Salt & Smoke

Restaurant Name: Salt & Smoke
Address: 6525 Delmar Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63130
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Day #3 of the 2018 Bang Bang BBQ Tour had lunch take me to the Forest Park area of St. Louis just west of downtown. Tucked in the middle of Delmar Blvd, Salt & Smoke is fixed at the corner next to a statue of Chuck Berry!

Salt & Smoke was a really neat and trendy place. Outside it’s a typical storefront look with a bright yellow canopy so it stands out some. Inside it’s a modernized and contemporary restaurant. Wood floors and an array of wall coverings from painted plaster/drywall, chalk board paint, cedar planks, and a really cool crate storage wall structure. The lighting was alright…we went on a very sunny day so it was very well lit inside. When some clouds would get in the way of the sun it got a little dark but nothing too crazy. A very nice selection of bourbons and wines were on a very cool looking shelf above the bar.

The menu at Salt & Smoke is a very well balanced menu with a big emphasis on BBQ and smoked meats. I ordered a 2 meat plate with two sides and ordered the brisket burnt ends and pulled pork with sides of baked beans and mac n cheese. My friends ordered a pulled pork plate with the same sides and a 2 meat plate of chicken wings and ribs with the same sides as me. Each entree came with a bacon & cheddar roll or “popover” as they call it. We also ordered an appetizer of deep fried chicken skins with a side of honey mustard.

We finally found a BBQ joint that delivered the food on actual plates!!!!! I think the very first thing you notice when the entrees come out is the size of the popover. It’s huge! Typically put in the middle of the plate it does tend to hide the rest of the contents of the plate. A simple move to the left or right and you get a beautiful plate of smoked meats and side dishes (sides also in actual dishes and not styrofoam cups). The pulled pork and the burn ends had a nicely noticeable smoke ring. The baked beans were lighter in color than the last few places we visited and had a fairly unique flavor. The mac n cheese is actually shells and white cheddar cheese vs. yellow cheddar. It also has a breadcrumb crust which I think is some of the popover remnants.

Flavor wise, let me first start with the deep fried chicken skins. FLAT…OUT…AWESOME! Pretty much the number one thing my mom told me not to eat growing up when we ordered fried chicken is the very thing that Salt & Smoke drops into the fryer and pairs it with a tangy and sweet honey mustard sauce. Fried to a crisp, these guys have the texture you want from something fried and the tasty flavors that comes with chicken skins.

Let me talk about the meats now. The pulled pork was really great. Definitely one of the best pulled porks I’ve ever had. I never needed to sauce the pulled pork. The meat was tender, moist, and juicy. Very balanced smoke flavor and subtle hints of sweet, heat, and savory. The burnt ends were juicy and tender. A little larger cuts than expected but each cut was jam packed full of flavor. 

The mac n cheese was hands down one of the best I’ve ever had. I liked the move to use shells vs. standard macaroni noodles. It was also really awesome to use white cheddar vs. traditional yellow cheddar. The dish was super creamy. Paired with the breadcrumbs on top with some char to them provided a really great texture in every bite. Something gritty to start, creamy in the middle, and soft/tender in between. Deliciousness in every single bite.

The baked beans weren’t as dark as other baked beans we’ve had on this trip and they had a very distinct taste. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one that really jumped out as good in my opinion. It was almost like the beans were trying to be every single flavor possible. There were hints of savory, lots of sweet, lots of smoke, and it felt very unbalanced. Could’ve just been a bad batch or just something my taste buds didn’t enjoy. 

SUMMARY

Overall, Salt & Smoke is a mighty tasty joint in a very modernized and trendy part of the city. Great smoked meats that are juicy, tender, and flavorful. Sides, for the most part, that are excellent. A place that goes above the traditional and merges it with a modern yet classical feel. A must visit if in the St. Louis, MO area.

