Ian Froeb's STL 100 (2018 archive)

Post-Dispatch file photo

Big Baby Q and Smokehouse

Big Baby Q and Smokehouse will close Dec. 29, 2018. Owner Ben Welch is planning to open a new restaurant, the Midwestern Meat & Drink, at 900 Spruce Street downtown in early 2019. You know Ben Welch is confident in his brisket by the way he cuts it: thick slices that only flatter meat so tender you can pull it apart with your fingers. Smoky, peppery, brisket is the brightest star at Welch’s Maryland Heights barbecue restaurant. But if that brisket vanished tomorrow, Big Baby Q would still be worth the trip for its pork ribs, pulled pork and turkey. And since my review in 2016, when the pastrami was the one meat I didn’t love, Welch has dialed in his process, producing the right blend of salt, spice and smoke. He cuts the pastrami thick, too.

Hours: 11 a.m-6 p.m. (or until sold out) Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (or until sold out) Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday)

Last year's ranking: Rest of the Best

Opened: 2016

Must order: Brisket platter (with two sides, $14)