The Reign of a Summertime Classic
A juicy “Terramizzou” concrete from Ted Drewes. Brats sizzling over a campfire after a day of floating down the Huzzah. Chilled Bud Lights and a kraut-covered dog savored from Busch Stadium’s upper deck. St. Louis summers offer a smorgasbord of signature tastes. But amid the variety, the pork steak retains its crown as king. Whether you’re a transplant or a lifelong resident with Maull’s sauce flowing through your veins, this slab of meat cut from the pig’s shoulder, also known as a blade steak, is a true delight. Traditionally slow-cooked and simmered in a tangy tomato-vinegar sauce, the pork steak embodies the essence of “St. Louis-style barbecue.” Don’t just take our word for it—the National Pork Board reveals that the St. Louis area purchased a staggering 4.35 million pounds of pork steak last year, more than three times the national average.
More Than Backyard Bliss
Sure, pork steaks are best savored in their natural habitat—someone’s backyard, with Van Halen’s “Panama” playing in the background while playing a game of “Hoosier golf.” However, even if you don’t have the fortune of being invited to such a spectacle, fear not! Local restaurants, from soul-food staples to the new wave of smokehouses, serve up this saucy delight and embody the spirit of St. Louis Barbecue 2.0.
A Mouthwatering Journey
So where can you get your fix? While this list isn’t comprehensive or in any specific order (because the best pork steaks are probably being cooked right now by someone’s jorts-clad, Busch-swilling uncle on the deep south side), we’ve mapped out a few places that should surely satisfy your craving:
9205 Gravois Road, 314-638-1313
Around sixty years ago, Phil Polizzi, a former fruit salesman, added grilled meat to his repertoire, and his business took off. He decided to open Phil’s Bar-B-Q, which still stands to this day. Pete, Phil’s son, now owns the place, and the restaurant remains true to its roots. Their pork steak is basted in sauce while it cooks and then smothered for good measure after it’s off the grill. Unlike backyard cookouts, Phil’s cooks their pork steak over an open flame inside the restaurant. This method allows the unadulterated flavor of sweet pork and zesty sauce to shine through. Savor it with a side of mostaccioli while taking in the local memorabilia that adorns the wood-paneled walls.
Five Aces Bar-B-Q
4000 Shaw Boulevard, 314-771-4001
When Antonio Ellis took over what used to be Mama Josephine’s, he knew he had big shoes to fill. However, he put his own spin on things, showcasing classic “parking lot” barbecue. Five Aces Bar-B-Q is now a bona fide smokehouse where Ellis serves up ribs, brisket, and a pork steak that embodies the form. The secret blend of spices in the rub, such as thyme, chiles, cinnamon, garlic, and clove, gives the meat a burst of Creole and jerk flavors. The sticky, molasses-like glaze complements the bitter, char-grilled goodness, and it’s clear that Mama would be proud.
11133 Lindbergh Business Court, 314-200-9123
If you think of a sports mall in deep south county, barbecue may not be the first thing that comes to mind. That’s until you visit Nubby’s. Despite being amidst inline hockey and baseball camps, this unlikely location is where pitmaster Matt Hines crafts some seriously delicious smoked meat. A landscaper turned self-taught barbecuer, Hines’s “backyard barbecue” style shines through in his colossal one-and-a-half pound pork steak. Tender and coated in a mouthwatering homemade glaze, it’s the epitome of a summertime cookout, minus the backyard but not the flavor.
1545 North Broadway, 314-621-8180
Though Smoki O’s is just over twenty years old, its roots go back even further. Minnie Muriel Hall Walker, a backyard grill-master, passed down her smoking techniques to her sons, Otis B. Walker Jr. and Bruce A. Walker Sr. They opened Smoki O’s to honor her legacy, and they have certainly succeeded. Thick, saucy, and served in an aluminum-foil-lined Styrofoam takeout container, their pork steak embodies St. Louis-style barbecue. Pair it with some barbecue spaghetti, mac and cheese, and their signature snoots for the complete Smoki O’s experience.
300 St. Ferdinand Street, Florissant; 314-395-6400
Florissant’s Valley of Flowers festival marks the unofficial kickoff to summer, and Sho-Me BBQ should be your go-to for the occasion. Housed in a former produce stand, this carryout smokehouse brings the flavor of a north-county picnic to your plate. Their rib tips, potato salad, and juicy, glaze-slathered pork steaks will transport you to a summertime paradise. Don’t worry if some sauce ends up in the Styrofoam container; just use the bread or yams to soak up every last drop.
1020 North Elizabeth Avenue, Ferguson; 314-524-3652
Known as “The Biggest Little Steak Store in St. Louis,” Paul’s Market is more than just a grocery store. It’s an institution that harkens back to a bygone era of corner grocers and personalized service. For nearly sixty years, this beloved market has been a Ferguson mainstay, offering a wide range of quality meats. What sets Paul’s apart is its prepared-foods business and its Ole Hickory smoker out back. While pork steaks aren’t always available (they are just one of the many rotating specialties), when they are, make sure to grab one for each family member. Soaked in a thin layer of tomato-forward barbecue sauce, one bite will prove why Paul’s has remained a fixture of the community for so long.
BEAST Craft BBQ
20 South Belt West, Belleville, Illinois; 618-257-9000
Pitmaster David Sandusky may be located just across the river, but that doesn’t stop BEAST Craft BBQ from reigning supreme. Their pork steak is unlike any other, as it’s fall-apart succulent, reminiscent of pulled pork. Thickly cut and sauceless, this beauty may give the impression of a Delmonico ribeye at first glance. Part of the new wave of talented pitmasters leading the St. Louis barbecue movement, Sandusky’s prowess shines through in every bite. Your most St. Louis summer ever might just have to start in Belleville.
Gamlin Whiskey House
236 North Euclid Avenue, 314-875-9500
Though Gamlin Whiskey House offers a more upscale setting than a backyard cookout, their “Joe’s Backyard Pork Steak” captures the spirit flawlessly. This 24-ounce monster dazzles with its barbecue glaze, lightly kissed with hints of vanilla. Topped with beer-braised onion butter that melts into the sauce, it creates a heavenly combination that seeps into the bacon-mashed potatoes. Swap the High Life for Old Grand-Dad, and you’ll feel like you’re enjoying a meal on a fancy patio.
Visit Hook’d Up Bar and Grill for a delectable pork steak experience that captures the essence of St. Louis-style barbecue.