Sugarfire Smoke House, St. Louis, MO – New BBQ on the Block

Clearly, I love to try new restaurants.  Tonight I tried the grand opening of Mike Johnson and Carolyn Down’s Sugarfire Smoke House in Olivette.  If Mr. Johnson’s name sounds familiar, it should.  Maybe you have heard of Cyrano’s or Boogaloo?  Additionally they use the same model smoker as Pappy’s and how could I not give it a try?

When you walk in you are greeted by a strong smokey aroma.  This is the type that will stay on your clothes the rest of the day.  Unfortunately they were already out of ribs and brisket.  Bummer.  Not being one to give up so easily, I went for the 8 oz pulled pork sandwich with a side of green chili cheese fries.

Pulled pork and green chili cheese fries

First sign that it was a new place: the timing.  The sandwich was ready and waiting before the fries were cooking.  So the meat was a little cold by time I was at my table.  They also had issues with the register.  Only one was working and it took a minute for someone to let me know to go to the take out line to pay.  Neither of those are a big surprise for night one.

Now let’s focus on the food.  The pulled pork was tender and had a good smokey flavor. They had several different types of sauce.  By serving the meat without any, you get to choose. The sauces ranged the gambit from white BBQ to Carolina mustard.  My two favorites were the sweet and coffee.

The green chili cheese fries were not very spicy.  This is likely to make sure they don’t “overheat” a typical midwest palate.  The fries themselves were crispy and well seasoned.  It made for an ok side dish.

The staff was very friendly and helpful.  They all seemed very excited about the food that they were serving.  If BBQ isn’t your thing, there were many other choices.  The burger sounded really good and they offered a wide choice of toppings.  There were also some interesting sounding sandwiches, shakes, and home-made pies.  I was surprised and the variety for such a small place.

My visit to Sugarfire on their opening night offered some positives and negatives.  With positives involving the food and negatives typical opening night jitters, I think this new restaurant has a lot of promise.  Since I was unable to sample their fall off the bone ribs or brisket as originally planned, I will leave this as to be continued…

Sugarfire Smoke House on Urbanspoon

Art of Food, St. Louis, MO – A Slow Food Event That Was Over Way Too Fast

What better way to spend a Saturday night than at a fundraiser that involves sampling some tasty food?  Last night I was lucky enough to attend Slow Food St. Louis‘ sold out annual fundraiser, the Art of Food.

Each of the restaurants prepared small plates using fresh, local ingredients. Some of the participating restaurants were:  Niche, Sidney Street Café, Farmhaus, Local Harvest Café, Home Wine Kitchen, Sanctuaria, Pint Size Bakery, and many more.  This was truly an all-star lineup.

The event took place at the Koken Art Factory.  It’s a unique space and was setup very well for this event.  There was a live band, bar, silent auction, and of course lots of food to enjoy.

First sample courtesy of Cleveland-Heath

There was limited table space but it encouraged everyone to mingle.  Of course most of the conversations revolved around food.  Recommendations were flying for what to try next.  A few of my favorites were:

  • Pint Size Bakery’s apple cider spice cake with sweet chèvre mousse and apple butter caramel.  This was the 2nd item I tried.  Is it wrong to jump right to dessert?  I will definitely be trying their bakery in the near future.
  • Home Wine Kitchen’s savory cornmeal pancake with pork cheek ragu, ricotta and fried rosemary leaves.  Is anyone surprised that I am mentioning a pork dish?  Probably not by now 😀
  • Sanctuaria’s zucchini funnel cake with roasted red pepper and jalapeño coulis.  Yes, that is powdered sugar on top.  This was probably my favorite of the night.  Mainly because of how unique it was.

Even better than it looks.

St. Louis has a great food scene and events like Art of Food just showcase it.  It was a great opportunity to taste food from some of the best restaurants the metro area has to offer.  It was nice to try dishes from some of my favorite restaurants, but even better to try places I have not been to yet.  I’m sure some of them will be the subject of future posts.

Feed Me, St. Louis, MO – Porkapalooza Continues With A Triple Pork Sandwich

Is it me, or have I been eating a lot of pork lately?  In the past few weeks I’ve had ribs, bacon, shank, shoulder, ham, and now belly.  I think I may have to start raising some pigs to help balance out the impact I am having on their population.

Wednesday I tried my first Vietnamese style sandwich.  I had the Banh Mi Special (#1) from Feed Me.  Yes, this is another post about a food truck. Yes, I do follow over 20 different food trucks in St. Louis on Twitter.  Don’t judge #obsessed.

