Best Barbecue - 2009
Pastor Hamilton's Bar-B-Que
"This looks like a homeless shelter," one first-timer said as he pulled up outside Pastor Hamilton's black-barred door on St. Paul's East Seventh Street. Pastor Luches Hamilton opened his tiny barbecue shop right next door to his storefront church, across the street from what looks like a superfund site. Put nicely, the neighborhood could use something to believe in. At Hamilton's, salvation comes in the form of barbecue pork ribs, chicken, and beef brisket served like they do in the sorts of no-frills Southern havens where you place your order at one hole in the wall and your food comes out another. Hamilton's barbecue is a comfortable classic: the meat tender and rich with—holy?—smoke and slopped with his Arkansas family's secret orange sauce—sweet, tangy, and garlic-heavy. (Takeout comes with a slice of soft white bread tucked into a Ziploc baggie with a plastic fork.) Hamilton himself usually staffs the counter and always seems ready to talk about his plans to lift up his community—a portion of barbecue funds goes to the Youth College Fund. On Fridays in the warmer months, he's often spotted wheeling his barbecue operation outside and cooking right on the sidewalk, though a bum rotator cuff may unfortunately curtail that soon. In any case, Hamilton's preaching reaches straight to the gut.