Since my law firm CFO ledger says that my father had some legal fees due, I figured he could settle up his account with a lunch out – his treat. We put on our Friday BBQ best…
The Simpsons Dapper
… and crossed the river into St. Charles to visit Hendrick’s BBQ.
Apparently it’s owned by the same people who run Cathedral Square Brewery. Try their Belgian-Style Abbey Ale. If they BBQ like they brew, then we’re in for a treat.
We were tipped off about this place by a recent column written by Evan Benn for the STL Post-Dispatch online, one that listed five local BBQ joints worth a visit. That’s basically a checklist for me.
According to the article, I needed to get the (1) brisket, (2) cheesy grits, and (3) peppery slaw. Yeah, no problem.
As we walked up from the parking lot to the door, we saw an A-frame sign that let us know about the “soup of the day”.
Looks like my kind of restaurant… from the damn curb!
Oh, yes… looks like we’ve come to the right place.
Busiest Friday lunch ever? 20+ minute wait for tables? Would we like to have a beer at the bar? No problem!
Back in the day, when I was a small child and money was tight, we went as a family to Po Folks country restaurant on Manchester near Hanley in south central St. Louis County. It’s not there anymore, but you could get your kid a chicken leg basket dinner for $1 and it included a soft drink in a mason jar (mine was always orange soda). This takes me back:
Pop ordered some kind of rye IPA and liked it just fine. I was in the mood for something lighter and asked for a wheat ale. The bartender, who was semi-distracted with familiarizing himself with the ever-growing wall of whiskey (er… soup?) behind the bar handed me a Civil Life German Wheat. Holy cow that’s a good beer.
As we sipped our beers and waited for a seat, we admired the decor. Everything here seems very deliberate, thoughtful… almost intentionally shabbily chic junkyard. Here’s a mason jar light fixture:
This is nothing. You should see the mussel basket lights.
The bar tap handles look a little dangerous… possibly designed by Tim Burton.
You have to wonder if their Workers’ Compensation liability carrier has seen this.
Yes, those are butcher knives, cleavers, etc. as bar handles. No drinking while working!
While we drank our beers and refills, amazing blues music poured over the speakers. What an enviable atmosphere.
Finally, after two beers apiece and 30 minutes, we were escorted to seats. The waiter (helpfully) reminded us that this was their busiest day ever, likely related to the aforementioned article. Food was running at a 40! minute delay. We ordered quickly.
Appetizers: Fried green tomatoes, Onion rings, & Pork Cracklin’ (whatever that is… hell, it’s $2). Oh, and refill these Civil Live beers, please.
2/3 of our apps
I’ve never had fried green tomatoes. Without knowing what they are, in the picture above it looks like fried polenta. They were firm and flavorful. The main impression from this dish is that I should begin to experiment with making these on my own. The onion rings were solid, and I swear they used a chicken fried steak batter. The sauce was a nice complement.
Now… Pork Cracklin’
Fried cubes of pork belly. If there’s a simple-yet-genius pork-related innovation I’ve seen since starting this blog, the Pork Cracklin’ is that. As I chowed, my father (literally) regaled me with a story about his open heart surgery.
On to lunch… let’s see… what’s the first thing on the lunch menu:
Meat & 3. Simple, subtle.
Sounds great. Brisket, cheesy grits, slaw, and baked beans. Dad had that but sub collard greens for baked beans. Can we get a refill?
Thanks. Shadows creeping in. How .long have we been here?
Our entrees eventually arrived, on metal trays that were just a colored paraffin layer short of high school biology.
Will this be worth all the fuss?
Bonus: Ramekin of hot blueberry cobbler. Not a Bonus: Four slices of brisket? Yes, it’s a lunch portion, and yes I am full of appetizers and beer, but I expected more meat. Regardless, here’s my impressions.
Baked beans: Sweet, absolutely perfect balance of sugar and onion (not easy to do), with superb bean tenderness. Great bacon flavors. Just about the best classic baked beans I’ve ever had. Bravo.
Collard greens (one bite stolen from my dad after he oohed and aahed them): Shit, I love collard greens and didn’t know it. Amazing bacon flavor, great bite to the greens. Like a less tart spinach that got blasted in pork flavors.
Blueberry cobbler: Nice touch to the plate, not too sweet. The blueberries have a nice bite, but aren’t tart. Somewhat mealy cobbler topping, but it mixed well with the compote/filling. It was a perfect amount and accent to the plate.
Slaw: Peppery as advertised, and I got major hints of something… onion salt? Dad swore up and down that chopped green onion was in there, but I didn’t see any. The sauce was thin, and I really enjoyed the slaw. Thanks for not having a heavy hand with the celery seed.
Cheesy grits: My first impression was that they were a little too cheesy, but I still ate the whole thing. In the end, it was quite delicious. The beans are the side dish star without question, though.
My zeal for brisket brought me here. How was it?
Brisket, king of BBQ beef
You immediately notice the very nice and distinguished smoke ring, deep in color and surrounding each slice’s edge. The meat has a very light sear on the outside, and a part of the fat cap was left on the meat during smoking. I usually serve my brisket carved with no further seasoning, leaving that to the diner. Hendrick’s added some coarse cracked pepper-based seasoning.
A blurry smoke line close-up. Thanks, iPhone
Really an impressive smoke line. Even, colorful. I wonder what wood they use.
From a moisture standpoint, this was exquisitely moist and tender. Not overly tender, as I have done in the past, but pretty much perfect. I haven’t been able to get this level of tenderness and moisture into my brisket yet, but I’m working on it. This is one of the best I’ve ever had. Absolutely no sauce was needed, though we did try a little STL and Hot.
But… the one thing that bothered me about the brisket was the very powerful coarse black pepper sprinkling that they put on the finished meat. I really wanted to taste the smoke, but it was overpowered by the pepper. I got great beef flavors, but not smoke, and that’s a damn shame because you can see from looking at the meat that incredible amounts of time and care went into getting it that color, consistency, texture, etc.
So we finished our meals, and the waiter asked about dessert. None for me… until my father quite aggressively peer-pressured me into pie.
Yes, apple pie a la mode
Yes, it was delicious. No, I didn’t get anything done the rest of the day.
So we spent about 2.5 hours and a bunch of tax-deductable money on BBQ, beer, and pie. Not a horrible way to spend your Friday. Would I go back? Hell yes, in a second. Maybe next time I get the pulled pork. Affordable, delicious, worth the wait, great beer selection… how could you not return here?