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"This pastor well-armed and ready to serve his barbecue again" Kathie Jenkins, Pioneer Press
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|Minneapolis Saint Paul Magazine November,2006 "Comfort Food" by Chef Andrew Zimmern|
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Paul Pioneer Press
July 19th, 2005
July 21st, 2005
June 20th, 2005
Two weeks ago, we reported that Big Daddy's is back in town. Now, another St. Paul barbecue icon is making a comeback. Pastor Luches Hamilton will reopen Pastor Hamilton's Bar-B-Que, a small restaurant and takeout, in a room adjacent to St. John's Church on East Seventh Street. He's shooting for an opening date of April 1, no fooling.
Forced to close his barbecue spot last October because of rotator cuff surgery, Pastor Hamilton just received a doctor's release to return to work, and he's raring to go.
His menu will be the same ribs, wings and broasted chicken as before. Once the weather gets warmer, the reverend will be back at his black barbecue drum on Fridays with an extended menu that will include sausages, barbecue chicken, catfish and jo-jo potatoes. He'll also sell jars of his award-winning barbecue sauce.
As before, the money raised will help the kids in his parish.
"Same place, same location, same recipes," says Pastor Hamilton, who learned how to slow-cook over hickory while growing up in Arkansas. "Only the food might even be better this time because I can now use my right arm," he says.
1150 E. 7th St., St. Paul, MN. - 651-772-0279
"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.
Pastor Hamilton's Bar-B-Que 1150 7th St. E. St. Paul, MN 651-772-0279
In this desolate and empty blue-collar end of St. Paul's West 7th Street sits
a small barbecue joint that makes its own sauce and serves
a decent rack of ribs.
While the rubes are content to gnaw on the pig bones, I would
urge you to tuck into a twelve-pack of the good Pastor's chicken wings. If
salty, juicy, and
deeply flavored barn bird, sealed inside a mantle of crusty,
skin transports you back to the idyllic summer Sunday afternoons
of a simpler
time, then this is the chicken of your dreams. The price is
soft, portions are
large, and the wings are even better after a day in the fridge,
brought back to
room temperature and washed down with a glass of lemonade.
1150 E. 7th St., St. Paul, MN. - 651-772-0279
"It's all for the kids"
When the aroma of slow-cooking ribs and chicken tantalizes East Siders near St. John's Church on Friday afternoons, it means the Rev. Luches Hamilton is barbecuing on the street again.
The Arkansas-born preacher, who combines his love of cooking with his love of the Lord, parks his industrial-sized grill on the street in front of his storefront church at 1154 E. 7th St. on Fridays and fires up the Kingsford. By noon, the meat is sizzling, and drivers start pulling over to buy a plate of barbecue with beans and potato salad -- $10 for the ribs or rib tips, $8 for a half-chicken.
He has even started bottling his sauce: Pastor Hamilton's Old Style BBQ Sauce, which is sold at several local grocery stores. He'll put the proceeds in a scholarship fund for low-income neighborhood kids.
Workers from the nearby Selby Ornamental Iron Co. take off their welding masks when they smell the reverend's ribs. "If he's cooking, we're eating," worker Cobey Smith said.
Dan Rooney, who also works nearby, said he often eats lunch at the church. "Good ribs, good deal, good cause," he said. "Can't beat it."
Pastor Hamilton said he barbecues most Fridays, unless it's raining or too cold. So it won't be long before he packs up for the season. But he'll keep bottling the sauce in the church kitchen, and soon, he hopes, he'll be marketing his own brand of frozen breakfast sausage.
"It's all for the kids," he said.
"There's soul food and spiritual food." "I serve 'em both."
"Good barbecue, it takes time. You can't rush it. When I watch people spend all this money on dry rub and all this seasoning for ribs and stuff, it's not necessary. I'm from Arkansas, and we made good barbecue by just digging a hole in the ground. We didn't know what a grill was."
"We put iron rods across the hole and put the pig on it. We cover him up with corn shucks and put a blanket over it and throw the dirt back on there and leave a hole just big enough to put the hickory wood down there."
"We would leave it in the ground for three days. Three days!"
"Then we'd pull the blanket back off, take the shucks off and get a pail with sauce. Get a white sheet, rip it up, tie it on a stick and mop that pig. The sauce would drip down into the fire. When it would run off and hit the coals, it would send up that nice aroma. That's what gives the flavor."
"When we brought the pig to the table, the meat just fell off the bone. That was good barbecue."
Photography and story by BEN GARVIN
Pastor Hamilton's Bar-B-Que in St. Paul is easy to find. All you have to do is head east on Seventh Street until it narrows down to one lane in each direction, and then your nose will know.
