Best Barbecue 2015 | Blue Willy's Barbecue | Food & Drink | South Florida
Sara Ventiera

When it comes to slowly smoked meats, few South Floridians know more than Will Banks, owner of Blue Willy's Barbecue in Pompano Beach. Banks learned to cook barbecue from his grandfather, who owned and operated a Texas barbecue shop that opened in the 1950s. At 15, Banks' family moved to New York, but he never stopped barbecuing — first in homemade pits, then a food truck, and now at a permanent restaurant where the scent of smoked meats hangs heavy in the air and leaves you with a delicious fragrance. Wooden picnic benches are set with rolls of paper towels and a trio of sauces. Here, Banks roasts, smokes, and cuts everything right before your eyes, from tender roast chicken to spare ribs and pulled pork and a juicy peppercorn-crusted brisket. The same cut of beef is used to make the best pastrami sandwich in Broward County, via a three-week brining and smoking process.

Readers' Choice: Tom Jenkins BBQ

Here, you'll get more than a basic, boring wiener. A chalkboard on the wall advertises a dozen or so specialty dogs, everything from the Korean (with homemade kimchi, red onion, and Asian mustard) to the Reuben (with Swiss cheese, kraut, and Thousand Island dressing). Of course, you'll still be able to find all the regular hot-dog toppings like relish, ketchup, and good ol' yellow mustard. But it's the more adventurous options like char-grilled salami sandwiches, smokehouse beef brisket, and gourmet sausages that make this place truly original. Daily specials are always exciting, like the gyro — a lamb hot dog topped with tzatziki and feta cheese. There's even a well-stocked variety of specialty sausages, from duck and pheasant to wild boar, venison, elk, and buffalo — all for less than $6 each. For more familiar options, we still love the classic Chi-town dog, a Vienna footlong that's been dragged through the garden with a slathering of mustard, onion, emerald-green relish, dill pickle, tomato wedges, sport pepper, and a sprinkling of celery salt.

Readers' Choice: Hot Dog Heaven

M.E.A.T. Eatery & Tap Room in Boca Raton is all about doing everything in-house. As at its sister establishment in Islamorada, the restaurant staff smokes and grinds its own meats onsite, cuts and cures its own bacon, and offers house-made sausage and chorizo. Even the condiments — including a mango chipotle ketchup and caraway and beer mustard — are made fresh and from scratch. The menu is a carnivore's dream, offering everything from duck and pickled blueberry sausage to an eight-hour, house-smoked, pulled-pork sandwich. A crowd favorite is the Inside-Out Juicy Lucy Burger, a six-ounce pimento-cheese-and-bacon-stuffed Angus patty topped with cheese, lettuce, and tomato, but we always opt for the "Patti" sandwich, a five-ounce chorizo burger made fresh and ground in-house. It's a monster, topped with American cheese and a lime cilantro aioli. All it needs is a solid side act. We suggest pairing it with the bistro fries, here fried in duck fat for an extra level of flavor.

Readers' Choice: Bull Market

The veggie burger was once a sad food item. It was tossed onto the menu at every kind of restaurant from suburban chains to upscale steak houses to trendy gastropubs almost as an afterthought, a bare nod to the idea that some of these weirdo nonmeaters might come in and we gotta give 'em something. As food has become more introspective and the American public began to seek vittles beyond Sysco meals, the veggie burger evolved. Tap 42 does a particularly creative take: no fake meat or boring beans, the patty is basically a large falafel made from ground chickpeas and fried to crispy goodness. It is then topped with roasted red-pepper tzatziki (a yogurt-based condiment), lettuce, tomato, and onion. You don't have to be a vegetarian to enjoy a sandwich like that.

Anyone who's been around a New Yorker for more than 30 seconds has heard it before: "The pizza here just isn't the same. It's all about the water! You just can't get good water down here!" We get it. Shut up. If we have to hear one more time about your precious slice of pizza, we're going to shove a slice of Times Square pizza down your throat. Because then, maybe then, you'll finally realize that you can — yes, you can — get great pizza in South Florida. For years, this little shop has been churning out pie after pie of delicious, New York-style pizza. And, you know what? It does it better than anywhere in Manhattan. Yeah, we said it.

