I had the day off on my birthday, so I told my wife that I've always wanted to go to Pappy's Smokehouse ever since we saw it featured on "Man V. Food" on the Travel Channel. The St. Louis area is a hotbed of barbeque pits -- some large, some chains, some little bitty shacks that make fantastic food. But I have NEVER experienced anything quite like Pappy's.
We arrived around noon on a Wednesday, and it was fairly busy. Lots of business around, so the lunch crowd was there. The line wasn't long -- we probably waited for 10 minutes, total -- and we were served less than 5 minutes after we ordered. The place is filled with picnic tables, so you might be sitting with people you don't know, which kind of adds to the charm. The walls are plastered with photos, signed menus (LOTS of celebrities have eaten here), artwork, and other personal touches that make Pappy's truly one of a kind. You'll also see many of their major barbeque awards on display near the ordering window, including their most recent 1st place Whole Hog trophy from the 2012 Big Apple Barbeque festival in New York.
What we noticed right away was the massive attention to service. You stand in line, place your order, then find a seat. When the servers come out with your food, they call your name loud (so make sure you give them a name that's distinctive, so everyone in your party will recognize it when it's shouted), then bring your food to you. If you need anything, they'll ask. The owner often comes around and stops by every table to see if people are doing ok, and they also have runners constantly scanning the dining room, looking to see if any spots need to be cleaned up. When they brought our food out to us, I immediately noticed that had given me the wrong side, and I got someone's attention, who brought out the right side with no hesitation. Whatever you need, they're on it. Best service I've seen in a LONG time.
Then there's the food. Holy crap. Okay, even if you're not a rib eater, you HAVE to make sure you try the ribs. All their meats are smoked with a dry rub, not basted in sauce, and they have succeeded in creating some of the most flavorful meats you could ever hope to come across. The ribs are beautifully prepared, smoked to absolute perfection. While the meat doesn't fall off the bone (which is totally okay with me), it's not tough at all. Easily comes off without much effort, and is juice and tender. The rub really seals in the juices and allows the smoke flavor to come through. This is a complex rib.
All the other meats we tried -- the brisket, the pork, and a hot link -- were fantastic as well. Beautifully smoked and prepared, not basted with sauce, but relying on the smoking process and the rub to give the meat its beautiful flavor. The portions are generous, too. I got the half slab rib combo with additional meat, and my wife got a 2 meat combo, each with 2 sides. We both got the same sides, the deep fried corn on the cob and the sweet potato fries. The corn wasn't crispy, but had a great flavor, and the fries were nice and melt-in-the-mouth chewy with a crispness on the outside that wasn't overbearing. Even the green beans they brought out by mistake were fresh, just like my grandmother used to grow out of her garden.
Their sauces are fantastic, too. You can buy some to take with you, if you like, and if you really like barbeque, I recommend you try all three while you're there. They each have their distinct characteristics, and will work for any palate.
You'll pay for your food -- we dropped about $34.00 on our meals, but we had quite a bit. I demolished mine, but my wife took home what she couldn't finish and still had a full meal. All in all, this was a fantastic experience, and some of the absolute best barbeque I've ever had in my life. Believe the hype.
Oh, one other thing. They make a limited amount of meat for each day, so when they run out of something, they're out. If you're heading to this place on a weekend, GO EARLY. The crowd wasn't bad on the day we went, but it was a work day, and the crowd slowed down a bit by the time we left. But on the weekends, this place is a madhouse.
If you own or manage Pappy's Smokehouse, register now for free tools to enhance your listing, attract new reviews, and respond to reviewers.