Made In The U.S.A.

Eat American

In Adventures on May 31, 2009 at 12:08 am

Shelley and I recently cashed in a gift certificate that had been given to me as, you guessed it, a gift. (I helped a friend of a friend work on her “social enterprise” coffee shop in Old North St. Louis by taking pictures of the diverse clientele in the neighborhood to help prove to a Washington University committee that was handing out a grant for $30,000 that in fact there are people in that part of town who would like to buy coffee and eat cookies and support a coffee shop. You can read about it here, and here, and watch the slideshow here. I’m happy to report that they won the grant. And I’m equally happy to report that it resulted in a free meal for me. Now back to the story.) The gift certificate was for Crown Candy Kitchen, a St. Louis landmark since 1913.

If you open a business in 1913 and people can, and do, still go there for lunch in 2009 it’s probably because you’re doing something really especially right.

Stepping into Crown Candy (after an hour-long wait in the sun) is like stepping back in time. Really. It’s the same feeling folks on the left coast get when they visit the place that this most reminded me of, which now has me craving a French dip sandwich and a cup of 10-cent coffee: Phillipe’s. (Readers Six and Seven, go there now. Or soon. Really. Then tell me about it in excruciating detail.) There’s something about eating at these places that have stood the test of time that makes me feel like somehow they relate to my MITUSA mission.

I’m just not sure how.

Maybe it’s because I feel like if we used the same criteria for buying all of our food as we do for so much of the other stuff we consume, we’d never go to these places because we’d only eat commoditized fast food and TV dinners. They would have closed before World War II and been replaced by chain restaurants that would have long since been demolished and replaced by other chain restaurants this time owned by the same parent corporation.

But like Phillipe’s in Los Angeles, Crown Candy in St. Louis has survived. And I guess it’s because we think there’s some good reason to go there, even if we have to wait in a long line (for seriously the best BLT I can recall followed by a scoop of homemade Ozark Black Walnut ice cream) or pay a little extra (which, in fact, we didn’t in this case) or if it’s not as overly convenient as eating at one of the chains a little closer to home.

There must be something special about specialness. We like it in our restaurants, so why don’t we like it in our other stuff?

Then again maybe we do like it in our other stuff, but just not enough to make sure that the Crown Candies and Phillipes of those other markets stay in business.

That seems like a shame. I wonder what we’re missing?

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P1010266

I didn't take this photo, but I took the photo in this photo.

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