Joe Buck’s Restaurant, 1000 Clark St., 436-0394

Joe Buck’s Restaurant downtown has been around for a few years now, and has been striving to carve an identity separate from the original J. Buck’s in Clayton. The recent addition of a barbecue menu, unique to the location, peaked our interest and drew us back downtown for a taste.

The restaurant is housed in the gorgeous Cupples Station Building One, built in 1897 as a warehouse and fully restored to its red-brick glory. Its interior has the flat-screen TVs of a sports bar, the exposed brick, hardwood floors and rough wood timbers of a neighborhood pub, and the mile-high ceilings of a downtown loft space, which really helps dissipate the crowd noise. We were there on a weekend night before a Blues game, and could actually hear ourselves! The decor consists mainly of framed photos of Joe Buck and his father, legendary sportscaster Jack Buck, in action behind the mic.

The restaurant is within sight of the Savvis Center, and just a couple of blocks from Busch Stadium, which makes it an ideal spot for a pre-game dinner, and you can stay parked (for free) in the back parking lot while you attend your event.

We started out with the ‘award-winning’ spinach and artichoke dip ($10) and the toasted ravioli ($9). While there was no mention of what award the dip won, I’m thinking it was probably a prize for size; there was enough food for several people on the plate! The dip, served with mounds of tri-color tortilla chips, struck a nice balance between all of the subtle flavors involved. The t-ravs were also plentiful—we got a dozen with the order—but were otherwise unspectacular, though the marinara sauce was nice and tangy and a notch above the usual.

In keeping with the barbecue theme, we followed-up with half-orders of the House Smoked BBQ Chopped Salad ($10) and the Buffalo Chicken Salad ($8). Again, we could have easily split one of these. The BBQ salad was offered with a choice of one of four house-smoked meats: pulled pork, chicken, brisket and turkey. We opted for the pork, and it was nicely smoked with just the right amount of fat. The cilantro sour cream, pico de gallo and black beans gave the salad a mild south-of-the-border flavor. We chose grilled chicken over fried for our Buffalo Chicken Salad, and were impressed with the mix of flavors present. The bleu cheese crumbles were a tangy compliment to the buffalo sauce. Both salads came with a square of cornbread, which was the only disappointment. It had a pasty consistency and didn’t seem quite done.

Then it was time for the main event. To get a good sample of all the meaty goodness available we ordered the Three Meat Plate with pulled pork, chicken and brisket ($11) and the Rib & Two Meat Combo with brisket and pulled pork ($15). Both of these come with a choice of one of 11 sides, and we went with coleslaw and Three Cheese Bacon Macaroni. The coleslaw was nothing special, but the mac and cheese was a real standout, creamy and topped with grated cheese and plenty of bacon bits throughout. Meat-wise, though the brisket and pork were well-cooked and tasty, the ribs stole the show. They were fall-off-the-bone tender with just the right amount of sauce. We finished with Gooey Butter Cake ($5) and Red Velvet Cake ($4), both delicious.

The service was exceptional, and even though the place was busy, we got our food in no time. All in all, Joe Buck’s new barbecue menu is a good value for folks who want to grab a bite before the game or anytime, and the atmosphere is comfortable and friendly. I’d say overall, it’s a winner! LN

Joe Bucks Corn bread

1 box (8.5oz) corn bread mix (Jiffy)

½ cup milk

1 each egg

4 T melted butter

1 c roasted corn

¼ c honey

Combine all ingredients and pour into an 8-inch square greased pan.

Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.