It's easy to miss the Davis Family Company's roadside eatery, Troy's Bar-Be-Que, driving down the somewhat desolate strip of Federal Highway just north of Boynton Beach Boulevard in Boynton Beach. But when clouds of smoke are billowing from the large black steel smokers outside the tiny brick and red-walled building, it's hard to resist the aroma of the place.
Here, longtime chef-owner Troy Davis doesn't just put various pig parts in a commercial smoker to cook unattended for hours like some barbecue chefs with fancy automated machines. Instead, he prepares his version of Southern 'cue with a watchful eye, turning massive racks of ribs and presiding over chicken and pork butts every half-hour until they emerge smoky and moist from the outdoor, open-pit smoker.
"In my opinion, it's barbecue in its realest form," says Anthony Barber, Troy's son. "We're not putting it in a smoker and setting a timer. The way [we] cook, it forces you to work the pit, to know your meat, and get the timing right. It takes skill and experience, and my dad has plenty of both."
Skill and experience are certainly what have made Troy successful. After 20 years in business, the longtime Boynton Beach resident says he garnered the best barbecue tactics by watching self-taught chefs at neighborhood barbecues. The sides — like collard greens and candied yams — he learned from his sister.
Today, Troy's serves what you might consider old-school barbecue. The ribs are the best seller, cleaned, soaked, then cooked low and slow over a combination of charcoal mixed with oak and hickory wood chips. The hickory gives the meat its orange stain, while oak gives the meat its characteristic smoky flavor.
"It's all about consistency," says Troy. "That's what I've built my business on — persistence and consistency. Every time you come here, the food is going to be the same."
The menu hasn't changed much over the years. When Troy opened in 1996, he had seafood on the menu, but people kept ordering the barbecue: platters of ribs, chicken, or pork served with a choice of one or two sides. Everything is takeout-only, generous portions stuffed into Styrofoam containers with seven-ounce sides and a square cut of chewy, moist cornbread.
One thing that separates Troy's from other area barbecue restaurants is the chef-owner's rich tomato-and-vinegar-based sauce, his own secret recipe. A reddish-brown mop with just a hint of mustard, Troy slathers it across pretty much everything he takes off the smoker before serving. He'll tell you it's the same he's been using since he first started cooking meat on an open grill he stationed in his mother's front yard just a few blocks west.
Today, you can still find Troy cooking during daily operating hours, taking orders from the customers that line up outside the small order window and manning the smoker from 11 a.m. to close Thursday through Sunday.
You'll also see his 26-year-old son, Trevor, working by his side. A recent Lincoln Culinary Institute graduate, he's learning the barbecue end of the business from his father. The plan, they say, is to carry on the family legacy for future generations. A second Palm Beach County location is also in the works.
If you frequent Palm Beach County breweries, you might also be familiar with Troy's son, Barber, who runs the Troy's Bar-Be-Que food truck. The former teacher has been helping out at the restaurant since he was 13, helping take customer orders and — eventually — prep food for the smoker.
Today, Barber is also responsible for the first new addition to the Troy's menu in nearly two decades: beef brisket. The resulting meat offers just a kiss of smoke. It's so juicy it oozes when you press a fork into it and so tender you can cut it with a plastic one.
"Before I knew it, I was one of the most in-demand trucks. And more and more customers were asking for brisket," says Barber. "It took me a few weeks to get it to where it is now, but overall, cooking brisket is a simple process. Just like what my dad taught me: Good barbecue is all about timing, temperature, and attention."
Troy's Bar-Be-Que. 1017 N. Federal Hwy., Boynton Beach; 561-740-1125.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.
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