A big thanks to Bi-State Development and Explore St. Louis for sponsoring this trip. All suggestions and opinions are 100% my own.
When you think of Blues and BBQ, what city comes to mind? Is it Nashville or Memphis, TN for BBQ? New Orleans or Chicago for the Blues? Although those might be the places that you automatically think of, now that I’ve spent some time exploring St Louis’s rich heritage for both, I know it’ll be my first pick!
Ready for a fun day in St Louis enjoying both Blues and BBQ? I’ve got you covered.
Start your day at the National Blues Museum located in downtown St. Louis. This relatively new museum (opened in September 2016) chronicles the history of the Blues and highlights Blues musicians, events and influences. The Blues is all about feelings and emotions and therefore is music for everyone. In addition to some amazing exhibits and historical artifacts, the museum offers a fun, interactive experience where you’ll actually get to create your own Blues song. While you are touring the museum, you’ll stop at several stations and add typical Blues elements. When you are finished, you’ll end up with a Blues song made just for you. Pretty cool, right?
Both in the 1920s and after World War II, there was a large migration of southerners moving north to urban areas such as St. Louis and Chicago – with them, came their music – the Blues. As Americans moved, the Blues were introduced to more people and record labels started taking notice. This is how the historical southern or country Blues morphed into electric or urban Blues found in cities like St. Louis. Today, we hear influences of the Blues in all modern music forms, from country to rock.
After a few hours exploring the exhibits and soaking up all the wonderful musical history, head next door to Sugarfire Smokehouse. If it’s close to lunch or dinner you’ve been smelling the smoke and BBQ for a while now while wandering around the Blues Museum. A local chain, Sugarfire takes St. Louis BBQ to the next level. Try to get there a little before the typical mealtime or expect to wait in a long line. If you do encounter a line, be patient – it’s well worth the wait.
The restaurant has a very casual and friendly vibe – long picnic tables decorated with a variety of tasty BBQ sauce and paper towels – which you’ll need once you dig in. Even the sodas are unique – only local brands are sold here! Or take your lunch up a notch with a boozy milkshake. Yum.
The pulled pork I tried was melt-in my mouth delicious, and the ribs and brisket looked pretty amazing too. Even the sides at Sugarfire were innovative and decadent. Another favorite – smoked fried artichokes. My mouth is watering just remembering! For the vegetarians in the family (and I have one, so I know BBQ can be a tough sell), there were a few tasty options, so no need to skip this St. Louis institution.
Although you might need a short nap after lunch, don’t end your day of Blues and BBQ here, because St. Louis is home to multiple Blues Clubs, so make plans to catch a show later in the evening. You’ll see a few across the street on Washington, but if you have kids along, I’d suggest heading back to the Blues Museum. They offer a free jam session on Thursdays and inexpensive shows on the weekends. The show hours at the museum stage tends to be earlier than a typical nightclub so it’s perfect for kiddos. And if you want to get some more Sugarfire BBQ and enjoy it while listening to some fabulous musicians, well I won’t judge! The museum stage only sells drinks but does welcome carry-in food.
Sounds like the perfect day, right? A little history, delicious food, and live music. Doesn’t get much better than that!
National Blues Museum, 615 Washington Ave; 314-925-0016; hours Tuesday – Saturday 10 – 5; Monday – Sunday 12 – 5 (Friday open til 9; Sunday open til 6); Admission $10 – $15; children under 5 free.
Sugarfire Smokehouse; 605 Washington Ave; 314-394-1720; hours 11:00 AM until SOLD OUT
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