Friday, August 31, 2007

Richard Makes Good

In the ever-approaching future, I intend to canvas the St. Louis Metropolitan Area for holy sites sprinkled across this great dining landscape. For now, swaddled in the suburbs, I’m only interested in eating in one of four local gems: Wan Fu Chinese Restaurant, owned and operated by a six-foot five-inch man known as George, who possesses a masters’ degree in Geography and a crushed velvet portrait of the Great Wall that is not for sale. Nachomama’s, where the food is as good as the pun. Dewey’s Pizza, former employer of poet-farmer Molly McDonald, who did, in fact, “take pizza to the next level.” Finally, Richard’s Ribs, located at 10727 Big Bend Road in Kirkwood, Missouri, where hearts and bellies go for warmth.

Barbecue (how can this word not have a definitive spelling?) isn’t too easy to rustle up in this city. With bar-b-que meccas, Memphis and Kansas City stealing the thunder, St. Louis diners were nearly abandoned to toasted ravioli until Richard Hollins set up shop over fourteen years ago. Mr. Hollins operates out of a single location with his daughter, Joye, her godmother, Rose Walker, Rose’s son, Ralph, and Joye’s cousin, Vincent Williams, all helping out. Richard’s wife, Delores, is the queen of pies (sweet potato and lemon chess being her specialties).

Bandana’s Bar-B-Q, a chain that fans across four states, could be seen as a threat to Richard’s restaurant and catering service with its three special sauces and snappy slogan, “Smell that Smoke,” but don’t options indicate the absence of a winner? Joye says the secret of her family’s sauce will forever elude the curious, leaving customers with the rhetorical, “Is that cinnamon?”

Joye, who grew up with barbeque like an uncle who always comes to dinner, indicated that she doesn’t eat much of it when she’s working, but, “the smoked chicken is the bomb.” Other menu starlets include rib tips, jack salmon, buffalo and catfish complimented by spaghetti, green beans, baked beans, coleslaw, ranch fries, applesauce or an ever-popular potato salad. The brisket and shredded pork sandwiches are the top sellers and baby backs sell out every weekend.

“Everything is hands on and made from scratch,” Joye says. “It’s straight home cooking. That’s what keeps us going.”

The atmosphere at Richard’s is also part of the draw. The dining room seats twenty-four, but it’s never cramped as the majority of their business is carryout. I particularly like the signature placemats and the fact that people can’t help complimenting the food as if they were getting paid for it.

Joye says her family is blessed, but bless-ed seems more appropriate from the cool side of the counter. Richard’s Ribs—a good place to fill your middle.

1 comment:

Edan said...

I am coming to visit right now!

Oh, and Molly's tales of working at Dewey's were immortalized on Maud Newton's book blog, where Molly wrote:

"I recently secured employment waiting tables at a small Midwestern pizza chain, where, in addition to using my degree in English and Creative Writing in a meaningful way, I am Taking Pizza to the Next Level. (Occasionally, I find that I am driven to take Sarcasm to the Next Level, as well. And Mock-Sincerity. And Snarkiness. But that is besides the point; when pressed, you can take just about anything to the Next Level. Last weekend, for instance, after taking Whiskey to the Next Level, I gather from family members that I took Dancing to the Next Level.)

But I digress. One of the specialty pizzas on the menu, nestled between the “X-Pepperoni” and the “Wild Mushroom,” is rather inexplicably called the “Edgar Allan Poe.” It is topped with a tasty combination of roasted garlic, kalamata olives, mushrooms, and goat cheese, but no one has yet given me a satisfactory explanation as to the reasoning behind the name, nor any understanding as to why a singular literary allusion, lacking any context, is burdening an otherwise standard and predictable menu — particularly since the customers often mistakenly refer to it as the “Woody Allen” or the “Ethan Allen.” If you ask me, to avoid such confusion, a pizza named the Edgar Allan Poe should be topped with opium and 14-year-old cousin-brides.

At any rate, it is a puzzle that I enjoy whittling away at while boxing up pieces of doughy crust for carb-shy dieters to “take home to their dogs,” or while rushing to fetch more soda for already hyperactive children. I have yet to arrive at a solid thesis, but right now I am leaning towards a correlation between the vast, pale, pockmarked expanse of Poe’s forehead and the color and texture of goat cheese."