As a Southerner, I’m no stranger to BBQ. Restaurants announcing “the best BBQ” are a dime a dozen up and down the roads of the south. BBQ is so good, I’m skeptical to even try BBQ in other parts of the country.
But when I visited St Louis and saw all the billboards for St Louis BBQ, I knew I had to try some while I was there and see how it stacked up against southern BBQ. Turns out…pretty good.
St Louis BBQ Style
Maybe I’ve been living under a rock, but I didn’t even know that there was a “style” of St Louis BBQ. Generally in cooking terms, this means the ribs or the meat is cooked on a grill as opposed to slow cooked over indirect heat that uses smoke.
It also has to do with the cut. Since ribs are the most famous cut in the St Louis style BBQ line up, the rib bones are trimmed with the ends cut off so they present a well formed rectangle shape.
As for sauce, St Louis style BBQ is usually sauced with a thicker, more sweet than vinegary sauce.
Another thing I saw frequently on menus is what’s called burnt ends. The burnt ends are a cut of meat from a beef brisket. They originate in Kansas City but you will see them in St Louis too. The meat is cubed and braised in sauce until the meat just melts in your mouth.
St Louis BBQ Joints
To be honest, I really didn’t have much knowledge of what makes what a certain style. I just like BBQ and I set out to eat some St Louis BBQ. So in no particular order, because I liked them all, here’s what I tried.
When you say BBQ, for me, Pappy’s is what comes to mind. It’s the big daddy, granddaddy of them all. Located in the midtown area of St Louis, don’t be surprised to find a line out the door when you go.
Because I had read about this, I decided to go kind of early in the evening on a week night. Thank goodness there was only a short line because I was hungry. Most of the people there seemed to be locals and knew what they wanted so the line did move really fast.
After moving through the line you come to a counter, place your order, find a place to sit down and they will bring your food out to you.
Interestingly, instead of St Louis style BBQ, Pappy’s serves Memphis style BBQ. This means the ribs, which are their specialty, are dry rubbed and then smoked over apple and cherry wood.
Pappy’s has all the other popular meats and cuts; pulled pork, beef brisket, smoked turkey, smoked chicken, sausage and burnt ends. The portions were a nice size too. I do not like paying $10 for meat and getting a spoonful. Their pulled pork sandwich was more than enough.
The saucing of the meat is up to you. They have an Original, a Sweet Baby Jane and a Hoo Doo sauce. I’m more of an acidic or vinegary sauce than sweet, so I preferred the Original and the Hoo Doo.
Some places focus so hard on the BBQ that they forget the sides. Not Pappy’s. Their sides are the perfect sides to their meats. That means they accompany not outshine the BBQ. They serve baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, fried corn on the cob, sweet potato fries, green beans and apple sauce.
I had the beans and the potato salad and loved both. Pappy’s was a favorite and probably some of the best BBQ I’ve had ever.
3106 Olive St, St. Louis, MO 63103(314) 535-4340
Sugarfire is a a local award winning Missouri chain of restaurants with locations in St Louis and a few surrounding states. Their website describes their BBQ as “taking all the best traditions of the best BBQ cities in the USA to create a St Louis style BBQ that’s all its own”.
With locations throughout the city, I decided to go to the original Olive Street location in Olivette west of town.
I visited at lunch and while it wasn’t as crowded as Pappy’s (and earlier in the day) it was very busy. Once again you move through a line and place your order at a counter and pick up your food when it’s ready.
In addition to BBQ standbys of ribs, pulled pork and brisket, they also serve burgers, salmon and salads. You can truly find something for everyone at Sugarfire. Even people that don’t eat meat.
They also have what they call chef creations. I think this feature varies at each location but at the location I went to, they had some specialty sandwiches. A couple of options were a PBLT. The P stands for pimento cheese, yum and a Meat Daddy sandwich that, from the looks of it, has just about every meat they serve, included.
The statement on their website about taking the best of the best BBQ cities is clearly what they did when it comes to making their sauces too. An Alabama White Sauce, a Carolina Mustard and a Texas Hot are just few of the ones they serve.
Like Pappy’s, they’ve definitely put some thought into their sides. I loved their mac n cheese even though now their website doesn’t mention them having it now. Other sides are hand cut french fries, potato salad, baked beans and coleslaw.
My biggest regret was not trying one of their house made milkshakes or even a pie shake. The pie shake is a milk shake that has one whole piece of pie blended in. They also will spike your milkshake with more than pie too. I’d go back just for that. And of course, some more BBQ.
9200 Olive Blvd. St Louis, MO 63132
Located in the vibrant Soulard neighborhood of St Louis, I loved, not only the BBQ at Bogarts but also the location and vibe. Their website says they are open “until they sell out”. This doesn’t surprise me at all based on the amount of people that were there the day I went.
The line was out the door and down the street. The plus side of waiting in line? They bring you smoked wings to try while you wait. Actually they may hand out other food as well, but on the Sunday I was there, it was wings.
Let me just say, I was there for BBQ, but I seriously considered ordering wings instead. They were that good. Smoked, tender and slightly carmelized charred skin.
Other BBQ classics like ribs, pulled pork, brisket, smoked turkey and pastrami complete the menu. I ordered my usual pulled pork along with something I’d never seen anywhere before, deviled egg potato salad. Whoever decided these two things should marry in a salad deserves a big trophy. And the baked beans were some of the tastiest I’ve ever eaten.
The only and I really mean the only, down side to Bogart’s is the size of the restaurant. As with the other two restaurants, you make your way to the counter to order. Because the line was so long, people were holding seats. I couldn’t even get a seat for one so I reluctantly took my food to go. Normally, I would prefer to sit and try all the sauces but I only got to try the Sweet Maegen Ann sauce. It’s a thick, sweet and smokey sauce and was delicious. Worth the wait and the to go.
Besides the sides I mentioned, they also serve slaw, chips, pickles, applesauce and BBQ pork skins. Salads are available for the healthier and non meat eaters.
1627 S 9th St. St Louis, MO 63103
There was one other BBQ restaurant I really wanted to try while I was in St Louis but I just didn’t have the time. It’s called Salt + Smoke. They serve Texas style BBQ along with a huge selection of bourbon and craft beer. Sounds like a dream. Next time I’m there, I know where I’m going.
St Louis is a great city. It’s full of cool neighborhoods, unique experiences and good donuts, very important, and as you can see, tasty BBQ. I can’t wait to visit again and eat more!