You’ll often find Parisians snacking on a croque monsieur, France’s signature crispy ham-and-cheese sandwich, in bars and cafes. Meanwhile, in St. Louis, delis and restaurants prepare what’s known as a Gerber Sandwich. This open-faced creation also features ham, cheese, bread, and crispiness. But rather than use sourdough or French bread, St. Louisans layer their grilled ham atop buttery, toasted garlic bread. Then, instead of using a cheese that anyone outside of St. Louis knows about, they layer on Provel. This heavily-processed blend of mozzarella, provolone, and Swiss is a citywide favorite and the star of St. Louis–style pizza. Melting it over bread or pizza crust yields a one-of-a-kind coating of bubbly, crackly, molten cheese.
Invented at Ruma’s Deli, a local chain, in 1973 (and named after customer Dick Gerber), the open-faced sandwich is now a city staple. In 2008, St. Louis’s Riverfront Times awarded the Ruma’s Gerber Sandwich the honor of “Best Use of the Worst Cheese.” But in 2003, the publication gave the award to DB’s Sports Bar for their Gerber. Ruma’s owner then accused the restaurant (and others) of trademark infringement, inciting an incredibly minor scandal known as Gerbergate. Seeing as the sandwich is still offered on menus across the city, it seems the Gerber was meant to remain the intellectual, edible property of the city at large.
Where to Try It
This local chain brought the Gerber Sandwich into existence.