Ask any barbecue pit master in, say, Memphis, and he’d be adamant about the merits of his region’s style. He’d acknowledge that the taste of North Carolina’s vinegar sauces is fine, or that the sweetness of the Kansas City style hits the spot on the right occasion, but that nothing beats an old-fashioned Memphis cookout. Of course, a North Carolina barbecue enthusiast would say the opposite. But when notable styles of the culinary genre have been considered, St. Louis has sometimes been completely overlooked.
However, in recent years, the culinary world has taken increasingly greater notice of St. Louis, Missouri as a legitimate barbecue hotspot. And rightly so; St. Louis has its own distinct barbecue tradition going back generations, with its own flavor and its own specialties totally separate from Missouri’s other style, that of Kansas City. For one thing, St. Louis sauce is decidedly sweeter, and crispy snoots (pig nose and cheek) is an exclusive staple of the area. And with great food come great chefs and restaurants serving that food. Of course, St. Louis has its great restaurants serving other cities’ barbecue styles as well. But if you’re not yet totally convinced of the goodness of the St. Louis style, feast your eyes upon these five of the most notable ‘cue joints in The Lou.
Super Smokers BBQ: Pit master Terry Black, a veteran champion of barbecue cook-offs across the country, has here as his specialty slow-smoked ribs, among with a host of other St. Louis barbecue mainstays. To add to them, Super Smokers brings seven different varieties of sauce to the table, as if their spicy dry-rub didn’t add enough flavor.
The Shaved Duck: Eclectic and new, the Shaved Duck makes up an exciting part of St. Louis’ barbecue scene. Being barbecue-focused (and not strictly duck-focused, as the name implies) for only a few years, this joint has made a name for itself with a broad barbecue menu and its self-described “quaint, funky yet soulful vibe,” built as it is in an old meat market.
PM BBQ: Paul Lamers and Mark Ruck, the owners whose first names respectively make up the “P” and “M” in the restaurant’s name, have created a relatively new barbecue place whose specialty is just about everything. Specifically notable is the half-chicken and the beef brisket, described on the menu as “tender juicy and smoked to perfection in just 12 short hours!”
Bogart’s Smokehouse: The pit master here is not Bogart but Skip Steele, who opened this joint in 2011 to what was pretty much immediate applause. Bogart’s created its niche through its particularly well-prepared St. Louis barbecue standards along with its more unique specialties, like pastrami and smoked prime rib.
Pappy’s Smokehouse: Pappy’s is probably the most famous and trumpeted barbecue joint in the whole city, to barbecue in St. Louis what Pat’s or Gino’s are to the cheesesteak in Philadelphia. According to Pappy’s, “we start by slow smoking our meats from 4-14 hours over apple or cherry wood,” and if the reviews through the years are any indication, the reputation that precedes that food is well deserved.