Salt + Smoke

Salt + Smoke infuses the Loop air with the unmistakable smell of barbecue. The scent may draw diners in, but the delectable barbecue taste will keep the crowds coming back for more. The latest venture from restaurateur Tom Schmidt, best known for Franco in Soulard, Salt + Smoke features Texas-style barbecue, a huge bourbon selection and comprehensive craft-beer offerings. Fried pickles and hush puppies dipped in honey butter are standout appetizers, and the falafel sandwich -- though a surprise at a barbecue place -- is the closest thing a vegetarian can get to barbecue. St. Louis-cut ribs are dry-rubbed and fall off the bone. Those who order the brisket are given the option of the fatty part, the lean part or the burnt end. The lean part is tender and needs no sauce. The thick-sliced smoked bologna, flecked with fat, jalapenos and cheddar cheese, is more like salami than the thin-sliced Oscar Mayer deli slices. Be forewarned: A little goes a long way. Salt + Smoke offers thoughtful side dishes like white-cheddar cracker mac & cheese, coleslaw tossed with apples and fennel, and sweet creamed corn. And make sure to save room for the chocolate pie. The flaky crust and bittersweet pudding-like filling make it an excellent ending to a great meal.

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