Tag: restaurant

Review: Bandana’s BBQ

I’ve delayed writing this restaurant review for a long time.  I can’t explain why, but I guess it’s because it feels so overly commercial that I don’t place it in the same category as most BBQ joints.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s an honest-to-goodness BBQ restaurant, but it just feels like they are trying way too hard to be “authentic”. 

Bandana’s is a St. Louis based BBQ restaurant that has franchised to roughly 25 locations in 3 states and growing.  I’ve tried at least 6 of their locations and I can say that they’re very consistent.  But with that consistency, comes a lack of authenticity.  This is evident in the way the place feels when you walk in the door.  From the wash tub light fixtures to the handkerchief curtains, it’s obvious that they’re executing on a theme.  It’s like walking into an Applebee’s or a TGI Fridays.  You know that it’s supposed to be kitschy and cool, but it just doesn’t feel authentic when there’s one on every corner.

But enough about how the place looks and feels, how’s the BBQ you might ask?  Well, it’s just okay.  In at least one of their locations, I’ve seen the pit and they are sure enough cooking on site.  However, I wouldn’t say that the results are great.  I find the ribs to be too tough, ditto the brisket, and the pulled pork is hit or miss.  On the other hand, I do enjoy their side dishes.  I like their baked beans, green beans, corn, and especially the garlic bread that accompanies every lunch or dinner plate.

Another area where they’ve done a nice job is in their selection of sauces.  I can’t say that it’s necessarily an original idea, but they have a six-pack of sauces on every table.  Each sauce is designed to capture a different regional form of BBQ.  From a thick, sweet Kansas City style sauce to a mustard-based Carolina sauce, they offer a taste for just about everyone.  The only anomaly here is their Chicago Style sauce.  I never knew that there was such a thing as “Chicago Style” BBQ, did you?

Here’s how I’d rate Bandana’s BBQ:

  • BBQ – C
  • Side Dishes – B
  • Atmosphere – C+
  • Value – A
  • Overall – B-

Banadana’s has done a nice job of making BBQ affordable and accessible to a lot of people.  I just wish the food was a little better. 


Review: Hick’s BBQ Company

I found myself at loose ends for lunch today and decided to take the opportunity to sample a new BBQ joint that’s sprung up in my own backyard.

Hicks BBQ opened just last year in Belleville, IL.  I became aware of the place after one the BBQ shops in St. Louis recommended their sauce and told me about the restaraunt.  Funny how the place is within 10 mins of the house & I didn’t even know it was there.

The place is in a newer building, but on the outside it sure looks like a BBQ joint complete with a big off-set smoker in the parking lot and a front porch full of tables.  As I said, their sauce had been recommended to me.  I bought a bottle and enjoyed the heck out of it, so I stepped up to the counter to order with hopeful anticipation. 

They had a great lunch special consisting of a pulled pork or chicken sandwich, 1 side, and a drink for just $7 including tax.  So I ordered up the pulled pork lunch special and dejectedly found a seat when I found out they didn’t have sweet tea.  The place was half full when I sat down but it was completely full by the time I left.

When they brought out my lunch, I was impressed by the generous portions.  I was pleased to see they had their own sauce on the table, but surprised to see bottles of Sweet Baby Rays as well.  Oh well, I was only interested in Hicks’ own concoction so I hit the sandwich with some sauce and dug in.

The pulled pork was good, but not great.  They had applied a generous sprinkling of BBQ rub on the sandwich that provided a little flavor, but overall I didn’t taste much smoke or bark in the pork.  In fact, I’d call it chopped pork rather than pulled pork.

There’s an extensive menu there that I need to work through and the ribs looked good.  I’ll provide updates on my next trip when I try the brisket or the ribs.  Overall, I’m super pleased to see a new joint opening up and you can bet I’ll go back. 

By the way, if you get a chance to try their sauce I highly recommend it.

Here’s my final report card for Hicks Bar-B-Que Company:

  • BBQ – B
  • Side Dishes – B
  • Atmosphere – A
  • Value – A
  • Overall – B+


Review: Rendezvous – Memphis, TN

I’m reluctant to even write a review of the Rendezvous in Memphis, TN as I’m sure that it’s been done many times given their reputation.  But, why stop now when I take every chance I get to review a new BBQ joint.

I can usually coerce my family into eating BBQ at least once when we travel and since we were staying just a block away, it seemed inevitable that this is where we would eat  BBQ.   I’d received strong recommendations for a couple of other places, but Memphis is just full of too many places to choose from and the reputation and proximity of the Rendezvous sealed the decision.

In any event, we headed over to the Rendezvous on Friday night to find the place rapidly filling up as the dinner hour was getting into full swing.  Looks are deceiving, and there is plenty of seating inside. We were quickly shown to a table where we perused the menu.  For my family, there was some debate as to what they would order but for me this was a foregone conclusion.  So my wife and kids ordered up BBQ chicken platters, while I went for the whole slab of ribs.

The Rendezvous isn’t fancy and the food was served quickly on paper plates with plastic utensils.  The family got started on chicken that was very tasty and I paused to snap a picture of my ribs.  Now I prefer dry rubbed BBQ and typically turn up my nose at BBQ that is too wet, but I was not prepared for the amount of dry rub & spices that were visible on the surface of my ribs.  My wife took one look at my ribs and said, “Those don’t look like Braddog ribs”.  I was flattered and didn’t bother to try to explain that these ribs are char grilled as opposed to the way I prepare them.

