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3. 17th Street Bar & Grill (1711 West Highway 50, O'Fallon, Illinois; 618-622-1717)
The closest outpost of the small restaurant chain owned by barbecue legend Mike Mills, a multiple winner of the Memphis in May "Super Bowl of Swine" barbecue championship. The ribs are the standout here, pork so tender and flavorful with smoke, tangy sauce and Mills' secret spice rub that chef and Food Network star Michael Symon saw fit to call it the best pork he'd ever eaten.
2. Pappy's Smokehouse (3106 Olive Street; 314-535-4340)
The last time that Pappy's Smokehouse didn't win "Best Barbecue" from the RFT was 2007 -- the year before this instantly beloved restaurant opened. The ever longer lines and increased celebrity haven't dimmed its star in the ensuing years. Every time you return for a bite of the ribs (our favorite) or any of the other meats smoked over apple or cherry woods, you have that rarest of sensations: It's even better than you remembered -- and dreamed.
1. Bogart's Smokehouse (1627 South Ninth Street; 314-621-3107)
So who could knock Pappy's Smokehouse off its throne? Pappy's own pitmaster, Skip Steele, who opened Bogart's this past spring to wild acclaim. It's deserved. What sets Bogart's apart isn't the usual barbecue -- though this, too, is amazing, especially the ribs, whose apricot glaze is caramelized with a propane torch -- but the unexpected offerings, like smoked prime rib and pastrami. Bogart's is the "Best Barbecue" of 2011.
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