Clueless Website Disses St. Louis Barbecue Scene

Real estate website Clever places St. Louis in the bottom half of its rankings of the nation's best barbecue cities

Three words: Stellar Hog brisket.
Mabel Suen
Three words: Stellar Hog brisket.

Another day, another click bait-y article on a virtually unknown website downplaying the St. Louis food scene. This time, the offender is Clever, a real estate site that matches buyers and sellers with agents (in other words, not a food website); the subject is barbecue, a sacrosanct St. Louis culinary institution that anyone born within one hundred miles of the arch is bound by duty to defend.

In a recent analysis conducted by Clever to determine the "Best BBQ Cities in America," St. Louis comes in at number 26 out of 50 — a ranking that puts our fair city in the bottom half of the list, coming in under such places as Las Vegas, Nevada, Jacksonville, Florida, and Sacramento, California.

Sacramento style style ribs? Never heard of 'em.

In laying out its methodology, Clever reveals that it relied heavily on factors that may speak to the sheer number of barbecue establishments in a city but do not get to the heart of what makes a barbecue city so great. Using such indicators as the number of barbecue restaurants per capita, the average distance between barbecue restaurants  and the number of Kansas City Barbecue Society Master Series competitions hosted within the last ten years  — a fraught indicator, as the competition circuit has been criticized for disproportionally excluding Black pitmasters due to barriers to entry like cost and time required to participate — Clever arrived at a roundup of 50 places that, while not all bad, raises some serious questions about how one can quantify something that, at its heart, is a qualitative, cultural phenomenon.

The short answer is you can't. St. Louis may not tick all of the quantitative boxes that Clever uses to determine barbecue "greatness," but what it does have is the joy of backyard porksteaks slathered in Maull's and enriched with half the can of Busch that your jorts-wearing uncle pours on while manning the Weber kettle. It has St. Louis style spareribs cooked in big black smokers on Saturday afternoons in the grocery store parking lot. It has snoots and rib tips piled atop a slice or white bread lining a styrofoam container, Stellar Hog's weekends-only beef ribs that will take your breath (and maybe a few years of life) away, BEAST Craft BBQ's outrageously delicious pork steak and Mike Emerson, a barbecue ambassador whose tireless efforts have helped put our city's entire food scene on the map. If measuring greatness by these in-your-soul metrics means we rank lower than San Jose, California on some silly list, so be it.

This is not the first time a real estate company failed to get the grandeur of our city's culinary delights. Last November, all but ignored St. Louis' robust doughnut culture when it release its list of the "Best Cities for Donut Lovers;" we didn't crack the Top 50.

Stick to interest rates and commissions, realtors. Let us handle the smokers.

We are always hungry for tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected]

About The Author

Cheryl Baehr

Cheryl Baehr is the dining editor and restaurant critic for the Riverfront Times and an international woman of mystery. Follow her on the socials at @cherylabaehr
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