Love Me Tender(s): Sportsman's Park
Only a Sith deals in absolutes.
Well, I do too—sometimes. Generally speaking, I don’t like to say that any single dish is ‘the best’ version of it. There is no best pizza, nor a best burger. Not the one you make, not the one your mom makes. Taste is subjective, everyone has their own opinion, blah, blah, blah.
There are undeniable truths, though. This blog post is dedicated to two of them.
1) The roast chicken at louie is the best I’ve ever had in my life.
I’ve never had roast chicken like Louie’s. It makes the shitty chicken I make at home taste even shittier. If you haven’t had it yet, you must order it the next time you’re in. I’m still planning on dedicating a full post to it, so we’ll just leave it at that.
2) The chicken strips at sportsman’s park are the best in st.louis.
For the uninitiated, Sportsman’s Park is a dive/sports bar in Ladue, right across from Lester’s. Near Companion’s Café. Pretty close to Plaza Frontenac. It’s sort of between the Kohler showroom and the Sherwin Williams paint shop. Just look for the parking lot full of BMWs, Mercedes, and my girlfriend’s 13 year old Volvo.
The restaurant opened in 1974 as Jackie’s Place, which makes sense, because it was owned by NFL great Jackie Smith, and it was his place. When he sold it a few years later—like a total moron—it became Sportsman’s Park. Seven years later, I was born and raised inside the very establishment. Instead of milk, I was fed bottles their homemade ranch and bleu cheese dressings. Before my teeth came in, I gummed their turkey chili. I’d sit in the Jack Buck-themed back booth, watching as my mother and father enjoyed chicken tenders and nachos, t-ravs and potato skins, too weak and toothless to join in.
Then, when I was old enough to chew solid food at age 8, I too was able to taste their chicken strips. And from that moment on, I knew: these are the best chicken strips on Earth.
You can argue with me, but you’re wrong. Taste is no longer subjective. These chicken strips are perfection. First of all, they’re comically large (like your mom)—each ‘strip’ is probably half of a large chicken breast. That means for the chicken strip dinner, you’re getting two chicken breasts. We all know chicken breasts are healthy, therefore, this dish is also healthy. So not only is it a large portion, but it’s one you can feel good about eating.
But are they crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside, Spencer? I’m glad you asked! Yes. They are. I wish I could have captured that better with my camera, but I don’t know how. See all the ridges, nooks, crannies, fissures, and crevices on the chicken? All crunchy. In fact, their crunchiness brings up a very important question you’re going to be asked when you’re dining at Sportsman’s: “Do you want them sauced?”
No. You do not. Get it on the side. But why, Spencer? Well, dingus, let’s think about the situation: I just told you that the strips are both huge and crunchy. What happens when you get crunchy things wet? They get uncrunchy. Unless you’re planning to speed eat four massive chicken strips, you’re going to want to be in control of the saucing. Get yourself a cup of hot sauce (which, by the way, is Michelin-level hot sauce), then a side of ranch and bleu cheese. Make each bite an adventure. Your tongue never knows what’s next!
As far as sides go, the correct answer is “curly fries” (though if you’re a voracious enough eater to get a cup of their bomb turkey chili instead, you have my respect). I know they’re not in the back hand cutting curly fries, but I appreciate whatever company makes them. They’re a little spicy, they’re extremely curly, and they’re fried up until they’ve got a nice lil’ crunch on ‘em. You’re also going to want to dip these in the sauces.
So, uh, that’s about it. I need you all to support Sportsman’s so that when I find enough change, I can buy it and rename it “Spencer’s Place.” Support my dreams. Eat fried chicken.
Because steak fries are for losers