St. Louis Barbecue & Soul Food
From its founding in 1764 to today’s multi-cultural, multi-ethnic amalgamation of denizens from around the globe, St. Louis Barbecue & Soul Food is widely recognized by foodies. To quote Gourmet, The Magazine of Good Living, “St. Louis is a spirited and flavorful place filled with depth and personality” and Bon Appetit magazine notes St. Louis as a “smorgasbord of globe-trotting specialties.” And in 2006, St. Louis was named “America’s Top Grilling City” by Kingsford Charcoal when it revealed its second annual list of the country’s “Top 10 Grilling Cities.”
These St. Louis accolades bring benefit exposure for the many Black-owned Soul Food and Barbecue restaurants dotted throughout the metropolitan area, many of whom have secret family recipes for everything from gravy-smothered ribs, steak, pork chops and chicken, to tender sliced beef, smoked ribs, beef links and tips, shrimp po-boys and meatloaf. Add to that special spins on the customary side dishes like savory cabbage, candied yams, collard and mustard greens, mashed potatoes, okra and tomatoes, black-eyed peas and of course cornbread, and you’ve got the makings of some of the best Afrocentric gastronomy found anywhere. The best part is, this multifarious fare can be found at a number of excellent Black-owned joints in all price ranges.
St. Louis’ Soul Food tradition extends back to slavery, the “Mother of Invention” that drove its creation in Missouri. Borrowing heavily from their African roots, our ancestors thoroughly made the most of the available Midwest beef, poultry and pork, vegetables and other staples, combined with most greens and seafood imported from Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta on a regular basis, to improvise dishes that scratched out a meager survival. Prepared with practice and love, these meals were regarded as “soulful perfection.”
St. Louis Barbecue & Soul Food tradition seems to be a unique fusion of the deep smoked flavor of Kansas City and the tangy zest of Texas Barbecue Sauce, plus greens on the side. That means it’s likely to find a happy medium with your taste buds, rather than polarize them.