Inside an unassuming plain white paper bag was this work of art:

BBQ Seasoned Pork Belly, Vietnamese Ham, and Sweet Ground Pork sandwich served in a French Baguette. It’s topped with Sliced Cucumbers, Fresh Cilantro, Pickled Carrots & Daikon Radish, with Pate & Mayo Spread.

You can tell from that picture that the toppings are fresh and they did not skimp.  You get three types of pork in one sandwich!  They each had different flavors and textures keeping things unique with each bite.  I’ll admit I normally don’t put as many veggies on my sandwich, but these belonged.  There was just the right about of spread.  This was all sandwiched in a great flakey French baguette.

There isn’t anything I would change about this sandwich.  It’s a good thing I work outside of the city.  These sandwiches could become a habit.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  2 Yep, it’s a food truck.  For me, this is one that I don’t see as often as I would like.  It was quick and efficient.  Follow them on Twitter.  If you work close to one of their normal stops, consider yourself lucky.

Feed Me Mobile Food Truck on Urbanspoon

Dos Martinis Por Favor

Since people enjoyed the first post that featured a cocktail in it, I have created a Quick Byte post that about 2 martinis.  Both of these are easily accessible when in Lawrence, KS.  I am a sucker for a good martini.   If you don’t believe me, check out the new sign for my house:

The first was a classic vodka martini from the Bourgeois Pig.  You can’t go wrong with this mainstay served up.  I really enjoy the atmosphere of the Pig.  It’s relaxing and they take the time to make each drink correct.  Check out the art while you are there.  It features a different artist every so often.

The second was the Former Spy from 715.  This is also a vodka martini with house made limencello and lavender.  I love the contrast of the tart and sweetness from the limencello. This is an extremely smooth drink.  It is really easy to lose track of time (and count) when drinking this martini.

I hope everyone enjoyed the 2nd post with cocktails.  Any suggestions for “must try” drinks in St. Louis?

Bourgeois Pig on Urbanspoon

715 on Urbanspoon

Pachamama’s, Lawrence, KS – Pork Perfection!

Hopefully everyone had a great weekend and survived their Monday.  I spent the past weekend playing tour guide for a friend on my 3rd consecutive road trip to Kansas.  One of my “must-do” stops when in Lawrence, KS is Pachamama’s.

Pachamama’s is a trendy restaurant conveniently located in the downtown area.  This allows for easy access to Lawrence nightlife post a great meal.  First things first, I had to enjoy one of their cocktails.  Normally I don’t blog about the drinks that accompany my meals, but check this photo out:

The Barbados Squeeze

That was the Barbados squeeze.  It contained rum, ginger beer, lemon, and soda.  It wasn’t overly strong.  It was actually really light and refreshing and allowed me to focus on the flavor of the food.

My appetizer was the slow cooked and pulled BBQ goat.  I can’t remember the last time I had ordered goat.  It was served on a buttermilk bacon / scallion biscuit.  I really enjoyed the biscuit.  The scallion added a little bite to it.  The goat was a little bland but the sweet chow chow added nice tart kick.

Slow cook and pulled goat

My main course was the slow cooked Heritage pork shank with a bourbon brown sugar glaze.  It was served on a bed of cheddar and apple grits with a side of snap pea slaw.  OMG!  The pork was amazing.  Cooking it with the meat on the bone it adds so much flavor and texture.  There is something about having meat served this way that triggers those latent caveman instincts.  I had to remember my surroundings so I didn’t just pick it up and gnaw it right off the bone.  The glaze was sweet and enhanced the juicy pork.  The grits and slaw were both nice, but the pork was clearly the start of this dish.

So much delightful pork!

Pachamama’s is my top choice for a fine dining experience in Lawrence.  It holds a special place in my heart since I first tried duck at their original location.  I have gone there for over 10 years and that won’t change any time soon.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  4.  This is a nice restaurant for a college town.  There was live music during my visit but it was subtle and still allowed for conversation.  There was a mixture of people dressed in jeans to suits.  Don’t forget to check out the Star bar when you visit.

Pachamama's on Urbanspoon

Oklahoma Joe’s, Leawood, KS – Kansas City BBQ: Gas Station Style

Over the years I have sampled BBQ in Memphis, St. Louis, Austin, Kansas City, and more.  I have been to Arthur Bryant’s, Gates, Salt Lick, Pappy’s, and Charles Vergos’ Rendezous (not that I’m bragging 🙂 ).  I won’t claim to be a BBQ expert.  It’s more like a BBQ addiction.  Last weekend I made a trip to yet another world-famous BBQ joint, Oklahoma Joe’s.

