Room with a ‘Cue: Striking and spacious, Hendricks goes after barbecue in a big, big way

By Ian Froeb

Thursday, Nov 22 2012

8356960.87

 

 

 

 

Photo By Jennifer SilverbergThe “Half & Half” is half-rack of St. Louis-style and half rack baby-back ribs, shown with a side of green beans.

Look: I can tell you that Hendricks BBQ sprawls across 17,000 square feet on two floors. I can tell you that this restaurant along St. Charles’ historic Main Street is also slated to be a live-music venue and a moonshine distillery (neither is operational yet), that it seats some 600, that the upper deck of its patio affords a view of the Katy Trail and the parking lots alongside it so sweeping that even the parking lots themselves look majestic. I can tell you all this and more besides, but nothing conveys the sheer size of the place better than the moment when a server sets a slab of baby-back ribs thicker than your own forearm in front of you, and before your perspective can unskew itself, you think, “Is that all?”

It feels odd to call a cuisine as essentially American as barbecue not merely trendy, but glowing-with-radioactivity hot. Yet if you have any doubts, Hendricks BBQ provides the proof as well as the exclamation point. This is no barbecue joint or shack or roadside stand; it’s the sort of showy production that in another decade would have been a corporate-clubby steak house or sleek pan-Asian sushi bar. Its owners aren’t grizzled veterans of the barbecue circuit; they’re physician Gurpreet Padda and Ami Grimes, partners in In Good Company, whose diverse restaurant portfolio includes Cafe Ventana, Sanctuaria and Diablitos Cantina. (Hendricks takes its moniker from Grimes’ maiden name.)

At a glance the spacious dining room does look as if it were ordered straight from the ‘cuetalog, with its forest’s worth of weathered-wood paneling and pig-prominent décor. But the room’s tall windows and dramatic vaulted skylight both brighten the space and give it a more contemporary feel than, say, the sprawling 17th Street Barbecue in O’Fallon, Illinois, and a series of paintings of blues musicians — commissioned originals, no less — balances the barbecue tchotchkes. Though the menu makes the sacrilegious claim that the ribs at Hendricks are “fall off the bone tender,” pitmaster Matt Vanderbeck and Chris Lee, executive chef of Padda and Grimes’ restaurant group, prove themselves adept at the arts of the smoker and Southern cuisine.