Chasing BBQ: Kentucky, Illinois, and St. Louis Stops

Mike Johnston
Savory Spice Shop

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Tags: Chasing BBQ Illinois Kentucky St. Louis
Chasing BBQ: Kentucky, Illinois, and St. Louis Stops

When I was Chasing BBQ in the Carolinas, I expected to find a focus on pork and that definitely proved to be true. But when I headed to Kentucky, Illinois and St. Louis, I found a few surprises along the way. The first one being a Kentucky speciality: mutton. This protein may not be familiar to you, but it's simply meat from mature sheep. Now, "mature" doesn't mean "old" - think of it like veal vs. beef. Many people wrongly think that mutton is tougher and gamier than lamb, but in Kentucky, they celebrate this often overlooked meat. I particularly enjoyed mutton in Kentucky that was served with a regional sauce known as black dip. This vinegar and worcestershire-based sauce made such a big impression on me that it's now available to Savory's customers as one of our eight small batch BBQ sauces. Kentucky is also where I discovered burgoo, a brunswick-like stew that also takes all that leftover BBQ meat and makes good use out of it by creating a whole new dish.

While I found a lot of Southern influence in Kentucky's BBQ, Illinois brought a Midwestern touch. I grew up on confort food like my grandma's cole slaw, and I found similar hearty, simple dishes during my Illinois stops which you can recreate at home with one of Savory's staff's new favorites, Hash Brown Casserole. As I moved on to St. Louis, I knew what was coming: ribs. St. Louis style ribs are smoked and slathered with a sweet and sticky BBQ sauce that had me asking for extra moist towelettes everywhere I stopped.

Check out all the stops I made on this second-to-last leg of my journey and then pick up some fresh spices and try out a new recipe inspired by the regional dishes I found along the way.


Learn from my mistakes - get to Knockum Hill early
so you don't miss their massive smoked pork chop!

Knockum Hill BBQ
1185 KY-107
Herndon, KY 42236
(270) 271-2957
Owner and pitmaster: Oscar Hill
Can't miss: Pork ribs and veggie-laoded burgoo stew.

Bar-B-Que Shack
4687 Pembroke Rd
Hopkinsville, KY 42240

(270) 475-4844
Gotta try: Pulled pork with a spicy BBQ sauce, the slaw, and a slice of chess pie.

Thomason's Barbecue
701 Atkinson St
Henderson, KY 42420

(270) 826-0654
Owner: Frank Gibson
Highlights: Chip and dip with a side of beans.

Old Hickory BBQ
338 Washington Ave
Owensboro, KY 42301

(270) 926-9000
Favorites: The outside edges of the mutton ribs, burgoo, and the perfectly cooked green beans.

The "magic dust" spice mix they use at 17th St Barbecue is loaded with balanced flavor.

17th St Barbecue
32 N 17th St
Murphysboro, IL 62966

(618) 684-3722
Owner: Mike Mills

Gotta have: The tangy balanced sauce, the glistening whole hog, and spice dusted sour cream potato salad.

Salt + Smoke
6525 Delmar Blvd
St. Louis, MO 63130
314) 727-0200
Don't miss: Texas style 'cued brisket, St. Louis style ribs, and flaky pop overs.

Bogart's Smoke House
1627 S 9th St
St. Louis, MO 63104

(314) 621-3107
Pitmaster: Skip Steele
Must have: Ribs with a "torched" apricot glaze, cherry and apple smoked pastrami, and deviled egg potato salad.

Pappy's Smokehouse

3106 Olive St
St. Louis, MO 63103

(314) 535-4340
Owner: Mike "Pappy" Emerson
Highlights: Turkey, bark filled burnt end chucks, green beans and, fried corn on the cob.

Spotting a statue like this one at Sugarfire Smoke House is
a good sign of tasty things to come!

Sugarfire Smoke House
9200 Olive Blvd
St. Louis, MO 63132

(314) 997-2301
Favorites: Freshly made sausage, super juicy turkey, and the coffee BBQ sauce.

The Shaved Duck
2900 Virginia Ave
St. Louis, MO 63118

(314) 776-1407
Gotta have: Meatloaf, burnt ends, and the stellar service.

Vernon's BBQ and Catering

6707 Vernon Ave
University City, MO 63130

(314) 726-1227
Owners and pitmasters: Matt Stiffelman and Tim Zolman
Can't miss: Smoky peach cobbler, sweet and spicy glazed ribs, corned beef, and string beans.

Smoki O's BBQ

1545 N Broadway
St. Louis, MO 63102

(314) 621-8180
Must order: Pig snout, mac and cheese, and sugar spiced baked beans.

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