My father's family hails from the East Coast (more or less), so I chalk up my cotillion classes and love of fancy restaurants to that part of my blood. But my mother is born-and-bred Midwestern, from Missouri, where I also spent six years going to school. If you've ever lived in Missouri, then you know it's arguably the best barbecue state in the country, containing both Kansas City and St. Louis as 'cue bastions.
The best barbecue I've ever eaten comes from a place called Sweetwater BBQ (14076 State Highway Z, St. Robert, Missouri -- look it up if you're ever in the area). It serves up ribs on slices of white bread -- ribs soaked in sauce and so tender you can shake the meat right off the bone.
Point being: I love me some barbecue. And I'm a snob about it. This will annoy the pants off some of you carnivores out there; so be it. I am not ashamed to admit that barbecue is quite possibly the pinnacle of American cuisine -- maybe the pinnacle of cuisine, period. And I know that choosing not to eat meat has left me bereft of some good barbecue.
Fortunately, that's where Wolfe's comes in.
Wolfe's Barbeque, 333 East Colfax Avenue, has been serving up traditional and vegetarian 'cue since 1985. I ordered the dinner plate ($7.40) with barbecued tofu (Wolfe uses the same dry rub on the tofu that he does on the meats and smokes it with hickory chips), hot barbecue sauce (as opposed to the regular sauce), cole slaw and vegetarian baked beans. It also comes with a slice of pickle and a side of bread and butter.
The sides were excellent -- the cole slaw has a vinegar base rather than a mayonnaise base, so it was tart and sweet and just a little bit tangy, with caraway and poppy seeds sprinkled throughout. I haven't had baked beans (except for out of a can) in a long time, so was excited to see Wolfe's version, complete with chunks of tofu; the beans had just the right amount of sugar to balance out the tang. Delicious.
I also stole a bite of my husband's potato salad, which was everything a traditional potato salad ought to be -- creamy, with perfectly cooked potatoes, and probably terrible for you.
As far as the tofu itself goes? It was pretty good. I was a little bit thrown off by the texture at first -- tofu in my mind is soft and creamy, possibly a little crispy on the outside if baked or fried correctly, but certainly not firm. This tofu was firm and chewy. I'm not sure whether that has something to do with using extra-firm tofu to start with (which would make sense; you don't want your fake meat falling apart in the smoker) or how long it's smoked or the dry rub or ...? Regardless, once I got used to the texture, it was delicious, and the hot sauce added just the right amount of heat to the dish. I ate about half of my little tofu "riblets" straight off the plate, then made a sandwich with the sizable wheat roll that was included in the meal and scarfed it down, too.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
Of course, if you'd rather have your smoked tofu in the form of a sandwich, Wolfe's can do that, too -- and you can pick and choose according to your hunger level. A basic six-inch sandwich with potato chips is $4.16; an eight-inch sandwich with chips is $4.62; a six-inch sandwich with chips and one side is $5.09; and an eight-inch sandwich with chips and one side is $5.55. Very reasonably priced -- and they even sell smoked tofu by the pound for under $10 per pound.
I won't insult your intelligence or tastebuds by claiming that smoked tofu is every bit as good as pulled pork or beef brisket barbecue -- but sometimes we (okay, I) have to make sacrifices for health reasons. And under those circumstances, places like Wolfe's -- which cater to barbecue-hungry vegetarians -- are a godsend.