I think the day I discovered Gus’ Prezels was the day I realized that I really, really liked this city. I’m a sucker for tradition, for family-owned businesses, for local establishments, for cheap food, and for cooked dough covered with salt (see Exhibit 1, below). I know this is old hat for your seasoned St. Louisans, but indulge this transplant a bit as I pay homage to a local tradition.

(Salzburg, Austria, February 2006. Note the glazed eyes, I’m like a pig in slop)

My love affairs with soft pretzels started during visits to my grandparents home close to Philadelphia. My grandfather would take us to Philly’s games at the old Vet Stadium and we’d buy brown paper bags of the things from vendors hawking them outside. 3 for $1. Much better, I think, than buying them from the regular concession stand. Cheaper, definitely.

But back to Gus. What is not to love? For $2.50, you can get a delicious brat or salsiccia cooked inside the best soft pretzel you’ve ever tasted. The meat is so moist, all the juices kept inside by the perfectly chewy outer pretzel casing, and to get to it you bite through the shiny, crispy, and salty pretzel exterior. You also get a free show for this low, low price: the “factory” part of the shop is behind glass windows, and you can watch the machines roll the dough into pieces of deliciousness over and over and over and over again. Its quite mesmerizing, and it would be hard to tear myself away if I weren’t such a glutton for a good soft pretzel stuffed with sausage.

If you want a pretzel sans meat, they can be yours for $.50 each. Or, if you’re in the mood to buy 99, the price drops to an even more affordable $.35 each. Dip them in a little pot of cheese sauce ($.60), if you must (weenie), or be a purist and only use yellow mustard. I’d even suggest their take-home frozen pretzels, that come complete with cooking instructions and a little baggie of rock salt. I may or may not have had 2 or 3 for dinner one night. Or, just go ahead and get everything…even your name spelled out in pretzel letters.

If it were summer, I’d do what I did when I brought my entire family (parents plus 5 siblings) there when they visited: Get a whole sackful, and walk two blocks down to the park and have a lovely outdoor picnic in the grass, under a tree.

I’m hungry now.