Tiffany’s.

Eat-Rite Diner
622 Chouteau Ave., St. Louis | 314.621.9621
5513 S. Lindbergh Blvd., Affton | 314.842.1514
24/7 (Pictured above)

D: The Eat-Rite at Seventh and Chouteau is my home court, and I was excited to introduce our 2-year-old to what I consider the grande dame of the slinger world. (Now, before you call child services, he had pancakes – although, the amount of butter on those pancakes might just qualify as child endangerment.)

E: By this point, I felt confident placing my order and was prepared for the concoction placed in front of me. I had the presence of mind to notice the chili was on the mild side with more meat than beans, and that despite our request, shredded cheese was not served on top (it made its only appearance under the chili and eggs) although a generous helping of sliced onions was. Butter was slathered on our toast in true diner fashion.

D: What can I say? It was as I always remembered, just a wonderful mess of a dish that somewhat resembles a chunky chili stew when I’m done slicing and dicing. Yellow and brown and golden and orange and white and delicious. Emily may be elated that this is the end of the road, but I’m sad that we can’t hit all the other wonderful places that have contributed to making St. Louis “Slinger City USA.”