St. Louis, Missouri, is one of the hubs of American barbecuing culture, welcoming hungry ‘cue lovers and pork-crazed pilgrims with attractive choices. Those who favor the pig will find a warm welcome in one of the city's many smoke houses, with local specialities ranging from a distinctive sweet and sticky pork steak to a sinful serving of crispy snoots and of course the easy-to-eat St. Louis-style ribs. Locals know exactly where to go to get a taste of the authentic St. Louis grill but with so much culture and history at your taste bud tips, visitors might be a little overwhelmed. Never fear, though, because we're here to help: The following are five of the very best barbeque restaurants in which to truly embrace and enjoy the unique St. Louis meat eating experience.
In the warm and welcoming Tower Grove neighborhood, The Shaved Duck matches its location for the warmth and welcome factors. This is one of the "hipper" entries on our list, one of the few St. Louis BBQ joints that deviates from tradition and does BBQ with a twist. Risky, perhaps, but it works here. Walnut and brown sugar bacon, baked apple and pulled pork, duck and blue cheese sit next to classics like brisket and shrimp ‘n grits. The menu is fantastical and fantastic but while it’ll satisfy barbecue lovers it may not be the first stop for a food tourist looking for an authentic taste of the old style St. Louis barbecue.
Despite the simple facade and unaffected decor at Pappy’s, you can’t miss this one as a ravenous lineup of locals and food tourists dominates Pappy’s during its opening hours. The house’s original BBQ sauces aren’t the only things that makes this smokehouse stand out in a very crowded market – the dry-rubbed, freshly smoked ribs are worth calling ahead for. And you should call ahead, as availability here is notoriously limited. Pappy’s only serves up fresh, local ingredients (reflected in the solid quality) and demand at this buzzed-about joint is often far greater than supply.
Homey in the best way, family run restaurant The Piccadilly is cozily located in a residential area of St. Louis. It’s a good bet for meat eaters who want a fix while catering to veggie friends, as The "American Grill" Piccadilly isn’t as meat heavy as the other restaurants in the city and that’s because the Piccadilly isn’t exactly a barbecue spot. Shrimp, rib eye steak and turkey are the best of the grill here. Off the grill, specialities like the pot pie are tummy-warming delights like mom would make them (if mom were a particularly skilled chef).
A lunch-only joint open between 11 and 4 – with lines typically stretching around the block – Bogart’s is distinguished by its sweet, fruity sauces and a habit of bringing delicious tasters to the hungry diners lined up outside. The pastrami, while an unexpected find on a barbecue joint’s menu, is a highlight: Thinly cut, with the fat well-trimmed and paired with salty rye bread. Match any the menu’s smoky delicacies with the sweet "Pineapple Express" sauce to attain that perfect balance of sweet and savory.
Slow-cooked meat is the order of the day at the teeny tiny Roper’s Ribs restaurant. If you only try St. Louis snoots at one restaurant in the city, Roper’s should be it. The ribs ‘n’ snoots combo is quite possibly one of the most satisfyingly succulent dishes you’ll get at any barbecue joint, however high and low you search. The ribs’ sweet and sticky glaze at Roper’s has garnered praise from across America, and even a whiff of the stuff is enough to see why. The restaurant is, perhaps, a bit out of the way for most visitors but don’t let the location discourage you – any hardcore food tourist worth their salt will make Roper’s ribs a priority stop. There are only about 12 seated spaces though, so you might want to take your snoots to go.