I was reading in Sauce Magazine (I call Sauce my restaurant bible for St. Louis) in late 2015 about the newest addition to the family tree of barbecue places that is headed by pitmaster-extraordinaire Skip Steele - Dalie's Smokehouse. It was in the far western part of St. Louis County in what is called Valley Park and I decided to head there for lunch one day on a trip to St. Louis last fall. Any barbecue place that has the DNA of Skip Steele and his partner Mike Emerson, I'm up for giving it a try.
Skip Steele, of course, is the godfather of all the good barbecue places to eat at in St. Louis. Along with Emerson, they are famous for two of the best places for barbecue in "the Loo" - Pappy's Smokehouse and Bogart's Smokehouse. (Click here for the Road Tips entry on Pappy's and here for the entry on Bogart's.) Steele got his start cooking barbecue as a 14-year-old when he made his first smokers out of 100-gallon propane tanks salvaged from a metal scrap yard near his home in Georgia. He had his first restaurant - a carry-out barbecue place - when he was going to college. After college, Steele worked in restaurants, but then found work with a freight company that shipped products around the world via ocean going freighters. Steele worked for the company for nine years before being able to retire and get back into his first love - barbecue.
Steele joined his college roommate Terry Black at Super Smokers helping to open locations around St. Louis. (Click here for Road Tips' entry on Super Smokers.) It was at Super Smokers that Steele met Mike Emerson and the two forged a friendship that eventually took them to a partnership that continues today. In addition to Pappy's and Bogart's, Steele and Emerson's parent corporation - Mothership - holds shares in other St. Louis restaurants such as Adam's Smokehouse (click here to see the Road Tips entry on Adam's), as well as Southern, a southern-style "hot chicken" eatery next to Pappy's that opened last summer; as well as the Notorious P.I.G. in Missoula, MT. They also have a stake in a barbecue restaurant in Nuremberg, Germany - Boogie's - a restaurant run by Falk Norris, a German native who worked at the Ritz-Carlton in St. Louis for over 20 years before heading up the food and beverage service at Washington University. Norris fell in love with Pappy's Barbecue and he wanted to open something similar to it back in Germany. Norris studied under Steele for 18 months and he went back to Germany to open what is thought to be the first true barbecue smokehouse in that country. (Above right - Mike Emerson and Skip Steele. Picture courtesy St. Louis Magazine.)
For their seventh restaurant, Steele and Emerson found a spot that used to house the former Squeakers BBQ and Bar in a strip mall at the corner of Big Bend and Dougherty Ferry Road. (see map) They had a soft opening on June 30 of last year ramping up throughout the summer to get the kinks out of the business.
Steele paid homage to his maternal grandfather "Papa Joe" Dalie Wells by naming the new barbecue joint after him. Wells was born into a wealthy family who had interests in manufacturing, insurance and banking. When the Great Depression hit in 1929, the Wells family lost everything and Joe Dalie turned to teaching, then running a taxi company before he got into the restaurant business. As a 12-year-old, Skip Steele learned the art of cooking and barbecue from working in the kitchen at his grandfather's restaurant. There's a corner of the restaurant that is set up as sort of a shrine to Joe Dalie Wells. (Picture at left courtesy St. Louis Magazine.)
Dalie's is in a corner spot in the strip mall and while it's nothing fancy, it was comfortable enough. Large windows allowed for the natural light to come in. Sturdy tables and chairs were interspersed around the place and the walls were adorned with posters and beer signs. A couple three flat screen televisions also hung from the wall.
Being a Dalie's rookie, I made the mistake of taking a table instead of going to the cash register to order. A young lady came out and explained to me that it was similar to Pappy's and Bogart's - you place your order at the cash register and they bring it out to you. The menu is on a chalkboard behind the cash register. Like Pappy's and Bogart's, Dalie's Smokehouse will run out of meat during the course of a day and they immediately put up "86ed" next to the meat that they've run out of.
Ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket, smoked ham, beef & pork belly pastrami, and smoked roast beef are the meats on the menu. Sandwiches and platters are available with nearly all the meats. Combo plates include a half-side or a full-side of ribs with your choice of a meat, or a half-rack of ribs and a half chicken, or you can get "The Judge" - a full slab of ribs or a full chicken, your choice of three-sandwiches and four sides. Sides include baked beans, mac 'n' cheese, potato salad, apple sauce, thick cut fries, cole slaw and "fire-and-ice" pickles - sweet and spicy pickles that Skip Steele found on a trip to barbecue joints in Mississippi a few years back.
They had a "Pick 2" platter on the menu and I got the pulled pork and the brisket. I was sort of at a loss as to get other than baked beans and the young lady who took my order said, "Our mac 'n' cheese is a big seller for us." I took her advice and got that. I also got a cold beer to go along with the barbecue. (Barbecue and cold beer are just made for one another.)
Similar to the other restaurants Steele and Emerson are involved in, the meats I had at Dalie's were delicious. The brisket was thin and lean with a hint of a smoke ring around the edges. It was easy to cut and tasted wonderful. The pulled pork was tender and juicy with a hint of a smoky taste to it. The meats were fabulous.
The baked beans were also a winner - thick and saucy with chunks of meat mixed in. And the mac 'n' cheese that the lady at the counter suggested were also very good. The cheesy mixture of macaroni noodles, bread crumbs and real bacon bits had a rich and decadent taste. (I would have liked to have tried the fire and ice pickles. Well, there's always next time.)
Being a big sauce guy, Dalie's didn't disappoint. They had six sauces on the table and I tried them all. Papa Joe's Original sauce was thick, sweet and tangy with a pepper taste on the backside; the Cranberry Cayenne was fruity, sweet with a spicy taste on the backside; the Voodoo had a little bit of sweetness with a very spicy backside; the Sweet Hope was sweet and smoky; the Dalie's Vinegar was a somewhat spicy vinegar-based sauce; and the Carolina Sweet was a Carolina-style sweet mustard sauce. I didn't care at all for the Carolina Sweet, and I wasn't thrilled with the Dalie's Vinegar sauces. But I really did like the Cranberry Cayenne where the sweet fruity taste of the cranberries tamped down the spiciness of the cayenne spice. And I liked mixing up the spicy Voodoo with both the Sweet Hope and the Papa Joe's Original sauce. There were a lot of taste sensations going on with the mixture of the sauces.
Well, Skip Steele and Mike Emerson have done it again. The owners of the arguably best barbecue places in St. Louis have another winner with Dalie's Smokehouse. The pulled pork and brisket platter was delicious, as were the mac 'n' cheese and baked beans sides that I got. I enjoyed the variety of sauces Dalie's had to offer and the place had the comfortable barbecue joint vibe. Now people in West County don't have to drive deep into the city to try some of Steele's and Emerson's barbecue. They have pretty much the same thing at Dalie's Smokehouse.