So Ill Pride

Big thanks to those of you who voted Rule of Pie a good place to get dessert in this year's Southern Illinoisan Reader's Choice edition. We're still sort of amazed that people visit our shop and say nice things about our pies and stuff. That was a huge deal for us before we opened. Like, what if we open and it sucks and people don't come in and think we suck? I don't know how else to put it. We were afraid of crippling debt, financial ruin, complete failure, and public shame and depending on the day, any one of those fears sat pole position. We're almost five years in, and if we're being honest, we still have doubts.

But I was encouraged to look through the paper and see so many local folks hustling, owning and operating their own stuff. It makes me proud, really. I know it can seem like we're all swimming upstream some times. Times are hard, jobs are sparse. Chicago gets to play fancy to places like Amazon's second headquarters, while downstate cobbles together economies, (and if we're all lucky gets to pick up tax bills for companies so large we view them as governments unto themselves). SIU's enrollment is down; Illinois is now a net exporter of students. Property taxes are relentless down here and--I'm sure you've noticed--there aren't any oceanfront views. If you gave me enough time, I could fill this screen full of noise. I wouldn't need very much time. In fact, anger is the cheapest emotion I produce and sometimes, you know, it's just so easy to start bitching about something or other. Some of us are naturals. Gifted, I'm telling you. So, saving that--I'm proud of our local business owners and entrepreneurs.

And to that point, if you've ever thought about being a local business owner, or entrepreneur, I want to encourage you. If you've got an great idea, but you're a really risk-averse person, I want you to know that you're gonna die one day. So quit overthinking it. We're all flying directly into the sun. Figure it out, man. Before you die, you might have kids. Those kids will be able to pinpoint the exact moment they realized that you realized your bright future left you. Don't live with regrets. Live recklessly before you do that. 

But, in all seriousness, if you're in the position of should I or should I not with some thing or some idea, I'll try to help you however I can. Sit you down, hear your story, and tell you I believe in you. Sometimes you need to hear that, even if it's a stretch and everyone knows so. And maybe that's not how faith works, exactly. It's not rooted in deception, but it can be unreasonable and I'll be damned if you don't have to borrow it every now and again. So if that's you, and you're reading this, borrow some of mine. I'm proud of Southern Illinois and it's gonna bounce back. 





We get asked for a a whole lot of donations on a weekly basis. Most of the time that's really cool because it allows us to support things and people we wouldn't otherwise know about. All of the stuff we're asked for goes toward worthy causes too. So it's hard to prioritize. Plus, we like going home at the end of the day feeling good about our own charity, which is sort of low-grade altruism, but we're counting it. Don't hesitate to contact Rick at with requests.

Anyhow, sometimes people get really mad at us for not being able to help out. We're sorry about that.  I guess it makes sense if you think small businesses are like into money like United States Mint or something. Like we're out here just making coinage. And it makes sense if you feel like you might be entitled to some of that because things are hard and life is a long series of disappointments strung together by things you don't really want to do. We'd empathize with you there, to a degree anyway. What puzzles us though is when people become unhappy with how we said yes to their donation requests. Here are our five favorite responses to our charity:

    Person said, your pies sell for 20 dollars and this gift certificate isn't for 20 dollars. Thank God for public schools, the math checked out and we both agreed. The gift certificate wasn't for 20 dollars. 
    Asked a person how many whole pies they thought they could use for something and was met with this question. Never trust a person who answers your question with a question.
    We're not open Monday. Yeah, but can I come get it then. I mean...
    Like, oh, man. We hadn't thought about that. Forget other advertising mechanisms. Don't need them. You take the stuff, don't pay for it, and we'll profit. Suck it, BIG MEDIA. We've got it all figured out.
    We're not your kids. We owe you the best pie money can buy. From there, use the money to buy other people into submission if you want.



A Public Thank You to 17 ST BBQ

17th Barbecue is opening a barbecue sauce facility in downtown Murphysboro.  I don't know all of the plans other than what's made headlines recently. Miranda and I were just talking about it this morning. I wouldn't say we're in the middle of a complete renaissance on Walnut Street, but it's hard to deny signs of momentum. And it's due largely to the persistence and sweat equity of people like Amy and Mike Mills and their payroll. A couple of caveats before saying anything more:

1.) I don't know Amy and I don't know Mike. I do know their BBQ well and  am a fan of it, just like I am a fan of Pat's BBQ and Southern Que here in Murphysboro. I eat BBQ once or twice a week, which is too much, obviously. If I was a couple inches shorter I would literally be a circle. Thanks in no small part to Murphysboro's pork situation. God bless Pat Burke, Mike Mills and all the otherrs. But, this brings me to my next point.

