Over the years some of our best discoveries have been made not at well known restaurants or talking to famed Pitmasters, but at off the beaten track joints and serendipitous meetings; ‘Big Wing’ Dave Wingo was one of those.
This guy grew up in one of the toughest neighbourhoods in St Louis, Hillsdale. Now, still living in the same house with his extended family (Miss Lilly his 84-year-old Mum has taken the basement) Wingo cooks in his back yard, and is famous amongst his neighbours for turning out great barbecue.
Having hooked up over email he invited us over for the afternoon. As we made our way in taxis from Downtown St Louis to his gaff the houses began to grow more and more dilapidated, the corner kids looked more and more gangster, and my hoop started to chatter. This didn’t look like the type of hood nine out-of-town guys wanted to be lost in, asking for directions.
We pulled up, opened the metal swing gate, and made our way up the steps. You could feel the eyes hitting the back of your head from those slouching on adjacent porches. Was this the right house? It had to be, the taxis had already cruised off….
Relief. There, bounding down his driveway was big Dave Wingo, arms splayed out inviting a big bear hug from team #RedsPilgrimage.
For the next three hours we made our home in his back yard, the eponymous name for his BBQ business. He’d put on a huge smoked spread for us, including spare ribs, turkey wings, rib tips, ‘corny pigs’ – smoked corn with pineapple ‘ears’, snoots – deep fried pig’s snouts – his Momma’s made corn bread, collard greens and BBQ’d spaghetti.
Every now again, more and more neighbours and family members would wander in, bringing bottles of local spirits we ‘HAD’ to try. For a family that were fairly hand to mouth we were made to feel so welcome, and their generosity and effort was humbling.
Dave’s dream had always been to take his back yard BBQ hobby into bricks and mortar. Last year, with the help of family, friends and a dogged belief, it became a reality. A disused building across the road was transformed into Back Yard BBQ restaurant, serving the best snoots in town. He’d made it.
We left the party a little bit crunk, and a lot richer in new friendships.
4 Hands Brewery
No Pilgrimage can go without a trip to a local craft brewery. The boys (and girls) at 4 Hands are creative rule breakers when it comes to brewing; wine and spirit barrels containing an array of fruit, herbs, and spices are used, in conjunction with wild yeast strains, to enhance the flavours of the ale. This had to be a must-stop on the road trip.
True to their brand, our tour was anything but normal. In amongst trying their left field ales including the Chocolate Milk Stout, Divided Sky Rye IPA, and the single hop Reprise Centennial Red, we shot paintballs at targets next to the canning machine, drag-raced pallet lifts round the brewing cylinders, and undertook professional eating training by ingesting slice upon slice of giant watermelons to stretch stomachs for the following days challenge….
Safe to say two slabs and two boxes of their sups made it onto the RV.
Onwards to Kansas City….