Thursday, September 22, 2011

The loss of good food places in Union Station....

I thought of writing this while looking at Chris's blog and photos of Union Station:

When I was young, during the 1980's, I remember that Union Station was the place to be.  A few years after they had closed St. Louis Centre, people started to flock to Union Station for the hotel and for the large number of shops and restaurants.  When it was renovated around 1985, it had over 40 shops and restaurants: including the famous O.T. Hodges Chili Parlor.  It was a yearly ritual for our family as my younger brother or myself would almost always pick to celebrate our birthday at Hodges, in Union Station.

I remember that we would always go to Union Station when it was cold outside and we would go straight to the chili parlor and eat. When we were finished with dinner, we would walk around and visit the shops and then stand and watch the show at the Fudgery, before heading out to the parking lot and then to home.  The Fudgery, was closed last time I was there, around April of this year.  It was a great spot where a group of workers would sing, dance and even shout out some rhymes all about chocolate, while mixing, tempering and making fudge.  If you were one of the hundreds of people that would stand by their open air and open access tempering station, you would get a free sample of the delicious and melt-in-your-mouth fudge.

The Chili Parlor was in the corner, on the second floor, by the food court.  I remember that they had a small diner set-up including a silver and red bar with bar stools and booths.  I remember it being really cool because they were one of the first restaurants, I remembered, which still sold soda in the glass bottles.  Now, O.T. Hodge started to sell his chili at a booth at the 1904 World's Fair.  By 1930 there were 17 locations between the river and Jefferson Avenue.  It then split into two companies: one that is the restaurants and one that makes the chili for those restaurants.  Today, although both arms of the company are still around, I don't believe there to be a single restaurant in the whole of the Saint Louis area. (

The Fudgery company was invented in 1980 and was nicknamed "fudge theatre".  When A.C. Marshall made fudge using the traditional copper pots and marble slabs, he would whistle, sing and even dance while he worked, all in a shop with no walls.  This allowed people to view the whole process, from start to finish and even ask questions of the workers.  The Fudgery still is located downtown in the Union Station, as their website suggests, and it may have only been closed for repairs when I went in April.

There was also a small McDonalds, a Hooters, a Greek place, a few Chinese fast-food locations, a deli and a bunch of other fast food and food court worthy retailers.  I remember a bunch of stores like a Discovery store which had nature items.  It was like an Eddie Bauer and a Brookstone had a baby store together.  I remember a store which sold puppets and stuffed animals, including some fake mounted animals, like pandas, which had a front and rear end of this stuffed panda.  I also remember seeing one of those old school KB Toys, back when seeing a 16 foot long stuffed snake was always for sale, giant and usable crayons were for sale and the ideas that filled a young child's imagination about using and playing with those toys would fill the largest ravine when written down.

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