the Wood Shack (1862 South 10th Street, 314-833-4770)
The playful little sandwich shop, co-owned by Patrick McGinnis, opened Tuesday, taking over the spot just around the corner from Chava's. (Old-timers may remember it as Feraro's or as the private dining room for Mike & Min's.) Laden with smoked meats and impeccably chosen accompaniments, its sandwiches demonstrate just how good a lunch basic can be in the hands of a serious chef.
"What you see here is what I'm going to cook for you," Delgado says, gesturing around the small space. "Our potato salad starts as potatoes; our mac & cheese doesn't use Velveeta — it's a bechamel." And all the meats are smoked in house, a process that imbues them with a terrific woodsy flavor — hickory, pecan, mesquite and mulberry all lend their distinctive taste to everything from pork butt to prime rib. Even the potatoes in the aforementioned salad come in for a smoking.
Delgado is new to smoking things, but he's taken to it with gusto. A native of Arizona, he moved to Missouri twelve years ago, and says he simply needed a change after his years cooking at the St. Louis Club in Clayton and One 19 North. "It was just time to do something different," he says. "You get tired of tasting your own food."
This food, though — who could get tired of smoked meats? The sandwiches are big and tasty, and each comes with your choice of side — that tangy mac & cheese, a smoked creamy potato salad, a cold pasta salad studded with bacon, slaw, chips or even house-made pork rinds. Deliciously light and crisp, they're a far cry from the preservative-laden version you've probably scarfed from a plastic bag.
The French rolls that most sandwiches come on promise just the right heft — enough to hold together in light of a pile of meat, but not so dense as to overwhelm your jaw. And the meat delivers: You need only try the "Soulard Primer," with its layers of smoked prime rib, onion, arugula, bone marrow aioli and blue cheese cream to see what a little smoke can do. Sandwich prices run from $8 to $11, with each including the side of your choice, although the pricier Primer will set you back $13.
The space is quite small — there's just room enough for a cash register up front, an open kitchen to the side, and then, on the other side, two long tables and a few counters with stools. Somehow, though, the partners have managed to fit 25 seats in there, and that doesn't count the charming purple picnic tables just outside the door.
They intend to serve booze, but they're going to keep it simple — beer, those wine cups you can pop yourself, pre-mixed drinks all set to go. "We're not going to have a bartender in here," Delgado notes. There wouldn't be room.
Still, the room is incredibly charming, with Southwestern touches that pay tribute to Delgado's Arizona roots. The striking art on the walls is by his wife, Hope Blumeyer. Exposed brick proves you're in Soulard, while a chalkboard behind the counter displays the menu; other walls have been covered with reclaimed wood for that "shack" feel.
At this point, the Wood Shack is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. The partners plan to add evening parties and special events, as well as catering.
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Editor's note: This story was updated after publication to include an additional line about pricing.
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For the last six years, Chris Delgado cooked Spanish tapas for suburban diners as chef of One 19 North Tapas and Wine Bar in Kirkwood. But now he's got a new, more casual calling — chef and co-owner of