Pappy’s Smokehouse

Restaurant Name: Pappy’s Smokehouse
Address: 3106 Olive Street, St. Louis, MO 63103
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Day #2 of the 2018 Bang Bang BBQ Tour had lunch return me to the champion of the very first BBQ Tour I did back in 2014…Pappy’s Smokehouse! Pappy’s was the baby back rib champion in the 2014 BBQ Tour, let’s see how they’ll stack up for their overall experience.

Located just north of downtown St. Louis and near St. Louis University, Pappy’s Smokehouse has been featured on Food Network and in many BBQ magazines and online articles as one of the best BBQ places in the country. The restaurant sits at a corner and is easily seen from the street. ARRIVE EARLY! A line will form very quickly, but it is worth the wait. We were fortunate to only have about 40 people ahead of us. We reviewed the menu and were thinking of getting a bunch of individual stuff but it was recommended to us to order the “Adam Bomb”. The combo meal included a full rack of baby back ribs, a 1/4 chicken, a pulled pork sandwich, a burnt end sandwich, three ears of deep fried corn on the cob, a side of BBQ baked beans, and a dish called the Frito Pie with hot link sausage. 

The food is served once again on a plastic basket with wax paper. A typical staple for a BBQ joint, but I’d still like something a little classier but I digress again. First look at this meal is yet again “LOOK AT ALL THIS MEAT!”. The ribs and chicken look amazing. You could see moisture and the juiciness of the meats from the very beginning. The deep fried corn on the cob had that charred look and was coated with a nice amount of butter and salt. The Frito Pie with the hot link sausage looked the absolute best. It was a great presentation with the very balanced layers of Frito corn chips, bbq baked beans, shredded cheddar cheese, and sliced red onions. This dish had some serious pop and eye appeal and looked absolutely DELICIOUS!

A quick rundown of all this delicious food. The baby back ribs were as I remembered from 5 years ago. Smokey, tender, and tasty. Near perfect competition style tenderness. A very visible smoke ring on the meat. Didn’t really need sauce as it had a thin coating on it already. The two sandwiches (pulled pork & burnt ends) were very well sized. The pulled pork did get a little bit dry but it was most likely due to waiting when to eat it as we had so many decisions and it’s so difficult where to start. The burnt ends were a little larger than expected but super tender and flavorful. The deep fried corn on the cob has a very unique texture. Party crispy yet juicy and buttery and salty all in one bite. The beans were good too. Too small of a sample to really get in depth with it though. 

The Frito Pie with the Hot Link Sausage is gonna get its own paragraph. This dish was the highlight of the meal. It was just awesome. BBQ, salty, sweet, tangy, and a super wide array of flavors in every bite. I think the red onion was a super smart choice as it added some sweetness to the dish and some really eye catching color to the plate.

Once again the plastic basket and wax paper presentation was tough to see but was easily overlooked as the food was awesome. I would’ve liked to have seen the buns for the sandwiches have a little bit of toasting to them as they got a little soggy. The pulled pork was surprisingly a little dry so it needed some sauce.

SUMMARY

Overall, Pappy’s Smokehouse exceeded my last visit and will continue to be a staple place to eat at everytime I’m in St. Louis or when friends ask me where to go in St. Louis to get good BBQ. For only being in business 10 years they’ve grown into a local staple with national notoriety. 

 

Bogart’s Smokehouse

Restaurant Name: Bogart’s Smokehouse
Address: 1627 S. 9th Street, St. Louis, MO 63104
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The first dinner of the 2018 Bang Bang BBQ Tour took me to the south side of St. Louis, MO which appears to have gone through some recent renovations and looks to be turning the neighborhood around. Reminds of the recent redevelopments of Fountain Square and Irvington districts in Indianapolis. Bogart’s Smokehouse is a fairly new place but has become a staple of solid BBQ in St. Louis.

