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Mann Meats serves up Opening Day BBQ feast from a school bus, on the house

ST. LOUIS – If you made the walk to Busch Stadium from south of the ballpark Thursday, you may have noticed one group cooking up some fresh barbecue from a school bus.

That’s been a St. Louis Cardinals Opening Day tradition for local business Mann Meats over the last several years. “The weather doesn’t deter us,” said owner Bob Mannecke, who stayed busy serving hot meals during 40-degree temperatures.

Mann Meats is part of a yearly gathering that started with one tight-knit group of friends who remember first tailgating on Opening Day during the years of Mark McGwire and Busch Stadium II. The bus and the barbeque are relatively new elements to it, but much beloved.

Bob and longtime friend Terry Turner are the masterminds behind it all.

“It really boomed when McGwire came to town, and we kicked our group up to a size of 70,” said Terry, acknowledging that Big Mac’s home run chase encouraged the group to grow. “After that, it exploded into 100. Next thing we know, it’s become a tradition for many, many years.”

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Co-workers for several years, Terry once asked Bob if he would consider a food truck for the Opening Day experience. Bob didn’t hesitate.

“When he asked me to bring a food truck here, I was like, ‘Man, that would be awesome,'” said Bob.

In 2018, Bob and his wife Holly made that vision a reality and took it a step further, converting a school bus into a barbeque kitchen. Before long, Mann Meats began serving meals on wheels, in addition to serving customers at their Florissant home base.

Bob abides by one special rule on Opening Day. The food he serves is on the house. He made sure his close tailgating friends were fed, along with several passersby. He even treated one railroad worker after a busy day around the Cardinals game.

“Ever since I built my food truck in 2018, I just find ways to feed people with it,” said Bob. “It’s a passion, and it’s so appreciated by everyone that receives what we throw on the table.”

Bob estimates he offered around 80 pounds of meat between chicken wings, pork, bratwursts and breakfast burritos.

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“We give away a ton of food here,” said Bob. “Everybody’s having a great time.”

Terry says the experience is all about the camaraderie and getting St. Louisans excited about Opening Day.

“Everybody has the same goal, to relax and enjoy the spring,” said Terry. “Sometimes it doesn’t feel like that, but we muddle through anyway. It feels good to have everyone come together. Sometimes it’s once a year these people see each other, but it feels like yesterday.”

Bob and Terry’s favorite part about Opening Day?

“It’s a St. Louis holiday!” said Bob.

“It’s our favorite day of the year,” said Terry. “It’s something that people around the country have stopped me and said they have made the trek into St. Louis for Opening Day and what a spectacle it was and what a great time they had. It shows how welcoming the city can be.”

Many hungry fans enjoyed the best of both worlds on Thursday: Fresh food from Mann Meats and a Cardinals’ 8-5 home opener win over the Miami Marlins.

Mann Meats also has a barbeque restaurant at 300 St. Ferdinand St. in Florissant, regularly open Thursday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The restaurant prides itself on original recipe, hand-crafted goods with signature spices. For more information on Mann Meats and its offerings, click here.

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