The Powers family, owners of Eat-Rite Diner near Busch Stadium in St. Louis, claim slingers began in their diners. They’re just not exactly sure when. “We started serving slingers around 1985,” Tina Powers says. “Customers started ordering it – ‘Hey, put a scoop of chili on that.’”
“It was at the Fenton store in the ‘70s,” counters her brother, David Powers. “A truck driver from Texas came in and ordered chili on his eggs, and it evolved from there. Two waitresses started saying ‘sling it’ to the cooks instead of explaining that the whole order included chili, cheese and onions. Slingers started at Eat-Rite. O.T. Hodges tried to copy it, but they were second to Eat-Rite.”
Eat-Rite is a fiercely loved family business: Tina and David work at their father’s diner. Lewis Powers opened his first restaurant in St. Louis in 1957 on Manchester Road called Rock Hill Diner. There were once several Eat-Rite diners across the city and county. Now, the single Downtown location is the only sit-down restaurant open 24/7 in the neighborhood.
The diner serves the same slinger recipe it always has. “It’s a breakfast,” says patriarch Lewis Powers. “It’s meat, eggs and potatoes covered with chili, American cheese and raw yellow onions. You can have hamburger, bacon, sausage or ham, but 99 percent are made with sausage. Most of the waitresses don’t even ask customers what meat. They just ask ‘em how they want their eggs.
“It’s two patties of whole-hog sausage that we use. Most of the time, people order over-easy eggs. The potatoes are hash browns – we make our own. We boil potatoes, peel ‘em, cool ‘em off and then grate ‘em. We do all that by hand.”
“Old school,” Tina adds. “A lady was asking me that yesterday. She said, ‘I thought you got that out of a bag.’ I said, ‘No, this is the real thing.’”
The slinger “is our best seller,” Lewis says, “especially at night. That’s about the only breakfast we serve at night.”
David adds, “Them slingers almost got a cult following. It’s a tradition, a rite of passage. Every college kid has to come in and have a slinger the first time they go drinking.”
Written by Shannon Cothran. Photography by Jonathan Gayman. This article appears courtesy of Feast Magazine. Feast Magazine is dedicated to broadening the conversation about food and engaging a large, hungry audience of food lovers.
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in September 2014.