ST. LOUIS — You know that feeling of surprise when you see something often but somehow are able to discover something new that you didn't see before?
That's what happened to me this week when we decided to give the dishwasher a break by not cooking and instead decided to support a neighborhood restaurant by doing some curbside ordering. That restaurant was Steve's Hot Dogs and Burgers.
The experience left me smiling, or as my kids call it, 'LOL'ing,' so much that I thought it was worth sharing.
If you grew up in the 80s, there is a list in your head of the movies that defined that generation. Of course, there were the John Hughes movies and the notorious Brat Pack actors. But, there was also another iconic star that helped define the era. His movies had bad words, though, so you had to be careful in how you saw them if you weren't 'of age.'
That actor was Eddie Murphy.
Now, if there is one thing that makes Steve's Hot Dogs and Burgers unique, it's the cinematic link found in the decor and the menu.
The beloved Tower Grove East eatery, which just reopened in late February, is quarterbacked by Steve Ewing, the frontman for the highly popular band The Urge.
Ewing's band has deep roots here in St. Louis, so one could call the restaurant an extension of the man's colorful personality. An idea that originated when Ewing couldn't find food after a concert, the restaurant takes familiar foods and adds a special twist.
With this particular menu, the influence is clear once someone scrolls the list of options. Movies!
You can tackle the Stormtrooper, a smoked hot dog lathered in alfredo sauce, shaved Parmesan, fried onions, and bacon. Or there's the Kevin Bacon Jamaican Mac n' Cheese bowl. The Macgyver Bowl doesn't require a pair of tweezers and a tiny map but takes a similar route as the Stormtrooper by loading you up with comfort food.
However, the most notable link to the movies comes on the burger listing. You scroll down the list and notice every title has a name: Axel Foley, Norbit, Billy Ray Valentine, Mr. Robinson, Prince Akeem and others. What do these guys have in common? One man: Eddie Murphy.
The burger menu is completely influenced by Murphy's movie roles. Foley is the witty cop from "Beverly Hills Cop," Valentine is the "Trading Places" character who went from a poor con man to a rich businessman, while Akeem is the beloved "Coming to America" prince who is in love with the American dream (a sequel is still coming).
For Ewing, picking Murphy was an easy choice.
"I grew up on Eddie Murphy movies," Ewing said. "You can still hear me walking around quoting lines from his movies and SNL skits! 'Trading Places' is one of my favorites. “Beef Jerky Time!"
When I visited Steve's Hot Dog and Burgers on Saturday, I chose the Mr. Robinson because, well I deserved it. A smoked burger topped with creamy mac and cheese, bacon, and French's fried onions. Next time, a more courageous effort is in order, like the Buddy Love Burger, which includes a sophisticated assortment of ingredients: sliced provolone, bacon slices, grilled onion, chipotle onion, yellow mustard and ketchup. Something only a "Nutty Professor" would dream of.
The Eddie Murphy adoration may bring in the customers, but it's the sense of family that keeps them coming back. That's the best part for Ewing. "I know so many of the customers and their families. That interaction is pretty sweet," Ewing said. It's that interaction that has kept spirits up during these difficult times.
When asked what his secret ingredient is for overcoming the pandemic, Ewing hung his hat on a seemingly easy to understand the message. "I guess I don’t really have the secret ingredient for this! Everyone’s situation is different. I’m going to be grateful and kind as I can," Ewing said.
Right now, with everything up in the air, gratitude and kindness are good recipes for hope. Having a menu dedicated to movies and pop culture doesn't hurt either.
If you crave a good burger and would like to tell your friend tomorrow that you had a Randy Watson burger for dinner, take a ride over to Tower Grove South and see Steve this week
One would think a new burger is coming with ties to Murphy's acclaimed performance in the Netflix Original, "Dolemite is My Name." If I had to design it, there would have to be something outrageous included in the recipe due to how outlandish Rudy Ray Moore was in that movie.
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