Small Batch Barbeque opens on Madison Street

No-sauce ribs, brisket, pulled pork star at Forest Park eatery

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By Melissa Elsmo

Food Writer

Small Batch Barbecue celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 6 at 7441 Madison St. in Forest Park. The highly anticipated restaurant opening was met with an enthusiastic bevy of barbecue loving folks.

"Two days into this thing I feel pretty great actually;" says owner Gregg Stinton. "The demand for our product has been fantastic."

During the opening weekend Small Batch Barbecue sold out of brisket and ribs in just a couple of hours. Make no mistake, Small Batch Barbecue is designed sell out every day. There is nothing fast about barbecue; some longer cooking cuts spend in excess of 16 hours in the smoker. Additionally, Small Batch Barbecue does not have a freezer or a microwave onsite. 

Stinton is passionate about fresh products going from fridge to smoker and selling out in a single day; waste and reheating are not part of the Small Batch Barbecue philosophy. In fact, the pocket-sized smokehouse receives just two deliveries per week; the food goes out as fast as it comes in, but not before taking a long, lazy nap in a large smoker.

"We make as much as we can every day," said Stinton, "but it's not like we can just make more when we run out, and people have been pretty understanding about it;"

 If you are craving something specific from the Small Batch Barbecue menu,  Stinton urges people to come in as close to opening as possible.

Stinton's love affair with barbecue started at young age. A picky eater, he discovered his favorite food at age 12 when a family friend from Memphis grilled up some dry-rubbed ribs. Young Stinton loved the hands-on eating experience and tender meat. He took down the recipe for the dry rub and started cooking himself and never looked back.

A sort of renaissance man of meat, Stinton cooked in a backyard smoker he crafted himself from a 1950s Hotpoint refrigerator for 12 years before friends and family talked him into entering the Forest Park Rib Fest in 2016. Despite being hyper-competitive and committed to putting out a good product, Stinton admitted he had no idea what he was doing at the competition.

"Barbecue is subjective, and we had lowered our expectations about the outcome because it was our first competition," said Stinton. "But, when they announced the winners, I just stood there in disbelief that my ribs had won first place."

The unexpected rib fest victory sparked Stinton's desire to open a restaurant in his hometown. Today Stinton is slinging those same award winning ribs at Small Batch Barbecue, but traded in his backyard smoker for combined gas and electric convection smoker that pumps out smoke from natural hickory, apple and cherry wood.

Small Batch Barbecue serves up premium St. Louis spareribs. Dry rubbed and smoked over all-natural hardwood, the resulting ribs have an extreme bark -- the crunchy and complex exterior crust that protects the meat and ensures it will be tender and juicy. Enjoying Small Batch Barbecue ribs is a full-on carnivore experience, and thanks to that thick bark they feel like the fried chicken of ribs.

"We are not the most expensive or the cheapest barbecue in the area," said Stinton, "but I am committed to providing substantial rib portions." 

Whether you order pulled pork, brisket or ribs don't expect to see sauce on the meat at Small Batch Barbecue. The strict "no sauce" rule is part of the restaurant's philosophy. Stinton leaves a trio of house-made sauces on every table and offers compostable to-go cups for sauce, but leaves customers to control the amount of sauce and heat level.

"Look, if I am doing my job right, you shouldn't need the sauce," said Stinton.

In addition to standout ribs, Small Batch Barbecue offers pork pulled to order, buttery salt-and-pepper brisket and a house-made hot link. The sausage is ground, cased and smoked onsite. The addition of hot giardiniera and fresh jalapeno give the snappy sausage a signature tang.

 "The support we've received from Forest Park village officials and the community at large has been incredible," said Stinton, "I live just around the corner, and I couldn't imagine doing this anywhere else."

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