Original J's Barbecue from Mike Randolph Will Open in University City This Fall

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Mike and Liz Randoply will offer Tex-Mex favorites in a casual, family-friendly environment. - SPENCER PERNIKOFF
Mike and Liz Randoply will offer Tex-Mex favorites in a casual, family-friendly environment.

St. Louis has another smokehouse getting ready to fire up in its thriving barbecue scene — this time from acclaimed chef Mike Randolph.

Today, Randolph and his wife, Liz, announced plans for Original J's Barbecue (7359 Forsyth Boulevard), a Tex-Mex-style barbecue restaurant that will open in University City in the former Fortel's Pizza Den. Though no specific opening date has been provided, the Randolphs estimate that their new restaurant will be open within the next few months.

Described as a "casual, family-friendly restaurant" featuring Texas-style barbecue served as tacos, platters and bowls," Original J's will be a counter-service operation that draws inspiration from the Randolphs' former restaurant, Publico, as well as their travels through Texas. In that spirit, diners can expect dishes like pulled pork nachos, brisket chimichangas, chicharrons with barbecue rub and a host of Tex-Mex side dishes.

Though Randolph acknowledges the wealth of barbecue already available in St. Louis, he doesn't see that as a problem for Original J's. In fact, he feels like it's an opportunity.

"I don't think that this is just another barbecue restaurant in St. Louis, but I also don't think a city that loves its barbecue like St. Louis has reached critical mass," Randolph says. "Look at places like Kansas City or Memphis or Nashville - there's nothing wrong with having a lot of barbecue in your town."

Randoph explains that the Original J's idea draws heavily upon Publico, but it's being presented in a more approachable manner in terms of both format and price point. He hopes the more casual style will draw families stopping in after a baseball game or for a quick bite to eat. He also hopes that the breadth of menu options will appeal to diners who like barbecue but want more than a twelve-ounce platter of meat.

"This is what Liz and I want to eat and what we are excited about at this point in our lives," Randolph says. "Liz isn't a huge fan of having a big platter of smoked meat, and she had a huge role in developing the half of the menu that we hope will appeal to a broader range of people."

As for that meat, though, Randolph emphasizes that Original J's will focus on Texas-style, slow and low cooking. Expect smoking times of sixteen hours and simple salt and pepper seasoning. The restaurant will use Myron Mixon smokers and Missouri oak for its barbecue.

"The most important thing for us is to have reverence and respect for Texas barbecue," Randolph explains. "We're not setting out to say we have the best Texas barbecue. The thing that is instilled in us is that we are dedicating ourselves to the ideal."

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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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