Tour de BBQ: A Taste of St. Louis’ BBQ Restaurants

Sauce thoughts.
Enveloped in what sauces to try. AKA sauce thoughts.

A co-worker and I have recently been arguing over which BBQ restaurants in St. Louis has the best food. Honestly, I was long convinced it was Pappy’s and, of course, he still swears by it.

But a recent visit to Sugarfire Smoke House in the Olivette made me start questioning everything I knew about St. Louis BBQ. I did a little research and realized there were tons of BBQ establishments that I hadn’t been to. So, maybe being the busiest BBQ restaurant didn’t actually mean it was the best.

A pulled pork and cream of corn at Hendrick's BBQ.
A pulled pork and cream of corn at Hendrick’s BBQ.

St. Charles being my childhood hometown and where my parents still live today, I had recently grown quite accustomed to Hedrick’s BBQ on S. Main Street. Hendrick’s is a little different from most of the BBQ places in the St. Louis area; for starters you are waited on instead of ordering at a counter. The food is great, and I have a friend who swears their brisket is the best she’s ever had. I have to agree that it really is delicious. She also says the corn casserole is addicting. But am I really able to say is the best? I have to try more!

Dan (@SportingMO), one of the VisitMO team members, and I decided we had to know for sure, so we mapped out our own “Tour de BBQ.” Our goal was to hit seven BBQ joints in one day, starting in St. Charles and ending in Soulard. My 22-year-old brother, Michael (@EimerMeimer), decided to join in on the fun (because what guy doesn’t want to take on the “as much BBQ as you can eat” challenge?).

The lunch brisket, with a side BBQ beans and toast at Big Woody's BBQ.
The lunch brisket, with a side BBQ beans and toast at Big Woody’s BBQ.

Our first stop was Big Woody’s BBQ, located in St. Charles but hidden in an old strip-mall.  At 11 a.m., Woody’s was already bustling. Our original plan was to try the same item at each place: ribs. Unfortunately, when we arrived at Big Woody’s, the lovely counter attendant informed us that the ribs would not be ready until noon. Next choice: brisket!  We all three shared a lunch portion of brisket with a side of BBQ beans (starting out slowly so that we could make it all the way through the day). The brisket was chopped and the sauce was sweet and tasty. The beans really ruled the plate, though. They were truly delicious.

We left Woody’s wanting more, but knew we had much more to come.

Next up: PM BBQ in Chesterfield.

Burnt ends, at PM BBQ.
Burnt ends, at PM BBQ.

PM BBQ has cute decor– in a contemporary country way. As we made our way to the counter, we noticed the “specials” board read, “burnt ends.” As a lover of burnt ends I decided we needed to ditch the “same item” idea and just go for it; pick what’s recommended. So, of course, we ordered burnt ends and two sides to share. We decided to stick at least to beans at every stop, so our two side choices were the baked beans and cole slaw.

I have to say, I really enjoyed the burnt ends – the sauce they put on them is amazing. I think all mayonnaise-based cole slaw tastes the same, but that’s just me. The beans were a tri-colored mix which gave them a different consistency; they were refreshing and tasty.

Feeling great about life and BBQ, we jumped in the car and looked at the map. Third stop: Sugarfire Smokehouse in Olivette.

sugarfire smokehouse meat daddy instagram

Daniel and I have had Sugarfire before, so we already had favorites: mine, the ribs and his, the pulled pork.  So we were ready to try something new to really see what Sugarfire was all about. Since we’d been Tweeting and Instgramming the whole day about our adventures, Sugarfire knew we were coming and the staff was waiting for us with a “Meat Daddy,” hot and ready.

It’s really all a blur of wonderful food, but if you haven’t had the MD, it consists of every meat they offer: pulled pork, ribs, smoked turkey, sausage, brisket, and burnt ends. PLUS TWO SIDES. We really had ourselves a feast at Sugarfire. Our side choices were green beans (AMAZING. I highly recommend) and they offered to split the last one into two half sides: baked beans and tetrazzini.

I still say the ribs are the best thing on the menu. Daniel says the pulled pork with smoked vinaigrette onions and coffee sauce is THE meal to get. But in a super-close second, he said the burnt ends were right there. My brother most enjoyed the smoked turkey. I think we were all agreed the green beans are the best side.

After a much-anticipated meal, it was time to jump in the car and get to our next destination: Adam’s Smokehouse.

Apple Butter glazed rib, at Adam's Smokehouse.
Apple Butter glazed rib, at Adam’s Smokehouse.

Adam’s is a small corner BBQ joint near The Hill. Their specialty: Apple butter smothered ribs. Holy moly, were they good! They were slightly sweet and perfect.  We got the pit beans as the side, of course, which were a little too sweet for me but the boys raved about them. They found their winning side of baked beans for the day.

While we were slowly enjoying our ribs and reminiscing on the moment we decided to do the #TourDeBBQ, one of the lovely ladies who worked there brought us some in-house salami. Never had house-made salami before. It’s pretty dang good.

Three more stops: Pappy’s Smokehouse, Bogart’s Smokehouse and Hendrick’s. But it dawned on us…. Bogart’s closes at 4 p.m.! We better get there first before it closes!

The "experimental rib tips," at Bogart's.
The “experimental rib tips,” at Bogart’s.

So we took a slight detour to Bogart’s in Soulard. Keep in mind that many of these BBQ joints close when they sell out. Well, Bogart’s was sold out. As we walked up to the entrance an employee stopped us and said they were closed for the day; noting that it was crazy-busy most of the day. I think we looked a little desperate and heartbroken because all of the sudden the employee said, “Wait right here. We do experimental BBQ every once in a while and we have some we can give you.”

You have no idea how ecstatic we were. We might be able to finish the tour after all!

The “experimental” BBQ was “rib tips,” which are pretty much the ends of the ribs. They we super juicy and the apricot glaze that was on top was delicious. I could only eat about one since I was so full – the boys definitely did some damage though. After eating we decided to walk around Soulard Farmers Market to burn off some of the calories we had consumed throughout the day.

Next stop: Pappy’s Smokehouse.

Pulled pork sandwich, at Pappy's.
Pulled pork sandwich, at Pappy’s.

By this time, we had decided Pappy’s was going to be our last.  Unfortunately Hendrick’s BBQ in St. Charles was going to have to wait for another day. Luckily, we had all been there many times and is still, to this day, one of my favorite BBQ places in the area (again, try the brisket or the BBQ salad WITH the brisket on it — it’s wonderful).

So, back to Pappy’s—we show up around 4 p.m. and the line is out the door. By that time, we were in no shape to wait in line for an hour. Our fellow line attendees would have to step over us when we fell asleep in the hall way from full stomachs and exhaustion.  So we decided it was a no-go and walked back to our car. Luckily, I’ve had Pappy’s many times before and am amazed by their ability to smoke a rib until it is falling off the bone. It is a pure delight.

So there you have it—a successful Tour de BBQ of St. Louis. I think we did pretty well for being a bunch of scrawny suburban young adults. Some might say we’re scrappy.

My favorites of the day: Sugarfire’s green beans, Adam’s ribs, and Bogart’s eagerness to please.

Daniel’s favorites: Adam’s pit beans, Big Woody’s BBQ beans, Sugarfire’s pulled pork. burnt ends and every sauce. All of them.

Michael’s favorites: Woody’s BBQ beans, Adam’s ribs, Surgarfire’s smoked turkey.

And yes, we’re taking suggestions for round two.

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