Food & Drink
Critics’ choice: Smokin’ good barbecue from three newcomers
Stellar Hog St. Louis
“This is what we mean by St. Louis– style barbecue,” said Cheryl Baehr in the St. Louis Riverfront Times. The Stellar Hog, which only recently set up shop in Super’s Bungalow, a beloved 90-year-old dive bar, might just be the best place to sample everything that falls under that “surprisingly hard to pin down” barbecue style. Pitmaster Alex Cupp, who bought Super’s last March, only fires up his smoker on weekends for now. But his cooking is more than ready for prime time. His pulled pork is so succulent, “its juices are sauce enough,” and his brisket is “positively sublime,” the marbled strips of meat “cooked to the point where they get that beautiful, pull-apart crumble that would bring a tear to a Texan’s eye.” Cupp spent years in fine-dining kitchens before studying barbecue under a couple of local greats, and he pours passion into every dish, including a luxurious mac and cheese and a chili that can stand with any in town. He says his cooking isn’t where he wants it to be, but that’s crazy. “Man, does he have skills.” 5623 Leona St., (314) 481-8448
The Granary San Antonio
When your medium is Texas barbecue and you intend to innovate, you’d better be good, said Mike Sutter in the San Antonio Express-News. Four years after being hailed by Esquire as “the future of barbecue,” Tim Rattray is fulfilling the prophecy at his joint inside the old Pearl Brewery. Lunchtime brings out the classics, with Rattray’s pulled pork—“a sultry tangle of fat, lean, and bark infused with spice and vinegar”—outshining the beef brisket. The sweet and smoky burnt-end baked beans rate as one of the best barbecue sides around. At dinner, Rattray takes more risks, turning out science-fair-project dishes like smoked octopus over an inky black sauce or ruby-red duck breast with a hominy-chestnut puree. Not everything works (that includes you, brisket ramen). But the suckling pig with its crisp, honeyed skin tops even the midday menu’s pulled pork, and a Thai touch elevates the smoked riblets. Of the house-brewed beers, none is better than the “restorative, roasty” coffee IPA. 602 Ave. A, (210) 228-0124
Pork and BeansPittsburgh
If only every barbecue joint had this much energy, said Dan Gigler in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The most anticipated new downtown restaurant of 2016 is packing in crowds, jolting them with a rock soundtrack, and bringing a “Waldorf meets Walmart” creativity to barbecue cooking. One recent special: country-fried quail stuffed with sweetbread sausage, doused in red-eye gravy, and paired with truffle hash browns. The co-owners say the decor is meant to evoke “the fanciest Cracker Barrel you’ve ever seen,” and there’s a “roadhouse jocularity” to everything they do. On the day-to-day menu, the “exceptional” beercan chicken gets a kick from a superb Portuguese hot sauce, and an inventive take on KFC’s “Double Down” Frankensandwich proves a waste of truffle s and fois gras but inarguably delicious. The traditional barbecue fare is “very, very good”— not the city’s very best yet, but “well on the way” to being a true contender. 136 Sixth St., (412) 338-1876
Beer: Hold the hops
Beer wasn’t always just about “hops, hops, and more hops,” said Spike Carter in Bloomberg.com. Brewers in the distant past used a blend of bitter herbs, flowers, and spices to flavor and preserve beer, just as hops do. Those botanical blends are known as gruits, as are the ales made from them. Here are a few versions that are both satisfyingly complex and refreshing. Dupont Cervesia This Belgian cervesia makes a terrific aperitif, delivering notes of black pepper, clove, and mint.
Freigeist + Kissmeyer Gruit Vibrations A pair of breweries—one German, one Danish—teamed to create bot h a tart dark gruit and the citrusy pale shown here.
Propolis Brewing Grewit Matured in Malbec oak barrels, this “tart, herbaceous” Port Townsend, Wash., gruit is distinguished by its “inviting, roasty nose of tobacco.”