When I told my son, Tom, that I had never been to Gus’ Pretzels, he decided to remedy that omission in my life experiences. I had to have some of the salty snack from the store that’s been around St. Louis since 1920 and is still owned by Gus, Jr., the third generation pretzel baker.
It’s not that I’ve never eaten a Gus’ pretzel—they’re sold by vendors outside the ballpark. But I’d never had one on site in the Benton Park neighborhood where they’re made.
Taking the Twist Out of Pretzels
Gus has untwisted the old-fashion pretzel. No longer must the dough be tied in knots. Today there are pretzel sticks and pretzel ends and even pretzel sandwiches, where bratwurst, salsiccia or hot dogs are wrapped in dough. Since anything worth its salt (no pun intended) needs a worthy dip, Gus offers cheddar cheese, cream cheese and honey mustard to enliven the snack.
If you show up on Wurst Wednesday, you’ll find such delicacies as Smoked Cheddar Bratwurst or Jalapeno Pepper Jack Brats wrapped in pretzel dough.
Pretzels: An Early Form of Benevolence
Pretzels even come with a story. It is said they were first made in the early 5th century, when German monks formed dough into shapes representing arms folded in prayer. They called them pretiolas, which is Latin for “little rewards, little gifts, or little prayers,” and gave them to children who were good students. On New Year’s Day the twisted bread was hung from the neck of children for good luck. Because of their religious symbolism, pretzels were often eaten on Good Friday.
The Yearning for a Warm Pretzel
Say you’re sitting at home on a weekend wanting a warm pretzel with your beer and it’s too hot (or too cold) to make a run to Gus’ or they’re closed. No problem. Just pull a few of Gus’ unbaked pretzels from the freezer, bake and enjoy. You can get the uncooked varieties at some local groceries as well as at Gus’.
Twisted or untwisted, what started as a religious and cultural symbol in the early German community has become a St. Louis tradition, one now enjoyed by all ages and backgrounds.
Gus’s Pretzels. 1820 Arsenal St. at Lemp. Open: Tue-Sat 7a-4p; Sun 7a-2p. Closed Monday. Gus takes only cash or checks, no credit cards.