2.) As a rule, we can be reluctant to give specific praise because we do not want to commit a sin of omission. Sometimes, we may withhold specific praise or thanks because it will be be read negatively--as a short-selling others of others. Those not mentioned. This is dumb, because recognition isn't a zero sum game. Silly people can't understand this. Which brings me to my next point.

17th ST's new undertaking is a 1.25 million dollar project. It's putting this project inside of Illinois. The state of Illinois is a trash fire. That notwithstanding, 17 ST's project is not only putting money back into our region and jobs back in our town; it's adding gravity back to our street.

If your very first impulse to this kind of news has anything to do with the cut of anyone else's jib, and how such and such's food or such and such's business was better once upon a time, you're missing the point. I wanted to say that you're a moron because I don't know how to put it more eloquently, but Miranda advised against it. But, in all, I'm tired of dumb shit responses like that as a reflex to someone else's positive contributions. I'm not saying people are wrong for having opinions about taste because taste is a subjective thing. But economies are not. I care about one more than I do the other because only one of them actually matters.

So, thanks, 17ST, for your time, work and investment. I appreciate the hustle.




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Christmas and Marbles

I thought about taking this to Facebook, but I have friends who say I'm verbose and that Facebook gives me all the rope I need to hang myself up. So, here I am with unrelated items.

1. If you want to place an order for Christmas pie, please call the store at 618-565-5189. We aren't taking orders for the holidays online for a number of reasons and we're sorry for the inconvenience.

2. I have degrees in English. Words are all I have. When the robots come for the jobs, if the cars drive themselves, the order fills itself, and the medicine dispenses itself the Tin Foil Ad Hoc Committee on the Triple Revolution will stand tall, but the joke is on them robots. Can't take a job I don't have, you silly alloyed bastards. All the creatives on the street say amen.

3. Miranda told me about some windows being shot out uptown here in Murphysboro. Don't know who did it, don't know when it was done. I'm hoping it stops. It's hard enough to get ahead in life without someone shooting marbles through your window panes. 

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RoP is coming to a Dale's Burger Shack near you.

Dale's Burger Shack is something to believe in.

I'm not talking about their burgers, polish sausages, or hot dogs--though I tried them all in one epic protein tsunami and heretofore approve of all meats in the shack. I'm not even talking about the larger call to support local business, though that's a noble call and one we support with a lion's share of our time, energy and money. I'm talking about a couple of young guys diving headlong into one of the most thankless industries I've had the pleasure of complaining about. Misery loves company. Believe that. 

Seriously, though, I walked into Dale's a few weeks ago after seeing a hand-drawn sign on what looked to be a giant-ass whiteboard.  I appreciated that hustle, man. It was charming. They wanted to get started, so they put a sign up, man. The storefront's windows were colored with shoe polish. The door was open and the grill emanated heat and the affectionate, caring aroma of Vienna beef and french fries--wave after wave after wave. I was in love, immediately ready to shack up with the shack. 

I ordered one of pretty much everything on the menu and it took some time to get to me. Some of you might be reading this, thinking, if they don't get the orders out fast enough they're gonna die. 

You're probably right. But I'm telling you the food is good, the service doesn't lack for effort and they'll figure it out. They'll figure it out, and if they don't they'll fail. Dale's Burger Shack is something to believe in because they're not afraid to fail. There's more too it though. That's the thing about opening a public space for public consumption. You invite public criticism in. It casually dines with us from time to time at RoP. But food industry folks aren't alone in this, of course. All industries get it, their operators bearing the brunt. Sometimes you deflect it, sometimes there's not enough water in the world to wash it clean off. So not only do you become unafraid of failure, you become familiar with it. And then you become hospitable to it. You send it on its way until it shows up again. 

Point is, Dale's is gonna do great. They'll be serving slices of our pie. Go check them out.


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9 things you should know before going into business for yourself

I didn't have 10 things to say. I had 9 though.

