Food & Drink

‘We’re not compromising’: Popular metro-east restaurant opens long-awaited location in St. Louis

Belleville’s Beast Craft BBQ is expanding to St. Louis

Beast Craft BBQ owner David Sandusky shares his plans for a second location in The Grove neighborhood of St. Louis in this video from April of 2018.
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Beast Craft BBQ owner David Sandusky shares his plans for a second location in The Grove neighborhood of St. Louis in this video from April of 2018.

BEAST Craft BBQ opened in the legendary Hy-Ho Cafe building in Belleville nearly five years ago and promptly began winning acclaim for its barbecue pork, beef, chicken and turkey.

Now owners David and Meggan Sandusky are expanding with a second location in The Grove neighborhood of St. Louis. The restaurant opened Saturday.

Missouri BEAST fans have been anxiously waiting since last spring, when the couple announced their plans.

“(The concept was) two years in the making, and for good reason,” David Sandusky stated in a press release Tuesday. “There are a lot of moving parts, but we’ve been able to build things the way we want them to be, rather than be held back by the building’s limitations — or anyone’s expectations.

“We’re not compromising,” he said. “It’s all on our terms. The extra time we’ve taken has allowed us to create something unique to barbecue in The Grove, and it gave us the perfect opportunity to hire an all-star culinary team. I have complete confidence and respect for them.”

The new 6,000-square-foot location at 4156 Manchester Ave. is being called “BEAST Butcher & Block.” It has six large smokers, allowing several batches of meat to be paired with proper woods and cooked throughout the day.

David Sandusky.jpeg
David Sandusky, who founded BEAST Craft BBQ in Belleville with his wife, Meggan, is opening a second location in St. Louis called BEAST Butcher & Block. Provided

The restaurant will seat 95 people in its dining room and another 25 on a patio.

It also will include “The Butchery,” a small, full-service butcher shop with fresh meats and produce, prepared meals, local baked goods and a courtyard with seating and a fire pit; and “The Skullery,” described as “the only exclusive, ‘fire-to-table’ restaurant space in the city, seating guests right in front of house-butchered meats and vegetables cooked on hot coals and carved on a massive custom block.”

“Designed as a cross between a chef’s-table concept and a research-and-development kitchen, the Skullery will allow Sandusky’s team to collaborate with local chefs, pitmasters and craft brewers on unique projects and create carving menus for groups as part of a one-of-a-kind dining experience for up to 36 guests,” according to the press release.

“The Skullery will be my place to play,” Sandusky stated. “It’ll be whatever I want, whenever I want.”

The BEAST Butcher & Block executive chef is Ryan McDonald, former chef and co-owner of Good Fortune, a Chinese fusion restaurant in the Botanical Heights neighborhood of St. Louis that closed in February.

Other staff members include butcher C.J. “BBQ Madman” Baerman, formerly of Paddy O’s; and Kelvin Johnson as sous chef. BEAST Craft BBQ pit boss Jim Thomas will cross the Mississippi and assume the same role at the new restaurant. Sandusky will remain pitmaster for both locations with Helen Beshel serving as director of operations.

BEAST Butcher & Block team.jpeg
The staff at BEAST Butcher & Block in St. Louis includes sous chef Kelvin Johnson, butcher C.J. Baerman, executive chef Ryan McDonald, pit boss Jim Thomas and pitmaster and owner David Sandusky. Provided

Hours at BEAST Butcher & Block will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

“The property features interior and exterior murals created by Killer Napkins and other artisans and has its own large parking lot — a rarity in The Grove,” the press release stated.

BEAST Craft BBQ opened in December of 2014 at 20 South Belt West in Belleville. The Hy-Ho Cafe had closed the previous January after nearly 50 years in business.

From the beginning, BEAST focused on fresh, high-quality ingredients with nothing from cans, freezers or microwaves. Last year, Food & Wine magazine named it the best place to go for barbecue in Illinois, one of several accolades.

David Sandusky uses hickory, white oak and cherry to smoke his pulled pork, pork steaks, pork bellies, beef brisket and burnt ends, chicken, wings, spare ribs and rib tips, turkey and kielbasa. He puts almost as much effort into his sides, ranging from Brussels sprouts to candied bacon.

In Tuesday’s press release, Sandusky sought to assure customers of the original location.

“I have not taken my eye off the ball in terms of our flagship restaurant in Belleville,” he stated. “I remain as committed as ever to my customers east of the Mississippi. New things are coming for them, as well. We aren’t done, and we haven’t forgotten our roots, or the ones who have had our back.”

Teri Maddox has been a reporter for 35 years, joining the Belleville News-Democrat in 1990. She also teaches journalism at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. She holds degrees from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and University of Wisconsin-Madison.