Pastor Luches Hamilton learned how to slow-cook over hickory while growing up in Arkansas. He started barbecuing outside his church on Fridays to raise money for the kids in his parish. Business was so good he opened a small restaurant and carry-out in a room adjacent to his church.
The menu includes ribs that are rich and juicy, wings, broasted chicken and beef or pork sandwiches. On Fridays, when Pastor Hamilton is manning the black barbecue drum in front of St. John's Church, sausages, barbecued chicken, catfish and walleye are part of the mix. Sides include coleslaw, jo-jo potatoes and baked beans. For dessert, it's either peach cobbler or poundcake. The reverend does catering, too, and sells his sauce by the jar. And the money still goes to charity. Praise the Lord and pass the pork.
Pastor Hamilton's Bar-B-Que, 1150 E. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-772-0279. Open for lunch and dinner Thursday through Saturday. (Pastor Hamilton cooks outside on Fridays.)
Kathie Jenkins - July 21, 2005 - Twin Cities.com/Pioneer Press
Picture courtesy St Paul Pioneer Press
Clergy who cook. Men of the cloth are also cooks, and so their congregations are doubly blessed.
Every Friday afternoon, Pastor Luches Hamilton hangs up his cloak and grabs an apron. "I started cooking and selling my food because I needed funds for the younger people," says Hamilton, who grills at his church on St. Paul's East Side using a homemade barbecue sauce. "This is a depressed area over here and a lot of parents don't have money to pay for their kids to go roller skating or to Camp Snoopy. That's why I started doing it."
While Hamilton began cooking for others as a way to raise money for worthy causes, the St. Paul church leader has found that his cuisine is leaving as strong an impression on the community as his sermons.
When Hamilton moved from Arkansas to St. Paul 30 years ago, he thought good barbecue sauce was hard to find, so he concocted his own recipe and started grilling for others.
The sauce met with such rave reviews the St. John's Church pastor began packaging and selling it. Now, jars of Pastor Hamilton's Old Style Bar-B-Que Sauce can be found at local supermarkets including Rainbow Foods and Mississippi Market, and the proceeds benefit the Youth College Fund.
The chicken and ribs Hamilton cooked were also such a hit, he opened Pastor Hamilton's Bar-B-Que restaurant next to St. John's church, where he grills outside every Friday.
Former St. Paul East Sider Jeffrey Zopf is one of the converted when it comes to Hamilton's barbecue. After trying every barbecue sauce he could get his hands on, Zopf came across Hamilton's and decided it was the best in town.
"There's nothing like it. It's smoky, and it's not sweet," he says. "I go out of my way to get his cooking and buy the sauce."
Zopf is so faithful to Hamilton's food he makes a trip from his Forest Lake home at least twice a month to eat at Hamilton's restaurant. The mortgage broker also buys half a dozen cases of sauce a year for himself, friends and customers. His family loves Hamilton's barbecue so much Zopf hired the pastor to cook for his son Adam's high school graduation party last year.
BY NANCY NGO Pioneer Press Wednesday, Sept 21, 2005
ON A FRIDAY AFTERNOON outside Pastor Hamiltons Bar-B-Que, a handful of people sit on folding chairs, huddled around a couple collapsible tables. They are chitchatting, trading stories, and licking their fingers. Pastor Luches Hamilton, wearing a bright red apron over blue Dickies overalls, rises occasionally to check the grill. He lifts the lid and is quickly engulfed in a steaming gray cloud, like Moses up on the mountain.
This, it seems, is holy smoke. To raise funds for scholarships and youth activities, the Arkansas-born minister revived his family recipes for weekly cookouts and, this past winter, opened a five-days-a-week restaurant (four tables, a soda machine, and a church pew to sit on while you wait to pick up an order) adjacent to his tiny storefront church.
This part of East Seventh Streetcrumbling concrete and barbed wire, decrepit and largely abandonedseems the opposite of the bustling western stretch. The lot across the street from Hamiltons, formerly used for asphalt and shingle production, now sits vacant, waiting for environmental cleanup. A car whizzes past, and an occupant tosses out a paper cup. Hamilton shakes his head. But if God could fashion Eve from a rib, why not hope from a rack of them?
Hamilton pulls a slab off the grill and drops it in his rust-colored barbecue bath. The sauce is sweet without too much sweetness, sour without too much sour, and eschews the faux smokiness of many commercial varieties. Sniff around for its secret and you might get a hint (lots of garlic powder, for one), but its a lot easier to buy a jar of the slather than to try to duplicate its heavenly flavor. The restaurants menu features soul food staples: fried chicken, jo jo potatoes, and coleslawbut the greatest of these is the ribs.
