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Authenticity Plus

May 29, 2009

Fast EddiesLast week I found myself at two establishments in the St. Louis area that exemplify staying power and authenticity, Fast Eddie’s Bon-Air and Angelo’s Pizzeria.

Fast Eddie’s the ever popular roadhouse/bar in Alton Illinois with a seamingly simple recipe: cheap food and cold beer. They claim to to move over 4,000 half-barrels of tap beer a year and God only knows how many tons of grilled food.  Standing-room only crowds on weekends are quite common, even after doubling their footprint a few years ago by adding a large patio. While most bars in Illinois suffered after a state-wide smoking ban, Fast Eddie’s business exploded.

Fast Eddie’s doesn’t boast fancy decor (in fact you might call the place “run down”), great advertising, or a charismatic owner. Their cheap food + cold beer recipe isn’t exactly a secret either. What Fast Eddie’s has is something most other establishments don’t: authenticity.

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Fast Eddie’s isn’t a copy of something else. It isn’t pretentious, flashy, commercialized, or formulaic…and the menu is reliably the same. Their patrons also add to the realness of the place, an ecclectic midwestern bar crowd if you ever saw one: from leather-clad bikers to silk-tie businessmen, from fresh-face 20-somethings to craggled-face oldsters, from country bumpkins to city slickers.

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Angelo’s Pizzeria in Black Jack Missouri has a slightly different formula to success. This family run operation simply make the best thin crust, St. Louis style pizza in the entire metropolitan area. It’s almost shocking that such a thin wafer of crust can hold their generous slathering of toppings. And while other pizzeria’s try to keep customers coming back with novelty pie creations and skimpy toppings, Angelo’s continues to pile it on.

Angelos Pizzeria

And there’s the authenticity factor too. The family is the staff, from front to back, and their branding and marketing is basic if non-existant. The dining room is spartan despite grandma’s “masterpieces” hanging on the wall, they don’t have a website, and their pizza boxes are plain white…not even adorned with a taped-on menu or bounceback coupon.

And if you ever visit Angelo’s, don’t expect a packed dining room or long lines. Just expect to hear the repeated ring of the phone and “Hello, Angelo’s.”

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