1.       You don’t get days off.

You get days away from the literal brick and mortar of the thing you're doing, but you don't get days off. It's kind of like parenting. No matter what you're doing, your kids aren't too far off your mind. With kids, you always have reason to smile. With a business, you always have reason to worry about a hot water heater breaking, or a roof leaking, or an employee not showing, or etc. Your worry will be limitless and there's little assuaging it.

C.S. Lewis once described dealing with the loss of his wife in this way: Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything. Not to be too emphatic, but running a business is all-consuming and will bring you closer to death. Try taking a day off from dying. You can't, man.

2.       You’re not even really the boss.

Like, I get what the organizational chart says, but when an employee calls in sick you can't boss them into the shift. You can't boss them out of sick, or fever, or hangover. You can yell at them, I guess, because you're the boss or whatever. But you're also covering the shift, because you're not really the boss. When your ingredient list isn't prepared correctly, you can't boss the ingredients into being on the truck they were supposed to be on. You can yell at the food people, because you're the boss or whatever. But you're also driving to the store because you're not really the boss. 

3.       You can’t be good at everything. And you won’t be.

Rule of Pie sells pie. We sell different kinds of pie, but not all kinds of pie. We do some other things, but on a smaller scale. We're relentless about what we do and what we don't do. We won't ever do cake, because cake is inferior to pie. We won't ever do shells florentine because our shells florentine sucks. Go to Cummare's for that.

Mark Bell's Super Training brand is pretty focused. It's why I like it. If you've ever been to a commercial gym you're living in, like stuck directly in a marketing masterclass. There are hundreds of machines at commercial gyms designed to "isolate" certain body parts, to "tone" them, or "tighten" them, as if your musculature can be reformed like wet earth. That premise is a lie and the machines are a ruse. Super Training knows this, (in knowing that your body is made up of fat and lean tissue unable to shape-shift) and all of their work telescopes down to three barbell lifts: the back squat, deadlift, and bench press. They're at the gym five, six, sometimes seven days a week and you never have to ask them what they're doing. They're always working toward greater totals of back squat, deadlift and bench press. This, friends, is the truth. It is the gospel of the barbell and it will accomplish a good, strong work in you.

So, you should stick to what you're good at because (odds are) you're less talented than you think.

4.       It's impossible to overvalue your own time as a commodity.

You have to protect your time as your most valuable commodity. No one is more valuable to your business than you because more output means less reliance on payroll. People who work for other people tend to forget this easily, or have never had to learn it. 

5.       Small business will kill your joy.

People hit us with this all of the time. Like, oh, you're doing what you love for a living! How great! I always smile and nod and never eat pie. I could never eat pie again. Don't think you're hobby is directly translatable into business. If it is, you're probably going to be looking for a new hobby.  Like my hot, sultry, scandalous love affair with doughnuts. They're my hobby now, until we put them on a menu, I start golfing more, coming home late for dinner and start brushing my teeth at the kitchen sink so as to not wake anyone in the too-early light of morning.

6.       You have to say no to a lot of things.

This is unfortunate, might make you uncomfortable and is really going to make other people angry. But it's all for the better. This weekend we're donating a whole bunch of pie to a Wounded Warrior event. We don't go telling people about it, because we've also had to tell four other causes--just this week--that we're unable to help them. We're too busy playing the Little Dutch Boy most days, running around covering the holes in the dyke to give reasoned and eloquent explanations for everything. 

I was on the phone with a guy from Yelp the other day, about to say no to something before he asked me how I was doing:

Yelp Guy: Hello, is this Rick Stapel?
Me: This is Rick Stapel.
Yelp Guy: You're a hard guy to get a hold of! 
Me: I guess so.
Yelp Guy: How are you doing today?!
Me: Shit is a really rolling on down the hill, friend. Just rolling on and away. All down hill.
Yelp Guy: ...
Me: That's how shit moves. Just how they tell you! All down hill! I've never seen shit rolling uphill. It's just like they tell you. No shit up the hill. It's all down hill.
Yelp Guy: ... *chuckles*
Me: And I lost my phone the other day. Half the reason I carry it around all the time is just in case I see shit rolling up hill. If I ever see it, I'm gonna take a picture of it. I'm gonna just. I'm gonna take a selfie with it.
Yelp Guy: ... Is now not a good time for you?

I telegraphed that no so hard, I didn't even have to say it.

