Best of Broward / Palm Beach

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

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
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
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
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.

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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