Does St. Louis need another barbecue place? Pish tosh. That’s like asking if we need another hamburger spot. Barbecue is a birthright, especially in this part of the United States. We can put that argument out of the way right now.
And so we have Dixon's Smoke Company, very old school in some ways – like the plastic containers used for serving – and modern in others – sparkly clean and tidy. It’s in a neighborhood that’s suffered from a lack of ‘cue heretofore.. They’re located on the south side of Forest Park Boulevard between Grand and Spring, which means it’s much easier to approach them from the west.
Keep an eye on the menu board – things change from time to time, and we hear intermittent reports about a pork steak – but even on the usual stuff, it’s good. Rib tips are offered sauced or unsauced. They’re crosscut, bigger pieces than are often seen around town, with a nice rub. The unsauced, which we got, were rather chewy, and one wonders about the effect an extended spell in barbecue sauce with its heat, moisture, and acidity, would have had on them. My pal and I were sort of divided – the texture on the piece I tried was more than acceptable, she less happy than I.
The chicken rib tips – ah, no, that’s not a misprint – only come sauced. They were close to addictive. This sauce is in many ways very St. Louis-y, tomato based, sweet and hot, its flavor nicely punched up, not just with heat. And the chicken responded, preening as though it were on the runway at a beauty contest. It’s mostly dark meat, a good thing here, as it stays tender, only one bit of gristle in an entire serving, an altogether craveable dish.
I’m not sure if St. Louis is beginning to understand brisket better, from a barbecue standpoint, or if my taste is evolving, but it was never one of my faves. In fact, until I married a brisket fancier, I seldom tried it. Now things are improving, whether it’s barbecue chefs or my palate, and Dixon’s brisket is quite satisfying. That rub is utilized, and the texture is nearly all first-rate, almost none of the crumbling-into-bits sort of thing that can be off-putting.
Among the sides are a remarkably good version of greens, with a little of the pulled pork in them. This has a touch of heat to it, and the greens are tender but not mushy. In addition, and perhaps a don’t-miss if this sort of thing intrigues you, the sweet potatoes are tasty, in a brown sugar sauce with spicing that goes beyond cinnamon. Maybe a little clove or orange peel? Chunks that are almost falling apart (the small ones) or with definite texture (the larger ones) call your name, especially if you’re eating any of the pork options.
More traditional is the potato salad, definitely not the Sysco sort. It’s a little sweet, with none of the tang that one might find with a vinegar or sweet pickle juice used to help with the seasoning, but very home-y feeling. Pit beans, too, seem home-style, some cut-up pork in them, sweet, but not so thick that you feel like you’re eating paste.
They were out of the beef hot link, and we should have, we understand, tried the corn on the cob and the peach cobbler. But next time. And there will be a next time.
Dixon’s Smoke company
3674 Forest Park Ave.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Good
Sandwiches and entrees: $8-$23