Located in the subdistrict of Soulard in St. Louis, Bogart’s Smokehouse is the real deal when it comes to BBQ. Taking up a corner lot in the heart of the district with a bright yellow and white painted trims on the exterior you can’t miss this place. Inside you see a lot of decorations of the city of St. Louis and a lot of history of the city which was really cool. Props to the manager when we visited as he took us to the back of the restaurant to see the cookers: Southern Pride BBQ Cookers. Great pits. Propane heat but still wood smoke capable.

The food is served in plastic basket with wax paper again. A typical staple for a BBQ joint, but I’d still like something a little classier but regardless. First look at my plate and my first thought is “that’s a lot of meat!”. A good thought to have when eating BBQ and looking down at a plate. As I investigated a little bit more I was pleasantly surprised with the beef brisket. If you can’t tell from the pictures above, the brisket was cut pretty thin which is usually a trade secret that the brisket was undercooked. The brisket slices were actually very tasty and flavorful. I didn’t really need any sauce on the brisket slices as the beef and salt and pepper spoke for itself with a good complimentary amount of smoke. The smoke wasn’t as visible as I’d like to see on  brisket but it was able to be tasted. The tri-tip was also thinly sliced but did need some sauce to really enjoy it. The ribs were pretty tasty as well. A little too tender for my liking as they were near fall off the bone. Very balanced flavors typical for the STL area. Nicely noticeable smoke ring on the meat once I bit into the rib.

The beans at Bogart’s are AMAZING! Probably some of the best smoked beans I’ve ever had. Little bits of BBQ in it and a good balanced amount of brown sugar and other spices brings the baked beans to a smokey and sweet and traditional balanced flavor. The potato salad was good, but I would’ve liked to have had more eggs in it. The pork skins were flavorful too. 

Besides the plastic basket and wax paper presentation, only a few things could’ve made this dish over the top. The pork cheeks could’ve been served warm. They appear to have come from a bag but I’m assuming they fried them in house. The tri-tip and brisket slices were too thin in my opinion but they made up for it with good flavor. I would’ve liked to have seen more evidence of smoke on the meat too. A little bit more egg in the deviled egg potato salad was expected but not met. Still tasted good though. I would’ve liked to have seen some desserts too.

SUMMARY

Overall, Bogart’s Smokehouse was a great visit. Small, homey, and a part of the neighborhood community BBQ joint to the T! Delicious food and a good array of meats and tasty side dishes. Definitely worth a visit again! 

 

Witt’s Smokehouse

Restaurant Name: Witt’s Smokehouse
Address: 10325 East IL 33, Effingham, IL 
FACEBOOK / WEBSITE 



The annual BBQ tour took a bit of a twist into a Bang Bang BBQ Tour. In years past I’ve done regions of the country and have done a specific meat at each place. Twisting things up, I’m doing a city specific place and judging “best of show”. Taking into account the ambiance of the restaurant, the appearance of the food when it gets delivered, and the overall taste profile which will be a combination of smoke, tenderness, and overall flavors. The destination this year is the greater St. Louis, MO area. 

Our lunch destination took us to central Illinois and this wood cabin looking place, Witt’s Smokehouse. Tucked about 2 miles off of the interstate in Effingham, IL, Witt’s Smokehouse has a great look of it going with the log cabin atmosphere. The interior of the restaurant has some galvanized metal look along with the rustic of a log cabin so it’s pretty cool.

For my lunch I ordered the pulled pork sandwich with a side of mac n cheese. The food comes out in a plastic basket on some wax paper so pretty standard for a BBQ joint. The pulled pork sandwich has a good amount of meat on it. The meat is sauced which is a little bit of a turnoff for me but not a deal breaker typically. The basket does look a little “empty” when you get it. The pickle is a nice garnish and provides a color contrast to the basket. The sandwich bun was on top of the meat so it was a tannish bun color and the yellow of mac n cheese when you first look at the plate looks bland at first glance. 

