St. Louis restaurateur Gurpreet Padda has fond memories of his first taste of barbecue.
"I was a hardcore vegan for the first 18 years. Then when I was in medical school in Kansas City, on my way to school I would pass Gates Barbecue and see this long line of people and wonder, what's that about?" Padda recalled. "When I finally went in there, I wasn't a vegetarian anymore. I woke up in a daze, covered in barbecue sauce. As a restaurant owner, you want people to taste what you've been tasting, to experience what you've been experiencing."
Padda and his business partner, Ami Hendricks, felt good barbecue was elusive in St. Louis.
"We couldn't find a good sit-down barbecue restaurant in St. Louis, so we wanted to create something that was moderate in price, a good sit-down place with southern cooking," explained Padda.
Using many of Hendricks' own family recipes, the two decided to satisfy the area's meat tooth by opening Hendricks BBQ on South Main Street in St. Charles. Hendricks BBQ joins several other local restaurants owned by the business partners, including Sanctuaria Wild Tapas, Café Ventana and Diablitos Cantina. Although the restaurants reflect great diversity in both menus and atmosphere, they share a common element.
"Our restaurants are designed to be very kid-friendly," Padda said. "We don't look at kids and say, 'They're little, so we're not going to pay attention to them.'"
The wait staff makes young guests feel at home, and with desserts like the Maple Bacon Crunch Milkshake (the best milkshake this reporter has ever tasted), kids are sure to feel like grownups, and grownups are sure to feel like kids.
"We have these amazing milkshakes, and we make our own ice creams, and they're flavor profiles that kids are never going to experience anywhere else," Padda said.
Of course, most people show up to a barbecue joint for the meat, and Hendricks BBQ offers all the staples: dry-rubbed ribs, brisket, pulled pork, turkey plus smoked sausage. On a recent visit, I tried the turkey and found it to be moist and tasty. The Inside Out Grilled Cheese soup was a winner, but the Hendricks BBQ Nachos were just average.
According to Padda, it was the potential of the old waterworks building that drew them to downtown St. Charles. They rehabbed the building, adding an elevator to provide easier access to the parking area below Main Street. The owners, both avid bicyclists, also like the building's proximity to Katy Trail State Park. They plan to offer specials for cyclists in the spring. The restaurant also has an outdoor dog area for those who visit with their pups.
Larger families on a budget can save a bit by visiting the restaurant for lunch, ordering an appetizer or soup as an entrée (the Inside Out Grilled Cheese Soup is around $6 and is a meal in itself), or sharing a shake. Kids meals are $5 each. The restaurant draws more of an adult crowd after 8 p.m. but it's not uncommon for children to be dining there as late as 11 p.m.
Padda said to expect it to take about 20 minutes for food to arrive at the table since it's prepared from scratch, though on a recent visit the entrée and appetizer both arrived within minutes of ordering. The restaurant's funky, cozy moonshine decor, complete with flying pigs and murals of Blues musicians, gives diners plenty to look at and talk about while they wait.
Hendricks BBQ is located at 1200 S. Main St., St. Charles, Mo., 63301. Call 636-724-8600.