My Review of Pappy's Smokehouse in St. Louis
It could be that I’m obsessed with BBQ, but I’m going to blame it on the fact that I spent the past three weeks binging on House of Cards episodes on Netflix.
It’s one of my dreams in life to have a personal pitmaster who will open his hole-in-the-wall BBQ shack and serve me amazing racks of ribs whenever I request them. You’ve got it made, Frank Underwood.
Because of this love of ribs and all things BBQ, I’ve spent the past few weekends traveling to different cities to try various BBQ restaurants. I was able to head to Atlanta a few weeks ago to have my first meal at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, and then last weekend I had the opportunity to visit St. Louis to eat at Pappy’s Smokehouse.
Pappy’s Smokehouse is considered by many to be the best restaurant in St. Louis. Not just BBQ restaurant - any type of restaurant.
When I stopped in for lunch on Saturday afternoon, it was clear based on the number of people waiting in line and the smells I picked up from a block away that Pappy’s has something special and is a St. Louis treasure.
The culture of Pappy’s is a combination of casual BBQ joint with some of the special components of St. Louis. From my seat at the counter, I saw a St. Louis Blues jersey hanging on the wall and a Cardinals game playing on the television mounted in the corner.
Because I was fortunate to have the team from Pappy’s hosting me for lunch, I was able to sample many of the different meats on the menu. Between the half-rack of ribs, burnt ends, pulled pork, brisket, and smoked turkey, it was a cornucopia of smoked meat. I was in heaven.
Pappy’s specializes in making Memphis-style BBQ, which is meat that is primarily seasoned with a dry rub. The sauces are available on the table for taste, but the seasoning and meat are where you get most of the flavor. All the meat is smoked with applewood, which provides a nice sweetness to the meat without it being an overpowering smoky taste.
If you’ve never heard of them, burnt ends are a type of BBQ more commonly found in the Midwest. When done correctly, it’s a section of beef brisket that is extremely flavorful and some of the finest eating you’ll have in the world of BBQ.
I had the pleasure of spending some of my time at Pappy’s with John Matthews, one of the founders of the restaurant, who told me they use a special cut of the brisket to make their burnt ends, and then cook them longer than anything else on the menu, which helps the higher fat content break down and give the meat it’s delicious flavor.
The texture will remind you a bit of pulled pork, but you also get some of the charred pieces of bark from the meat and what I believe to be a fuller flavor from it being beef instead of pork.
I don’t care what you get when you go to Pappy’s because I’m quite certain it’s all delicious, but make sure you at least get a side order of burnt ends.
In addition to all the incredible meat I enjoyed, I also tried the baked beans and fried corn on the cob as my two side dishes. Frying the corn on the cob gives it a nice crunch and it retains seasoning, and the baked beans were sweet and not too thick. Per John’s recommendation, I dipped the turkey in the baked beans, and it’s surprisingly delicious.
The scale at which Pappy’s serves its customers is amazing. People wrap around through the dining room waiting in line to order at the counter, and they also have a very successful catering business. When a place goes through 1,200 pounds of ribs in a day and that’s not even the most popular item on the menu, you know they’re doing things right.
Despite only being in St. Louis for a little over six years, Pappy’s has established itself as the gold standard of BBQ in the city. And based on the wonderful food and experience I had during my visit, it’s easy to understand why.
When I went to St. Louis, I was hoping to be able to eat at Pappy’s, visit the arch, and head over to Busch Stadium before having to travel back to the airport for my flight home. Because of some weather and flight issues, Pappy’s was the only thing I was able to do on that list.
No problem. I think I chose the best of the three.