Red check tablecloth? Check.
Signed menus on the wall? Check.
Eclectic artwork? Check.
Row after row of BBQ sauce bottles of every conceivable brand? Check.
Yep, it’s a BBQ dive, all right! After all, these are the things that signal you are about to have a great food experience. That’s exactly what you get at Pappy’s Smokehouse in St. Louis, Missouri. If, that is, you get there before they are sold out.
And, they do sell out, night after night. The Memphis-style ribs go first, but the rest of the meats are close behind. Pulled pork, brisket, pulled chicken, smoked sausage, it’s all on the menu, and all popular.
Pappy’s has a simple system to accommodate the crowds. The meats are smoked outdoors in a series of trucks lined up on the street. Inside, the line moves through the center of the restaurant, with warning signs that tell you not to even think about snagging a table until you’ve placed your order. And if you get to the window and still haven’t decided what you want, there’s not a lot of sympathy–the sign says, “You should know what you want to order by now.”
The problem is, there are so many excellent choices. Not only the meats, but the sides–the traditional baked beans, but also sweet potato fries and fried corn. (For the record, forget what you’ve heard about anything fried tasting good. The fried corn, while a novelty everyone should try once, will never equal the taste of pure, sweet corn on the cob.)
Three sauce choices are offered on the table, in squeeze bottles with hand lettering: Pappy’s Original, Sweet Baby Jane, and Holly’s Hot Sauce. Our group tended toward a mix of the original and sweet, but find your own combination–all of them are good.
Pappy’s also pays homage to a St. Louis original, Fitz’s root beer in a bottle–the perfect accompaniment to a St. Louis BBQ experience. You’ll find them in a warehouse just outside the central downtown area, where the arts community is bringing more of St. Louis to a revival of great food and entrepreneurs at work.
Get there early. When the food is gone, you’re out of luck until tomorrow.