The Shaved Duck: Beer and Barbecue in St. Louis

Barkeep by | Sep 2017 | Issue #128
Photos by Tim Bottchen

Tucked away in an attractive brick neighborhood, just east of the second largest urban park in St. Louis, sits The Shaved Duck, one of the finest beer and barbecue joints west of the Mississippi.

Set in a small, renovated corner shop, the restaurant’s mission is emblazoned on the wall: barbecue, folk, and soul.
In addition to a mouthwatering menu, its beer and spirits selection reigns supreme in a city with stiff competition. Guests can choose between 30 different bottled beers and a bar stocked with top-shelf bourbons like Wild Turkey Rare Breed and Woodford Reserve, alongside Missouri-made liquors, such as the popular Wood Hat Spirits.

Its four tap lines alternate weekly to the delight of regulars, who can expect wide-ranging brews from the likes of Dogfish Head, Big Sky, and Deschutes, as well as local beer makers, like 4 Hands Brewing, Urban Chestnut Brewing Company, and Modern Brewery. “We’re dedicated to having an outstanding beer list and making sure people enjoy a really good selection. We only carry American craft—from Pilsners to Stouts, and everything in between,” says general manager Heather Wagner. “It’s important for us to support all of this amazing craft beer because we love it and our customers love it. We’re really known for trying to give a shout-out to the smaller breweries out there making great beer.”

From slow-smoked duck breast to walnut and brown sugar bacon, the award-winning fare is a love letter to Southern cooking. By making slight deviations in traditional cooking methods, The Shaved Duck has developed its own distinctive flavors that pair well with high-quality beer. Executive chef Matt Galvin says you can’t leave without tasting the burnt ends. “Everything here is simple and rustic, and that’s the whole point of this restaurant—home-style comfort food. I think that’s what really makes us great barbecue. We take that idea and we elevate everything to try and make it more intricate and flavorful.”

With so many winners on the menu, it’s hard to come up short. The smoked meats get its fair share of praise, but the smothered fries—topped with rib meat and pulled pork, then doused in a homemade cheese sauce—keep people coming back. The appetizer even caught the attention of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. “We are a scratch kitchen. Everything is smoked fresh, every single day, and everything on the menu is made in-house—all the sauces, the sides, everything down to the flatbread dough,” says Wagner.

The diminutive capacity might make it tough to walk-in and find a seat in this South City hotspot, where the mood can go from light and breezy to busy and boisterous in a matter of minutes. The wood floor has an old-world luster, usually reserved for well-weathered saloons, and an oversized painting, brimming with music icons of the city (like the late, great Chuck Berry), hangs in the main dining area, serving as a conversation starter about the kind of history St. Louis is known for. First, it was the blues. Now, it’s barbecue and beer, of course.