Mann Meats Is Serving Smokehouse Classics in Florissant

Mann Meats offers smokehouse classics including burgers, brisket and brats. - CHERYL BAEHR
Mann Meats offers smokehouse classics including burgers, brisket and brats.

In January, Bob and Holly Mannecke were down on their luck and not sure how they would pay their bills. Down to the last $3.54 in their bank account, the husband and wife had to sell their boat to make ends meet. Still, that was only a temporary solution.

Then they got the call that would change their fortunes: The owner of a shack-style building in Old Town Florissant wanted to know if they were interested in leasing his building.

"He'd heard about us from the previous tenants and wanted to know if we would take over from them," Holly Mannecke says. "We never thought we would have a restaurant this fast."

The Manneckes were no strangers to the food business. For the past year, they had been operating a food truck called Mann Meats as a side project, serving up their signature brats and burgers out of a converted school bus as a supplement to their lawn care business. However, without a brick-and-mortar space, they were unable to take the concept to the level they wanted.

Owners Bob and Holly Mannecke. - CHERYL BAEHR
Owners Bob and Holly Mannecke.
That changed with a chance encounter between Bob Mannecke and the owner of Sho-Me BBQ, then located at 300 St. Ferdinand Street. At first, their conversation centered around an old tree at the back of the building; Bob suggested that his lawn care company could remove the tree. Then the chat turned toward smoking meat. The pair exchanged numbers, and Bob didn't think of it further until he got the call from the landlord — not for tree removal, as he thought, but asking if he wanted to take over the space.

The Manneckes were ready to jump on the opportunity because they knew they had a good product. For years, Bob had been experimenting with his bratwurst recipe, which began as a joke with his father-in-law. The two men had been making brats together, and Bob threw ketchup, mustard and sugar on the leftover product as a way to razz his in-law.

"We'd been making deer sausage together for twenty years, and then we started making brats," Bob says. "My father-in-law was a penny-pincher, and he wanted to save the little bit of leftover pork for the next week. I started throwing stuff on it to make him mad, and he asks me, 'You're not going to eat that, are you?' I did, just to be arrogant, and realized, 'Hey, this is pretty good.'"

Bob used that impromptu experiment as a starting point in his quest to make the perfect brat. He expanded his R&D to include hamburgers, then brisket, and before he knew it, he was buying a school bus and converting it into a mobile smokehouse.

Now, that bus is parked in the lot of Mann Meats (300 St. Ferdinand Street, Florissant; 314-942-7000), the couple's brick-and-mortar eatery in the heart of Florissant. Though the counter-service restaurant offers mostly carryout, a handful of tables — converted oak barrels with bar stools — also provide seating. Its bright colors mimic the look of the bus that kicked off the entire venture.

The restaurant offers carryout and limited table seating. - CHERYL BAEHR
The restaurant offers carryout and limited table seating.

In addition to brats, burgers and brisket, Mann Meats offers such smokehouse classics as ribs, pulled pork, Polish sausages and hot links, and a riff on pork steak. Sides include their signature smoked sweet corn, potato salad, slaw and baked beans.

Open since February, Mann Meats has already developed a loyal following; it's not uncommon for the restaurant to sell out. For Bob Mannecke, it's the validation he always knew he'd get, even when others doubted.

"Everyone told me I was crazy when I bought the school bus," Bob says. "But that only pushed me to do more."

Mann Meats is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Check out more photos of Mann Meats below.

Inside Mann Meats - CHERYL BAEHR
Inside Mann Meats

Mann Meats' signature smoked sweet corn. - CHERYL BAEHR
Mann Meats' signature smoked sweet corn.

The brisket sandwich. - CHERYL BAEHR
The brisket sandwich.
The daily smokehouse offerings. - CHERYL BAEHR
The daily smokehouse offerings.

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About The Author

Cheryl Baehr

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