Vernon's BBQ Voted "Most Underrated": Matt Stiffelman on What Makes It So Irresistable

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Chicken breasts in the smoker at Vernon's. | Kaitlin Steinberg
  • Chicken breasts in the smoker at Vernon's. | Kaitlin Steinberg

The readers have spoken: In our poll last week, y'all picked Vernon's BBQ (6707 Vernon Avenue, University City; 314-726-1227) as the most underrated barbecue restaurant in St. Louis. Any barbecue challenge in St. Louis is going to be tough, but we talked to Vernon's co-owner Matt Stiffelman on what sets his place apart from the competition.

"I think we're always doing something different, which keeps us on our toes. Some of the stuff we do, we know that it's not going to be liked by everyone," he says. "But we do it to take risks or to cross a line at times. We can't make everybody happy, but if the people that like it love it, we're not losing."

See also: First Look: Vernon's BBQ and Catering

Vernon's BBQ opened in University City in 2012, and has made a name for itself with quality barbecue and more unusual items like smoked tofu and corned beef. Stiffelman says the food is made fresh daily, the sauces are gluten-free, they don't use corn syrup, or even own a microwave or a fryer.

"Basically what I'm getting at is, we're all eating what we're serving up here, and we take pride in the fact that you can come in and not just eat some darn good barbecue, but eat a healthy meal," he says. "You don't always get to do at the same time. There's a lot of bad food out there -- we all know that McDonald's double-cheeseburger feeling."

For example, Vernon's does a smoked seasonal fruit which is also used in a dessert -- right now, it's smoked pears, which you can also get in miniature smoked pear cobblers. The restaurant is BYOB, which Stiffelman says people seem to love.

"Bring a can, bring a keg, bring a case -- as long as you leave some for the kitchen!" he laughs. As far as winning your vote for St. Louis' most underrated barbecue, Stiffelman says it's nice to see the Vernon's fans out there supporting them.

"I live in U. City and work two miles from my house, and it's fun," he says. "It's good stuff. We like to be a part of the community, and kind of think of ourselves as the neighborhood joint."

Here are the rankings from last week's vote:

1. Vernon's BBQ: 50.18 percent 2. Lil' Mickey's Memphis Barbecue: 23.92 percent 3. Other: 11.33 percent 4. Smoking Barrels BBQ: 10.79 percent 5. Gobble Stop Smokehouse: 3.78 percent

Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. Email the author at Nancy.Stiles@RiverfrontTimes.com.

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