Pappy’s Smokehouse, St. Louis
When you think of the Midwest, chances are good that St. Louis is one of the first cities that comes to mind. When you think about St. Louis, you think about great barbecue. No, this isn’t another bad DirecTV commercial telling you to get rid of cable so that some tragedy doesn’t befall you. It’s the introduction to Pappy’s Smokehouse, which is the best barbecue in a city that knows how to smoke meats.
I spent four years at college in Missouri, but I never once ventured to Pappy’s because for 3/4 of my college life, the restaurant didn’t exist. It’s only been around since 2008, but in that short time, it has become the place in St. Louis to find fantastic barbecue, appeared on Man vs. Food and made it on to the Chowdown Countdown at 48.
How good is Pappy’s? As you can tell by the grass in the picture, I couldn’t actually eat it in the restaurant. I had to make it to work in Iowa (four hours away), so my only chance was to call for takeout and eat on the streets of St. Louis. That’s how long the lines are. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
What makes Pappy’s so amazing is the quality of everything. First, you aren’t going to find anything that wasn’t made fresh that day at Pappy’s. The restaurant doesn’t want to serve day-old barbecue, so what they do is make a pre-set amount at the start of the day based on the crowd they expect for their hours. Once they hit their amount of an item, they don’t make more of it. It goes up on the board at the store to mark that they’ve sold out of that particular food, and it won’t be available again until tomorrow.
When they sell out of all of their items, well, that’s when the store closes. Pappy’s says it’s open until 8 p.m., but that’s just a suggestion. They almost always shut their doors before that time comes.
The reason is because Pappy’s knows how to do great barbecue. They might have only been around since 2008, but their owners have a combined century’s worth of experience smoking meats. The St. Louis staple of ribs is one of the top choices on Pappy’s menu, and you’ve got three sauces to choose from. Other meats available for you to select are pulled pork, pulled chicken, beef brisket, turkey and hot link sausage.
I love barbecue, and when I find a barbecue place, 90 percent of the time I’m going to go with at least one and possibly both of my two favorite meats: pulled pork or beef brisket. That’s what I did here, and it was incredible. Throw some of Pappy’s original sauce on it, and you have a barbecue meal that simply can’t be beat. There’s a reason it won the best barbecue in St. Louis three years running, and its streak was stopped only because the editors of the magazine didn’t want to make that category an automatic win for Pappy’s.
If you want to step outside of barbecue, the Frito Pie might catch your attention. This is basically beans, onions, cheese served on top of a bed of Fritos and topped with your barbecue of choice. I haven’t had it yet, but I’m sure I’ll be back in St. Louis again.
It’s probably a good thing this place didn’t exist while I was in college. I didn’t have money, and given how often I went to STL, I’d have been losing money left and right standing in line for some Pappy’s. It’s that good.
Time to go: Early. Pappy’s mantra of cooking all food fresh means that there is no guarantee the restaurant will even be open by the time you arrive if you get there later in the day. The restaurant opens at 11, and I’d advise being there near that time.
Wait during my visit: Here’s the other reason why you need to get there early. If you don’t, you’ll be waiting for well over an hour, or you’re going to be calling it in and having a picnic.
Remember Ike’s Place? Pappy’s is very similar, as lines can easily go for over an hour. To-go orders can jump the line, but if not, you’ll be waiting a while. My advice is that if the line extends outside the restaurant, call in your order.
Location: Pappy’s can be found near the campus of St. Louis University, at 3106 Olive Street in St. Louis.
Parking: You’ll find some. Being near the university, if you can’t park at Pappy’s, garages and street parking can be had.
Cost: Average. Pappy’s does feature two pricey items in the Big Ben and the Adam Bomb, but these are not meant for one person. The Big Ben includes a slab of ribs, beef brisket, a pork sandwich, a quarter of a chicken and four sides. The Adam Bomb adds a hot link Frito pie to all of that.
Seating arrangement: If you can find a seat, the chairs and booths aren’t hard to sit in. But that’s a big if.
Those go for over $40. However, sensible meals at Pappy’s cost roughly $10-15.
Website: Pappy’s Smokehouse
Signature items: Barbecue, Frito pie