Saturday, July 2, 2011

St. Louis Barbecue: Bandana's

It is late June, a day before the July 4th Holiday Weekend is to begin, and I'm in St. Louis, with a serious craving for St. Louis Barbecue. Driving down the highway, seeing nothing but signs for McDonalds, Wendys, Chick-fil-a, my hopes of finding a good local restaurant are slowly diminishing.  Then, I see it.  Off the highway, yet nestled amongst some of our most famous fast food chains is Bandana's Bar-B-Q.  Enticing me with a sign that says "Smell that Smoke", I make a sharp right turn and head to Bandana's, already smelling that smoke, even though my windows are up and the a/c is blasting. 

Outside,  the parking lot is sizzling.  The heat comes up in waves off the black surface.  I can feel the heat rising through the soles of my shoes in just a few short steps. But inside, I settle into the chilly naugahyde cover of my booth, delighted by the cool air conditioning, keeping the restaurant and me cool.

First things must always come first, right?  Start with a tall glass of icy-cold sweet tea, savor it slowly while reading the menu.  The menu is basic - you can order pork, beef or chicken.  They boast their meats are smoked with a dry rub then hand-cut to order.  The sides are simple:  green beans, cole slaw, appleauce, baked beans, corn.  No surprises at Bandana's.  No salads either.

I was happy to see they kept their sauces in a six-pack container.  Convenient and cozy.  Like little neighbors, similar, but different.

Bandana's is a small restaurant chain, with most locations in Missouri, and a few in Illinois and Iowa.  They offer six sauces.  From left to right they are:  Sweet & Smoky, Original, Spicy, Chicago Sweet and Kansas City.  Sweet & Smoky was aptly named and needs no further description.  Their Original sauce was overladen with Heinz 57 and mustard flavors.  Spicy was merely spicy hot and didn't carry much barcue sauce flavor.  Chicago Sweet had a hint of celery and honey and Kansas City was sweet, but tasted like it came right out of a grocery store bottle.   Sweet & Smoky was my sauce du jour, with a light sprinkling of Spicy to give it a little kick.  I ordered the Beef and Pork Platter with cole slaw and Bar-b-q beans.

Their cole slaw is perfect!  The best combination of cruncy, cold and creamy, it was not too saucy.  All the vegetable flavors stood out, yet combined nicely with the mild dressing.  No drippy, droopy coleslaw here.  Just crisp vegetable perfection.

Their beans were sweet and smoky, just what you'd exect (and want) from a Bar-b-q joint.

The Pork and Beef exceeded my expectations!  Smoky crisp delight on the edges and moist meat on the rest of the dish.  Served with two pieces of lightly toasted garlic bread, this platter of smoky meat was wonderful.  The Sweet & Smoky sauce somehow brought out both the meat flavors and the smokiness of the rub.  It was a splendid lunch, and a perfect meal to remember St. Louis.

1 comment:

  1. looks good. However, you have to dive 250 miles further west to get the best BBQ on earth - Kansas City BBQ! In fact I am taking some of my family in for my son's wedding to either Jack Stack or Arthur Brant's. let me know when you come this way and I will take you there as well!
    Also - true Kansas City BBQ is NOT sweet - it has a bit of a kick to it.
    Have a great Fourth and travel safely back to Ohio.