No Bull BBQ Road Trip

I apologize for the radio silence over the past few weeks.  Both Jake and I have not

Pappy's Smokehouse in downtown St. Louis

been able to hit any new places to review because of family, holiday obligation, and the like.  One of my annual family holiday traditions is to spend New Year’s in St. Louis with my wife’s family.  Several of her cousins have been telling us about Pappy’s Smokehouse for a couple years now.  We got lucky this year in that our schedule worked out that we were in town on January, 2nd when Pappy’s reopened after the holiday and decided to give it a shot.

Now it might be that I suffer from a Kansas City inferiority complex in regards to St. Louis based primarily on the success of the Cardinals vs. the Royals since that fateful October day in 1985 ( I know we caught a break in game 6, a fact that many Cardinals fans never fail to point out when discussing that particular series.  Despite having an entire game 7 to still play.) Or maybe it is because it feels like KC gets second billing on the marquee of Missouri metropolis, but every time I am told by a St. Louis resident that they have the “best of” any particular thing, I am skeptical and feel like puffing my KC pride a little bit.  That brings me back to Pappy’s.  Pappy’s has been featured on several TV shows like Man v. Food (fast forward to ~6:45) and won just about every “best of” award in St. Louis for BBQ  in the past few years.  When the wife’s family told me how great it was I decided I needed to try it out for myself.  After all, if there is one thing KC definitely has over the ‘Lou it is BBQ, right?  Since this blog is really about KC BBQ joints I ‘m not going to do a full blown review with grades and such, but more give a summary of our visit.

The first thing that struck me about Pappy’s was that it was PACKED.  At 11:05 (they open at 11:00).  On an observed holiday.  I guess we weren’t the only ones who were sucked into the hype to try it out.  Once we got in, there was a line to get in line.  Seriously.  At 11:05.  There was a greeter at the actual entrance to the restaurant to allow your party inside to get in line to place your order.  I felt like I was waiting to get into the club.  They did have some great electric blues playing on the speakers and really did move the line pretty quick so the wait wasn’t nearly as off-putting as I anticipated when we first walked inside.

Hard to see, but the red blur in the upper right corner is the sign where you to turn to actually get inside

Signed menus from some of the more famous patrons

Once we got into the actual restaurant we were greeted with another line.  We also got our first glimpse of the decor, which included a crown molding of sauce bottles from different places (I seriously think this design element is included in the “So You Want to Open a BBQ Joint Starter Kit”), autographed menus from some of Pappy’s more famous patrons, and scads of dining awards, and BBQ competition trophies.

It was about 11:20 at this point and all the tables were full.  Between the line inside, all the occupied tables, and the blues playing on the hi-fi the place really had the feel of a party.  The nice thing about waiting in line is we had a good chance to get a thorough look at the menu and decide on what we wanted.  I settled on a combo plate with brisket and ribs, the wife and daughter got sandwiches; pulled chicken and pulled pork respectively.  Between the three of us, we also ended up with two orders of beans, coleslaw and sweet potato fries.  We got to the counter to

I got a kick out of the "Hog Whisperer" shirt next to the order counter

order at 11:35.  We spent 30 min in line which was far quicker than I expected based on the number of people there.  When I went to order however, they said the had just run out of ribs and wouldn’t have anymore for a few hours.  Yes, they ran out of the first batch of ribs 30 minutes after they opened.  I was surprised first, and kind of disappointed second.  So I changed up my order and did the combo with brisket and hot links instead.

We found part of a huge picnic table open and the people sitting there offered the remaining space to us.  We gladly accepted.  We ended up sitting toward the door where we came in and could see the line for the line and it was already longer than at any point while we were waiting.  The buzz and hype around this place simply amazed me.

Pappy's brisket and hot link combo w/ coleslaw and sweet potato fries

On to the food. I was impressed.  I was very impressed.  I tried the pulled pork and chicken from my dates’ sandwiches first.  The pork was very tasty.  It was quite moist and the smokey bark had tons of flavor.  The chicken was pretty good as well.  It had good smoke flavor and was very tender.  The brisket had a very understated smoke flavor and was still very moist.  From experience, I know it is tough to keep brisket this

Pappy's pulled pork and beans

juicy and theirs really impressed me.  The hot links were good, but didn’t take on much smoke flavor.  I really wish I would have been able to get ribs.  All of the smoke was somewhat mellow.  I think it comes from the fact they use all cherry or apple wood to smoke.  Hickory is very common in KC BBQ and gives the smoke flavor a bit more of an edge.  The sides were all very good as well.  The beans had a lot of molasses sweetness.  I did not notice any chunks of meat in the beans, which I like, but they were still quite good.  The coleslaw was a vinegar based one and was good but not remarkable.  It was a nice change up from the primarily mayo based slaws that a lot of KC places have.  The sweet potato fries were awesome.  From what I could tell they were lightly seasoned with a combination of salt and either fine turbinado or dark brown sugar.  This really brought out the sweetness of the potatoes.  They had 3 sauces on the table.  Original, Sweet

Pappy's 3 sauces

Baby Jane, and Holly’s Hot.  The original was by far my favorite.  It had a good amount of molasses sweetness and a nice depth of flavor.  With every bite I seemed to taste another flavor in the sauce.  The Sweet Baby Jane was very sweet.  I found it too sweet personally and thought it almost masked some of the flavor in the meat.  Holly’s Hot was enjoyable and had more spice and a vinegar bite than the original.  I switched between the hot and Original primarily.

Overall I really enjoyed our visit to Pappy’s.  The place had a great atmosphere and really good BBQ.  It is by all accounts (mine included) the best BBQ in St. Louis.  Around KC you have your Gates’ and Arthur Bryant’s die hards and you have your Oklahoma Joe’s camp and Jack Stack fans.  Imagine if you combined the buzz and fanaticism for those places and focused it all into one place.  That, in a nutshell, is what Pappy’s felt like to me.  I would place it in my top ten favorite BBQ I have had.  Maybe even approaching top five.  There are definitely places in KC that I like more than Pappy’s but that list is pretty short.  Our visit is yet another illustration of my theory that you can take even the fifth or sixth best BBQ joint in KC, stick it an almost any other place in the country and it will be the best BBQ in town by quite a bit.  In my opinion we in KC still have the edge overall in BBQ, although I will absolutely be visiting Pappy’s the next time I’m in the ‘Lou.  And at least we will always still have the ’85 Series.  Thanks Don.











Pappy's Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

2 thoughts on “No Bull BBQ Road Trip

  1. Hi I found one of your cards in the restroom of a restaurant I was dining at. I hadnt heard of your website before then. I have really enjoyed the site because I love good bbq. I was wondering is that your trademark to leave your cards after a visit to let people know you were there? I am interested in reading your review for the restaurant I was dining in.

  2. I can’t say I’ve been to Pappy’s, but as far as I know, the best BBQ in Saint Louis is called Roper’s – you’ve got to be adventurous as it’s in a pretty ghetto neighborhood, so get your food to go. All that said, it’s the finest BBQ I know and I can’t recommend the ribs highly enough. So next time you’re visiting the Saint, head up to the North Side and check out Roper’s.

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