Ahhh, spring, when thoughts turn to ... barbecue.
Given the generally temperate climate around these parts, good barbecue really has no season. Nonetheless, the Memorial Day weekend prompts an increase in at-home outdoor grilling, and a few commercial vendors actually still do keep warm-months-only schedules.
One of them is the venerable Barney's (16011 Manchester Rd., 227-2300), which kicked off its 37th season on May 14. Look for the distinctive red shed on the north side of the street, a couple blocks west of Clarkson Road. It's open weekends and holidays from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. through the end of September. When we visited at the end of last season, we found the ribs fall-off-the-bone tender, with a lot of subtlety to the smoky flavor and a tangible but not overbearing sweetness to the sauce.
Another new choice with the warm months is the third location of Bandana's, which opened the week of May 17 in the old Hooter's location at 14141 Manchester Rd. We've always been fond of the original Bandana's, which opened in Arnold in 1997 and features most meats smoked first without sauce, with a choice of Carolina-, Texas- and Missouri-style sauces to be added thereafter, according to the diner's taste. A second location opened last year in O'Fallon, Mo., and it will be interesting to see how they handle the sheer volume at this fairly large third outlet.
Finally, if you're going to be smokin' at home, be sure to try a bottle or two of radio personality and city of St. Louis patron Charles Brennan's sauce, which is always available at Dierbergs and also frequently found at other grocers and food stores around town. The stuff certainly stands on its own in terms of flavor -- a tasty, full-bodied sauce with more than a hint of chile pepper underneath -- but, even better, Brennan is using all of his own proceeds from the sale to promote downtown revitalization.
Brennan's idea -- which may actually happen, because he's spearheading it himself instead of resorting to the typical St. Louis behavior of appointing a blue-ribbon committee and talking it to death -- is to establish a walking trail of both well- and lesser-known downtown landmarks, a "Westward Path," if you will, paralleling the concept behind the Freedom Trail in Boston. He deserves all the support he can get, and it doesn't hurt that he's using a high-quality product as a fundraising device. Buy some!
-- Joe Bonwich