St. Louis Standards: Schottzie’s Bar and Grill is South County’s Best Kept Secret | Food and Drink News | Saint Louis | St. Louis News and Events

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andy paulinsen

Schottzie’s Bar and Grill, and its fried brain sandwich, has been an institution since the late 1980s.

Inside by Schottzie (11428 Concord Village Avenue, 314-842-1728) You’ll find all the trappings typical of a bar and grill. Sports memorabilia line the walls, TVs in every corner show the latest games, and patrons munch on fries and burgers between sips of beer.

But Schottzie’s in South St. Louis County is more than just your run-of-the-mill establishment. It’s one of the few restaurants in St. Louis where patrons can find brain sandwiches, a staple once common in St. Louis.

Sticky butter pie, pork steaks, and t-ravs are quintessential St. Louis foods, but the brain sandwich is a lesser-known regional delicacy often left out of conversations about classic Gateway eats. City.

What does the brain taste like? Schottzie’s owner, Mike Carlson, gets asked that a lot. He says you’ll have to try it to find out.

“It doesn’t have much of a distinctive flavor,” says Carlson. “People say it tastes like chicken or whatever, but it’s really our breading and seasoning that gives it the distinctive flavor. A brain is a brain, you know?”

click to enlarge Schottzie's owner, Mike Carlson, says the bar and grill's signature sandwiches come together in no time.  -ANDY PAULISSEN

andy paulinsen

Schottzie’s owner, Mike Carlson, says the bar and grill’s signature sandwiches come together in no time.

The brain sandwich dates back to the 1800s, when stockyards and slaughterhouses were prevalent in East St. Louis. The brains weren’t exactly salable, so the workers took the meat home, often frying the ground organ in lard. The popularity of fried brains has waned over time, but Schottzie’s has successfully sold a fried brain sandwich, made from beef, for decades. Fergie’s Bar and Restaurant in Lemay also serves the sandwich, though their version uses beef.

Carlson and his staff serve a limited number of brain sandwiches a week, and “they are,” Carlson says with a snap of his fingers.

“We have people driving from hours away,” explains Carlson. “A couple of weeks ago someone said they drove five hours for a brain sandwich.”

Carlson has owned Schottzie’s since 2018. He took ownership after working as a night manager for his father and a business partner for 15 years. Together, the bar and grill has been in the Carlson family since the early 1990s. His name derives from a previous owner, Mike Schott, and loosely translates to “honey” in German.

Schottzie’s building has known many owners since it was built in the 1940s, but it didn’t become Schottzie’s until the late 1980s. Longtime Southerners may remember its earlier incarnation as Anton’s, a Italian restaurant.

Brain sandwiches have been on the Schottzie menu since the days of former owner Schott, but in different guises.

click to enlarge Schottzie's has all the trappings of a bar and grill, and more.  -ANDY PAULISSEN

andy paulinsen

Schottzie’s has all the trappings of a bar and grill, and more.

“In 2005, you couldn’t find a butcher that would sell you a beef brain because of mad cow disease,” says Carlson. At the time, a few cases of mad cow disease caused a worldwide scare. Schottzie’s was brainless on the menu for about a year, until a food distributor found Carlson some pig brains.

Then, during the peak of the pandemic in 2020, Schottzie’s couldn’t find brains anywhere as butcher shops lost staff and focused less on weird cuts of meat. Carlson eventually found the Wenneman Meat Company in St. Libory, Illinois, which sold him beef brains. The company remains Schottzie’s supplier of brains to this day.

Once the fresh meat arrives from Wenneman’s, Schottzie’s divides the meat into patties that they top with breading mixed with herbs and spices. The empanadas are then frozen and take about 25 minutes to fry once ordered. Schottzie’s makes the sandwiches to order, each served on rye bread with spicy mustard, pickles and red onions.

However, Scottzie’s menu offers more above-average bar food than just brain sandwiches. It’s also famous in South County for its pizza and St. Louis-style wings.

click to enlarge Sharon Jennings has been with Schottzie's since 1997. - ANDY PAULISSEN

andy paulinsen

Sharon Jennings has been with Schottzie’s since 1997.

Almost everything served at Schottzie’s is made in-house from scratch. Their extensive menu offers a wide range of items, from quesadillas and mini fried tacos to clams and chicken livers. A customer favorite is Schottzie’s Tavern Eggs: hard-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage and Italian breadcrumbs, then fried and served on mustard sourdough bread.

The low-key 100-seat bar and grill is easy to miss while driving down busy Lindbergh Boulevard and is one of South County’s best-kept secrets, though many locals know Carlson’s cozy establishment all too well. Some have been going there for decades.

“I’ve seen kids come in and then all of a sudden they were having their first drink here,” says Carlson. “In the same way, I’ll have an older man sitting at the bar and he’ll say, ‘I had my first drink here when I was 18.’ You know, a long time ago. We don’t do that anymore.”

For Sharon Jennings, a waitress at Schottzie’s since 1997, her regulars are like family.

“I’ve served people who came here as kids and now they’re bringing their kids,” she says. “People walk in on any given night and you might meet six or seven tables of people here… I always refer to them as the Schottzie family.”

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