Some of us find it pretty amusing that "dive bar" now means "not a fancy cocktail lounge". The Southtown Pub is described that way by some of those commenting on the online reviewing sites. I know from dive bars. Dive bars were once, well, not a friend, but a nodding acquaintance of mine. And this, my dears, is no dive bar. Yes, it has a nice old-fashioned wooden bar back, sort of Art Deco. But there are too many television sets, the floor isn't sticky and there's no one asleep/passed out at the bar. I acknowledge that on one visit when the Rams game was on, the score was tight and it was in the last couple of minutes, the language from the bar was loud and contained the occasional expletive. But on another visit, a weekday lunch, it was quiet and tables of women, all casually dressed, were having lunch and discussing the various draft beers.
STP, as they sometimes refer to themselves, obviously are proud of their wings. The first thing many will notice is that these aren't Buffalo wings, which have pretty well come to be the expected version hereabouts. They're rubbed and smoked, the rub giving a little heat but not overwhelming. When the menu describes them as "jumbo", it's true. And they can be ordered individually. Very smoky, moist inside, and really not needing the six offered barbecue sauces, they're nicely satisfying.
Yes, six sauces, each in a Schlafly growler jug with a pump on the top, a handsome lineup with plenty of cups (and lids) . Among them are the original sauce, tomato-based and unsweet, "pig dip" that's a vinegar sauce, Carolina mustard, sweet-hot that's also tomato-based, a sweet red sauce that's pineapple-y and particularly unusual, and something called kitchen sink, which has, among its mysteries, a note of cumin.
Actually, there's a seventh, a white Alabama-style barbecue sauce that's mayonnaise based, pleasant and mild, which comes with a pulled chicken sandwich. The meat looks to be mostly white meat, the sandwich topped with bacon made in-house, which only adds, of course, to the smokiness, the whole thing enticing.
Jacked-Up Beef Brisket, said the menu, wears a layer of pepper jack cheese and crispy onions. I am not a devotee of brisket, but this was a remarkable sandwich, juicy, tender, smoky beef that pirouetted on the taste buds, the cheese kicking in just a little more heat. The "crispy onions" seemed to be nothing more than onion-flavored bits of breading, seemingly adding only texture, but could easily be forgiven, so good was the sandwich. Kudos, too, to the buns, which don't fall apart before the diner is half done with the sandwich.
The Taco Tuesday special was pulled pork in a flour tortilla, topped with their creamy slaw, a happily untidy dish, but while I'm generally a pork person, the brisket won this round. The side dishes include, among other options, a vinegar slaw with plenty of celery seeds and their angry beans, which aren't as fiery as expected, but more of a sweet-hot combination.
It's hard to resist the idea of a bacon chocolate bread pudding. The bacon is crumbled and used in a brown sugar sauce over the top of a dense bread pudding with chocolate chunks in it. Between the sauce, which is surprisingly light on sweetness, and the semisweet chocolate, they've cut back on the sugar in the pudding itself, so the vanilla bean ice cream alongside is a good idea. The bacon flavor is almost nonexistent, especially after the smokiness of the main courses. This is a good concept, but the execution lacks zing; a little reworking, beginning with larger pieces of bacon sprinkled atop things rather than made soggy in a sauce, could yield good results.
Good service, although on game day it was slightly disorganized. And how pleasant to go to a spot like this where the only smoke is from the barbecue. A good spot for a long, late weekday lunch to catch up with pals. And please note the online menu is currently out of date.
3707 S. Kingshighway
Lunch and Dinner daily
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Poor
Sandwiches and Entrees: $7-$20