Built along the western bank of the Mississippi River, St. Louis is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. With a rich culinary history, some of the most famous foods familiar to St. Louis include toasted ravioli, gooey butter cake, Provel cheese, St. Louis-style pizza, and – of course – barbecue. In this article we’ll cover our top 10 picks for the best BBQ in St. Louis.
When it comes to barbecue, St. Louis pulls inspiration from various regions and styles. Barbecue enthusiasts and pitmasters alike adore the unique sauce that St. Louis BBQ produces – a sweet, sticky, tomato-based affair usually made without the addition of liquid smoke. If you’re looking for evidence of its deliciousness, St. Louis is said to consume more barbecue sauce than any other city in the entire USA.
St. Louis barbecue most often refers to spare ribs, which are a particular cut with the sternum bone, rib tips, and cartilage removed. This creates a rectangular-shaped cut, formally known as ‘Pork ribs, St. Louis style’ by the USDA. Famous due to the uniform shape and for being more meat, less bone, St. Louis-style ribs are often included as a class in major BBQ competitions.
A city rich in culinary diversity has some incredible barbecue to offer. Let’s take a look at the top ten restaurants.
Top 10 Best BBQ Joints in St. Louis
10. BEAST Craft BBQ Co.
Opened by chef and pitmaster David Sandusky and his wife Meggan in 2014, BEAST Craft BBQ Co. lives by its motto – All Killer, No Filler. Creating exceptional barbecue dishes and sides, everything is handmade from scratch on a daily basis to ensure freshness and authenticity to the brand.
Quality is imperative to creating the real BEAST Craft BBQ Co. flavor, with cuts of meat sourced from top suppliers. David carefully prepares wagyu beef and prime brisket alongside more traditional cuts, such as ribs and poultry. Side dishes are also exceptional, with candied bacon, kielbasa, and bacon mac and cheese among the offerings.
Beer enthusiasts have 68 craft beers to choose from, each with tasting notes and trained staff ready to suggest a beverage to complement each order. BEAST Craft BBQ Co. also offers whole raw cuts of meat for individuals looking to smoke or grill at home, and for competition cooking.
Get It While You Can – BEAST Craft offers a different special every day, accompanied by a recommended beer. As the specials are ever changing and always fresh, they are worth trying while they are available.
9. Gobble Stop Smokehouse
A little different than the other barbecue restaurants on this list, Gobble Stop Smokehouse focuses their menu entirely on chicken and turkey. While this may sound narrow, specializing in these cuts has allowed this restaurant to excel and offer unique items such as turkey ribs and turkey tips, not found in other barbecue joints.
Family owned, the Gobble Stop Smokehouse opened in 2009 with a desire to bring great food and an unforgettable experience to every diner. The menu caters to everyone who walks through the door; specialty sides such as Fried Turkey Meatballs are served alongside vegetarian options, like the Veggie Sampler. Just be sure to leave room for dessert, as this restaurant offers a selection of gourmet cookies to sample.
Not Your Regular Ribs – Completely unique to Gobble Stop Smokehouse, Turkey Ribs is the dish to try. Tender and moist, this cut consists of a whole turkey breast which has been marinated and seasoned with the house rub. Truly delicious!
8. BBQ Saloon
Chef and owner Phil Czarnec has always had a love for low and slow cooking, which is why he opened the BBQ Saloon in 2015. The varied menu on offer is sure to delight diners, with something for everyone to sample, no matter their dietary preferences.
Featuring wedge salads, hot dogs, and a weekend brunch menu which offers candied bacon waffles and crème brûlée French toast, the BBQ Saloon is not your typical barbecue restaurant. Catering to a more modern and flexible demographic, this restaurant also offers more traditional BBQ cuts such as pulled pork, smoked chicken, and cold smoked salmon. While not a daily occurrence, BBQ Saloon is also known for using more unusual cuts on the menu, such as kangaroo, alligator, shark, wild boar, and more.
Pour Me Another – BBQ Saloon is proud of their full bar, which includes over 700 variations of whiskey to choose from. Dedicated bar staff is happy to guide patrons through the collection, suggesting which whiskey (or whisky!) will be the best fit for the individual and the meal they have ordered.
7. Salt and Smoke
This next restaurant has two St. Louis locations, the first opening in 2014 and the second in 2017. Salt and Smoke prides itself on a menu that is comprised entirely of items made from scratch every day; nothing is kept over, ensuring freshness and the authentic flavor the restaurant has developed.
The menu itself is not vast, but rather full of classic barbecue dishes that have been turned up a notch – the high-quality ingredients include prime brisket, St. Louis cut ribs, and poultry, as well as an exciting array of side dishes and homemade desserts. Garlic and herb fries and brisket chili are among the options available, alongside the five unique house sauces, which range from classic to tangy and spicy, and the unforgettable ‘Alabama Ranch,’ a white sauce seasoned with black pepper and horseradish.
Brisket, Please – The best cut of meat to order at Salt and Smoke is definitely the prime brisket. The whole brisket is slow smoked over post oak for up to 14 hours, resulting in tender, juicy, delicious meat that is perfect on a plate, in a sandwich, or with a salad.
6. Dalie's Smokehouse
Opening in 2015, Dalie’s Smokehouse is the most recent addition to a ‘family’ of barbecue restaurants in the St. Louis area and beyond. Each member of the ‘family’ offers a unique take on barbecue, with Dalie’s bringing the best of St. Louis-style BBQ to the table.
