Best Barbecue

Smoki O's

Back in the day, when we boomed around on a motorcycle, an old flame accused us of being able to spot the curling smoke of a barbecue pit through the side of our helmet, resulting in sudden, sliding 180-degree reversals and mad dashes in hot pursuit. In the Lou, the benchmarks of good 'cue are ribs, links and snoots, whereas pulled pig and brisket make occasional appearances on the bill of fare. By that measure, Smoki O's serves up the best ribs in town -- pork or beef, they're always lean, not fatty, and you can taste the smoke through the thick sauce, proof that this is the realest of deals. Links are hot but meaty -- not your fraudulent pepper-laden mystery grist. As a bonus, Smoki O's serves up pulled pig in a semi-North Carolina style, which means the sauce is tomato-based, sweet and heavy.

Owned by Otis and Earline Walker and managed by their son, Christopher, Smoki O's has been in business at its current location for two-and-a-half years. Four countertops, no beer, it's mainly a takeout joint with a Soulard Market pedigree: Otis and his brother Bruce ran an oil-barrel operation on the back end of the market, on Carroll Street.

Close second: Big Jake's Memphis Style Barbecue, of which former Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. is a co-owner, on Delmar. A new sit-down joint in a former McDonald's, Big Jake's serves up a mean peach cobbler and a full array of adult beverages with its fine 'cue. Plus, you get a chance at a bonus serving of the Boz's political wisdom. But on a head-to-head smoked-meat basis, get yourself to Smoki O's.

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