Every year in our Best Of issue we have to make some tough choices. Take the category of Best Barbecue, for example. There are probably a good half-a-dozen restaurants that would qualify for this award depending on who you talk to. For example, some people think Tom Jenkins should win every year. Others balk if it doesn't go to the Georgia Pig. But with all the great places serving barbecue down here, it's hard to justify giving the award to just one restaurant year after year. And frankly, I don't believe any one place is that much better than all the rest anyway.
So this year, the distinction went to Art's BBQ,
which has been doing its thing in Coral Springs for
going on 10 years now. Too often I go to barbecue places down here and
there's no way of
knowing if the ribs or pork were cooked over wood smoke or just in the
oven. What's great about Art's is you can really taste the smoke in the
meat. The St. Louis ribs, pulled pork, brisket, hot-link sausage, and
chicken wings all share a deeply woodsy bite -- the kind you expect for
great barbecue. The meat is tender but not fall-apart tender (barbecue
that falls apart is either a result of par-cooking or extended time in
the oven). The sauce isn't too sweet and isn't too spicy. The tell-tale
factor for me might have been the fact that the ribs come on a bed of
white bread. Now that's serious eating.
In short, Art's won because it follows tradition and creates a worthy product.
Another 'cue joint I was considering was Sheila's Famous BBQ, Conch, & More in Lake Worth. I recently reviewed Sheila's,
which melds American barbecue with Caribbean seafood like cracked conch
and conch salad. Both halves of that equation are top notch -- the 'cue
is smoky and tender and the conch is revelatory. The chopped pork, in
particular, is a lesson in proper barbecue texture, with bits of chewy
bark (crunchy meat near the surface) mixed with meaty, smoky hunks. The
sauce is a bit on the sweet side, and Sheila's tends to douse its
barbecue with it, but those are minor complaints for me.
did I eliminate Sheila's from the running? Quite simply, the new
restaurant hasn't been open long enough. Having recently moved from a trailer to
a brick and mortar building off of Dixie Highway, Sheila's Famous has
been open for just over two months now. And while the product they've
produced in that time is outstanding, it's simply not enough time to
judge whether they can continue to do this for the long haul.
That said, Sheila's is an early favorite for next year's Best Barbecue winner. Keep doing what you're doing.
Sheila's Famous BBQ, Conch, and More
1132 S. J St., Lake Worth