The ribs were tasty, but due to the chargrilling they were chewier than I’m used to.  The beans were very good and the slaw was sweet and vinegary (the way I like it).  Service was top notch and the we were in and out in a very short amount of time.  I’d read enough about the place beforehand that there were no surprises and all-in-all I enjoyed my trip to the Rendezvous.

There may be better BBQ in Memphis, but based on reputation and notoriety you’ve got to give the Rendezvous a shot when you’re in town.


Review: Q4U – Frisco, CO


I’m enjoying some late spring skiing in Colorado with my family.  Today, my wife threw me a bone and suggested we try a BBQ joint in Frisco, CO. I guess that’s the least she can doing since I’ll spend the next 3 days packing everyone’s skis and gear back and forth from the mountain.

In any event, we wondered into a place called Q4U. I could see smoke rising from behind a picket fence so I had high hopes. Like a lot of BBQ joints, there was a chalkboard for a menu and orders are taken at the counter. My wife ordered a pork sandwich and I opted for the burnt ends sandwich (I won’t mention the kids meals here since they didn’t try the BBQ).

I was a little disappointed to receive a sandwich covered in sauce, but the sauce was pretty good and it wasn’t overpowering. The sandwich was served on a very crusty roll, not what I’d expected.  My wife thought the pork was a little tough. I thought the burnt ends were pretty good and the baked beans were tasty.

I began to wonder what the regional preferences are for BBQ in Colorado.  Am I unfairly comparing Q4U to my own preferences for BBQ?  I don’t know.  I did enjoy the BBQ and at the most basic level, the burnt ends were smoky, had a nice bark, and were very tasty.  Buns & sauce aside, I guess that’s what really matters.

Here’s my final report card:

  • BBQ – A-
  • Side Dishes – B
  • Atmosphere – B
  • Value – B
  • Overall – B


Review: Pappy’s Smokehouse

A recent story on the Travel Channel made me aware of a BBQ restaurant in my own backyard that I had yet to try.  Apparently, the restaurant has won Best BBQ in St. Louis by a couple of local publications.  I guess I really gotta pay more attention to what’s going on in my part of the world.


Nonetheless, I made the journey to Pappy’s Smokehouse for lunch today.  Before leaving work, I looked up their hours or operation only to discover that their hours are variable based on what time they sell out of their various meats.  Apparently they prepare enough meat for each day and when it’s gone it’s gone.  So I headed out with a sense of urgency.  When I walked in, I was greeted by a line that stretched almost the entire length of the place.  

As I watched plate after plate of good looking BBQ being brought from the kitchen, I was greeted by the sight of 3 Memphis in May trophies near the front counter.  I guess these guys really know what they’re doing.  I was also very encouraged to see that the BBQ was served sans sauce but there were three types available as condiments on the table. 

I ordered up a pulled pork sandwich with a side of baked beans and an ear of deep-fried corn on the cob.


This was the small sandwich but the pulled pork was generously piled onto a bun.  It was very tender and had a nice smoke flavor.  I opted for their sauce called “Holly’s Hot Sauce”.  They bill it as a Texas style sauce, and I enjoyed it very much.  The baked beans had a nice flavor but I have to say that I wasn’t wild about the deep fried corn on the cob, although it was definitely a first for me.  I also tried a bite of their brisket (one of my lunch pals gave a sample from his plate), and found it to be very good as well.

Like most BBQ joints, the place was minimally decorated.  They had a super wait staff though and I enjoyed the blues music that played while we ate. They were very prompt in getting the food out, cleaning off tables, and ensuring that everyone was satisfied with their meal.  In fact, the owner himself was very visible around the place.

The menu is extensive and they do a very nice variety of meats and sidedishes.  If their catering business is anywhere near as busy as their lunchtime business, then they must do a great business.  

I’ll make another trip here you can bet.  I’d like to try more of their brisket and maybe some chicken, but they’ve got a real shot at being my recommendation as best in St. Louis.  Oh, there’s one other “clear the bar” item for any good BBQ joint and Pappy’s didn’t disappoint.  They serve sweet tea!  ;>)

Here’s my final report card:

  • BBQ – A
  • Side Dishes – A-
  • Atmosphere – A
  • Value – A
  • Overall – A

Pappy’s Smoke House 3106 Olive Street
          Saint Louis MO 63103 
          Email: mike@pappyssmokehouse.com 
          Phone: 314-535-4340
          Fax: 314-535-4337
          Hours: M-F 11-7 or 8 (we sell out around then)
          Week-ends 11-around 4 (we sell out fast on week-ends)


Review: Michelbob’s

Over the past few years, my parents have officially become snowbirds. That means they spend 6 months per year in sunny Florida. Those would be the same six months that I’m battling cold temperatures and wind while trying to perfect my BBQ technique. 

Recently, they began to sing the praises of a BBQ establishment in Naples, FL, called MichelBob’s. Now I’ve never been to the place and I can’t substantiate their claims about having the best ribs in America. However, my folks did send home a bottle of their rub/seasoning so I thought I’d give it whirl.

I tried the rub on a brisket that I cooked on the Big Green Egg on Sunday. I found it to be a little saltier and have a little more garlic than my standard brisket rub. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As the brisket finished up, it formed a nice bark and the was very tasty. In fact, I think enjoyed it even more the next day.

I hope to get to Florida to try their BBQ Ribs first hand, but until then I will definitely continue to enjoy their rub. I wouldn’t mind giving their sauce the once over, but alas no one has come forward with a bottle of that!   8>)