Best New Restaurants 2015: No. 11 – Dalie's Smokehouse

Opening a restaurant isn’t easy. Each year, hundreds give it a shot – and not everyone succeeds. Some, however, aren’t just surviving; they’re killing it. In the last year, we ate our way through newly opened restaurants from Alton to Ballwin, compiling a list of places that serve the food and drinks we can’t get out of our heads. They bring something different and exciting to the scene – and they do it damn well. While technical excellence was a must, the service and ambiance also had to win us over. Office debates nearly came to fisticuffs, but at last we agreed on St. Louis’ 11 best new restaurants of 2015. Clear your schedule and book your reservations; you’ve got a lot of eating to do.

The newest installment of the Mike Emerson-Skip Steele family of barbecue restaurants has some unexpected draws. We expect delicious pulled pork and ribs from the co-owner of Pappy’s Smokehouse and Bogart’s Smokehouse, but here are six exceptional things that took us by surprise – and kept us wanting more – at Dalie’s Smokehouse:

1. The Cuban sandwich. Shaved ham and Pappy’s pulled pork are complemented by gooey Swiss cheese and a layer of heat from chipotle mustard on ciabatta, while the house-made Fire and Ice Pickles bring a hit of acidity that cuts through the rich meat.

2. The Ultimate Reuben. Beef and pork pastrami are piled on grilled marble rye for a monstrous, meaty sandwich topped with Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese.

3. The Hushpuppies. So often dense and dry, Dalie’s hushpuppies have a light, crisp exterior and an almost cake-like interior studded with bits of jalapeno, green onion and fresh corn.

4. The Mac-n-Cheese. This is the first Emerson-Steele barbecue joint to offer a side of mac-n-cheese, and we’re so glad it does. Elbow noodles luxuriate in a creamy cheese sauce with just a touch of heat and a crunchy bacon-breadcrumb topping.

5. The Fried Pickles. What’s better than the Fire and Ice Pickles? Deep-fried Fire and Ice Pickles.

6. The staff. From the busboy to the cook to the server, Dalie’s employees are unfailingly kind, exuding the same charm as their boss. Is an Emerson likeability test required before hiring? It’s entirely plausible.

Is Dalie's your favorite new restaurant of 2015? Click here to vote for this Valley Park barbecue joint in the People's Choice Facebook contest

-photo by Carmen Troesser