7.       Profit is like the cosmos.

It doesn't care about much. That doesn't mean you shouldn't care about much. It's just that your margins are indifferent to what's happening around them. Not to get all existentialist here late post, but hoping to profit without motivating profit is like Waiting on Godot. 

8.       The taxes are too damn high

I wanted to write a blog post with this title, but Miranda advised against it, said someone would say something dumb and falsely equivalent about liking to driving on roads or call policemen in response to my complaining about taxes. I told her I would tell those persons to go to hell, maybe with no detours. And she said I shouldn't do that. So here we are.

9.       There is but one reward.

You might contribute directly to someone's happiness. You might actually make actual things quantifiably better for someone. 

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The Price of Pie

Starting with the new year, Rule of Pie will ask for $4.50 for every slice of pie on our menu. All slices will be served with a portion of our homemade whipped cream.

(I once took a class on fiction writing. The instructor always said that young writers should say what they want to say upfront. Right from the get. Let the story unfold from the start.  Start the thing by saying what you want to say. Bruce Willis was actually dead the whole damn time, man.

I've always thought this was good advice, both from a narratological standpoint and from a business point of view. Well-executed plot turns are hard and no one really likes being set-up. Like, once we figured out that Bruce Willis was dead, we never trusted a thing about the rest of M. Night Shyamalan's career.)

So, starting with the new year, we're raising the prices of our slices by fifty cents each. We're not trying to set any one up here. So, if you don't care to read our justification, great. But in case you do, we thought it best to explain in no particular order.

When customers would order a slice for in-store eating, we'd always put cream down next to their slice. We did that as a compliment. Kind of like, odds are, if you  sit down at a Mexican place, you're getting chips and salsa. You carry out, you're probably not getting the chips. We'd be remiss to not point out the cost of heavy cream and it outweighing the cost of corn. So, while in-store customers liked having the cream, and appreciated it, people who took pie out to-go did not. They were all like, hey, where's my cream, guy. And we were like, you have to pay for that because it costs. And they were all like, that's stupid and I don't like it. That's dumb.

So, noted. 

Also, the laws of gravity do not apply to taxes. Taxes will rise, maybe levitate a little bit, and then rise again. I don't really care how you feel about them because they don't really care about how I feel about them. They go up and never come down. It's kind of like the worst magic trick ever. Taxes are just one cost consideration. The cost of doing business with our ingredients is always climbing too, but I won't bore you with that list.

Speaking of cost consideration, though, we encourage you to pursue the menu of other places, not exactly gastronomic art galleries themselves, such as Applebee's, Chili's, or Ruby Tuesday. Here, you can purchase a slice of cheesecake for $6. Or, a piece of chocolate cake for $7. We're not saying that our dessert is better than their dessert, but if you don't think our dessert is better than that dessert, we probably never did anything to earn your repeat business. We'd like another chance at it, but ultimately we can't compete with big stores on costs, so we have to win with quality. If you disagree with our claims of quality, we've probably lost you. And we're probably not getting you back.

With sales tax, our price gets you scratchmade pie and cream for under five bucks. It eliminates confusion. It covers the added cost of ingredients out the door. I understand that price increases, justified by reason or not, will cause some heartburn--as well they probably should, all things considered.

I get that. 

The truth is, I'm writing this post because Miranda said I needed to. She said that people might come in and accuse her of trying to rip them off, or set them up and she's seven months pregnant and doesn't want to go to jail because she loves our kids very much. So, she asked if we could provide some kind of explanation to our slice price.

The truth is, she works harder than I do. She works harder than you do, probably. No offense. It's just that she wants to do right by everyone. I think that's impossible and I think that's silly silly. I've spent years of my life trying to silence that impulse of hers. I am losing--this blog post as my latest witness. 

We appreciate your time, your business, your trust--all of it. Thanks for your continued support of RoP. 

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We're open this Saturday (9/17) because Apple Festival

RoP will be open this Saturday, September 17th at 10:00a. We're taking pre-orders for Saturday pick-up times. Other than that, we'll be serving slices and coffees, espressos, lattes, and mochas--all that good stuff--this Saturday. 

We love bringing the kids out to the Apple Festival Grand Parade, but that's something we'll  have leave to other people this year. Pie ain't gonna make itself, you know. But we're lucky people here. We have a lot family around Southern Illinois. Even as much as I joke about not needing a telephone number (they don't call) or a welcome mat (they just come on over)--it's a good thing. It's a good thing to entertain family and those who care for you.

