Salted Pig, St. Louis, MO – Searching for an Identity

There is a new restaurant in St. Louis called the Salted Pig.  It is restaurateur Michael del Pietro’s latest endeavor and it’s a departure from his prototypical Italian eateries.  I love salt and I love pig, is this a match made in heaven?

The Salted Pig is an upscale southern restaurant focused on BBQ and fried chicken.  The first thing I noticed when I walked in there wasn’t that BBQ aroma that slaps you in the face and makes your mouth water.  The place has minimal decorations and features an industrial / minimalist feel.  I liked the use of the reclaimed wood in the dining room, and I’m also pretty sure that this is the first BBQ place that uses Edison bulbs in the dining room.

I was really surprised how busy it was for a Monday evening.  The room is dark and I found it amusing that several folks of advanced wisdom and age were using phones and small flashlights so they could read the menu.  Speaking of the menu, I was expecting something a bit more diverse and unique. It mainly featured the standard BBQ and southern food staples.  For my meal, I chose to start with the sprouts and finish with a full slab of ribs.

The sprouts were soft but not overcooked to the point that they were mushy.  Typically sprouts can be bitter but the sauce with caramelized onions added a nice sweetness. I also enjoyed that the bacon stayed crunchy even while swimming in the sauce.  I would gladly eat these veggies again, but don’t worry, I won’t be going vegetarian anytime soon.

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When the ribs arrived the first thing my nose noticed was the sweetness.  They were nice and tender, not quite falling off the bone, and definitely had some chew.  The sauce was caramelized on each rib so there was a good amount of flavor.

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Up to this point, you are probably wondering why the title of this post is “Searching for an Identity”.  In general, this is a very basic BBQ restaurant but placed in a BBQ void location, Frontenac.  The key ingredients for a successful restaurant were there, but to me it was lacking that key factor (personality, originality, etc.) that would set it apart from other giants in the St. Louis BBQ scene.  This was only after a month of being open, so maybe they will find their way to stand out.  If you are in the area, it is a solid choice for BBQ.  If you are on a BBQ pilgrimage, there are more worthy choices.

Dive 2 Five Scale: 3.  The atmosphere here is lively and slightly noisy, so definitely kid friendly.  There are 2 TV’s at the bar in case you want to catch a game.  At the table they provide a wine menu rather than a beer list….maybe that is a Frontenac thing?  Note that the fried chicken seemed to be popular.  I didn’t try it but may have to in the future.

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

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