During lulls in business, the Pastor likes to talk. Listening allows plenty of time to work your way across the ribs distinct terrain: on top, the nibble-beckoning caramelized flesh, akin to bacon or jerky; next, the greasy, melting portion at the back, breached with occasional hunks of fat; then the finger meat between the bones, smoky and tender and rich; and finally, that last, gnaw-worthy layer thats fused itself right to the bone.
Within a few minutes, a regular customer rides up on a bicycle. Then an older man grabs takeout while his wife waits in a Buick. Lawyers rub elbows with troubled teens, and soon it is busy again. Cars pass, honking hellos. Hamilton waves and hollers back, flashing a hint of gold when he smiles. His next ambition is to raise funds for a food shelf, to add to the back of the church. Im hopin and prayin that somebody will help, he says. Baited with barbeque, its only a matter of time.
Twin Cities Taste®
Pastor Hamiltons Bar-B-Que 1150 E. Seventh St., St. Paul, 651-772-0279
Review published October 2005
Last December I was in the office of John Poepl, president of Vermillion Bank in Vermillion, Minnesota, when he said, "I bought some cases of jars of barbeque sauce to give as Christmas gifts. A preacher on the east side of St. Paul makes the sauce and sells it to benefit kids. Maybe you'd like to write about him." With that Poepl invited me to the world of Pastor Luches G. Hamilton, a man of big dreams backed up by dedication, determination, and a belly full of fire.
With prime barbeque season on the way, I gave Pastor Hamilton a call to ask if I could pay him a visit. He said he was up to his ears in sauce production problems and that he'd call me back when things settled down, which he did when they did. That's how, on a pleasant summer day, I came to be sitting in his modest office at St. John's Church, a Church of God and Christ, at 1154 E. 7th Street, not far from downtown St. Paul.
There I heard about how Hamilton and his nine brothers and sisters grew up on their small farm in Camden, Arkansas, about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock. Young Luches Jr. learned to work on the farm as a child and then worked at various jobs in the Camden area after his father died, when Luches was 12. By the time he was in his late teens, Hamilton, the young man, could see he was going to have to get more serious about making money, so he went to Little Rock to work at his sister's restaurant, the Hazel Ross Cafe. That's where he learned to cook.
"I've seen a lot," said Pastor Hamilton, as he talked about his motivation for dedicating his life to God and community. His face seemed to say he could fill a whole day with sad, true stories of greed and indifference, even before he got to the ones of hate and violence. "As a child my mother was cut on a broken window as she ran from a burning church where a minister had been teaching her and other black children to read.
The Klan had set the place on fire."
But Hamilton doesn't have a lot of time to lament his childhood or slip into memories of the trouble he's known. A man of clear and ambitious vision, he sees that today we can do better by children than we've done in the past. With his sleeves rolled up whether he's dressed like a minister or a chef, Pastor Luches G. Hamilton is marching into the hope and the bog of making things better one jar of sauce, one rack or ribs, one young person at a time. His philosophy and focus have simmered and deepened with his life experiences.
"For three years I owned and operated Hamilton's Old Style Barbeque on Selby Avenue in St. Paul. At that time our family lived in east St. Paul. I wanted us to move to Woodbury, because I thought that would be a better place to raise our children, and we did move. I found out that the kids in Woodbury are just like the kids in east St. Paul.
"We need to think of more positive things for young people to do. Too many of them are buying more than they need - on credit, sleeping their days away, spending long hours on the computer and watching a lot of TV. They're getting into pornography. That's a good way to learn how to be a bum, to turn to drugs or to suicide.
"On the other end we have older folks sitting in nursing homes with nothing to do. We're wasting all that knowledge and wisdom. We don't have to do that. I feel we need to focus on kids and come together to help meet the needs of young people who are crying out and not being heard."
Pastor Luches Hamilton seems to hear that crying loud and clear. I asked him if he's read The Measure of Our Success, by Marian Wright Edelman, director of the Children's Defense Fund in Washington, D.C., because she hears the crying too. He said he hasn't read the book, but I'm sure he could write his own powerful version of Edelman's treatise on integrity, human potential and community. Not right now, though. He's too busy living it.
When Hamilton isn't working on church business he's producing, selling and promoting Pastor Hamilton's Old Style Barbeque Sauce. When the weather's warm, as it is now, he's extra busy on Fridays. That's when he fires up his big, black grill and by noon is serving barbeque dinners complete with great potato salad and baked beans - selling them and jars of sauce on the street in front of St. John's Church.
