During work hours at the Boynton Beach law firm Tomberg, Hanson & Halper, legal assistant Mike Edmonson and attorney Dean Halper often found themselves bouncing around the idea of opening their own restaurant. Their concepts ranged from the tried and true — like sandwiches — to the weird. "Pizza in a cone," Edmonson remembers. "When we hit a dead end with that, we both turned to each other and said, 'Why not barbecue?'?"
Six months ago, they opened Greenwood BBQ in Lighthouse Point, which focuses on quality meats that have been meticulously sourced, served in environmentally conscious style. They call it "clean barbecue."
The dining room is painted with "eco-friendly" paint and decorated with all-natural bamboo furniture. Cups, straws, and plates are disposable — but all compostable. The kitchen packages to-go orders in recycled, biodegradable containers.
Halper's biggest concern was to serve not only good barbecue but "healthy" barbecue. So Greenwood's general manager, Lillian Hines, juggles orders from three meat vendors across the country, buying grass-fed beef that has been raised humanely and without the use of antibiotics, steroids, or GMO feed.
Hines patronizes only family-run farms that operate small-scale productions. Specialty barbecue cuts come from the homey Diamond Mountain Ranch in Northern California. Free-range chicken and turkey come from North Carolina's Joyce Farms, which claims to feed its birds an all-natural diet.
"Sourcing the meats is probably one of the toughest jobs here, especially when trying to find the barbecue cuts we're looking for," Hines says. "The big farms don't have what we're looking for. Of course, the smaller farms don't produce as much meat. It's a daily process."
Her hustle pays off in the pulled pork, brisket, and ribs. Flavors seem brighter and more intense than an average barbecue and the cuts leaner.
The best seller: the pork spare ribs, taken from the belly side of the pig's rib cage. Flatter than back ribs, which are curved, belly ribs have more bone than meat but loads of flavor. Fall-off-the-bone, though, these are not.
"That's not what these ribs are supposed to be about," says executive chef Frank Myers, who says his aim in smoking the meat is not to overwhelm taste buds with spice but to draw out the meat's own natural flavor. He gives each rack of ribs a dry rub that sits for 24 hours before the ribs are hickory-smoked at 225 degrees for several hours. The result is kissed with a touch of smoky tang, meat encased by a plump pillow of juicy fat. You can eat them as they are — served dry — or with the restaurant's homemade sauces. Most patrons eat them dry.
Whereas barbecue enthusiasts notoriously love to battle over which 'cue style is the best, Greenwood subscribes to no particular style. Carolina pulled pork is served with a vinegary mop sauce; a serious smoked beef brisket with a hotter sauce, as is typically found in Texas; pork ribs come Memphis style in a tangy tomato-based sauce.
"It's a mix of everything we like," Edmonson explains. "Why pick just one?"
On each table sit plastic squeeze bottles full of more sauce options: thick and sweet Kansas City-style barbecue sauce, Memphis hot sauce, or mango- and garlic-infused blends. Feeling adventurous? Glass bottles at the order counter hold potent vinegar washes, from apple cider to jalapeño and a blazing red cayenne pepper sauce.
Greenwood's pulled-pork sandwich is made with more of Myers' succulent, smoky shredded meat, paired with a cheap hamburger bun and a bath of Greenwood's own Tang-colored mop sauce.
If you're looking for heat, however, try the intense SmokinHot! chili — an angry, dark-red mixture with chunks of pork and clumps of ground beef smothered in a spicy tomato and pepper-based goop. Making it has become such a time-consuming process that Edmonson and Myers pull together only one batch each week. It's usually gone in a few days, so weekend warriors never stand a chance at ordering a bowl.
Any true barbecue joint also puts love into its sides. At Greenwood, the macaroni and cheese is made with a tantalizing combination of cheddar, Gorgonzola, and Parmesan. Sautéed kale — a health-conscious take on collard greens — is cooked to a rubbery softness in a vinegar-sweetened bath.
By now, everyone at the law firm has brought in a secret recipe or two. The rub for ribs and pork butt is a secret family blend, compliments of law-firm partner Mark Hanson. And the award-winning chili is Edmonson's own, a recipe that's won him several local competitions.
The restaurant staff has likewise kicked in and tweaked recipes. A well-balanced Carolina mop sauce was fine-tuned by one of the kitchen staff. A sous chef perfected a homemade applesauce made in-house with nothing but organic Washington apples, cinnamon, and a touch of sugar. And homemade cream pies make the menu thanks to the resident "dessert queen" Brittany Rodgers.
Edmonson says the long-term plan is to open additional Greenwood restaurants across South Florida and one day nationwide. He's even considering a kosher version of the restaurant for a site he's targeted in Brooklyn, New York.
"It's good barbecue that's better for you. It's the sort of place we were looking for," says Edmonson. "We think everyone else feels the same way."
Pulled-pork sandwich $12.99
Homemade applesauce $3.49
Kale-ard greens $3.49
Mac and cheese $3.49
Cream pies $3.50
2014 NE 36th St., Lighthouse Point. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call 954-971-1369, or visit gwoodbbq.com.