by Ian Froeb
Last week, Gut Check told you about Vernon's BBQ & Catering, coming soon to 6707 Vernon Avenue in University City.
How soon? Owner Matt Stiffelman tells us the restaurant should have its soft opening in a matter of weeks.
"I was born and raised in the [University City and Olivette] area," Stiffelman says by way of an introduction. "When I got to college, I went to work for Super Smokers for four and half years."
At Super Smokers, Stiffelman was director of special events and helped open several of the then-much-larger chain's locations. He left Super Smokers and worked opening locations of Ben & Jerry's, including its spot in the Delmar Loop (6380 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-721-8887).
Meanwhile, Stiffelman and a colleague from his Super Smoker days had discussed for a while about opening a barbecue restaurant of their own. Finally, he says, the necessary circumstances aligned: "We found a location that's killer."
Stiffelman and crew will smoke their meats over fruit wood from Missouri and Illinois. The selection of meats will include the expected -- ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken and turkey -- as well as a few curveballs. Vernon's will smoke a whole brisket, rather than flat-cut brisket, which most barbecue restaurants use. Vernon's will also offer smoked ham, with the ham coming from local vendor Miller Ham Company (3345 Lemp Avenue; 314-776-0910).
Oh, and there will also be smoked tofu.
"I have a couple of friends who are vegan," explains Stiffelman, joking (we think) that he didn't want to hear these friends whining about not being able to eat barbecue.
(And, yes, of course, the vegetarian-vegan options will be kept separate from the meat.)
Sides will include corn bread, sweet corn, braised cabbage and a smoked seasonal fruit. Sauces will include a spicy-tangy St. Louis-style, a sweet-smoky Kansas City, a (very) hot sauce, a peach-flavored sweet sauce, and a Thai-style peanut butter-based barbecue sauce.
We'll let you know about Vernon's actual opening date as soon as we learn it.