Ersatz St. Louis Chain Restaurants, Food & Brands
St. Louis, my old hometown, is like a bizarro city/parallel universe where things seem familiar until you look closely and notice things are weirdly off. There is a chain restaurant/shop/brand eco-system that thrives ONLY in St. Louis. They are basically national chain/brand knockoff.
- •The Pasta HouseKnock off of the Olive Garden. Faux Italian-American cuisine.
- •Show Me'sKnock off of Hooters. (FYI; the Missouri slogan on our car license plate is "The Show Me State".)
- •Lion's ChoiceKnock off Arby's with roast beef sandwiches. Not a fan of either so I couldn't tell you which is better.
- •Fitz'Knock off of A&W. Though it's a little more upscale than A&W fast food, it's a root beer and burger place that St. Louisans always rave about. (It's only OK).
- •Kaldi's CoffeeIt took St. Louis FOREVER to get Starbucks. And even now I don't think Starbucks really has a huge hold on the StL market. But Kaldi's, a local coffee shop chain does. It even had little kiosks and carts in grocery stores! Also, their coffee is better than Starbucks so maybe it's not technically ersatz.
- •St. Louis Bread CompanyBetter known as Panera Bread by the rest of the country, the St. Louis Bread Company started in St. Louis but realized as they expanded outside the city that no one knew or cared about St. Louis bread. So outside the city they branded it Panera (also there were legal reasons, but honestly who cares about St. Louis bread? It's not like San Francisco bread). Of course, StL Bread Co is a knock off of the California chain Boudin's Bread.
- •Casa GallardoKnock off Chevy's. Now defunct as of 2012.
- •Flaco's TacosThis knock off Baja Fresh wasn't bad and introduced the concept "fish tacos" to St. Louisans. Sadly Flaco's has since closed down. But I believe there is a Flaco's Cantina which opened up as an homage to the original Flaco's Tacos.
- •Vess sodaThis was the cheap St. Louis soda pop option when you didn't want to buy name brand Coke or Sprite. Yep, we even had our own soda!
- •Old Vienna ChipsSpecifically their Red Hot Riplets chips. Basically they are a spicy BBQ Ruffles.
- •Maull's BBQ SauceA spicy sweet bottled BBQ sauce. Never found anywhere outside of St. Louis.
- •Schnuck's grocery storeThis is basically Safeway. St. Louis doesn't have national chain grocery stores. They have local chain grocery stores. Schnuck's is the dominant chain there.
- •BONUS: Imo's PizzaThere is no national chain equivalent to this St. Louis based pizza chain. Because no one outside of St. Lois would ever eat it. St. Louis style pizza is ersatz pizza. Imagine sweet ketchup style tomato sauce on dirty cardboard crust with welfare cheese that sticks to your teeth. That is St. Louis style pizza. Do not be fooled by the word "pizza" and do not eat it if you find yourself in St. Louis. You have been warned.