My four nights in St. Louis for my company’s conference nearly had a tragic beginning. My flight got me into town a few hours later than most of my co-workers. Our plan was to go to Pappy’s Smokehouse for dinner on the night before the conference started. Pappy’s has been featured on “Man vs. Food” so I was eagerly awaiting our visit. I made sure to ask several colleagues to wait for my arrival before heading to the restaurant, fearful that I would miss out.
My cab was inching along in rush-hour traffic about a half-block from the hotel. Imagine my horror when I noticed first two, then three, then the entire group of a dozen colleagues in front of the hotel starting to fill into cabs. It was dinner time and there was no question they were heading to the restaurant. My vehicle wasn’t moving. I considered jumping out but my suitcase, weighing over 40 pounds, was in the trunk. My heart started pounding and I begged the driver to catch up to the group. He was helpless as there really was nowhere to go. “Roll your window down,” I urged. “Wait for me!” I yelled. Fortunately, I caught someone’s attention.
All I remember after that was a flurry of activity: me throwing cash at the driver, a bellman grabbing my suitcase, and me finally jumping breathless into a cab of coworkers. My rational side understood that the group shouldn’t have waited for me. Pappy’s starts smoking their meat a day in advance and when they run out, they run out. This could be mid-day if a particularly large lunchtime crowd storms the place. However, when it comes to food, I am rarely rational.
Fortunately, the stars aligned in my favor and I made it in the nick of time. The reality is that I probably would have caught up with them. Tell that to my panic attack.
Indeed when we arrived Pappy’s was already out of brisket, and a chalkboard tally indicated there were only 21 slabs of ribs remaining. This meant that there would be enough to feed our group, but as people kept filing in, some of them were going miss out.
The ribs are definitely worth the hype. They’re tender with a nice dry rub, and three different sauces to choose from. I liked the Sweet Baby Jane sauce best. The green beans also had a wonderful smoky flavor, and sweet potato fries topped with a sprinkling of sugar were a perfect accompaniment.
Needless to say, if you are in St. Louis and you are a barbeque fan, go to Pappy’s. Ask the owner to show you the meat smoker, because how often do you get the opportunity to see a smoker full of pork butts?
Pappy’s Smokehouse, 3106 Olive Street, Saint Louis, MO
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 5
|Brasserie by Niche|
Dinner on night two was at Brasserie by Niche, a restaurant I chose based on Chowhound postings and a review I discovered online about the chef/owner: “Gerard Craft has become the most celebrated St. Louis chef — a Food & Wine magazine “Best New Chef,” a James Beard Foundation “Best Chef-Midwest” award nominee — the vanguard of a new generation committed to the chef- and ingredient-driven restaurant.”
These were credentials that I found irresistible. Nevertheless, I was with a large group of people who I had never dined with before, so I was a bit anxious.
Brasserie by Niche is French country cooking in a casual setting. Checkered tablecloths and butcher paper on the tables. The service is unhurried, which in general is fine, but I would have liked my cocktail and bread delivered a little sooner. Particularly my cocktail. The bread was served steaming from the oven and basically tossed directly onto the table. It was a little startling, but when something tastes so good, does it matter? I decided it didn’t.
I ordered pike quenelles, which to be honest I cannot describe now that it’s several days later, and it doesn’t appear on the online menu (which usually helps me recall my meals). But I know that I found the dish wonderfully satisfying, as did others in the group. I do remember everything about the spice ice cream I had for dessert. Cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. I called it “autumn in a bowl.” Stunningly delicious.
The group applauded at the end of the meal, putting me at ease about my restaurant selection (although that could have been the result of the cocktail and a glass of wine). Brasserie by Niche is certainly an affordable and enjoyable dining option in St. Louis.
By night three of a four-night conference, many of my colleagues are too tired to dine out. I was eager to try Sidney Street Café and a little fatigue wasn’t going to stop me on my quest to sample local cuisine. I was able to persuade two colleagues to join me. Sometimes it’s worth fighting the tired. This was an amazing meal.
Before we got to the food, we had to endure a performance by an overly-dramatic server who recited each and every menu item in great detail. I didn’t exactly begrudge him his enthusiasm. Indeed, every last dish on the menu sounded wonderful. Perhaps it was our lack of energy that made us want him to speed up the introduction.
Once the food came, his hand flourishes almost seemed appropriate. The fresh beignets were amazing. A choice of soup or salad was included in the meal, which I think is a nice touch. I enjoyed an eggplant puree soup. My entrée, applewood smoked duck with goat cheese gnocchi, forest mushrooms, and a port reduction was honestly one of the best dishes I have EVER had.
My colleagues were equally enthusiastic about their dishes, a lamb trio and steak au poivre.
Sadly there was no time for dessert. I could say that duty called, but actually it was a local casino. Our loss. In more ways than one.
Sidney Street Cafe, 2000 Sidney Street, St. Louis, MO
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 5