If you heard me sobbing uncontrollably last night, it’s because Mama Pho has closed. For good. The shutters are down and there’s a “For Lease” sign on the window and everything. Mama Pho made the best banh mi in the city (ironically, a place called Banh Mi So makes the best pho). They used meaty chunks of grilled pork instead of dry shavings, and the marinade was the most beautiful, sticky, sweet, funky, addictive combination of sugar, fish sauce, and grill char. The daikon and carrot were thick and crinkle-cut, the pickles were crispy and nestled perfectly at the bottom of the roll, and their mayonnaise was creamy without being gross and all “why the fuck does everyone in the world have to ruin sandwiches with mayonnaise?”. And they put cilantro on top in long sprigs so I could just pluck them off (to me, cilantro tastes like perfume and toilet bowl cleanser, so I appreciate any establishment that realizes there are people with this sensitivity).
And their wonton soup. Oh god. And their pork chop and broken rice, the one with the runny egg on top. And their shrimp cake, which was like a shrimp and tofu mini-brick wrapped in rice paper and fried, which if you think too long about it is gross, but you seriously have to try it dipped into fish sauce when you’re hungover. Dudes. It was all so good. And they’re closed.
Speaking of closed, Gyro Express has been for nearly a year “for renovations.” This is in an 8 x 10 space with maybe four tables, by the way. There’s a bar on one side and a vintage store on the other, so I know they’re not expanding. While the newspaper has come off the windows and it’s been repainted, the phone number was disconnected and nothing’s been happening. I am now living in a world without banh mi or sambusa. What in the fuck am I supposed to eat when I’m drunk and/or on my period?
All my favorite restaurants in St. Louis are the ethnic ones, and when I get hungry, I get paranoid that whichever one I choose will close next. They’re closing because the majority of St. Louisans are clinically retarded when it comes to food. People, stop fucking recommending Pho Grand or Mekong as Vietnamese options. Pho Grand’s only amazing offering is those garlic chicken wings (and I could do without the chicken wings if they just served the sauce in a bowl), and Mekong is shitty. Like, really shitty. It’s fine if you’re in the mood for something identical to bad Chinese, but as far as decent Vietnamese is concerned, Mekong is only acceptable for lunch on New Year’s Day when everything else is closed or over capacity.
For Mexican, everyone seems to be content with Chimichanga’s or Amigo Joe’s. Chimichanga’s does make a decent chimichanga, I’ll allow that much, but everything else is the same generic slop you’d buy anywhere else. And one of my most food phobic friends witnessed someone’s diarrhea thanks to Amigo Joe’s food poisoning, and she still goes there for nachos!
When I was unemployed and looking for bartending work, I found a listing for Rasoi, the Indian place in the Central West End. Rasoi required a resume and a headshot, which is the most obnoxious thing for any service establishment to request. I’ve never had their food, but I’m willing to bet that it’s shit. Yet no one seems to know about any other Indian in the city, and for lack of a more visible option, they don’t go.
In a way I’m glad none of these people will ever clog up the tables at Banh Mi So, La Vallesana, La Tropicana, or Taste of India, but also I think that if these places ever closed because no one was smart enough to eat there, I’d lose my fucking mind. Last night’s sadness over the closing of Mama Pho was sort of made better by overspending on chicken tikka masala, lamb vindaloo, paneer pakora, vegetable samosas, and garlic naan (why does Indian cost so much more than Vietnamese?), and yes, these foods went well with laughing our asses off at Crank: High Voltage, but I really wanted that banh mi and some wonton soup. It was cold and rainy and now I am so sad.
I just can’t drive out to the suburbs for these things. I need to be able to pick up the phone and place an order for carryout, and not reach some message that the number’s no longer in service.
Please. For the sake of my belly.
(Speaking of my belly, I’m making roasted butternut squash and brussels sprouts with shallots and garlic sauteed in bacon fat for Thanksgiving today. Someone in my dad’s girlfriend’s family will make “party potatoes,” which is like hash brown casserole served with cornflakes on top. I cannot possibly be in charge of everything.)