Allow me to get all sentimental with you all, if you wouldn’t mind.
I’ve always found it funny to think about what I picture when I think about “home”. I’ve called two places “home” my entire life – St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri. Needless to say, I am not the world’s most decorated traveler. Having never lived outside of the same 125-mile strip of Missouri dirt, I’ve made some distinct memories around these parts.
Yet, if someone were to approach me at an airport bar and say “Tell me about your home”, I wouldn’t first picture the Gateway Arch perched above the mighty Mississippi…..or the six grand, white columns at the center of Francis Quadrangle…..I wouldn’t first picture the red brick, gingerbread-house-esque homes on the south side of St. Louis, or the white limestone halls of the University of Missouri’s campus…..I wouldn’t first picture the sea of red inside of Busch Stadium, or the Rock M housed in Memorial Stadium.
Instead, I picture myself, my parents and three siblings sitting atop a quilt in Forest Park. It’s summer. The air is warm and thick with humidity, and the six of us enjoy some Mom’s Deli sammies before the newest production at The Muny gets underway.
I cannot tell you why, but this image is what I see when I think about “home”. This scene became a summer tradition in my family, and Mom’s Deli earned a special place in my heart. But sentimental reasons aside, the Mom’s Special received the rank of my number one “go-to” sandwich during my high school years for it’s distinct taste and the feeling of absolute satisfaction with every visit.
Fast forward to 2016. I receive a hot tip on another sandwich spot just around the corner of Chippewa and Jamieson. A little lunch place not a half a mile from Mom’s Deli, but was said to be much, much better than Mom’s offerings. How could I have gone so long without ever stepping foot into this place? How have I never even heard of it? And it was at that moment in 2016, when I arrived at LeGrand’s Market & Catering, that I realized I had been there many times before. I had been to TOM-BOY (This was the name drilled into my head from the red and white sign above the store’s front door) many times as a young tike with my Grandma (She’s a long-time neighbor) when she would do her grocery shopping. But this place surely was just a meat market, right? There’s no way they could offer a sandwich that could compete with Mom’s Deli, right?
My first visit to LeGrand’s in nearly two decades untapped my curiosity of sandwiches. I found myself returning to try a new offering of their 30+ custom-made sammies weekend after weekend. The juxtaposition of the classic cold-cut that is the Mom’s Special, and the seemingly never-ending variety of toasty hot sandwiches at LeGrand’s honestly inspired me to start this blog. Two sandwich shops. Both so unique in their offerings, and virtually next door neighbors made for about as compelling of a sandwich story that I could think of.
You may be thinking this is a little over the top. I mean we’re talking about freaking sandwiches here. But I would refer you to the DOZENS of individuals that I know personally who identify as upfront “Team LeGrand’s” or “Team Mom’s” persons. I’ve become such a fan of both eateries that I’ve never been able to choose one over the other. Which is what brings us here. Below will feature two sandwich reviews – one of Mom’s Deli and one of LeGrand’s. The items reviewed are my personal favorites from each deli, and both reviews were written objectively. The sandwich with the higher review will be named the winner of this blogger’s head-to-head competition. Let’s get started.
Vendor: Mom’s Deli
Sammie: Mom’s Special
Dine In/Carryout: Carryout
- Roast Beef
- Munchee Cheese
- Homemade 1000 Island
For those who may not have been to Mom’s Deli before, I strongly encourage you to make the drive to I-44 & Jamieson some time and stop in. If the cold cut sandwiches don’t excite you, come by and grab a bag of Red Hot Ripplets just to check the place out. From the outside, Mom’s could be mistaken for an oversized Lindenwood Park house like many in the surrounding blocks. The red Mom’s Deli and vintage Bud sign at the entrance, however, let you know that you have reached your destination.
A walk inside of Mom’s Deli is like a walk back in time. Once you make it through the door (Assuming there isn’t already a line forming out the door and down the porch) you’re met with coolers of pasta, whole racks of lunch meat, shelves of chips, snacks, beer and wine and yes, Ted Drewe’s. I would guess that you could find some of these same things in the exact same spot 40 years ago. As the line snakes its way to the sandwich counter photos of store’s founders, the Vago family, as well as friends, patrons and community supporters are rested high above the coolers and sandwich boards. The menu itself is not a video monitor but rather a vintage slide-in kind of board like one you might find in a grade school gym. Something about the board makes the experience feel a bit more authentic.
