Florida Might Not Have Its Own Style of Barbecue, But We Do Have Options

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Here's a quick lesson for you: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the world "barbecue" derives from the Spanish word "barbacoa," which in turn is said to have derived from "barbracot," a word from the Haitian-Carib dialect used to describe the green sticks that formed the grill islanders would configure to cook meats. That Caribbean method of slow smoking over a bed of hot coals dates back as far as the 1600s, when African slaves brought their knowledge stateside, birthing the many variations of Southern-style barbecue we know today.

Today, barbecue is everywhere. From North to South — and the East Coast to the West — there are literally dozens of regional styles to consider, including Memphis and Carolina's famed pulled pork, St. Louis-style spare ribs, Alabama's white-barbecue-smothered chicken, Kansas City's burnt ends, and Texas brisket. Spare ribs. Pulled pork. You name a cut of meat and there's a state or region that specializes in slow-smoking it.

Here in South Florida — the only state in the South without its own brand of BBQ — Southern influence can still be felt even hundreds of miles from the 'cue belt of the nation; pig and cow lovers can brag and say we have a little bit of everything when it comes to authentic regional barbecue staples. And in case you haven't noticed lately, it's a good time to love barbecue in South Florida, because it is officially "on trend."

Where to go for BBQ sauce...

Blue Front Bar & Grill
1132 N. Dixie Highway, Lake Worth. Call 561-833-6651, or visit mybluefront.com.
Don't let the quasi-art-deco building that once housed Jetsetters Lounge fool you: Blue Front Bar & Grill is as good as it gets in Palm Beach County when it comes to barbecue. The menu is a mashup of all-American soul classics, everything from ribs, pulled pork, and collard greens to some killer cornbread and macaroni and cheese. Owner David Paladino and his family purchased the iconic, Florida-born Blue Front Bar-B-Que sauce company in 2011 from Annie Nelson, widow of the company's founder, Norris Nelson. As the story goes, Nelson began his barbecue operation in 1964 at the corner of 15th Street and Tamarind Avenue in West Palm Beach. Growing up in Eastman, Georgia, he learned to cook from his father — ribs and chicken slathered in a spicy BBQ sauce that quickly became a hit, beloved by all the locals who frequented his shop. It became so popular, Norris began selling his sauce in empty soda bottles. Later, in 1979, he patented the name Blue Front Bar-B-Que Inc. and began marketing his sauce to the public in many stores throughout the country. Now, more than 40 years later, you can even get a potent cocktail during happy hour, a side or two of live music to go along with your meal, and a to-go bottle of that famous barbecue sauce for savoring the flavor at home.

Where to go for spare ribs...

The Burning Oak
8006 W. McNab Road, North Lauderdale. Call, or visit facebook.com/Burningoakbbq.
In a new building located off McNab Road in North Lauderdale, The Burning Oak co-owner Craig Young is one of three men behind the low and slow smoked barbecue served up at this two-month-old establishment. Despite the new digs, Young and his partner, ex-Marine Julio Villarreal, have been cooking barbecue for years, mainly out of a Davie-based food truck they named Legend's BBQ that continues to operate via private events and catering. Today, the duo say the “legends” they serve at their new brick and mortar restaurant is reference to the meats they serve their customers: beef, pork, and chicken, all of which have been feeding the world’s population for thousands of years. That includes racks of oak wood-smoked spare ribs smothered in their own rub seasoning: long, flat bones carrying meaty pork marbled with fat to hold in all that smoky essence. They're packed with flavor thanks to a "secret" step that includes spraying the meat with apple juice every hour during the smoking process. That extra step produces ribs with just a touch of sweet, complimented by the owners' homemade tangy barbecue sauce. And thanks to a unique drive-through window, now you don't even need to get out of your car for solid, Southern-style barbecue.

Where to get smoked chicken...

Smoke BBQ
3351 NE 32nd St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-530-5334, or visit eatbbqnow.com.
Rather than the Kansas City-style 'cue Smoke Delray Beach has become known for, Smoke Fort Lauderdale offers an expanded variety of meats. Each is smoked in-house daily — anywhere from five to 16 hours, depending on the cut — and served in a variety of regional styles. Some of it doesn't even adhere to any particular region at all but instead offers the chef's unique blend of many. With all the rib and beef goodness going on, it might be easy to overlook the smoked chicken, but don't. There's something exceptionally good about this bird, smoked in half-portions for six hours, emerging from the kitchen with moist white meat beneath a thin shell of golden, crackled skin. Pile it onto a platter or stuff it between two slices of potato bread and you've got yourself one of the best damned chicken sandwiches you'll ever taste.

Where to go for Texas brisket...

Blue Willy's Barbecue
1386 S. Federal Highway, Pompano Beach. Call 954-224-6120.
Blue Willy's Barbecue in Pompano Beach is an authentic re-creation of the 1950s Texas butcher shop turned eatery where owner Will Banks grew up, a place where he smokes and slices meat to go rather than selling it raw by the pound. If beef brisket is the king of Texas barbecue, consider Banks the king of the style here in South Florida. It's one of his most popular picks, fat slivers carved from a whole packer that balances the rib-eye-like tender meat along the fat cap with the tender, juicy sirloin-like cut from the flat. Banks' low and slow smoking process renders the meat moist and incredibly flavorful. That same cut is used to make the smoked pastrami too, prepared 200 pounds at a time after a five-week smoking and curing process. It's so labor-intensive, Banks sells the stuff only on Thursday. Thick-cut and stacked sky-high, it's served on the restaurant's signature onion bun (or plain rye bread, if you prefer) with a dollop of house coleslaw.

Where to go for a pulled-pork sandwich...

The Georgia Pig
1285 S. State Road 7, Davie. Call 954-587-4420.
Across much of the South, pork is considered the ultimate barbecue meat. That's certainly the case at 62-year-old Georgia Pig, a place that does the pork up right and has been serving it for more than a few decades. Things haven't changed much since founding owner Linton Anderson opened it off State Road 7 at Davie Boulevard in the early 1950s. It's still cash only, and its chopped-pork sandwich is still the best around. Today, after a string of owners, the Georgia Pig is operated by Robert and Luke Moorman, brothers who have been dining at the Pig since their high school days at St. Thomas Aquinas and learned to make the restaurant's iconic 'cue from former pit master Dan Fitzgerald. They're still serving traditional Southern-style pork specialties barbecued on an open, live-oak-fired pit. From there, all you need is a bottle of the restaurant's signature sauce — a thin, tangy, mustardy, red-orange concoction that doesn't have the tomatoey flavor of many barbecue sauces.

Where to go for baby back ribs...

Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q
1236 S. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-522-5046, or visit tomjenkinsbbq.net.
Today a Fort Lauderdale institution, Tom Jenkins has been smoking up the neighborhood since 1990. Originally a traveling barbecue trailer, it became a 40-seat restaurant back in 1996, and while it may have moved up in terms of location, the cooks here still use the same slow, oak-fired cooking process to churn out the restaurant's beloved Southern-style pork specialties — food that's garnered high praise as one of 500 best places to eat by the online Great Florida Restaurant Guide. That includes baby back ribs, the cut that sits closest to the hog's back loins for a fat stack of meat atop curved bone. At Tom Jenkins, they're cooked just right — not fall off the bone. Instead, just enough so the meat remains firm and juicy, the center exposing just a touch of pink.

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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