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I just returned from a trip to St. Louis. It's not exactly a gastronomic capital but my brother and I decided to focus on two things: BBQ and fried chicken. We succeeded on both fronts.
1. Let's start with the BBQ. Pappy's is, without question, the best BBQ I have ever had. I'm no expert when it comes to BBQ'd pig but I can not imagine BBQ'd ribs which taste better than this. These Memphis style ribs (dry rub only, no sauce) have a great texture. They're toothsome enough to resist but still tender so that you can cleanly rip the meat from the bone. Sauce is served on the side if you are into that sort of thing. In addition to the ribs, I ate some brisket (not a huge fan), BBQ'd chicken (dark meat, really moist and tasty) and the best BBQ'd sausage of my life. I LOVE THIS PLACE. I think the coleslaw is a must. It's not the mayonnaise-y stuff you find at most joints but is just a simple cabbage, celery seed, vinegar and sugar concoction which works beautifully as a palate cleanser. My brother, a semi-regular, says that it's essential to go during busy hours as Pappy's times its meats to coincide with the lunch and dinner crowd. If you are at all interested in BBQ and find yourself in St. Louis, you owe it to yourself to check this joint out. AWESOMELY GOOD.
Fried chicken, oh how I love thee. I am a fried chicken fanatic. It is my favorite food and has been for quite some time. In fact, my mother would always ask us what we wanted for our birthday dinners and the answer was always "Fried Chicken!!!!!" This river runs deep so it was with great excitement that James and I embarked on our hunt for poultry perfection.
2. Newstead Tower Public House- This establishment bills itself as a restaurant which "specializes in high-quality food a step above the more basic 'pub grub.'" I guess their claim to fame is that they were voted "Best Hamburger in St. Louis" back in 2008. At any rate, we went on a drizzly Sunday night to experience their hamburger but were side-tracked by the Sunday night fried chicken special. It cost around 28 bucks for the entire fried bird and came with roasted potatoes and a well-dressed side salad. Sundays are also 1/2 off canned beer night but we're not talking Miller Lite...think Fat Tire etc. in cans for half off! Anyhow, the chicken was technically well done. It's breadcrumb crust was completely greaseless and the flesh was quite moist. We also found the flesh more chicken-y than most other birds because Newstead uses free range chickens from Benne's farms. You can really taste the difference although some diners might find the chicken a little too flavorsome. Anyhow, the bird was very well fried but just didn't satisfy that lip-smacking craving we both have when eating fried chicken.
3. Porter's Fried Chicken- Our winner of the fried chicken challenge. Porter's is in a janky little storefront location but its appearance belies the quality of the bird. This chicken came incased in a thin, yet crispy, crust. We could not stop eating this chicken. James must've pounded down 6 pieces and I stopped at 4. In addition, we ate nearly an entire order of fried gizzards. PHENOMENALLY good gizzards. The chicken was definitely on the greasy side but we both loved the slick of oil the chicken deposited on our lips and fingers. Healthy fried chicken just doesn't feel right, ya know? A definite must visit when I return to St. Louis.
4. Hodak's- Along with Porter's, Hodak's was the other name mentioned most often when we did our fried chicken research. It wasn't bad but it sorta fell into the Newstead camp of fried chicken. A great, greaseless fry job but the meat was sorta bland and it just didn't have that lip-smacking goodness. However, I have to give them props for the insanely juicy chicken breast. I think it was the first time in my life where I ate the breast before tackling the thigh. Also, we split an order of toasted ravioli. Toasted raviolis (or T-Ravs as they are commonly called) are a St. Louis original and consist of meat ravioli which are breaded, deep fried, dusted with parmesan and served with marinara sauce. Eh, they weren't bad but once is enough for me.
5. Wei Hong Seafood Restaurant- My brother has a fairly serious allergy to soy products so it's really nice for him to find a Chinese restaurant which is willing to work with him. However, this isn't the only way in which Wei Hong is extraordinary. First, it's in an old movie theater so it's absolutely cavernous on the inside. Second, the lights like to dim themselves mid-meal so it's a fun variable. Third, THE WAITRESSES DOUBLE AS THE COOKS. Let me say this again: Not only do they take your order but they also cook your food! I've never been to another restaurant like this. And not only is their service friendly and gracious but they're also pretty good cooks. James tends to stick to a fairly standard set of dishes so that's what I ate. The best thing? Harbor-style crab...Dungeness crab which is stir fried with pork, garlic, ginger, green onion etc. Really, really tasty. Also, you can't go wrong with stir-fried pea shoots. A very enjoyable meal, even given that I have pretty high standards for Chinese food.
All in all, a pretty fun food trip. Much better than I was expecting and, given the quality of Pappy's and Porter's, I've got two GREAT restaurants to look forward to on future visits.
Pappy's Smoke House
3106 Olive Street
Saint Louis, MO 63103
Newstead Tower Public House
4353 Manchester Ave
St Louis, MO 63103
Porter's Fried Chicken
3628 S Big Bend Blvd
St Louis, MO 6314
2100 Gravois Ave
St Louis, MO 63104
Wei Hong Seafood Restaurant
7740 Olive Blvd.
University City, MO 63130Phone: 314-726-0363