Sweetie Pie’s, Part 3

Sweetie Pie’s Upper Crust is music to your mouth.

 

When her health forced Robbie Montgomery to leave the music industry back in 1979, no one could have imagined that now, at age 71, she’d be a household name for hundreds of thousands of people—way more famous than she ever was singing backup for rock stars.
Her reality TV show, “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s,” showcases the charisma she cultivated with acts like Ike and Tina Turner and Dr. John. But, charisma can’t fry catfish, and without her cooking skills, Montgomery might have stuck with her second career as a dialysis technician. Fortunately for her fans, she learned soul food cooking from her mother, and working with her son, Tim Norman, she was able to translate that into a successful restaurant in Florissant, then a second in The Grove.
Season two of the show about Montgomery, her restaurants’ staff and her family premiered on the Oprah Winfrey Network this year. Already, the show is drawing culinary tourists from around the country to St. Louis—and many of them are queuing up at the cafeteria counter in Grand Center, where Sweetie Pie’s Upper Crust is now open.

Fried Food Heaven
The ideal way to enjoy Montgomery’s soul food would be to get take-out and eat it while watching an episode of the show. But, dining in can be very entertaining, too, especially when the OWN crews are hard at work. (You’ll know by the big white posterboards on the windows and doors advising customers that filming is going on inside.)
The first things you’ll slide your tray past are the proteins: fried chicken, meatloaf, catfish, jack salmon and many more (selections rotate). You’ll also get a peek into the kitchen before sliding along to the sides: okra, mac and cheese, spaghetti, corn, beans, black-eyed peas and many other traditional Southern favorites.
Then come the desserts. Montgomery’s calling card is the peach cobbler, but her rendition of gooey butter cake with raspberries deserves just as much praise. If you can get past those to try the pecan pie or pound cake, you have more willpower than we do.
Servers will explain the pricing—and steer you toward the best option based on what you’re thinking of ordering. They’ll also bring your drinks to the table (assuming you’re in the mood for lemonade or sweet, sweet tea), bus trays and supply extra napkins for that finger-lickin’-good fried chicken.

Behind The Name
Sweetie Pie’s is for sure the only soul food restaurant in town with floor-to-ceiling gilded mirrors and marble countertops in the bathrooms. It also boasts a glassed-in bar, a sizable back room for special events and a multi-level patio.
Although you don’t have to dress up to dine at Sweetie Pie’s, you will almost certainly see customers who are coming from or heading to events at the nearby theaters. And, as long as there aren’t any tour buses to contend with, patrons can avoid the all-too-common glitches that arise when a whole lot of people want to eat and then leave within minutes of one other.
Montgomery has talked of plans to add cooking classes and other amenities to the Upper Crust location. For right now, though, watching her bustle between the kitchen during a dinner rush and her grandson’s first birthday party in the event space— camera crew trailing closely behind—one wonders how she will manage to fit it in. Yet, no one will be surprised when she succeeds.

 

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Photo credit: Jennifer Silverberg

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