Sometime a few months ago, one of my dealers in St. Louis mentioned a little place that had great sandwiches and burgers that was located on Big Bend Blvd. just north of 40 Highway (Interstate 64) in Richmond Heights. The place had a unique name - Fozzie's Sandwich Emporium. They had garnered some local and national mentions regarding their sandwiches in the short time they'd been open. One afternoon while in St. Louis, I went to Fozzie's to see what all the hubbub was about.
The guy behind Fozzie's Sandwich Emporium is Mark Lucas, a restaurant veteran who took turns at St. Louis eateries such as El Scorcho (now closed), Momos, Roxane and Boogaloo. Lucas opened Fozzie's in June of 2010 naming his restaurant after the cat of his then-fiance/now-wife. The original Fozzie's is in what was a small Chinese restaurant and right across the street from the former Hi-Fi-Fo Fum audio store in that I used to call on years ago at the corner of Wise and Big Bend. (see map) In August of last year, Lucas opened his second Fozzie's Sandwich Emporium in Des Peres in the South County area of St. Louis.
In July of 2012, Lucas was named as one of the nation's "Sandwich Chefs to Know" by Food and Wine Magazine. The article noted that Lucas has a garden behind Fozzie's where he grows many of the vegetables and herbs that he uses on his sandwiches in the summertime. Fozzie's has also received local media recognition for "Best New Restaurant" in 2011, and "Best Delivery." During the World Series last year, Fozzie's gained national notoriety for the "Wacha Wacha" milkshake named after St. Louis Cardinals' rookie pitcher Michael Wacha who was instrumental in the Cardinals late season run.
It was around 1:30 when I pulled into the parking lot on the north side of Fozzie's Sandwich Emporium. The front door opens into a funky little space that contains some tables and chairs with a counter. The menu is located on chalk boards behind the counter.
The menu features a number of salads, traditional sandwiches, hot dogs, gyros and burgers including Fozzie's take on the Juicy Lucy, a Twin Cities burger staple. They also have a number of Fozzie's original sandwiches that include the Big Bend Mafia with roast beef, sweet Italian sausage, giardineira and provolone cheese on a garlic hoagie bun; the Black 'n Blue that had sliced steak, blue cheese, spinach and Fozzie's homemade Tiger sauce (kind of a creamy horseradish sauce) on a garlic hoagie bun; and the Animal which featured grilled chicken, arugula, and a portobella and red pepper cream cheese on a sourdough bun.
I thought about getting a burger, but a couple of their traditional or "Classic" sandwiches caught my eye. The Italian Grinder had cappicola, mortadella, and salami with provolone cheese and topped with lettuce, tomato and Fozzie's made-in-house Italian dressing was the one I damned near went with. But then I saw "Da Dip" - roast beef with debris, topped with onions, Swiss cheese and the Tiger sauce and served on a baguette. You can have it dipped or served with the au jus on the side. It was the complete antithesis of The King sandwich - an homage to Elvis Presley with peanut butter, bacon and fried bananas on sourdough bread. I decided to get "Da Dip" with keeping the Italian Grinder on my "next time" list.
The sandwich was served to me in a paper bag with a couple tubs of the au jus. This au jus was different from au jus you get with a French dip sandwich - Fozzie's has herbs and red pepper flakes mixed in.
The sandwich looked pretty nondescript with slices of beef piled on a lightly toasted baguette roll with the Swiss cheese and the Tiger sauce underneath the beef.
The sandwich - with the spicy au jus - was very good. The beef was tender and there was a lot on the sandwich. I really enjoyed the Tiger sauce which seemed to have a little more kick than a regular creamy horseradish sauce. The au jus with the red pepper flakes gave it an extra kick in taste. The sandwich itself was definitely a "seven napkin-er" as the combination of the Tiger sauce and au jus made it pretty messy. But it was a great kind of messy - the delicious kind.
I was thoroughly impressed with "Da Dip" and my first visit to Fozzie's Sandwich Emporium. It was a funky and fun little place that had enough variety where I will have to go back at least two more times to get a burger and an Italian Grinder at some point. And they have other interesting items on the menu - including their hot dogs - that have piqued my interest, as well. Don't expect anything fancy from Fozzie's in terms of an inside, sit down experience. But they have a number of picnic tables outside that are inviting on a nice St. Louis day. Sort of like today. (Photo courtesy Riverfront Times)