March 12, 2014

Spare No Rib Serves North African Street Food in South City

Lassaad Jeliti clearly remembers his first taste of Mexican food. He was a graduate student at Washington University, working part time at Bar Italia, and one of the cooks brought in tacos for his lunch. “It tasted like home,” the Tunisian expatriate recalls. “The flavors, the salsas, the spices — it was like being back in Tunisia.”

When the same line cook later brought in barbecue, Jeliti was blown away for the second time. Here he was, thousands of miles from home, tasting the same flavors he could get from street vendors in North Africa.

Before I learned this background, it seemed like Spare No Rib, Jeliti’s Benton Park restaurant, might be a mess. A barbecue joint and taqueria opened by a Tunisian mathematician sounded like a potentially disastrous hodgepodge. Then I heard Jeliti animatedly detail his culinary epiphany, and it seemed so obvious. The spices, the grilled meats, eating with the hands — as he says, “It’s all street food.”

Keep reading: Cheryl Baehr's review of Spare No Rib.

Photos by Jennifer Silverberg for the Riverfront Times.
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Spare No Rib's chips and guac.
Spare No Rib's chips and guac.
A pulled-pork sandwich, served with fries.
A pulled-pork sandwich, served with fries.
Owner Lassaad Jeliti.
Owner Lassaad Jeliti.
Chorizo & egg sopes.
Chorizo & egg sopes.
Spare No Rib's dining room.
Spare No Rib's dining room.
The "Grapes & Pearls Salad" is topped with fingerling potatoes, avocado, grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella pearls and basil-lemon vinaigrette.
The "Grapes & Pearls Salad" is topped with fingerling potatoes, avocado, grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella pearls and basil-lemon vinaigrette.
The "SNR Plate" brings two ribs, two tacos and one side. (Here, it's the cornbread.)
The "SNR Plate" brings two ribs, two tacos and one side. (Here, it's the cornbread.)
Spare No Rib's bar.
Spare No Rib's bar.
Chorizo & egg sopes.
Chorizo & egg sopes.
Inside Spare No Rib.
Inside Spare No Rib.