Best New Restaurants 2015: No. 9 - Beast Craft BBQ

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.

beast craft bbq // photo by jonathan gayman

The road to Beast Craft BBQ is long. Missourians must drive over the Mississippi River into Belleville, then hunt among fast food chains for a former Hi-Ho diner. If you smell intoxicating hickory smoke, congratulations: You’ve found the Beast.

And hopefully you left early – it’s not unusual for popular items to sell out by 7 p.m., according to owner-pitmaster David Sandusky. If you want to get your hands on a 1½ inch-thick pork steak or fork-tender burnt ends, you’ve got to plan ahead, people. Step up to the counter and peruse a daily list of offerings, all handwritten on butcher paper. Even if the heavy hitters are out, staples like ribs (with a burnished brown crust, deep pink smoke ring and just enough cling) or smoky half-chickens (moist long after you admit defeat) are sure to satisfy. Meals are served on aluminum trays draped with a few fresh tortillas – perfect for sharing, swiping up house-made sauces or constructing an epic burnt end taco.

But meat alone does not a great barbecue joint make. Sandusky, who opened Beast in December 2014, offers exceptional sides like classic pit beans, but fresh veggie sides provide an unexpected respite from the heavier fare – like roasted Brussels sprouts studded with pork belly and garlicky sauteed kale.

Choose from dozens of brews to go with your barbecue. Sandusky stocks his bottled beer list with St. Louis staples like Urban Chestnut and several Southern Illinois-based options like Big Muddy Brewing out of Murphysboro.

Sandusky spent years in the fine dining world before hitting the barbecue pits, amassing skills reflected in his determination to provide not only killer meat, but also a stellar meal. “I wanted to get into something more soulful and family-oriented, more fun to eat,” he said. “I just try to bring the standards that were hammered into me by some of the best chefs in the city … to something more home-grown.” So gas up the car and bring your appetite – the Beast is calling.

Is Beast Craft BBQ your favorite new restaurant of 2015? Click here to vote for this Belleville barbecue joint in the People’s Choice Facebook contest