Archive: June 2017

St. Louis Stands-Out Within Barbecue’s Bermuda Triangle

For decades writers have detailed a mysterious and dangerous part of the Atlantic Ocean known as the Bermuda Triangle.

The area between Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico is known for the disappearance of aircraft and ships in a manner that cannot be explained by piracy, human error, equipment failure or natural disasters.

While not as ominous or dangerous, the Midwest has it own geographical three corners connected by the best barbecue in the world.

The points of this triangular shape include Kansas City to the West, St. Louis in the middle and Memphis to the South. It provides what one might call The Barbecue Triangle.

St. Louis forms the apex of this triangle and deservedly so. The historical contributions of the Gateway City to the world of Barbecue are simply unparalleled.

It begins with the pork spare rib, the most desired and most famous of all St. Louis Barbecue. Most barbecue restaurants across the nation will have the St. Louis Style Spare Rib on their menu. It is the most asked for rib in the United States.

These ribs are distinguished by how the rack is trimmed. In preparation the brisket bones are removed from the bottom of the rack leaving two outstanding products, the rib tips and center rectangular rack portion.

The origins of this local cut, like the Bermuda Triangle, are quite a mystery. Many accounts trace it back to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. The make-up of the local ethnic community may have also influenced this special cut.

Rib tips became popular in the early 1900s and price played a role. The popularity of the tip grew so much that butchers began marketing the two cuts separately.

Trimming the spare rib provides other cooking benefits such as fitting the rib rack more evenly on the grill with other slabs of ribs.

In addition to this special cut, the Gateway City stands-out with its diversity of barbecue cooking styles. This is once again influenced by the many ethnic neighborhoods found throughout the community. Not all regions can boast about their old-world barbecue recipes.

This includes those who favor slow cooked delights on low heat or those who enjoy high-temperature grilling with panned meat simmering for hours in sweet barbecue sauce, or a combination of both.

Another local tradition is the St. Louis Style barbecue pork steak. Only found in this region pork steaks are cut from the Boston Butt, usually in one-inch thick steaks and trimmed of excess fat.

Other cities may have their pulled pork sandwiches but only in St. Louis can you find the butt cut up into steaks and barbecued.

The pork steaks are usually cooked in one of two ways. One method is to simmer the steak in sauce. This involves slow open grilling until done, then simmering the steaks in a pan of barbecue sauce on the back of the grill. Beer is often added to keep the sauce from becoming too thick. The finished product is a pork steak that can literally be cut with a fork.

This method is what Dave Glover, host of the Dave Glover radio show in St. Louis, describes as a “lazy man’s method” of barbecuing.

It doesn’t take much skill but most of the cooking and simmering is done while one sits in the shade of their backyard in some 120% local humidity. One “simmers” along with their pork steaks, sipping on a cold Falstaff or Budweiser.

High-heat cooking is also another time-honored local tradition. The pork steaks are placed on high heat then placed off to the side indirectly from the charcoal. Smoking continues in temperatures around 200 to 225 degrees for approximately 2.5 to three hours.

When these steaks are nearly finished they are brushed with one’s favorite St. Louis Style barbecue sauce until the sauce is glazed onto the meat.

The low slow smoking process causes the protein in the meat to break down while the fat dissolves and is absorbed by the meat. The end result is an undeniably tender and tasty pork steak.

Most of the nation is missing out on this culinary masterpiece, a great barbecue plus for St. Louis.

In all, St. Louis-style barbecue is tomato-based, thinned with a little vinegar, sweet and/or spicy. It is different from other regions, thinner by Kansas City standards but not as thin as Memphis and Texas offerings.

Traditionally St. Louis Style barbecue also includes a liberal amount of sauce to round out the dish.

It was also in St. Louis that the Maull’s Company produced the first commercially made barbecue sauce in the United States back in 1926.

Though the Barbecue Triangle still holds culinary mysteries which may never get discovered, finding and dissecting these special delicacies is pure fun. Barbecue is All American and St. Louis has a claim on many of the fine traditions barbecue lovers now enjoy.

Kansas City may have its well-known barbecue restaurants such as Gates and Arthur Bryant’s, and Memphis may have the Rendezvous and Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Q, but St. Louis has it own mainstays.

In the past five years St. Louis has seen an explosion of barbecue restaurants. Many have been ranked among the best tasting brisket, chicken and ribs in the nation. Many of our local establishments have won awards and appeared on network television programs on both broadcast and cable.

Some of these local establishments include BBQ ASAP, Beast Craft BBQ, Bogart’s Smokehouse, Hick’s Bar-B-Que, Pappy’s Smokehouse, Rib Shack, SharpShooter Pit and Grill, Smoki O’s, Smokin K’s, and Super Smokers, just to name a few. All are passionately and professionally run.

These restaurants are based on the ethnic communities and cherished traditions of backyard barbecues which make St. Louis so unique, and what makes them different from other Triangle towns.

In fact, the St. Louis area probably has a greater number of first-rate barbecue restaurants than either Kansas City or Memphis.

Tradition and innovation is what placed St. Louis on the apex of The Barbecue Triangle. Now with a diverse group of first-rate BBQ anyone can enjoy, the search for great local barbecue has been fulfilled. The final leg of the mystery has been solved.

