Johnny Fugitt is a carnivorous All-American hero. For an entire year, from October 2013 to October 2014, the St. Louis native logged thousands of miles on his odometer, breathed in the smoke emanating from hundreds of pits, and sampled countless ribs, brisket, and whole hogs—all in the name of literature.

That’s right. Fugitt’s tireless pursuit of meat cooked low-and-slow earned him a book deal that culminated in this spring’s 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in Americaa list, of course, that has come with its fair share of backlash from a notoriously prickly community.

“Daniel Vaughn called the book the ‘anti-popularity contest’,” laughs Fugitt. “My number one barbecue spot in America is a mile from Franklin BBQ and I had to justify that. It’s controversial for sure.”

In terms of his hometown, Fugitt sees a lot of promise despite the lack of historical barbecue joints that make places like Lockhart and Lexington so special. “St. Louis’ scene has really blown up. In terms of St. Louis restaurants as a whole, they compare pretty favorably to most cities and around the country. It’s going to be a a top-tier barbecue restaurant city in another five or 10 years. There’s plenty of room for freedom and flexibility here, and there’s not a major backlash when people want to try something new.”

From the city’s signature pork steak, to a regional diner staple re-imagined with brisket and pulled pork, Fugitt reveals some of his favorite under-the-radar eats in the booming barbecue town of St. Louis.

Pork Steak at Gamlin Whiskey House

Address and phone: 236 N Euclid Ave, St. Louis, MO (314-875-9500)

Fugitt says: “St. Louis has one really unique meat dish called the pork steak. It was a cheap cut of meat that developed out of the hog-processing factories that was grilled and then covered in sauce. It’s similar to a pork chop. A lot of people cook them in their backyard because it’s a big inexpensive thing that families can buy. Gamlin’s is a nicer restaurant compared to the other bars, diners, and old-school spots that typically serve the dish. What I like about Gamlin’s version is that it’s smoked instead of just being grilled.” (Photo: Facebook/Gamlin Whiskey House)

Slinger at Vernon’s BBQ

Address and phone: 6707 Vernon Ave, University City, MO (314-726-1227)

Fugitt says: In St. Louis, the slinger is a regional specialty found at late-night diners. It’s essentially a mound of hash browns, eggs, and hamburger patties covered in chili and topped with cheese, jalapeños, and onions. It’s super messy and a go-to for the night owls. Vernon’s builds off that idea by offering a barbecue slinger. The base is cornbread, and you can top it with pulled pork and brisket, as well as beans and slaw. It’s a unique take on a local tradition.” (Photo by Johnny Fugitt)

Snooters at Roper’s Ribs

Address and phone: 6929 W Florissant Ave, St. Louis, MO (314-381-6200)

Fugitt says: The older places still serve snoots [pigs’ noses], and this might be one of the few places where you can try it. I think Andrew Zimmern came for his show. In fact, I’d say very few people in St. Louis have tried it. Snoots are pretty much covered in sauce because they’re tough and chewy. My guess is that it’s targeted for an older generation or thrill-seekers.” (Photo by Johnny Fugitt)

Smoked Turkey at Pappy’s Smokehouse

Address and phone: 3106 Olive St, St. Louis, MO (314-535-4340)

Fugitt says: “Pappy’s is probably St. Louis’ most famous barbecue restaurant, but they’re known for ribs and pork. Here’s the secret: They have an incredible smoked turkey. It’s an off-the-radar thing that very few people order.” (Photo: Facebook/Pappy’s Smokehouse)

Burnt Ends at The Shaved Duck

Address and phone: 2900 Virginia Ave, St. Louis, MO (314-776-1407)

Fugitt says: “They have incredible burnt ends here. I listed it in my book as my favorite burnt ends spot in America, which definitely pissed off folks in Kansas City. They’re not underrated in my book, but they are to most people. I would say they’re not even that well-known in St. Louis.” (Photo: Yelp/Tony D.)

Fried Bologna at Salt + Smoke

Address and phone: 6525 Delmar Blvd, St. Louis, MO (314-727-0200)

Fugitt says: “They have a smoked and fried jalapeño cheddar bologna. This place is known for their brisket, but this is another item that I think is delicious and probably the least-ordered meat.” (Photo by Johnny Fugitt)

Brisket at PM BBQ

Address and phone: 161 Long Rd #103, Chesterfield, MO (636-536-1966)

Fugitt says: “It doesn’t receive tons of press, and it’s also very different from the Texas tradition; it almost veers towards a roast beef. That aside, it’s very tasty.” (Photo: Facebook/PM BBQ)

Ribs at Hendricks

Address and phone: 1200 S Main St, St Charles, MO (636-724-8600)

Fugitt says: “The dry rub spare ribs here are top-notch. Hendrick’s is a restaurant that a lot of people go to for the burgers, but don’t miss out on the barbecue. It’s not the best in town, but it’s certainly underrated.” (Photo: Facebook/Hendricks BBQ)

Potato Salad at The Capitalist Pig

Address and phone: 2727 S 12th St, St. Louis, MO (314-772-1180)

Fugitt says: “They have a warm potato salad that is fantastic and unlike anything I’ve seen elsewhere in the country. They cube potatoes that they pull out of the oven and dress with a vinegar-tarragon concoction. It’s almost like a quasi potato wedge salad. (Photo: Yelp/Michelle B)

Smoked Fruit at Vernon’s BBQ

Address and phone: 6707 Vernon Ave, University City, MO (314-726-1227)

Fugitt says: “Vernon’s rotates between whatever fruit is in season. At one point they had smoked strawberries and made a whipped cream that had a bit of smoked strawberry juice in it. They’ll also serve apples and peaches. It’s a side dish, but I get it as a dessert.” (Photo by Johnny Fugitt)