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Root beer baked beans, doorknob onion rings, pig candy, a BBQ Sundae, and triple-spice-rubbed, smoked-then-fried chicken wings that won awards for “Judges Overall Favorite Wing” and “Best Dry Rubbed Wing” at the UCP Heartland’s annual “Wing Ding” last August.
Suffice to say, this ain’t no ordinary barbeque joint.
Rather, it’s a collaboration of the team behind EdgeWild Restaurant & Winery in Chesterfield (Andy and Dee Dee Kohn, Chris LaRocca, and Chef Aaron Baggett), plus Anthony Collida, former pitmaster at Piccadilly at Manhattan (and son of the Piccadilly owners).
The former Culpepper’s in Creve Coeur has been gussied up and transformed into a more upscale, fast-casual barbeque restaurant: wood tables and comfy “cowhide” booths (above) have replaced picnic tables and benches; there's heavy flatware and steak knives instead of disposables; glass tumblers instead of plastic; cotton kitchen towels instead of the ubiquitous rolls of paper; china instead of wax paper-lined plastic baskets; and ramekins for BBQ sauce instead of grimy (and often germy, according to LaRocca) squeeze bottles. The theme is a culmination of great barbeque plus all the things Kohn and Co. not only appreciate but thought were missing in local barbeque restaurants.
Wood floors, reclaimed barn wood walls, and minimal artwork complete the package.
To alleviate customer bottlenecks, there’s a separate pick-up area (and even a separate kitchen) for to-go and catering orders.
Besides standard items like pulled pork and beef brisket (below left), Collida tosses in a few surprises, like chilled smoked salmon and smoked prime rib (below right), cut either into hefty 12 ounce portions or shaved thin for a sandwich topped with sharp white cheddar and roasted red peppers.
White china platters are used for all orders except the $75 Big Pig (a humongous meat and sides sampler that feeds five) that gets schlepped to the table on a giant pizza pan.
A handful of homemade BBQ sauces are available; four of them will be for sale in bottles soon. The inaugural sauces are Showdown, Tennessee Zed, Carolina Peach, and Root Beer Molasses.
A dozen of EdgeWild’s wines show up on WildSmoke’s menu, too, as well as a selection of bottle and craft beers. A creamy, house made root beer is made from cane sugar and arrives in a frozen mug.
The hand-battered onion rings resemble doorknobs, so that’s what they’re called: Door Knob Onion Rings (above left). There's “pig candy” (above right), strips of brown-sugar glazed pork belly. Parmesan-crusted Laredo Corn (below left), inspired by the winning Crazy Corn LaRocca introduced at Crazy Fish in Clayton back in 1993. There’s an open kitchen, “the biggest fast casual kitchen you’ll ever see,” according to LaRocca, that’ll turn out chef-driven sides like Warm Red Neck Potato Salad, poblano/cheddar corn cakes, and The best thing on the menu? In the early going, our vote goes to the Shrimp & Jalapeno Firecrackers (below right), jalapeno-wrapped shrimp stuffed with goat cheese.
Even the ice (below) is a little different: a cross between cubed and crushed, it’s called “crush-cubed” and designed to slow the dilution of carbonated drinks, making them taste better. It’s also the best ice for eating, according to Kohn, a self-proclaimed “ice guy.”
The former GM at The Tavern in Valley Park, Brooke Curtis (above, with chef Collida), wears the same hat at WildSmoke. Restaurant veteran Todd Wyatt is the Director of Operations.
This will be the third BBQ joint to open along Olive Boulevard in the last fifteen months: both Vernon’s BBQ & Catering (just off Olive at 6707 Vernon) and Sugarfire Smoke House (at 9200 Olive), have enjoyed popular and critical success.
WildSmoke appears to have enough bells, whistles, and seasoned manpower to cause a similar ruckus.
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Sun 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Photos by Kevin A. Roberts and Katherine Bish