Which City Really Does Have The Most Restaurants Per Capita

Travel to most city websites around the net and you’ll be surprised by how many purport to have more restaurants per capita than anywhere else. This is claimed by San Francisco; Madison, Wisconsin; Washington DC; and Shreveport, Louisiana. At least Canadian cities stake the same claim.

So which cities do have a legitimate claim to the title of “Most Restaurants Per Capita?” The National Restaurant Association (NRA) does publish a list of restaurants per capita per state. According to the Association, California has by far the most restaurants with a staggering 87,225 dining establishments. New York State comes in at a paltry 58,027. The top five is rounded out by Texas (53,631), Florida (41,901) Pennsylvania (31,466).

In terms of per capita per state, Washington DC tops the list according to NRA. The US capital region boosts some 0.4 restaurants per 100 people. Second is, surprisingly, Montana at .354 restaurants per 100 people. Rounding out the NRA’s top five are Rhode Island (0.304 per 100) Vermont (.303 per 100) New York (.301 per 100). If you are a little hungry you might want avoid the three states with the fewest restaurants Mississippi, Kentucky and Utah.

In terms of North American cities, it is a little harder to ascertain who can claim the title of city with most restaurants per capita.

Here are ten cities with more than 100,000 people that have made the claim. But who has the real claim? Who offers the cuisine searcher or just plain hungry shopper the most choice? Who can claim the title of The Restaurant City.

The city of San Francisco is a city of 744,230 people and claims to have 2,662 restaurants within the city boundaries. There is no doubt that the standard of restaurants in the city of the bay is exceptional. If you just include San Francisco properly your density is 279 people per restaurant. But because costs of housing the number of people living in the city proper has declined while the number of businesses including restaurants, San Francisco is a distorted number. If you count the metro area, the number of restaurants climbs to 4,300 restaurants (we won’t include hundreds more in the nearby wine country of Napa and Sonoma). If you consider the metro area population of 7,168,176 and divide by 4,300 you get a per capita density of 1,667 people per restaurant.

Winnipeg is a city on the edge of the Canadian prairies that boasts a broad cross section of immigrant communities all of whom have their local ethnic cuisines. If you want French toast for breakfast, perogies and sauerkraut for lunch , and Vietnamese imperial rolls for dinner then this is the place to come. This city regularly claims to have more restaurants per capita than any other city. Some websites claim the city has 900 restaurants but in reality there are just 478. With a population of 619,544 Winnipeg can claim only one restaurant per 1,296 snow-bound Canadian.

Victoria. This city on Vancouver Island and capital city of British Columbia, Canada regularly makes the claim that it has the “second highest number of restaurants per capita,” which is perhaps clever psychology as the city has never indicted which is top. With a population of 335,000 the city claims to have 265 Italian, French, Greek, East Indian, Vegetarian, German, Dutch, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai eateries. That means Victoria has a restaurant per 1,264 people. But with its spectacular location halfway between Vancouver and Seattle, you’d hardly care if its claim is a little off.

In New York City no one cooks at home and by the time you’ve heard of a restaurant it has probably closed. Restaurants open and close with alarming alacrity in the Big Apple. On average, the city of New York can claim 6,650 dining places from the chic Lespinasse to the greasiest corner diner — the most restaurants in any one place on the continent. Yet with 8,168,338 people, New York can only claim to have 1, 228 people per restaurant. It might seem that every second building in New York is a restaurant but they have to cater to a lot of vertically housed residents. That explains why it is hard to find a table some nights.

The one Canadian city that can make a great claim to have the most restaurants per capita is Montreal in the province of Quebec. With just over 5,000 restaurants in the metro island area, is appears there are at least one restaurant on every street corner. With its diverse immigrant population and French majority, the city has every type of cuisine available from Lebanese to continental French to native Canadian. Some 3,720,000 Quebecois live in the metro area making Montreal the second largest French speaking city in the world. Giving it a restaurant per capita number of 744.

When you leave Austin you enter Texas so the saying goes. This funky city in central Texas has 1,088 eating places to enhance its reputation as Music City USA. That list includes 128 establishments in or around the University of Texas alone. Austin’s burgeoning population is currently 690, 252 making their people to restaurant ratio 634.

Louisville, home to the Kentucky Derby, is a small city of just over half a million people. Pap John’s Pizza and Yum Brands, the parent company of A&W, KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, both make Louisville their corporate home so it is not surprising that that this city on the Ohio River has 1,089 restaurants. That makes for 510 people per restaurant.

Madison owns the rights to the title of “city with the most restaurants per capita” and the capital makes the claim throughout its literature. However, pining down the actual number of restaurants is pretty hard. The best list available points to 437 restaurants that caters to 221,551 people in the Wisconsin city. But that makes for only 506 people for each restaurant. Good for only third on this list.

Wichita, Kansas is not usually a city that leaps to mind when one thinks of cuisine. But with an ethnically diverse work force, the largest city in Kansas has a reputation for cultural diversity and is located in the breadbasket of America. The 739 restaurants in town have only to cater to 360, 715 people. That translates into 488 people per restaurant, good for second on our list.

Dallas. This Lone Star State city has a population of 1,250,950 and a selection of restaurants that add up to 2,666. While the city is known for its BBQ and steak houses there is a surprising mix of great eateries from chic to basic. That means every restaurant, fast food place and steak house in Texas’ third largest city can boast an potential pool of just 469 people. Making this city the winner of the title “City With The Most Restaurants per Capita.”