When it comes to barbecue a lot of people think of Memphis and Kansas City, but St. Louis
leads the world, in per-capita consumption of barbecue sauce. Maybe it’s because St. Louis was the home for many years of the world’s biggest producer of the stuff, Maul’s. Maybe it’s because of the St. Louis barbecue specialty: the pork steak. Every kid born and raised in the city remembers his father, grandfather, or uncle mopping the pork with beer-laced Maul’s. No fancy tools were required: just a basic grill, meat, sauce, a barbecue fork, and a regular kitchen fork with a clean piece of cloth wrapped around it for dipping in the sauce. The great thing about the pork steak was the tremendous amount of smoke that was produced by all that fat dripping off of the meat, and even if you burned it, the inside was still juicy/fatty. Some hardy souls in the area pull out the grill even in blizzard conditions, but for the rest of us, here are some of the best barbecue places in the St. Louis area:
Phil’s Bar B Que 9205 Gravois, St. Louis. (314) 631-7725 One of St. Louis’ original barbecue “joints.” This place is over sixty years old and I don’t think that the interior of the place has changed ( or been cleaned for that matter) over that period of time. The sign out front of a large neon pig face with a chef’s hat is on the Historic Register. I don’t think that the neon has lighted up for awhile though. All the above is irrelevant if you’re looking for the best St. Louis style pork steak . The steak is cooked in the huge brick pit that sits in the back of the restaurant and then simmered in Phil’s famous sauce for the rest of the day. ( The secret of the sauce, by the way, is a touch of pumpkin pie spice. Don’t tell anybody.) The best side to get with the pork steak is the spaghetti. Phil’s is now owned by the Polizzi family and they really know their way around some pasta. The ribs at Phil’s are ok, but not nearly as good as the steaks. Their deep fried fish is some of the best in town too. You probably won’t find any other beer products at Phil’s except Busch and Budweiser, as this is one of the favorite hangouts of the workers from the nearby brewery.
Mama’s Coal Pot 6655 Delmar, St. Louis. (314) 727-8034 If you like a little soul in your barbecue then this is the place to be. Mama’s is a little hut that is tucked in the corner of an open air market down on the Loop. It sits right next to Bob’s seafood, which makes for an interesting combination of smells in the summertime. Mama’s has good hickory-smoked pork steaks and ribs sauced up with soul. You can even get pig snouts if you are so inclined. Make sure you try the buttermilk pie for desert. Think of it as pound cake soaked in milk. Eggs, butter, flour, sugar, a pinch of vanilla, nutmeg, and of course buttermilk. Soul food, Southern-style right here in the Lou.
Super Smokers Bar-B-Que 610 Stockell Drive, Eureka, Mo. (636) 938-9742 Ok, these guys won the Memphis cook off a few times and its Memphis style, but its just to good not to mention. When they first opened, they left the walls of the restaurant plain and white and let everyone of the first few hundred customers decorate them with graffiti. I was one of them. I’ve been a fan ever since and now they have several locations around town in addition to the original one about 30 minutes west of St. Louis. The ribs are apple-wood smoked, sweet and mellow, and oh so tender. The ribs are dry rubbed and usually so moist that you can just skip the sauce. But if you prefer, you can choose from five different varieties of the liquid, including a new, yellow Carolina-style.