The Salted Pig serves sad, smokeless barbecue in Frontenac

The Salted Pig serves sad, smokeless barbecue in Frontenac
Corey Woodruff
The fried chicken is the Salted Pig's standout.

See photos: The Salted Pig Disappoints in Frontenac

These days, you can't swing a rack of ribs in this town without hitting a new barbecue restaurant. With stiff competition from nationally acclaimed veterans, new smokehouses must stand out from the crowd. One way to do this is by perfecting a rub or creating a standout sauce. The wrong way is to be singled out as the worst barbecue spot in town. Unfortunately, after dining at the Salted Pig, I'm ready with the envelope.

Where, I wondered on my visits, was the characteristic aroma of smoke?

One would expect anything placed on the moneyed corner of Conway Road and Lindbergh Boulevard in Frontenac to do gangbuster business, but the spot has trouble maintaining a tenant. Coco's Bakery came first, followed by a hair salon. Mike Faille (of Talayna's fame) transformed the space into the upscale Frontenac Grill, but just one week before opening, Faille passed away. The business proved unsustainable in his absence. Then this past March, St. Louis chef and prolific restaurateur Michael Del Pietro opened the Salted Pig, a barbecue and Southern fare restaurant. It's quite the departure from his numerous Italian ventures (Sugo's Spaghetteria, Babbo's Spaghetteria, Tavolo V, Via Vino Enoteca), but walking into the restaurant, it looks like he had the right idea. A wooden bar and walls give the space a rustic, refurbished-barn feel, while canning jars filled with pickled vegetables line the walls. And yet, at the same time, there was a telling polish to the room — where, I wondered on my visits, was the characteristic aroma of smoke?

I won't beat around the bush: My biggest problem was with the entreés. The St. Louis-style barbecue ribs were fair, but they don't come close to rivaling those of the city's other smokehouses. The sauce was plain, the meat had zero caramelization and I could only discern the faintest hint of smoke. The ribs were leaps and bounds better than the brisket, however, which tasted like it came from a heat-and-go container at the grocery store. Again, the smoke component was lacking, but the meat's biggest offense was how tough and chewy it was, as if it had been taken out of the smoker about six hours too early.

Location Info

Map

The Salted Pig

731 South Lindbergh Boulevard
Frontenac, MO 63131

Category: Restaurant > Barbecue

Region: Frontenac

Details

The Salted Pig
Sprouts...$7
Fried chicken...$14
Ribs (full rack)...$26
731 South Lindbergh Boulevard, Frontenac; 314-738-9373.
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri., noon-10 p.m. Sat., noon-8 p.m. Sun.

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Other items were so improperly cooked that I would have sent them back were I a regular customer. The house burger, made from Rain Crow Ranch short ribs, had a tasty backyard barbecue flavor, but it was totally raw throughout — steak tartare raw. This was an odd, unpleasant surprise: Usually when a server fails to take a temperature (as mine did), it comes out overcooked. Conversely, two fish dishes were so overdone they were practically inedible. The roasted red fish tasted like cheap, dried-out tilapia, while the crayfish accompaniment had a kind of funk to it, like potting soil. I was even more distraught over the halibut — a fish known for its buttery texture and large, luscious flakes — which had been cooked until the meat turned stringy. It was supposed to be "blackened" — it arrived tan and flavorless — and was served on a bed of runny creamed spinach.

See photos: The Salted Pig Disappoints in Frontenac

The Salted Pig does know how to do fried chicken, and, judging from the number of orders I saw flying out of the kitchen, it's the restaurant's signature dish (never mind the "pig" in its name). The fried bird is lightly coated in seasoned flour and cornmeal, and served in a generous heap in a cast-iron skillet. The meat was juicy, the breading was crisp and the creamy mashed potatoes and collard greens (which I dubbed "browns" — despite their pleasing flavor they were ghastly looking) created a quintessential Southern feast. This was the sole enjoyable entrée I tried.

The restaurant does better earlier in the meal — marginally. The highlight of the appetizer selections was the fried shrimp which was crisp, well-seasoned and served with two respectable sauces: a lemon-zested tartar and a sweet, spicy house barbecue glaze. The "Chips & Cheddar," a barbecue-style play on loaded nachos using housemade potato chips, was also decent. The pulled-pork topping was moist, smoky and drizzled with tangy sauce. Melted cheddar cheese added a pleasantly sharp and creamy component. Unfortunately, the chips were spongy and tasted liked they were fried in advance and then reheated to serve. The Brussels sprouts appetizer was a skillet of little green heads drowning in so much bacon grease and caramelized onion jus it looked like a soup. Equally soupy was the bland blue crab mac & cheese. It was underseasoned, watery and tasted very little of crabmeat.

Bread pudding is a fairly foolproof dessert, but our waiter delivered an overworked version akin to a chocolate and banana terrine with none of the stickiness that makes the classic preparation so good. The mixed berry cobbler, on the other hand, was loose with hardly any topping. Whoever decided to serve it without ice cream should have failed Pastry 101.

The Salted Pig has a long way to go if it hopes to stand out among the pack of barbecue eateries in St. Louis. If Del Pietro thinks it can compete as is, that's a sad load of hogwash. 

See photos: The Salted Pig Disappoints in Frontenac

 
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7 comments
awolffjr
awolffjr

This review is total B.S.    The restaurant is way better than reported.  Just don't go there if you're on a diet. 

twiddle
twiddle

Southern Fare?  Mike should hit Juniper for some inspiration.  Lightyears ahead.

evles
evles

Somehow you seem to have missed the fact that the Salted Pig is specializing in southern fare, which somehow includes barbeque.  Barbeque varies substantially, depending upon the area of the country you might be in .  Today's barbeque in St Louis is a far cry from that served years ago when "St. Louis Ribs" made its name.  My money is on Del Pietro, not you.

Darkstar
Darkstar

Had the same experience as Cheryl. Tough brisket, weird sauce flavor. Cobbler was cold with a sprinkling of oatmeal. Cobbler should have crust, crisps use oatmeal with flour and sugars.

nouveaurp
nouveaurp

Wow! I've only been to The Salted Pig twice but each visit was fantastic. The ribs are not as good as at Pappy's or Sugarfire but they're still outstanding and very smoke infused. The BBQ sauce is terrific. Maybe you prefer a vinegar based sauce as that's the only explanation I can think of. The BBQ baked beans are EPIC and are mixed with brisket. The cole slaw is very respectable and the cheese grits are worth their calories. Maybe you just went once, a mark of a rookie critic so I doubt that. Regardless I seriously couldn't disagree with you more adamantly. Furthermore it's not a BBQ restaurant as much as it's a Southern restaurant with BBQ/smoked meats as well. I'm looking forward to trying the fried chicken which looks amazing.

hollyrebecca
hollyrebecca

I would not go to Frontenac for BBQ. Seriously. Who thought this was a good idea?

evles
evles

@hollyrebecca why not Frontenac? Are you somehow prejudiced, or just a follow-the crowd individual.

 
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