Since it was my first time trying Oklahoma Joe’s, I went to the place where it all started.  This meant going to a gas station and standing in line for an hour.  I was torn between trying the Z-man and the ribs.  I decided on the ribs and one meat dinner.  That way I was able to try the ribs and the pulled pork.

3 bones, pulled pork, baked beans and Texas Toast

The ribs were VERY good.  They would hold to the bone when you picked them up but the bone easily came clean.  The pulled pork was tender and I liked that I could choose how much sauce to add.  It allowed me to sample both the regular and spicy.  Both were excellent. The only thing I was not a big fan of was the beans.  They were almost more of a chili than baked beans.

Anthony Bourdain once listed Oklahoma Joe’s as one of the 13 places to eat before you die.  If I only get to choose 13, that’s probably a stretch.  However, I will say that this is my favorite BBQ in KC and it was worth the hour wait for the experience.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  2.  If you are eating in a gas station, you might be at a place that is somewhat of a dive.  I like that aspect; it adds to the uniqueness.  You are served cafeteria style in an upbeat and loud atmosphere.  Your clothes will smell like BBQ when you leave. It’s the perfect cologne / perfume if your significant other is a carnivore!

Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Dad’s Junction Cafe, New Florence, MO – Gun Raffle, Keno, and a Big Breakfast

Another weekend, another road trip across Missouri on I-70.  This time on the return trip from KC it was time for a late breakfast.  After some research on Urbanspoon and other sites, I decided to give Dad’s Junction Cafe a chance.   You wouldn’t know the name from the outside:

When you walk in you quickly notice that this is an establishment that still allows smoking. There is a non-smoking section but it’s only one quarter of the place.  The ceiling fans don’t help much as they seem to spread it around.  It is a pretty big space so you can find something away from those that do smoke.

I ordered the “Diet Plate”.  Who uses this as a diet?  Check it out:

This should be the “you will need to diet” plate.

It consisted of two biscuits topped with 2 sausage patties and 2 eggs of your choice.  This was served in a ring of hash browns.  The whole thing was then smothered in gravy and topped with cheddar cheese and crumbled ham.   This was just massive.  The biscuit was on the dry side but that’s ok when covered in gravy.  The egg was cooked over easy as I had requested.  The sausage was a little spicy.  The gravy was not over-peppered.  This meal had a lot going on.  It was very filling and used good ingredients.

My wife had the Exit-175 breakfast.  This was two large pancakes, 2 eggs any style, and choice of meat.  As you can see, she chose scramble eggs and bacon.

Look at those pancakes!

I did sample the bacon which was very crispy.  The pancakes were my favorite thing I tried.  They were nice and fluffy.

So for 2 meals and 2 drinks, the damage was only $18.96.  Both of us were completely stuffed.  I’m sure we will stop here again.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  Folks we have our first 1.  This is a true dive.  Let me count the ways:

  1. You can get your gambling fix by playing Keno while you eat.
  2. They have an actual beehive that they found outside their building now located inside as a decoration.
  3. You can buy tickets for a gun raffle when you go to the counter to pay.
  4. The utensils are wrapped in a paper bag.
  5. Smoke em’ if you got em’.
  6. I don’t know if this is true or not but check out the popular tip on Foursquare.
  7. Booneslick road…need I say more?

The staff were all very friendly.  The service was quick and efficient.  If you are too pretentious to step foot in a truck stop, you probably should skip this place.  However if you want good home made food, this is a great place right off I-70.  I wouldn’t make a special trip out of St. Louis to try it, but it will be on my list of quality food along the interstate.

Dad's Junction Cafe on Urbanspoon


Topsy’s Restaurant, Concordia, MO – You Don’t Look A Day Over 99

If you are like me, you get tired of having to choose from the multitude of fast food choices when on a road trip.  Lately I have worn out the highway between St. Louis and Kansas City.  I have made it my mission to try different restaurants along the way.

Last weekend while heading back to St. Louis I stopped off for breakfast at Topsy’s Restaurant in Concordia, MO

Right on Main Street. Lot’s of trucks!

It is located in the downtown area of Concordia.  As I drove through I was sad to see so many closed businesses.  My guess is that the large truck stop and fast food options closer to I-70 have taken their toll on Main St.  However, this is a business that has managed to survive.

They are celebrating being in business 100 years.

Not only did it survive, but it’s been there for 100 years.  That’s impressive.  The question then becomes if it is due to lack of options or being a quality restaurant.  That’s where I come in.

