BBQ PDQ

Fat Toney’s gives Soulard a ribbing

My friend David is a career coach. When working with new clients, he uses a nifty little diagram to help them start figuring out where their true callings might lie and their most blissful vocations may await. It's broken down by three verbs: do, have, be.

Usually we approach our life's work by first doing menial, teenage jobs like babysitting and lawn-mowing, so we can earn the money needed to have an education, and then we plunge into the field most closely related to our credentials — we try to "be the degree." Some folks aim to have many degrees (bachelor's, master's, M.D., M.B.A., J.D.) so they can become doctors, lawyers, shrinks, titans of industry, so they can devote their lives to doing meaningful work.

David tries to rejigger people's hard-wiring so they start with be. What are your natural talents that take no training or education to coax out? Which parts of your work come to you instinctively? Who are you, really?

Happy as a pig in slop at Fat Toney's.
Jennifer Silverberg
Happy as a pig in slop at Fat Toney's.

Location Info

Map

Fat Toney's BBQ

1627 S. 9th St.
St. Louis, MO 63104

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - Soulard

Details

Fat Toney's Bar-B-Que
1627 South Ninth Street; 314-241-7427.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.

Half slab $9.75
Whole slab $16.95
Sandwiches $4.25-$5.75
Plate dinners $6.95-$8.95

My friend Robert, for example, is a barbecue man. Robert's really a nice guy, but if you ring him up and say, "Hey, we're about to barbecue some ribs, come over in an hour," he'll hang up on you, because there's a difference between 'cueing and grilling, and anybody who thinks you can barbecue a rack of ribs in an hour shouldn't be allowed to handle (or stand next to) raw meat. Patience and molasses glide through Robert's veins. He'll get up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday to start a brisket or a slab of spareribs, and only twelve hours later does he send out the call to come on over. To him, barbecue's like a religion: You are, and then you barbecue.

Toney Goucher is Fat Toney, proprietor of Fat Toney's Bar-B-Que. In some ways he's always been a barbecue man. At age fourteen and a half he embarked on his first real job, at a barbecue restaurant in Stillwell, Kansas, starting out on mop duty but soon graduating to the kitchen equipment. Goucher stakes claim to that year, 1963, as the inauguration of what would be Fat Toney's, which means the enterprise is unofficially celebrating its 43rd anniversary even though it only opened in Soulard in January.

Between those two bookends, who Goucher be has skipped around. He earned his bachelor's from Kansas State, but he's such a University of Arkansas fanatic that his restaurant's Web site offers a link to the local Razorback alumni association, the Gateway Hogs, of which he's an honorary lifetime member. For the bulk of his adulthood, he resided in northwest Arkansas, and for a time he lorded over the Fat Toney's empire around Fayetteville, where he personally owned two locations and franchised out three others. Then in 2002 he closed down his barbecue joints to try his hand at the hot-hot world of home mortgages. Three years later, as the real estate biz turned chilly, he was sent to shutter his company's outpost across from the Soulard Farmer's Market.

That Ninth Street storefront now serves as Fat Toney's point of resurrection. Goucher, a polite, "yes, ma'am," Southerner who resembles a jovial cross between Santa Claus and Raymond Burr, still dabbles in home loans, making Fat Toney's perhaps the only place in the world where you can get a half-slab and refinance your mortgage.

Soulard is a great location for a barbecue joint. (Hard to believe there isn't another one there, come to think of it.) And Fat Toney's offers summer-friendly outdoor seating and a pleasant, countrified atmosphere. Scraps of country humor grace the walls — "Out of My Mind, Back in 5 Minutes," "Give a Man an Inch and He Thinks He's a Ruler" — and aluminum-topped tables are outfitted, as tables at barbecue restaurants often are, with rolls of paper towels and cardboard six-pack cartons as condiment holders. Near the counter where you place your order, a placard lists the barbecue basics: brisket, pork, chicken, sausage and ribs, served as sandwiches or plate dinners, with sides like baked beans, slaw, potato salad and fries. A cooler contains bottles of A-B and Schlafly beers; next to that, the fixings table offers complimentary slices of jalapeños, raw onions and pickle spears.

A cold raspberry hefeweizen and a paper towel-full of pickles are great complements to a barbecue meal, but barbecue isn't about the accessories; it's about the process. Not just the long hours of slow smoking, but the before, during and after. Painstaking consideration is required when selecting your wood chip mix, your heat source, your optimal time and temperature, your pre-smoking seasonings, your post-smoking sauce, what you're going to do with that meat to enhance its flavor and texture once you've burned it off on the smoker (a bit of grill time seals in the moisture and lays down those char lines; braising's a widely accepted alternative), and how long to cool it down before serving (barbecue enjoys a rest at room temperature, followed by a slow, dry reheating). A barbecue man will chew over these variables for a lifetime, and discuss and/or debate them for nearly as long.

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