Openings and Closings

Boca's Best BBQ & Smokehouse's Nathan Gibson Talks About His New Breed of Barbecue

It looks like 2016 is going to be the year of barbecue in South Florida.

If you live in Palm Beach County and love smoked meats, look no further than the new Boca's Best BBQ & Smokehouse in Boca Raton. The establishment stands as a new partnership between Boca Raton-based Sweet Dewey's BBQ owner Dwayne Hooper and brothers Scott and Nathan Gibson, owners of Gibson Smokehouse.

Together, the trio say they are bringing a new barbecue experience to South Florida with their 80-seat restaurant, located in the former Sweet Dewey's BBQ space off Glades Road in Boca Raton. On January 1, the Gibson brothers will celebrate the restaurant's grand reopening, launching a new menu focusing on their specialty: North Carolina-style smoked meats liked pulled pork, pulled barbecue chicken, and fried catfish cooked using a custom-built indoor rotisserie smoker.

The restaurant will also serve Kosher-style corned beef pastrami, Nova smoked salmon, fried chicken, and a homemade beef jerky, in addition to serving several of Dewey's classic Mississippi-style menu items like chicken wings and ribs. 

We caught up with Nathan, a North Carolina native who's been cooking barbecue since childhood, to see what the Boca's Best BBQ & Smokehouse pit master had to say about his latest venture — and the South Florida barbecue scene.

Name: Nathan Gibson, general manager, chef, and co-owner of Boca's Best BBQ & Smokehouse 
Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina
Education: Culinary Institute of America

New Times: How long have you been cooking at Boca's Best BBQ?
Nathan Gibson: We've been open three months, and this is my first establishment in South Florida. I've cooked in other states, including Hyde Park, New York. And as a veteran of the United States Army, I've cooked at many of the places where I was stationed, places like Germany, Croatia, and Macedonia, as well as Georgia, Maryland, and South Carolina.

What inspired you to begin cooking professionally?
The staff I was working with at Tilghman Island Inn in Maryland inspired me to want to cook professionally. Their passion and desire to teach made me want to become a chef.

What's the first important meal or dish you remember making?
The first important meal I remember making was an au poivre New York strip with grit cakes and sautéed Swiss chard. It was a dish I made while I was at the Tilghman Island Inn, and that was the first dish I put together for the menu — a classic with a Southern twist.

What’s your favorite restaurant in South Florida (besides yours, of course)?
I haven’t been out too much since moving here. But my brother is a big fan of Trattoria Romano [in Boca Raton].

What’s your favorite dish on the Boca's Best BBQ & Smokehouse menu right now?
That's a tough one. I'm a big fan of just about everything we're doing right now, but our BBQ eggs Benedict is a nontraditional take on a French classic.

Do you have a favorite dish at another restaurant?
The bone-in rib eye at Sullivan Steakhouse in Raleigh, North Carolina, is one of my favorite dishes at a restaurant other than mine. Their attention to preparing steaks is immaculate.

Who is your favorite local chef?
Dwayne "Dewey" Hooper is my favorite local chef. We work alongside him at Boca's Best BBQ. His background in Mississippi-style barbecue and his amazing collard greens and sauces have truly inspired me.
What's in store for your next menu change?
At the moment, the menu is being overhauled with a number of additions. We're also adding breakfast. Coming soon, we'll have house-made pickles and sausages. We've also just added our own house-cured bacon to the new breakfast menu.

What’s the weirdest request you've ever gotten from a customer?
There are a lot of examples I could give, but the weirdest would probably be working at a fast-casual rotisserie chicken place where people constantly asked for burgers and fried Oreos — even though all we served was chicken.

What do you cook at home when there's no one to impress?
Rissoto. It’s a classic. I particularly like to prepare Italian-style risotto with asparagus, mushrooms, and caramelized onions.

What do you feel is lacking from the South Florida food scene?
Great barbecue is definitely missing. We're excited to be bringing our own barbecue cooked in our custom smoker, using lump charcoal and specialty woods, instead of the usual hickory and mesquite. With us, there is no set time on cooking. The meat tells us when it's done. Plus, we make house-made rubs for all of our meats.

Name one kitchen tool, utensil, or appliance you could not live without.
I could never live without my knife set. While, yes, a knife is a knife, the edge I put on the blade, the personal attention I put into my knives, and the type of knives that I use, fit me better than a generic set of knives. Find any chef that doesn’t answer this question the same way.

Advice for up-and-coming chefs trying to break into the biz?
Work your ass off.

Boca's Best BBQ & Smokehouse is located at 9181 W. Glades Road, Boca Raton. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call 561-488-9688.

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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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna