By the time this story is uploaded today, it should be about 10:00 or 10:30, which is just about the
perfect time for you to put down your TPS reports, pack up and head down to Pappy’s to beat the peak lunch hour line.
Situated in an off-street space that would probably spell death for a lesser restaurant, Pappy’s is right behind Buffalo Brewing Company on Olive. By noon the line usually bisects the restaurant from the register, curving around the L-shaped dining room all the way to the back door. Mardi Gras Sunday, the line was out the door, up the hall to Buffalo Brewing, and back to the main door. Salivating St. Louisans enjoyed the fragrance of slow-cooked meats and patiently held their place in this crazy-long line. Pappy’s is that good.
After you finally get in the door, the line moves quickly and you have plenty of time to peruse the short but sweet menu. The meats are typical barbecue fare: pulled pork, chicken, turkey, brisket, hot links and ribs. Served on a sandwich in 6- or 8-ounce portions or on a platter without the bun, the meat arrives without sauce. Note I did not say “dry.”
Though I’ve complained about the loosely-applied term “barbecue” in the past — whereby restaurants overcook the heck out of poor-quality, largely-mishandled meat and slather thick nasty sauce on it to cover the charred taste — Pappy’s has true barbecue here. Owner Mike Emerson knows how to cook a pig (or cow, or whatever). When food emerges from the kitchen in what seems like seconds after you order it, the delicate slices of brisket, the generous mound of pulled pork, or that juicy pile of turkey don’t require a ladle of gooey sweet sauce to taste good. The quality of meat and its preparation stand on its own, but the three sauces are tasty yet transparent, and just the right amount (about how much ketchup you would put on a burger) enhance — not cover — the flavor.
The sides are better than one would expect. Pappy’s offers the typical baked beans and potato salad, but they also have sweet potato fries (tossed in an addictive sugar/salt mixture), deep-fried corn on the cob and green beans — real, bright-green ones that have never seen the inside of a can.
Pappy’s is easy on your pocket book: a 6-ounce sandwich and two sides is $6.29, and you will not leave hungry. They also offer a selection of carry-out meat by the pound and combinations to feed the family, including the Big Ben: a slab of ribs, beef sandwich, pork sandwich, quarter of a chicken and four sides for $34.99.
I’m partial to the brisket sandwich, but when I want to splurge I go to the mad genius concoction, the Frito Pie ($6.99): Frito corn chips mixed with baked beans, your choice of pork or beef, topped with cheddar cheese and diced onions. Heartburn, schmeartburn, it’s too good to pass up.
When you go, be patient and defer to the wait staff who have to navigate around and through the line you’re standing in. (They must say “excuse me” in their sleep.) And although it seems counterintuitive, don’t snag a table until you order. There is a rhythm to the place that keeps a constant rotation of tables emptying just as you finish placing your order of meaty deliciousness. It’s like magic.
Time for lunch.
Pappy’s Smokehouse 3106 Olive Street, St. Louis, MO 63103 314/535-4340 www.pappyssmokehouse.com