I arrived for a late breakfast.  They had a buffet but I chose to order from the menu.  Buffet’s are hit or miss and too dependent on how frequently they are restocked.  I had to give this place their fair shake.  After a quick scan of the menu, I ordered two things: a cinnamon roll and the farmer’s breakfast.

First the cinnamon roll:

Hungry yet?

It was warm, sweet, and had great cinnamon flavor.  I think the only way to improve is to warm it with butter on top.  Maybe that’s just me.  When I eat something like this I like to go big on calories.  I would definitely get this again.

Next up, the farmer’s breakfast.

The farmer’s breakfast

The farmer’s breakfast is 3 eggs any style, choice of meat, and hash browns.  I chose over easy eggs and bacon.  The over easy eggs were cooked well, I prefer to be able to break open the yolk and expose the “liquid chicken”.  The hash browns were a highlight.  They had a good mix of being crispy from the grill.  The onion flavor helped add some depth to the dish.  I loved them.  The bacon…was bacon.  I like a little bit of chew to the bacon.  This was strictly crispy.

Topsy’s diner has been open for 100 years.  This is clearly due to customer service and quality food.  There was a mixed of great (cinnamon roll / hash browns) and good (eggs / bacon).  Although there isn’t anything that will stick out as being unique, it’s a good place to avoid the fast food rut when traveling I-70.  I am sure I will stop here again.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 3  Family oriented.  I saw people there in their “Sunday Best” to people wearing camo.  It captures the small town vibe and doesn’t try to be something it’s not.  The people are very friendly.  Come check out a piece of history!

Topsy's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sylas and Maddy’s Lawrence, KS – Should I Scream For Ice Cream?

It’s been a while since my last Quick Byte post.  What’s a better way to bring it back but on food that most people love, ice cream.  With a hot summer like this, it’s a necessity.

On my road trip last weekend, I made sure to stop at one of my favorite ice cream shops:  Sylas and Maddy’s.  What makes it a favorite?  It’s a small town shop that has homemade ice cream.  There is a cornucopia of flavors.  If you can’t find a flavor here you like, you should seek professional help.

When I go, I usually zero in on one that has one (or more) of these things: chocolate, peanut butter, or cheesecake.  Maybe someday they will make one that has them all…hint hint.   This time I went for the chocolate fudge brownie in a waffle cone.  Always get the waffle cone. I don’t see how you can go into their shop, smell the fresh waffle cones, and walk out with ice cream in a bowl.  It should be a crime.

You can see pieces of brownie!

As always, it’s rich, but not overpowering.  The waffle cone is fresh and has a nice crunch.  When you get to the bottom, and you will, you are rewarded with a malted milk ball. It was a great way to enjoy a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  3.  It’s a very simple building with limited seating.  The staff is very friendly and will allow you to have small samples of flavors until you find what you need.  It’s a great way to cool off during some window shopping on Mass street in Lawrence.

Sylas & Maddy's Homemade Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Papa Keno’s, Lawrence, KS – Pizza Slices as Big as Your Face

Happy Labor Day weekend!  Hopefully everyone is enjoying some excellent food.  I spent my weekend on a road trip and have a few posts about the food I experienced.

One of my all time favorite places to stop in Lawrence, KS is Papa Keno’s.  Papa Keno’s is a pizza place where you can buy slices “the size of your face”.  I am an overachiever (eater) and usually get two.  Most people will be satisified with one.

For slice #1, I went with my old faithful: mushroom and onion.

Look at the steam coming off the slice!

If you can’t tell, that’s a normal size tray.  Clearly this is a very large slice.  When you pick up your order, they will ask if you want it cut.  Based on size plus the generous amount of toppings, I recommend it.  It’s the easiest way to enjoy this monster slice.  The crust is crispy and thin.  It’s crispy like St. Louis style, but just slightly thicker.  The onions and mushrooms are fresh.  There is a nice hint of garlic.  It’s just a great slice of pizza.

I ordered pepperoni for my 2nd slice.

Slice #2!

You can see all the vitamin “g” (grease) from the pepperoni.  After trying both, I preferred the mushroom and onion.  For a 2 slice lunch, the grease was a little heavy for me.  However that’s more because of my choice to get pepperoni.

If you like crispy, thin crust pizza with a variety of topping choices, you will enjoy this pizza.  It’s a great place to grab an abnormally large slice and a beer.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 3.  This is a classic college town pizza place.  From the people to work there to the music.  They have actually upgraded the seating and interior significantly in the past few years.  Last time I would have scored it a 2, but it’s much nicer inside.  

Papa Kenos Pizzeria on Urbanspoon