Jun 1, 2020

Pappy’s Smokehouse in St. Louis lives up to the hype

I’ve been reluctant to this point to write new blog posts about restaurants and dive bars I visited prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this spring.  I figured why write about a place nobody could visit right away once they read my post?  I also figured I’d be doing the place I wrote about a disservice by not waiting until they were reopened. 

One such place that has been on my “to do” list since I visited last year is the acclaimed barbecue joint Pappy’s Smokehouse in St. Louis.  In a little more than a decade of existence, Pappy’s has rapidly become recognized among the best barbecue joints in the country due in large part to the media attention it has received on Food Network and other travel-related outlets.  With a famous barbecue destination in my own backyard, it was only a matter of time before I checked it out for myself.
Pappy’s Smokehouse is located just minutes outside of downtown St. Louis – a straight shot down Olive Street as you head west.  Look on the left side of the road, and you’ll know you’re there when you see the large smokers and probably a sizable pile of wood in front of the restaurant. 

The sight and smell of these smokers are sure signs that Pappy’s takes its craft to heart.  Some of their prized smokers are even given a name. 

With the smokers effectively blocking the front of the building, the entrance to Pappy’s – at least in pre-coronavirus days – has been relegated to the rear entrance next to the restaurant’s parking lot behind the building.  It doesn’t look especially inviting but it’s somehow appropriate for a true barbecue joint.  

Here’s an even better sign for a highly reputable barbecue joint – a line of patrons almost out the door, and the place hasn’t even officially opened for business yet.  The locals know Pappy’s only smokes so much food per day, and if you don’t get there early, they may run out of what you want. 

The line goes quickly, however, and within less than 15 minutes we’re around the corner and the checkout counter comes into full view.  

One plus about the wait in line is it give you enough time to peruse the chalkboard menu and have your mind made up when it’s your turn to order.  It’s still early in the day, and while I contemplated taking the “Adam Bomb” challenge as made famous on the Pappy’s Smokehouse episode of “Man vs. Food,” I decided to avoid the meat coma and stick with a “Pick Two Meats” platter.  I’ve always felt one should sample as much as possible during a first visit to any barbecue restaurant. 

With our orders placed, we filled our drink cups and entered the dining room.  Looks like there will be plenty of room for social distancing in the weeks and months to come.  We were escorted to the closest empty table, and in just a few minutes our waitress delivered our plates.  

Given the high praise Pappy’s Smokehouse has received for its Memphis-style ribs, I couldn’t resist ordering a half slab with some brisket.   Sides of vinegar slaw and fried corn completed my plate.  All I can say about the ribs is that you can add my glowing review to the list.  The meat is fall-off-the bone good, as expected, with a nice sticky glaze of Pappy’s signature sauce coating the top (you can always add more sauce from a variety of bottles on the table).  A subtle smoky flavor from the apple and cherry wood that fuels the smoker permeates every bite. 

The brisket is every bit as tender and juicy. A nice smoke ring is evidence of the smoking process that seals in the flavor.  I found myself dabbing the brisket with Pappy’s spicier Hoodoo sauce, which proved to be an awesome pairing.   

The sides were also up to the task of completing an entirely satisfying barbecue meal.  The corn was dripping with melted butter and not overcooked, which so often happens when grilled.  The crispy and tangy slaw contrasted quite well with the sweet and smoky flavors of the meat.   

Punky gave equally high marks to her burnt ends sandwich, which also came with two sides.  The burnt ends seemed to have the perfect amount of fat throughout for maximum flavor. 

And the Kiddo was just as happy with her pulled pork sandwich, which she happily deconstructed to test all the sauces.  We were all also pleasantly surprised with the quality of the sweet potato fries she got as a side.  They had a nice crispness on the outside, soft and naturally sweet on the inside … in other words, cooked about as perfectly as it gets.  

I left feeling that all the praise that has been heaped on Pappy’s Smokehouse by various food critics and travel experts has been deserved and well-earned.  In my opinion, they do Memphis-style ribs as well as some of the best-known barbecue joints in Memphis, and without a doubt Pappy’s is among the premier barbecue joints in the St. Louis area.  You won’t go wrong getting your barbecue fix here.    

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