At Red’s we smoke fresh on site each and every day. That means that if we’re busy, we will sell out of certain items. We’ll never reheat or store until the next day. We learnt this style from Pappy’s before Red’s even opened, so this was an important visit for us.
It’s run by quite possibly the coolest fucking guy to live – Mike Emerson.
Sat outside his restaurant in the bright St. Louis sun we heard him coming long before we could see him. Straddling a soft tail Harley Davidson he cruised past us and parked up. Wearing a Dickies’ shirt, loose jeans and sporting a long wispy beard, Mike was every part the Pitmaster.
He began by telling us about a lucky break which firmly put Pappy’s on the map. Back in 2008 he took a call asking whether he wanted the restaurant to be on a new TV show.
At first he thought it was his mates stitching him up, but clocking the area dial code, he quickly realised it was genuine. He was given 5 minutes to convince the researcher why Pappy’s should be chosen. He still can’t recollect what he said, but whatever it was, it worked.
That show was the first ever series of Man vs Food.
Before the now cult show aired he used to receive 5,000 hits to his website a month. The day after the episode broadcast that number rose to 5,000 a minute and crashed his server. The show propelled him into the mainstream and he hasn’t looked back.
His barbecue is excellent, and follows the Memphis-style. The baby back ribs have the most ridiculous bulge of loin you can ever imagine, and once tried it’s easy to see why he’s one of only a few Pitmasters to be invited back year after year to the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party.
Given the Man vs Food link, we’d arranged to hook up with a professional eater, Randy Santel. This guy gets paid to tackle eating challenges, as well as advise restaurants on how to create them. Only in America, baby.
We had already clocked that Pappy’s had the perfect dish – the Adam Bomb, created in honour of Adam Richman’s visit. This beast boasts:
A full slab of ribs, brisket and pork sandwich, 1/4 chicken, a spicy sausage Frito pie and four sides of your choice.
The gladiatorial battle lines of meat had been drawn. Pre challenge the prized food fighters took one last chance to get their game faces on in the car park.
As the behemoth of barbecue landed on the table Scott’s top lip quivered and sweated, whilst Randy looked like a 7-year-old who had just been given his first Scalextric kit. After 9 minutes of gagging, gipping, writhing and more sweating – mainly from Scott – the tag team owned the 5lbs-worth of barbecue.
We spent the rest of the afternoon outside in the sunshine propping up Mike’s outdoor smoker called Walter (incidentally the same name as our barrel smoker, named after Scott’s Grandpa), and puffing endless cigarettes whilst chewing the brisket fat with Mike.
Needing to kill a few hours before picking up the RV, we headed out on a recommendation from Mike to visit Crown Candy. This is a Mecca for any sweet toothed-fiend and a firm St. Louisan institution. Crown Candy was opened in 1922 by two Greek immigrants wanting to bring their confectionery skills to the city. Now four generations on, this little shop in a rough part of town enjoys huge queues, for their milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard.
Even on a Monday mid afternoon the queue snaked around the side of the shop – surely this was a sign of good things to come. As we made the door the kitsch 1950’s styling begins to build the anticipation. Then you read the menu – Hot Fudge Split, Choc Marshmallow, Carmel Pecan. By the time you reach the counter you lose all mental control. Words just fall out you mouth and you end up ordering far more than any human can possible defeat.
Expect new things on the Red’s shakes menu soon.