The Mom’s Special is a classic cold cut done differently. It all starts with bread, and Mom’s never seems to cut corners with their presentation of their French bread loafs. My initial takeaway is just how firm the bread of my Mom’s Special is. First bite offers the familiar crunch of the bread met with the unmistakeable roast beef flavor. Second bite and now we’re really dancing. Roast beef, turkey, ham and bread all in the forefront. And at the last moment, the sweet aroma of the munchee cheese kicks in. This cheese is honestly unlike any other that I’ve picked up at a deli. It’s soft – almost like a liquid in texture. It’s never the dominant flavor in any bit yet it compliments the lunch meat in such a way that’s unmistakable. The lettuce, tomato, onion and 1000 Island are in lock step with the meat and cheese for the next several bites. (Pro Tip: Ask for your 1000 island on the side so that you can spread it on your Mom’s Special equitably. You’ll be glad that you did.)
The Special is just as satisfying as ever, however at the last few bites there seems to be a shortage of meat. My waning bites are just bread and 1000 island sauce, which is a slight disappointment to an otherwise top notch sammie.
Overall Rating: 4.6/5
Vendor: LeGrand’s Market & Catering
Dine In/Carryout: Carryout
- Salsalito Turkey
- Hot Pepper Cheese
- Provel Cheese (ADD ON)
- Spicy Ranch
- Garlic Cream Cheese (ADD ON)
Near the corner of Donovan Ave and Chippewa St in the Saint Louis Hills neighborhood, LeGrand’s is not your typical sandwich spot. Some might consider it a market first and deli second, as they offer a bevy of USDA choice raw meat and Boar’s Head deli meat as well as several other grocery items. Quite honestly, with the options of snacks, drink, produce and meat, I think you could survive an apocalypse inside this place. Unlike Mom’s the space is much larger and is accompanied by several rows of dry foods and a multiple coolers stacked side by side with almost anything imaginable.
The counter sits tall and stretches the length of the entire store. The further end is strictly meat market business while the end near the front door is where the sandwich magic is made. The employees – sometimes 8, 10 or 12 – will take individual orders to hand-make your selection from their generous sandwich menu. It can actually be a little intimidating making your choice. LeGrand’s has built a reputation off of a couple of standouts (i.e. the Legend Club) however, for this occasion I had to go with my gut and select one of my all-time favorites. Enter the Elbirdo.
The Elbirdo brings the element of spice that is absent from the Mom’s Special. As you’ll notice from the “ingredients” section, this thing is loaded with meats and soppings. Unlike the opposing munchee cheese, I notice the tangy provel upon the first bite. This cheese stands out to be sure, but the toasty ham and pepperoni are not missing either. I notice the bread, while toasted, still has a bit of softness in its center. The second bite brings the heat – garlic cream cheese (A LeGrand’s staple) is mixed in with pepperoni, salsalito turkey and spicy ranch. The turkey reminds me of a cayenne pepper kind of flavor. The pepper cheese contrasts with the provel in such a way that is unlike any sandwiches I’ve had the pleasure of eating.
Each passing bite seems the have a different flavor. The meats seems to be the boldest yet the cream cheese spread and spicy ranch tie it up in such a way that makes it truly unique. The most notable thing about this Elbirdo, however, is its consistency. Every bite feels equal parts meat, cheese, bread and soppings for an overall sublime eating experience. And it’s exactly what makes it the winner today.
Overall Rating: 4.7/5
So there you have it. The winner by the narrowest of margins is the Elbirdo from LeGrand’s! If these sandwiches were to play 10 times, they honestly might have gone 5-5. But today, the Elbirdo did just enough to be crowned champion. Thank you to both LeGrand’s and Mom’ Deli for giving the world such delicious sandwich treats, and for giving me the inspiration to create this incredibly silly content.