Particular about the process, Dalie’s Smokehouse carefully cooks their meat over cherry wood, slow smoking for up to 22 hours to create tender cuts that melt in the mouth. Keen to expand their brand, this restaurant has a variety of apparel and barbecue sauces available for purchase for those who want to try recreating their signature taste at home.
It’s Special for a Reason – It is always worth checking out the daily specials at Dalie’s Smokehouse. Anything could be on offer, from their famous burnt ends to the brisket Philly and the chili-smoked salmon gyro. No matter what, the food is always high quality and delicious.
5. The Shaved Duck
Live music plays six days a week at The Shaved Duck, resulting in an atmosphere that can only be described as electric. The laid-back vibe that this restaurant gives off brings families and friends to the location, while the food brings barbecue enthusiasts from miles around – cuts of meat smoked over a mix of cherry and hickory plus a kitchen that cooks from scratch equals an extraordinary combination.
The Shaved Duck offers its diners a mixture of classic barbecue flavors and modern dishes. Pulled pork sandwiches and baby back ribs are served alongside duck and smoked jalapeno chili and house-smoked salmon potato cakes. This combining of tastes and styles results in a unique dining experience for all who partake, with the option of accessing a good selection of craft beer plus wine and a full bar.
It’s a Winner! – The must-try dish at The Shaved Duck is definitely the Burnt ends, with a signature recipe developed by pitmaster Corey, who is also a part of the Grillas Team who won the KC Royal in 2003. Delicious, tender, and moist, these burnt ends are a winner no matter when you try them.
4. Sugarfire Smoke House
Using local ingredients is essential to the pitmasters at Sugarfire Smoke House, who pride quality ingredients as a big part of their culinary success. With a group of experienced chefs at their disposal, the food that emerges from the kitchens is always excellent, partly due to procuring the highest quality ingredients available. It is best to get to the restaurant early, as the opening times are listed ’11 a.m. until sold-out!’, which often happens due to popularity.
Sugarfire Smoke House produces ‘Artisan BBQ,’ which includes add-ons like balsamic smoked onions, vegetarian options like the Smoked Portabello Sandwich, and jalapeno cheddar sausages. With the addition of homemade condiments, tasty side dishes, and moreish desserts, this restaurant is able to provide something for everyone who walks through the door, no matter their dietary or taste preferences.
Let’s Get Dirty – ‘The Big Muddy’ has long been a favorite meal of those dining at Sugarfire Smoke House, and for a good reason. Featuring top-notch beef brisket and spicy smoked sausage, this special is complemented by horseradish among other vibrant and fresh flavors, making it a must-try.
3. Adam's Smokehouse
Adam’s Smokehouse is named after a close friend of the two owners, Frank and Mike, and stands as a monument to him and their mutual love of exceptional food. The two owners wanted to create a restaurant that reflected on their love of barbecue food as well as their desire to bring fantastic service to the dining experience.
Only open during the lunch rush, Adam’s Smokehouse often sells out of the more popular cuts of meat – brisket, ribs, and pulled pork are often the first to go, and when they are out of produce, they close their doors. Food is always cooked fresh, and the menu comprises of what is available that day, with barbecue staples such as ribs and chicken slow-smoking as the diners enjoy their meals.
It’s in the Ribs – Ribs are commonplace in barbecue restaurants, but they are not often served like Adam’s Smokehouse does them – coated in apple butter and torched, these ribs are caramelized to seal in the delicious flavors they hold, making them the dish to try on this menu.
2. Pappy's Smokehouse
Opening their doors in 2008, Pappy’s Smokehouse has been dedicated to bringing Memphis-style barbecue to St. Louis ever since. While the line may seem long and the restaurant is often busy, the relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff make sure that the service is quick and pleasant.
The experienced chefs and pitmaster at Pappy’s Smokehouse bring many years of culinary expertise with them, offering a menu that focuses on the meats. Classic cuts like beef brisket and pulled pork are able to shine, while options like their famous Frito Pie and sides like potato salad and green beans are available.
With four house-made sauces to choose from, which are also available to purchase, Pappy’s Smokehouse also boasts incredible smoking times of up to 14 hours over a combination of sweet apple and cherry wood for vibrant color and deep flavor.
The Ribs Have It – As the house specialty, the ribs are the must-taste dish at Pappy’s Smokehouse. Dry rubbed and slow smoked, this cut is served with two side dishes for the perfect sample of St. Louis flavor.
1. Bogart's Smokehouse
With many years of expertise behind them, the chefs and pitmasters of Bogart’s Smokehouse are committed to providing the best barbecue they can offer. The combined culinary experience of the kitchen staff, plus the delightful servers, give this restaurant a friendly, relaxed vibe that is suitable for the whole family to enjoy.
The menu is clearly focused on the meats, which comprise of the classic barbecue offerings; traditional slow smoked beef brisket and pulled pork are available, as well as some more unusual items like smoked pastrami. The sides are varied and offered in heaping helpings, including deviled egg potato salad and BBQ pork skins, complementing the meats perfectly. The menu also features several delicious homemade sauces ready for hungry diners to slather on their chosen dish.
Is That on Rye? – All of the meats at Bogart’s Smokehouse are delicious, but opting for their signature pastrami is a dining experience. Slow smoked and tender, with a slight vinegar tang, this super lean cut is perfect served with the famous Pit Smoked Baked Beans, laden with chunks of pork. Delicious!
The offerings in St. Louis are varied, and there truly is something for everyone to enjoy in this melting pot of a city. While the focus is on ribs, keep an open mind to some of the more unusual items on the menus, as they are often the tastiest!