If you've never been to the parade, you're really missing out.

As for us, we're gonna meet a lot of people this Saturday who aren't familiar with the shop, and that's a good thing too. We're lucky, people, man. We get new customers and they usually say the nicest things about us. Except for that one woman who, just the other day, wrote one of the greatest Facebook reviews ever written. Even as much as I joke about printing out directions to the closest Walmart for folks who name drop Marie Calendar (I'm gonna do it this year) and who don't get FAQ pages ('s a good thing. It's a good thing to entertain curious people of all kinds. 

We're also gonna meet a lot of people this Saturday who will have things to say about the way things are or aren't with respect to the town, the festival, the shop, other shops, other people, etc. Even as much as I joke about life being a Kafka novel and all of us standing accused--it's a good thing. We think critics are very helpful, even though some of them might think that taking offense with something is the same as actually doing something. We get it. That temptation is pretty strong. So is the impulse to get little cranky and start fires with just about anything as kindling-wood. Plank, speck, doesn't matter. Large crowds are kind of difficult to deal with for us too. But, all told, some folks are going to find hills to climb up, and they're going to climb them with the sole intent of dying on them. Right on top them. Or, maybe at the base of them. Or, maybe just around them, like in their neighborhood. Like, yeah, maybe they'll just die in the general vicinity of some hills because It's the dying that's most important.

It's a lot of work, really. Being offended takes some energy, man. So does the planning and execution of the festival, or Parade Day. Heck, I'm a little gassed writing this blog. Everything takes energy. So, before I can summon any more, I should stop here. See, the thing is, I've got some lawn chairs to set-up out in front of the shop. A pretty long line of them, actually. I don't want to tire myself out here.

Come see us this Saturday morning.

We'll give you some great pie and coffee and maybe even a laugh too.



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We don't give very good interviews

A few weeks ago two students from an SIUC film class got in touch with us about producing a short film. The long and short of it is they came to Rule of Pie and asked us a lot of questions about our businiess--how we got started, how we want to grow, how well we work together, what it's like to have a small family coexisting alongside of a small business. They were really well-prepared and super professional and had big lights and cameras too. So, when they got that all lined up and they wanted us to talk into them I (Rick) got really nervous and started moving my hands around a and I thought they were going to fly away from my wrists kind of like Mary Tyrone's in Eugene O' Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night. Except I'm not not trying (and failing) to kick a morphine habit, I swear. But I look anxious and suspicious and the only other time I had a camera in front of me when someone asked about pie I said something so stupid that most people I know want to put it on a t-shirt. 

So, we're not romantics or whatever, you know? Before we opened Rule of Pie, we didn't have any aspirations of becoming small business owners. Miranda thought she'd try to focus more on baking, something she'd been doing for a long time anyway, and I thought (at worst) however south things flew, they'd telescope down into a lot more dessert happening at home. I don't know what to tell you. I am a selfish person. I wish I had a better answer to: how did you all get started? The answer is pretty much on accident. It turns out that Miranda is better at making pie than I am at any one thing I've ever done in my entire life. It's almost that simple reallyI wish I had a better answer to: what advice would you give to aspiring [XXX]. I mean, the hell if I know.  Do better? Yeah. Do better. Try harder. Try harder than you are currently trying. 

Other than that, odds are  whatever you're doing is not that important and you're taking yourself too seriously. Don't take yourself too seriously. Laugh a little bit more, will you? At yourself too. Even be irresponsible when you can get away with it. Responsibilities are heavy. It's okay to put them down every now and again. Be sure to pick them back up. But odds are, it's not that important and you're taking yourself too seriously. Not everything you're doing matters, not everything you're going to do will be eternally significant. And that's okay. It really is! 

I'm four paragraphs into this thing here and kind of feel like my grandma, God bless her. She was under five feet tall, loud, and had a mole on her cheek the size of an eyeball. I remember it that way, but it probably wasn't so bad. She was nothing if not curt, and always dropping pearls of infinite wisdom like shut the hell up and finish the food on your plate. You can always do worse than shutting than shutting the hell up and finishing your dinner. I think that's important for everyone to know. If those students came back and asked another question, I think I would answer with that--maybe even irrespective of the question.  