Readers' Choice: Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza

Gustavo Rojas

Sometimes, if you can't find it, you make it yourself. If you hail from Philadelphia, however, it's not pizza that warms the cockles of your heart; it's cheesesteaks. Sam "Sonny" Nigro was a baker back in Philly who made the move to South Florida more than 50 years ago and promptly opened Sonny's Famous Steak Hogies in Hollywood. Here you'll find a steak hogie (get the name right, people) in the proud tradition of Philly. The bread is handmade daily from scratch and baked fresh. They prepare their own sauces and slice the meat themselves — just like you remember.

A sign hangs on the wall at Fran's Chicken Haven in Boca Raton that pretty much says it all: "If the colonel had our recipe, he'd be a general." Why? This joint has been serving comfort food for close to five decades. Originally opened in 1964 by Fran and Joe Gerace, today the restaurant is owned and operated by Boca Raton native Chris Stuart, who remembers eating there as a child with his father, who at one time delivered the bread. Since he took over in 2013, Stuart has used the original Fran's fried-chicken recipe, a sugar-sweetened blend of spices that fries up to a perfect crisp. Some things, though, have changed: The menu once served nothing but fried chicken with a side of coleslaw or fries. Today, Stuart offers homemade sides like mashed potatoes and gravy or macaroni 'n' cheese. If you're extra hungry, go for the fried chicken and waffles, an oversized Belgian waffle served with a fried chicken thigh and leg and a choice of a regular, chocolate, or apple caramel waffle. For dessert, follow it up with a fried Oreo or Twinkie.

Readers' Choice: Bay Bay's Chicken and Waffles

Candace West

Betty's... a place where you can stuff your face with fried chicken and cornbread and no one will judge you for it. It's been in Sistrunk for 40 years and is opening a second location in Pompano Beach. Owner Betty Taylor is a sweet Southern woman from Mississippi who just had to share her food with everyone, and we are so glad she did. This restaurant has won countless awards, and we aren't hesitant to give it another one. It's the best place to get a home-cooked meal when you don't feel like frying anything. We just recommend you hit the gym the next day, because you may be feeling this one for days — but in a good way. Here are ten more reasons to go: crunchy fried chicken, creamy mac 'n' cheese, fall-off-the-bone ribs, breakfast all day every day, freshly baked desserts, soft and sweet cornbread, Kool-Aid (oh yeah!), collard greens, fried jumbo shrimp, and Betty Taylor's smile.

Don't let the laid-back Caribbean theme fool you. Inside this tiki-hut-style eatery, there's a bar serving some of the area's best chicken wings. Here, it's all about choice. Exercise yours wisely. You can order your wings with a wide array of homemade sauces, fried or grilled. Or both. The best: Teddy's wings sauce, of course. It's made from scratch, a vinegary purée of fresh banana peppers that's finger-licking good whether on the wings or at the bottom of the basket. Some of the other 20 or so flavors include fun fruit mashups like raspberry, pineapple, and guava tequila lime. When the weather is nice, grab a seat outdoors under the tiki's shade and be grateful the best Buffalo wings in the area come with a tropical breeze too.

Often confused with a meatball, falafel is a completely vegan concoction made of ground chickpeas, herbs, and spices deep fried in oil. Nowhere in the area do you find as delectable a specimen of falafel than those found at Sunrise Pita & Grill. It comes served in three varieties of sandwiches — in a pita for $6.75, in baguette sandwiches for $8.49, and in a lafa wrap for $8.99. If you wish to have the falafel in its pure form unencumbered by bread, lettuce, or tomato, you can order the appetizer of six falafels for $3.99 or get the full falafel plate with hummus and salads on the side. Keep in mind, the restaurant is Glatt Kosher; thus, to observe the Sabbath, it closes at 4 p.m. on Fridays and is closed all day Saturday.

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