St. Louis has long been known for its barbecue; and in recent years, the area has been fortunate enough to see a number of world-class barbecue joints set up shop and bolster this reputation. This trend continues with Sugarfire Smokehouse, which opened in Olivette earlier this year. The restaurant is a collaboration between chef Mike Johnson, who has worked at Boogaloo and Cyrano's, and Cyrano's own dessert maven, Carolyn Downs.
The space is eclectic and fun with plenty of funky touches, like the old refrigerator that now does duty as a liquor cabinet. But while the room is great, the food definitely takes center stage.
As expected at any fine BBQ establishment, smoked meats are king at Sugarfire, with brisket, pulled pork, turkey breast, ribs and sausage on the menu to choose from. Many of these are available in a variety of serving sizes, including full meals and sandwiches. What we especially liked, though, was that each also was offered in a small 4-ounce serving for $4, allowing customers to taste their way through all of Sugarfire's offerings, which we did with much gusto! While the standards like the pulled pork and the ribs were expertly cooked--the ribs fell away from the bone with just the slightest coaxing--what really stood out from this delicious group was the turkey breast. Sometimes, it seems that BBQ places give little attention to turkey and chicken. The result often is overcooked, dry and flavorless fowl. But the turkey at Sugarfire was juicy and tender, and was held to the same standard as the rest of their meats. The sausage was a nice surprise, as well, with a bit of pepper and cheese in the mix.
Sauces were served on the side (as they should be!), and again it was clear that much care went into these. The menu lists the condiments as house-made, and it shows. The house sauce was sweet, but not cloying, with none of the corn syrup flavor and viscosity present in many commercial versions. We also tried the spicy, mustard and vinegar, white and coffee sauces. We were unsure about the coffee sauce at first, since coffee can easily overwhelm when used in this way. But Sugarfire's coffee sauce actually is quite subtle, with the coffee lending just a little bit of smokiness and depth. It made for a fine addition to all of the meats we sampled.
If all of that fine meat doesn't warrant a visit, all of the desserts are, courtesy of Carolyn Downs. We highly recommend saving room for a slice of pie ($5). We like the pecan, but key lime, apple, crack pie, Mississippi Mud pie and seasonal versions also are available.
Another aspect of the menu that sets Sugarfire apart from similar establishments is the unique array of sandwiches, like the Smoked Portobello ($7) and the PBLT ($7), which has pimento cheese, along with bacon, lettuce and tomato. We got a sample of the pimento cheese on the side, and it was tangy and creamy and delicious all by itself. We didn't have any room after our feast, but next time around, we're definitely giving these a try!
--9200 Olive Blvd., 997-2301, sugarfiresmokehouse.com