Pappy's Smokehouse St. Louis

BBQ Review: Pappy’s Smokehouse

My mouth has been watering ever since I heard about Pappy’s Smokehouse.  The reference given was that “the line is out the door every time” you visit.  “You can’t go wrong,” said the person making the recommendation.  With that we placed Pappy’s at the top of the list to write the next review.

Pappy’s web site describes their style as “Memphis Style BBQ”.  That is, they rub the meat and serve it dry with sauce on the table.  We especially like the claim online “We’ve got nothing to hide so the sauce is on the side!”  Sounds like Nirvana, and instant respect.

Pappy’s Smokehouse is at the corner of Olive St. and Cardinal Ave. near downtown St. Louis.  Given this was our first visit it wasn’t hard to spot the intersection as there were many cars parked on the street.  Pappy’s actually sits behind another restaurant so don’t walk into the wrong place.  Just look for the sign on the building facing the Arch.

Barney the Pig, a good dose of the Blues, and a healthy line of customers greeted us upon entry into the store today.  Pappy’s web site posts their hours on Saturdays from “11 – around 4 (we sell out early on weekends).”  So we got in at about noon to avoid a supply shock to our BBQ senses.

The menu is direct: pulled pork, brisket, turkey, chicken, hot links, and of course ribs (baby backs).  There are numerous platter combinations to choose from and sandwich combinations as well.  Platters come with two side items and thick cut white bread.  Side item choices were the basic BBQ selections with the exception of deep fried corn on the cob and sweet potato fries.

This definitely isn’t a St. Louis BBQ menu.  No snoot, pork steak, fried fish, pasta, or any other non-BBQ crap you find at a “BBQ” place here in St. Louis.  Pappy’s menu is genuinely true to their style of Q.  You have to appreciate the simplicity!

Given this was our first visit we went for the basics on the menu.  An order of half-slab ribs accompanied the “Heifer & Hog” platter.  Baked beans and potato salad were the sides chosen with the platter.  The line moved fast and the order process was smooth.  After ordering you find a free spot at a picnic table or one of several 4-top tables covered with red and white checkered table cloths.

While we waited for the fixin’s we noted the many bottles of BBQ sauce decorating the border of the wall.  One in particular caught our eye, Ollie’s BBQ sauce from the original in Birmingham, Alabama.  My grandfather took us to that place decades ago so it was a warm reminder of just how small the BBQ world really is.

Speaking of sauces, Pappy’s has three original sauces on the table with paper towels ready to unfurl: 1) Pappy’s Original, a tangy yet subtly sweet tomato based sauce, 2) Sweet Baby Jane, a no-subtle-about-it tomato based sweet sauce, and 3) Holly’s Hot Sauce, a mildly spicy tomato based sauce thinned with what had to be cider vinegar.

The Heifer & Hog portion was certainly generous.  It easily could have fed two adults.  The brisket was laid neatly over the pork with bread on the side.  Both sides were to the end of the basket.  The pork was pulled and did pull nicely, although some looked as though it had been chopped.  Perhaps the larger pieces are chopped before pulling to expedite the smoke-to-plate?  On first bite the pork seemed a little dry with subtle tones of the smoke flavor.  It was very lean, lacking fat or flavor from fat.  The meat was sweet.  We tried all three sauces with the pulled pork and our favorite by far was Pappy’s Original which offered spice lacking from the rub and additional sweetness that complimented the meat.

The brisket was beautiful.  Clearly seasoned with a heavy dose of coarse ground black pepper there was a thick red ring evident around the entire slice.  The brisket wasn’t as tender as we would have hoped but had tons of flavor.  Holly’s Hot sauce worked well with the brisket and after several bites the initial impression of the sauce being mildly hot went away.  This is a sauce that builds with every bite but doesn’t overpower the meat or other flavors of the sides.

Pappy’s has to have about the best baked beans we’ve had in St. Louis.  And the thing we admire most about them is how simple they are.  It’s just beans and sauce.  You don’t have to worry about crazy BBQ experimentation here.  They are heavy and sweet, just like the grandparents used to make.  Our other side of potato salad was rather plain but a nice in-between palette cleanser.

Now to the ribs…  The first initial impression is that these are damn good ribs.  Pappy’s lives up to their promise of hiding nothing.  Their ribs are out there to be judged and they’re worth the drive into town to consume.  The ribs are all about the rub which features brown sugar that creates a blanket of goodness during the smoking process.

The combination of apple and cherry woods left a thick red smoke ring yet do not overpower the meat with smoke flavor.  It’s a subtle smokiness that fits this style of ribs just right.

Now some people prefer meat to come right off the bone and some people want the meat to the point just before.  I’m one of those that want a combination.  I don’t want the ribs to fall apart on the plate yet I don’t want to have to work to get the meat either.  Today Pappy’s ribs leaned toward the later.  I thought the meat could have been easier to let go.  We had to cut the ribs apart with a knife rather than use our hands.  It’s all a matter of preference of textures.  We won’t fault the ribs for this but look forward to another visit.

Looking forward to another visit is the tough part of all this.  Visions of smoking chicken and hot links will dance through our brains.  And next time we’ll take on one of those deep fried corn on the cobs too.  There is lots to ponder.

Down to brass tacks… Pappy’s Smokehouse is worth the drive downtown and it certainly must figure into your plans if you’re headed down that way to begin with.  We appreciate the honesty of the cooking and especially the service from staff that constantly looked in to inquire on our satisfaction.

We’re giving Pappy’s Smokehouse 3.25 out of 4 Butts with mixed emotions.  We had so much fun being there but we can’t award the Butts on that alone.  The ribs were great yet could have been tenderer.   The pulled pork lacked flavor and moistness.  The brisket was great with the sauce.  Pappy’s does earn points for staying true to their values and bringing another much-needed style into St. Louis.

Pappy’s Smokehouse = 3.25 Butts.

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