Pastor Hamilton needs to make a lot of sales to turn his plans into reality. The barbeque profits help students get to college. Before they leave home they need to develop a work ethic and recognize the importance of community service. Hamilton's given a lot of thought to those needs also.
Every day he looks out his church office window across E. 7th Street at an old, abandoned business site, the Globe Building Materials, Inc., complex. He imagines the land there free of tar contamination and the buildings torn down or rehabbed to make a center for young folks to use, a place the likes of which no one in these parts has ever seen. Come to think of it, where could anyone go to find a popular, gospel dance club and community center where kids like those in east ST. Paul, like those in Woodbury, young folks anywhere, would gather?
"I imagine a safe place, with plenty of security and no smoking, drugs or alcohol," said Hamilton. "Youngsters will pretty much run the place. We will have a woodshop, a kitchen for food service, an arts and crafts studio and a traveling gospel choir. Business minded young folks will work on the finances. It will be a place where kids can reach other kids and adults can share their experience and hope. We will work with parents and the schools to make it all happen."
With a growing crew of workers who believe in his sauce and his dream, and with faith, young folks and barbeque in his native Arkansas bones, Pastor Luches G. Hamilton is on the move. The small business loan L. Hamilton Enterprises secured through Vermillion Bank has been paid in full, the newly appointed commercial kitchen where the sauce is made gleams and hums with activity, and the "Old Style" barbeque aroma wafts around the St. John's Church neighborhood, especially on Friday afternoons. And, no small thing, Pastor Hamilton's sauce can be purchased at Cub and Kowalski's grocery stores, and also through Simon Delivers.
How is the pastor of a smallish church on a busy St. Paul street in a working class neighborhood going to build an impressive range of services and facilities for young people? Pastor Luches G. Hamilton believes that with a lot of work and faith, God will make a way. A growing number of well wishers and supporters look forward to the reality of the whole touching, bighearted operation. One day at a time, one jar of sauce at a time.
To Pastor Hamilton and company, Godspeed.
Pam Keul. Turtle River Press September 2003
When people would complain
years ago about the smells emanating from Globe Building Materials
on East Seventh Street, 3M's Bernie Baumann always had a stock
reply ready: "Smells like jobs" he'd say, a refrain repeated
often at Phalen Corridor planning sessions.
Now there's a different smell afoot, one that's a little different than hot, boiling tar.
Hot, smoked barbeque ribs, cooked personally by the Rev. Luches Hamilton at Pastor Hamilton's Barbeque, 1150 E. Seventh St.
The East Seventh Street storefront across the street from the vacant Globe complex has brightened up the neighborhood considerable, people say. And a boost is much needed.
Globe filed for bankruptcy in 2001, laying off more than 100 people, most of them East Siders making $16 an hour on average as members of the Teamsters union.
And while people lament the loss of jobs, one thing people don't miss is the smell, an acrid, foul smell that Selby Ornamental Iron owner Tom Berry says would get worse at night.
They would (send out smoke) in the dark. That was against the law," says Berry, whose business is across the street from the Globe building and nearby Hamilton's restaurant-church complex.
Berry is tickled pink his long-time neighbor has started up a new business that employs locals and also has improved the neighborhood's aroma dramatically.
While Hamilton's St. John's Church has been around for almost a decade, his restaurant venture is new. And he knows he's found a lot of converts to his ribs, as locals follow their noses into his tidy little restaurant space and get attended to by Hamilton, his two daughters, or one of many down-on-their-luck East Siders who Hamilton tries to help out with jobs and food.
"He's a sweetheart," says Tom's wife Mary Berry of the pastor next door. "The whole neighborhood comes around when he starts cooking. That's the neighborhood call. People come from all over the place."
Mary even likes the crowds he brings, noting that food seems to be a great way to bring together the area's diverse crowds. She calls Hamilton's place a "good mixer" for the neighborhood folk.
Hamilton himself is happy he's found a way to make money for his church and for the neighborhood kids he feeds and takes fun places like Valley Fair.
"God called me to do more than pastor. I've got to feed them too," he says.
And he, too, remembers the smell of boiling tar that used to come from the Globe building, just purchased by the St. Paul Port Authority.
"The smell, it was a gross smell," he says. "But when Globe moved out, it really hurt this community. A lot of people lost their homes."
He sees his restaurant as a way to most directly help out his fellow East Siders.
"This area is a really depressed area," he says, discussing some of his upcoming plans: a food shelf with meat and potatoes, a marketing and sales plan for his sauce, and a grant writer to help him figure out how to find funds for his nonprofit operation.
In the meantime, while he's figuring all that out, he can at least sell people some ribs.
Scott Nichols East Side Review
Monday, June 20th, 2005