Sweetie Pie's owner Robbie Montgomery grew up watching her mother cook and soon developed a knack for it herself. But she didn't want to start a restaurant; she wanted to sing. And sing she did, for many years. Montgomery was a longtime member of Ike and Tina Turner's backup group, the Ikettes. She went on to sing behind the likes of the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Dr. John, B.B. King, Joe Cocker and Stevie Wonder. But when illness abruptly ended her singing career, Montgomery fell back on the culinary skills she learned from her mother.
Since opening her first restaurant in 1996, Montgomery and her cooking have been gaining a loyal following across the St. Louis area. With the 2003 opening of her location in the Grove, Sweetie Pie's has taken on the status of a local institution.
Like most cafeteria-style restaurants, the menu at Sweetie Pie's is a moving target, but there's never any shortage of hearty and tasty options. On a recent Saturday night visit to the Grove location, main dish options included fried chicken, baked chicken, fried catfish, beef brisket and – my favorite – fall-off-the-bone pork steaks smothered in gravy. Side dishes included sweet potatoes cooked to perfection, slow-cooked cabbage, creamy mac and cheese, spaghetti in tomato sauce and tender-but-not-mushy green beans.
My family of four all ordered different mains, and each of us felt we had ordered the best choice. My son's catfish and my daughter's baked chicken were both very good, albeit a tad dry. My wife's brisket was tender and had excellent flavor. Even with that stiff competition, I'd put the pork steak up against all contenders.
The sides were universally excellent, with the standout being the sweet potatoes. While I'm not usually a yams fan, these were incredible and almost sweet enough to constitute dessert.
Of course, by the time we were done with our meals, actual dessert was out of the question. We had difficulty waddling to our car as it was. Nevertheless, Sweetie Pie's does offer excellent sweets ranging from banana pudding to sweet potato pie. Perhaps you'll have better luck saving room than we did.
Our bill, which included four meals with main dishes, two sides apiece and a hunk of cornbread, plus two drinks – came in just under $50.
We managed to beat the rush during our visit, but Sweetie Pie's does draw a healthy crowd, particularly on Sunday nights. That's only likely to increase when the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) debuts Welcome to Sweetie Pie's, a new docu-series that seems to focus as much on Montgomery's familial drama as it does her cooking. You can see a sneak peek of the show or better yet, stop by and experience it for yourself.
Both locations are open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Sweetie Pie's at the Mangrove, 4270 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, Mo., 63110, 314-371-0304
Sweetie Pie's in Dellwood, 9841 W. Florissant Ave., St. Louis, Mo., 63136, 314-521-9915From the calendar