With any luck, your New Year's Resolution has nothing to do with weight loss or portion control. I'd hate for you to miss out on the chance to gorge yourself at Sugarfire Smoke House.
Since the restaurant opened its doors in September 2012, St. Louisans have begun to speak of Sugarfire in the kind of hushed tones previously reserved only for such vaunted local barbecue joints as Pappy's and Bogart's. Following a recent visit to Sugarfire, my family of four is convinced that the hype is justified.
Located in an innocuous modern strip mall on Olive Boulevard just west of Highway 170, Sugarfire's menu manages to utterly impress in a way that the restaurant's façade does not. Food options are both wider and deeper than most such establishments with a wide range of sandwiches, burgers, salads and even a salmon dish joining the obligatory barbecue staples like ribs, brisket, pulled pork, sausage and smoked turkey.
During our visit, we tried a little bit of everything, and almost every dish impressed.
The brisket was among the most tender and flavorful I've had, featuring a thin-but-perfect rind of fat beneath a delicious spice crust. The dry-rubbed ribs were thick and meaty with a well-balanced combination of spice and smoke. The pulled pork was sweet, juicy and decadent.
For those who like their barbecue wet, Sugarfire makes a wide range of sauces for dousing and dipping. In addition to typical sauces like Carolina Mustard and Texas Hot, Sugarfire offers more unusual flavors like their Kandi Apple, Spiced Berry, Coffee and Korean Barbecue sauces. While some appealed more than others, all were well made and interesting.
My 10-year-old son ordered the Big Muddy Sandwich, which was roughly the size of his head. He ate it all. This mammoth meat-fest features mountains of brisket atop a pile of smoked sausage and smothered in horseradish sauce, barbecue sauce and topped with lettuce and pickles. Before my son could wrestle it back, I managed to steal a taste. It was incredible and well worth the bite mark he left on my hand.
On the day of our visit, Sugarfire also offered a smoked turkey burger, so we tried one of those as well. Topped with sweet potato, lettuce, onion, tomato and a mole sauce, the burger's appearance was a wonder to behold, but it came up slightly short in the flavor department and was a bit of a mess to eat. Not a bad burger by any means, but no match for the Big Muddy.
The sides were a little hit and miss. The fries were simple, salty perfection. The grit cake was excellent: an inch-thick slab with a crispy shell and a gooey inside, perfect for sopping up errant bits of sauce and meat.
The baked beans, on the other hand, were a little bland and much too runny. The collared greens were mushy and – ironically for a joint like this – screamed out for a little pork fat flavor.
Easily the best side dish we tried was the green chile stew, which is presented like an afterthought in a flimsy plastic bowl but is packed with amazing flavor and could be a centerpiece main dish at other establishments.
Despite our obvious gluttony, we somehow managed to save room for a little dessert to top things off. The key lime pie was indulgently creamy and featured just the right amount of citric tang. The smoked chocolate chip cookies were too tempting to pass up. Unfortunately, they had very little hint of smoke flavor. Good cookie, though.
For just under $60, Sugarfire Smoke House left an indelible impression on my family ... and its waistlines. We'll be back.
Sugarfire opens at 11 a.m. every day and serves until they are sold out. Find Sugarfire at 9200 Olive Blvd., St. Louis, Mo., 63132. The restaurant plans to open a second location at 3150 Elm Point Industrial Dr., St. Charles, Mo., 63301. Call 314-997-2301 for the Olivette location and 636-724-7601 for the St. Charles location.
Note: The St. Charles location is now open; a third location is scheduled to open at 9955 WingHaven Blvd., O'Fallon, Mo., 63368, in mid-May.