The gas-powered Southern Pride smoker — a heavily cladded convection oven with a side smoke box — has made it easy for just about any restaurant to turn out decent ribs and brisket. But in the hands of a talented pitmaster like Greg Stinton, it can produce the kind of pink-tinged, spice-crusted, smoky-to-the-core ’cue the soul craves.
When Stinton — who used to work in IT before becoming a barbecue obsessive and opening this Forest Park storefront — says “small batch,” he means it: The kitchen sells out of choice cuts on most nights. Get there early enough to try his long-boned St. Louis spareribs, tingling with spice, and his tender, pecan-smoke-kissed brisket, which can be ordered fat or lean. (Pro tip: Fat is flavor.) The pulled pork shoulder — soft and rosy here, black and crusty there — is no slouch, either. Other meats include house-made pork sausages and turkey breast. I may even try them if I ever get my fill of ribs and brisket.
As a first-time restaurateur, Stinton is learning on the job. For now, the beer list consists of whatever six-packs he’s picked up at the Famous Liquors in Forest Park. “You got the last Corona,” he announces cheerfully when he brings it to the outdoor dining ledge. And though the meat is terrific, his sides aren’t all there yet. The cornmeal-crusted okra is snackable enough, but the gluey mac and cheese seems like an Instant Pot recipe gone bad. The mild-to-hot sauces — some punched up, Chicago-style, with giardiniera — are uniformly sweet and sticky. I was hoping for North Carolina style, thin and vinegary. But as aficionados sometimes say, this barbecue is so good, it doesn’t need sauce.