Review: Hendricks BBQ in St. Charles
Hendricks BBQ, 1200 S. Main St., St. Charles, 636.724.8600, hendricksbbq.com
First experiences with moonshine can be tricky. Mine was freshman year in college when a dorm mate passed around an unmarked bottle of clear liquid that was a struggle to take down and might as well have been rubbing alcohol in terms of taste. Tipsy but unimpressed, I vowed to permanently shy away from the stuff – opting instead for bourbons and martinis. It turns out I had no idea what I was missing. Thankfully, my dry spell was recently broken by the talented staff manning the bar at Hendricks, the new barbecue and moonshine house perched on a quiet section of St. Charles.
While Main Street St. Charles remains dominated by the typical nightclubs and cheap shot-and-beer joints, Hendricks is something of an outlier – an intelligent but still casual haven from the techno noise and general insanity down the road. Driven by smooth hooch, rustic music and down-home barbecue, Hendricks draws a decidedly older (but not old) patron base that doesn’t mind shelling out $9 for a well-made cocktail on a Wednesday night. The bar is regularly populated by couples and young professionals eager to sample new drinks. It’s easy to see that this place is ready to take off.
Considering it’s operated by the folks behind such local hits as Sanctuaria and Café Ventana, it isn’t surprising that the drinks at Hendricks’ bar, as well as the staff who expertly serve them up, are so smart and well-selected. Moonshine is available in a flavor spectrum that ranges from smoky and cured to blueberry sweet. Straight shots of moonshine are available in one and two ounces or, if you prefer yours mixed, Hendricks’ bar staff is more than happy to tailor an impromptu moonshine cocktail to individual tastes. Without even asking for it, I was treated to a white Manhattan. This is where the bartenders excel. Tell them exactly what you don’t like and they’ll endeavor to prove you wrong. The best part of my first night there was watching the bartender (whom I just told that my girlfriend would like anything without whiskey in it) mix her a bourbon cocktail that effectively converted her tastes. Already a dedicated bourbon fan myself, I instantly fell for the variety of small-batch options that are offered over the more tired, commercial brands. Also winning me over was the tap system Hendricks has set up for pre-made cocktails such as the Old Fashioned, a stiff little number topped off with a booze-soaked cherry. For something less harsh but equally well-concocted, try Grandpa’s Cough Syrup, which mixes rye whiskey, ginger liqueur, lemon, agave and club soda. The drink menu also features a handful of booze-fueled milkshakes and a fine selection of local craft beers, the latter of which are served in Mason jars.
The rustic, barbecue blues theme seeps heavily into Hendricks. The space, which formerly housed a waterworks, merges sleek and sophisticated with laid-back and countrified. The main dining room resembles a contemporary roadhouse, dominated by wooden tables and booths. The main bar is just as busy and filled with huge beer taps, which nearly touch a line of Mason jar light fixtures that illuminate the bustling mixing station. The downstairs Moonshine Blues Bar (still working out its final kinks) offers patrons a chance to enjoy its whiskey- and moonshine-fueled cocktails to the sound of live bluegrass and country bands.
The outside deck space and downstairs patio are impressive areas on their own. The massive deck overlooks the Katy Trail and dons a patio teeming with slick wooden tables that are lorded over by an enormous stone fireplace.
In an age of restaurants and bars cashing in on sophisticated comfort foods, it is natural, as a consumer, to feel a bit jaded … if not outright cheated. But it’s hard to feel anything but respect for Hendricks, a joint utterly unapologetic about its basic but intense offerings.