Review: Gobble Stop Smokehouse in Creve Coeur
A family barbecue joint run by Seventh-day Adventists does things differently than most St. Louis ’cue spots. It’s not open on Saturdays, and there is no pork, which the religion abjures. Yet seven members of the Howard family have reconfigured smoked turkey into a series of clever dishes that will bring you back for more.
Turkey tips are the cornerstone of this restaurant. The tips are really snipped ends of turkey thighs, smoked, tossed in Barbecue Sweet ’n Smoky Sauce and plated on white bread to soak up the drippings. Between the great smoky flavor and the gristle to eat around, turkey tips taste for all the world like rib tips.
Turkey tips are a fine intro to the magic these cooks can work with a big bird, and it makes for some seriously messy eating. (Gobble Stop should consider putting a roll of paper towels at each table.) “Turkey ribs” are a machine-made cut, meaning white meat is attached to the shoulder blade. Then, they’re smoked to a perfect pink inside and a gorgeous golden-red outside and served with a sauce of your choice. Turkey tenderloin is cut from the breast, smoked and served with provolone, sauteed onions, portobello mushrooms and a mustard-based barbecue sauce on a chewy, toasted pretzel bun. Fried turkey meatballs benefit from aggressive Sriracha, garlic and other spices. However, the molten cheese at the core was so minimal it required careful inspection to locate; the accompanying mayo-based sauce was bland and unworthy of these beauties.
The Other White Meat
Chicken does not get short shrift here. Perfectly smoked wings emerge red on the outside and pink and juicy on the inside. The Buffalo pulled chicken sandwich does not blast the diner with spicy heat, but stays in the mild zone. With its big chunks of juicy thigh meat, onion rings, provolone and pickles, it’s a thick, delicious sandwich.
Of the many things Gobble Stop does well, its selection of sauces is a tutorial on how to do barbecue right. The Barbecue Sweet ’n Smoky Sauce is not a treacle of thick St. Louis-style corn syrup, but balanced and popping with genuine flavor. The hot barbecue sauce is masterful; it doesn’t blow you away with fire, but instead delivers a gracious, rise-and-fall heat profile. Carolina-style mustard barbecue sauce is usually vinegar-forward, but here the acid is countered by sweetness for a tangy zing. Also, the sauces served on the side are warmed first, which is not just a courtesy but an enhancement for the taste buds.
The uncommonly fresh, mayo-based house-made coleslaw tastes like it was prepared within the hour. Soul food-style potato salad (aka heavy on the hard-boiled egg yolks) is delightful. Fried corn on the cob is an acquired taste. The sheath of fried cornmeal batter over the cob is reasonably tasty, but it makes melting butter into the grooves between the kernels virtually impossible. One fetish may obviate the other.
Sweet Tea Time
Do not miss the sweet tea here; it may be the best to pass your lips. Floating in the tureen with the tea and ice are many mint sprigs and whole, punctured citrus fruits. The tea becomes a festive, fruity punch that’s hard to stop drinking.
Counter service is warm and fun; the owners and employees at the register are good-natured jokers. Lunch traffic is brisk, but if you have to wait a bit longer than expected, the quality of the food justifies it. This is real food, not fast food. Here’s to the new St. Louis-style barbecue.
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