The food itself was pretty good. The pulled pork sandwich had a really balanced flavor. I did have to add some sauce but mostly to try the array of sauces Witt’s has available. Side plug for the garlic BBQ sauce…very tasty and a noticeable garlic flavor…almost too much but I enjoy that flavor with BBQ. Very good move on the cooks to toast the buns as sauced pulled pork can tend to soak into a sandwich bun and make the bun really soggy but the toasting of the bun put a nice crust so it held up really well. The mac n cheese was probably one of the creamiest I’ve ever had. Noodles were cooked really well. My friends that joined me on this trip got sides of baked beans and they were OK. A little too sweet for my taste. 

Negatives wise, I’m not a big fan of sauced pulled pork as it can be used to mask stuff. I was a little disappointed in the lack of smokiness in the pulled pork. With it being sauced it made it very difficult to see any smoke ring and it was difficult to taste any smoke in the pulled pork. Some garnish like green onion or bacon bits to the mac n cheese would’ve been a nice eye appeal and provide some additional pop to the plate. 

SUMMARY

Overall, Witt’s Smokehouse set the bar for the 2018 Bang Bang BBQ Tour. Good flavors and some culinary skills were on display. May try to request the pulled pork not be sauced but I think that’s how they cook it. The brisket that one of my friends ordered looked really good and near burnt end style. 

 

Late Harvest Kitchen

Restaurant Name: Late Harvest Kitchen
Address: 8605 River Crossing Blvd, Indianapolis, IN 46240
FACEBOOK / TWITTER / INSTAGRAM / WEBSITE 


Pork Chop – May 3, 2018

Earlier this week, my parents came down to Indy to celebrate my birthday. I always enjoy a nice fancy type of dinner every now and then and especially for my birthday so I got my folks and I a reservation to Late Harvest Kitchen. Tucked near the Keystone at the Crossing and Fashion Mall area, this restaurant is a little bit hidden, but quite the gem of a place. 

My mom ordered the General Tso’s Pork Belly over a bed of stir fry vegetables. My dad got the salmon. We shared sides of “Potatoes Minneapolis” and the Korean Fried Broccolini. Both sides tasted fabulous. The deep fried broccoli was super crispy which made the dish AWESOME! You won’t hear me say that too often about a vegetable, but it was really good. The bread was great and had a really nice garlic butter to go with the wide array of breads.

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Pork Chop with Baked Beans, Vinegar Peppers, Bacon Marmalade, & House Kraut

My main dish was the pork chop. The pork chop was accompanied with some baked beans, vinegar peppers, bacon marmalade, and a house kraut. When the dish comes out it looks very complex. You see beans, you see the pork chop, some kraut, the mound of bacon marmalade, and a pool of pork chop juices and it can be difficult to decide where to begin.

Let me start with the accessories to the pork chop. All were complimentary and tasty by themselves, but the bacon marmalade was my definite favorite. I would take a slice of the chop and put some of the marmalade on it and it was like a pork on pork explosion which was mighty tasty. The beans, peppers, and kraut were good on the eye and unique on the tastebuds. Complimentary but not outstanding individually. 

The pork chop itself was grilled PERFECTLY! A slight bit of pink in the center which for pork is acceptable to me. I want to tip the hat to the chef as their grill mark game was SPOT ON! The meat was tender but not fork apart tender which was good. It had a simple rub and traditional pork chop flavor and really allowed you to utilize the accessory foods for a fun array of flavors. Salty and sweet with the kraut, salty and heat with the peppers, salty and smokey with the baked beans. All delicious adventures for the taste buds. 

The only “negative” about the dish would be maybe too much pork chop juice can make the plate look a little messy and disorganized. Some brighter colors to make the dish pop some I think would also be a nice addition. The green chives are good and all, but don’t quite pop as what maybe some red onion would.

SUMMARY

Overall, this plate was great. Full of flavor and easy to eat. A fun adventure of flavor with the array of complimentary sides on the pork chop. Definitely a must try if you visit Late Harvest Kitchen.

 

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