All told, we're really excited to see what they come up with and how it fits together given how talented we know they are. They were really great.

We'll be throwing that sucker up on our social media feeds so you can all make fun of Rick for looking like semi-retired bingo-hall wrestler and sympathize with the look on Miranda's face--the one where she's pondering, in light of her husband's ponytail, the moment her bright future left her.

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These are a few of our favorite things

The Southern Illinoisan just put out another Readers' Choice issue. Last year, Miranda and I were thrilled to be mentioned. We weren't surprised to lose out to Larry's House of Cakes in the "Best Place For Dessert" category because they're pretty awesome. This year, Miranda I were thrilled to be mentioned and again took the runner up spot to the fine, first-place folks over at Larry's. Miranda doesn't like losing, she thinks it's habit forming. I, on the other hand, am pretty good at it and don't mean to brag, but am kind of a natural.

I played Right Field (baseball) when I was kid. I was also fat, had a pompadour, and wore a fully-developed red Kool-Aid mustache--which didn't really hinder my ability to play baseball, but it speaks to the many dimensions of my inability. I really looked the part of the kid who decided whether or not he was going to swing before the ball was even thrown.(This is a terrible idea.) I was in it for the sunflower seeds, the sportsing drink, and the Big League Chew. Everyone knew this because the kid who brings the biggest bag of sunflower seeds usually has the most time to eat them. More often than not, I batted ninth out of nine batters. (That is not good.) But my coach, who was just a  wonderful coach, always read the entire line-up with such enthusiasm that he sort of tricked me into thinking we needed strong hitters at the bottom of the order. I mean, he read the names [seventh batter], [eighth batter], and Stapel! He'd clap his hands. We need strong hitters at the bottom of the order, now! That's what he said--every game. He'd clap a lot. I don't remember the exact moment it hit me that bottom-of-the-order hitters sucked, or that bottom of the order hitters got less chances at the plate to swing and miss, but around the time it did I remember asking my dad if I was a good baseball player. 

He said, Well, son...
...To me, you're good. 

I knew what that meant. And from that day forward decided to stick to things I was good at. You ain't good at everything, and that reality is a fine reality to live in. So, if we ever lost a "Best Place for Pie" category I'd take it a little harder. But it got us to thinking and gave me reason to annoy Miranda with a lot of questions about her favorite things.

One more preface, if you're reading this and disagree with our favorites, or think we've left something out (we've definitely left stuff out)  leave a comment---or, uh, maybe start your own blog. Feel compelled however. Now, without further ado:

Favorite Restaurant?
Miranda: Hunan. Thai Taste, too. Wow, I don't know. I have a lot of favorites. 
Rick: Yeah, I agree with those places. They're really, really good. Also, Cummares. Not only is their pizza the most legit, the dude making the pizza looks like he has been doing it his entire life. Goatee is impeccably trimmed, hair is always on-point, bespectacled and laser-focused on the dough he's working. The shop is his orchestra, man.

Favorite Brewery?
Miranda: I don't like beer. I like cheese though. 
Rick: All of them. 

Favorite Winery?
Miranda: Pomona Winery.
Rick: Same. 

Favorite BBQ?
Miranda: Oh, Jeez. How do you pick that?
Rick: Yeah, picking between 17ST and Pat's BBQ is like picking between a magic genie and Joel Osteen's wish-a-jesus. That bbq is just a-making people happy, man. Dreams are being wrought by that bbq.

Favorite Sushi?
Miranda: Sushi Ai, STL.
Rick: All you can eat. 

Favorite Breakfast?
Miranda: Dish? Or place? Dish--of course, Mary Lou's B&G.
Rick: Harbaugh's skillets are my kind of food. I'll drink that Mary Lou's gravy. Flame has a nice little Sunday brunch menu going on too. People might sleep on that, but shouldn't.

Favorite Coffee? 
Miranda: I would kind of say our store. Otherwise, I'd say probably Longbranch.
Rick: Uh. I'm definitely saying our store. WTH kind of question is this? Steam Shovel all day. Jen's Joe til i die. Also, Sump Coffee, STL. Look at that beard. It's enough to make your knees weak.

These are a few of our favorite things. Comment with yours,  categories, places, whatever. Link them up, spread the love. Here's to celebrating some of the stuff we've got going on in the region.