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Memorial Day Eats: South Florida's Best Barbecue

Happy Memorial Day weekend. Prepare to celebrate this three-day holiday with tons of barbecued and grilled meats and cold drinks. If you're not into the DIY barbecue thing, there are -- contrary to popular belief -- places in South Florida where you can get some decent (or great) barbecue. In anticipation of the New Times' annual Best Of issue premiering in June, Clean Plate Charlie has put together a list of some of the best barbecue in Broward and Palm Beach counties. As always, please let us know who you think belongs on the list. 

Texas Hold 'Em BBQ 

The restaurant's "new" spot -- where Sunrise Boulevard meets Federal Highway -- is more spacious and family-friendly than the now-defunct downtown Fort Lauderdale location. The menu, however, is consistent with the spot that built a name for itself with meaty goods like spare ribs, baby backs, pulled pork, and brisket. Classic sides like coleslaw, collard greens, corn on the cob, and baked beans complement the mains, and a selection of beers -- including some craft labels like Cigar City Brewing and Dogfish Head -- will wash it all down.

Grilling instructor Robyn Lindars, South Florida's resident Grill Grrrl and a professed barbecue enthusiast, cites this as "the best" she's had in the region. In its same location for more than 20 years, this neighborhood institution earned the 2011 award for Best Place to Eat With Your Hands on account of saucy selections that include golden mustard, sweet barbecue, spicy barbecue, and North Carolina vinegar sauce. With sauce stations at every table, one can easily indulge a particular flavor fetish. Plan on wearing something that you don't mind getting covered in a layer of sweet and/or spicy mess. 

This is a western Broward County institution with the look and feel of a dive. Fans line up for Southern classics served at reasonable prices in the kind of setting you have to know is there in order to find it. A two-time winner of the New Times' Best Barbecue award in the last decade, the Pig gets high marks for its hickory-infused chopped pork and a judicious use of sauce -- which is used to enhance the flavor of the meat as opposed to overwhelming the flesh. Other specialties to try include the Brunswick stew, banana pudding, and brisket. 

This food truck -- most commonly stationed at the corner of SE First Avenue and SE Sixth Street in downtown Fort Lauderdale -- is gaining a reputation for the quality of the meats prepared using a wood-burning smoker with hickory and pecan wood for a sweet, smoky flavor. The red truck serves favorites like St. Louis-style ribs, Texas-style beef brisket, chicken, chopped pork, and sides like coleslaw, corn bread, and smoky baked beans. Another popular choice for the meatheads: Blue Willy's housemade pastrami. 

The roadside log cabin is home to a barbecue that beckons long lines of lunch and dinner devotees who flock to the smell of various meats grilling over hickory and red oak. The sauce is a product of a long-held family recipe, with molasses, honey, and a mix of closely guarded seasonings combining to form a thick, finger-licking layer of flavor. Seating is hard to find, while the side dishes are plentiful; try the collard greens, macaroni and cheese, or baked beans. Finish the meal with a slice of sweet potato pie for a truly Southern experience. 

The brainchild -- as it were -- of Iron Maiden drummer and South Florida resident Nicko McBrain, this jocular joint approximates the feel of a backyard barbecue, albeit with ribs so tender they essentially slide right off the bone. If you're looking to keep some of the sticky-sweet sauce off your fingers, try a sandwich of beef brisket or pork on Texas toast. The prices are reasonable, and the baby back ribs come highly recommended. The soundtrack for the meal? Why, the Maiden and friends, of course.

Situated in an easily-overlooked strip mall in a heavily trafficked portion of Boca, this barbecue restaurant takes its name from the sweet-potato crisps that are a staple. Other popular sides are the corn bread, baked beans, slaw, and tractor treads (cross-cut fries). But the meat is the most important meal on the menu, with stars like the pulled-pork platter and whole rotisserie chicken stealing the spotlight, though the ribs certainly don't play second fiddle. If the mood strikes for particularly messy eating, try a combo platter with ribs and wings ($9.29), and be sure to stop for floss on the way home. 

The meat is dry-rubbed at this Pompano Beach restaurant, and sauce is on the table for those who want to lather up: The proprietors make it a point to "not hide behind" the sauce. The joint owes its style to one of the partners' Texas roots and backyard barbecue obsession. There's a decidedly country theme with NASCAR broadcast on Sundays and buckets of domestic beer or ribs frequently on special. Forget about the sides and focus on the main event, like those ribs, available in massive quantities. 

Don't get distracted by the sides at this stylish barbecue joint with its faux distressed-wood paneling and new "old" façade. The meat is the thing, with beef brisket that's been smoked for more than half a day and St. Louis-style ribs that are tender to the touch. Baby back ribs and barbecued chicken are on the menu, as is a two-meat combo and smoked sausage. Every meal comes with two sides and a piece of corn cake, so the chances of leaving here hungry are slim to none. 

The public drama associated with the closing of his Mangonia Park location this spring doesn't change the fact that founder Derrick McCray has made a name for himself with a small empire of roadside barbecues dealing in classic meat dishes like rib dinners, beef brisket, and pulled pork. Sides come in a rainbow of flavors, from collard greens to mac 'n' cheese and baked beans. Sweet tea and sweet potato pie are available to complete the Southern meal.

Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Facebook and on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.

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Tricia Woolfenden

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