As each wave of immigrants from different regions of the world landed on these shores, they brought with them their culture and cuisine.
Many of the foods we consider to be American did not, in fact, originate in the Western Hemisphere.
You've heard the saying "as American as apple pie." About that. Variations dated back as far as Chaucer. He was born in England in 1343.
Pizza, beer, burgers, hot dogs: We may eat a boatload, but those junk-food items hail from distant lands.
When it comes down to it, there's really no such thing as American cuisine -- even New American, with its upscale interpretations of classic comfort food, is based on something else from somewhere far away. When you're one of the youngest countries on the block, it's hard to find anything that is culturally 100 percent ours.
But some things we made more our own than others. Barbecue is one.
Though there are so many regional variations -- beef brisket in Texas, pulled pork in North Carolina, whole hog in South Carolina -- in the U.S. of A., one dish reigns supreme: ribs.
Maybe it's a carnal instinct, but we dare you to try to find a barbecue lover anywhere from sea to shining sea who doesn't love ripping the meat off the bone with his teeth.
To celebrate America's birthday, we decided to compile a list of the ten best ribs (traditional and internationally inspired) in Broward and Palm Beach counties. And the winners are...
Every neighborhood pub has its own variation of ribs. Some are not so good; others are worth a weekly (or daily) visit. This locally owned chain falls in the latter category. Spawned from the ever-popular Flanigan's Seafood Bar & Grill, this busy spot offers some of the juiciest, most succulent baby back ribs around. Available in full- or half-rack portions, these puppies are flame-grilled, then coated in a sweet and tangy honey barbecue sauce. They won't satisfy the barbecue fanatics' need for smoke. But for those who just want to gnaw some delicious meat straight off the bone, these are sure to satiate the craving -- and then some. Best of all, each location offers a full rack with a side every Sunday for $10.99 (drink purchase necessary).
Quarterdeck has various locations. Visit quarterdeckrestaurants.com.
9. Bao Las Olas
We may tend to think of ribs as the ultimate American delicacy, but we're not the only ones who can get down on some meat sticks. Asians love the bony treats as well. And as with every other food item known to man, the Far East packs in the flavor. This Las Olas modern Asian spot offers a version of St. Louis-style pork ribs that is sure to knock your socks off. Made from a blend of miso paste and other spices, the coating on the Chinese sticky ribs is full of sweet and savory notes. To counteract the indulgent sauce, it's served with a crisp and refreshing apple kimchee and peppery arugula. Here, East meets West in the best possible way.
A longtime staple of this beloved downtown Hollywood restaurant, the ribs here have received ample praise over the years. Former New Times dining critic John Linn gave this high-class version of the comfort dish the number-two spot on his list of 100 Favorite Dishes back in 2010. The Coca-Cola beef ribs take their meat from the center cut and are then basted in a sweet, spicy, and sour house-made Coca Cola barbecue sauce. They literally -- not figuratively -- fall off the bone the moment you cut in with a knife and fork -- hey, this place is classy, OK? They're served atop buttermilk onion rings and herb creamed corn. The combination is like a throwback to childhood barbecue but in a better, grown-up sort of way.
As morbid as it sounds, all mammals (or at least the ones you eat) have ribs. There's no need to stick to the regular old beef or pork. This downtown Fort Lauderdale gastropub offers an appetizer that incorporates lamb into the mix. Its spicy lamb ribs are coated in a sweet and spicy Abita root beer glaze that is so good, you'll have no problem licking your fingers no matter who's watching -- even if it's that hottie you were just trying to pick up. These juicy morsels are then sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and fresh scallions to round out the decadence. Seriously, lamb lover or not, you need to try these.
Founder Derrick McCray has more than 80 years of barbecue tradition in his family. His father worked for his uncle in the 1950s at Harvey's Barbecue on Seventh and Tamarind in West Palm Beach. After cooking ribs for family and friends, Herman McCray opened the first McCray's Barbecue in Riviera Beach in 1977. His son has since taken the reins, and Herman McCray is frequently seen behind the pits at the new West Palm Beach location. Slabs of luscious, meaty ribs are covered in unique homemade sauces, one traditional and another spicy-mustard-based sauce. The spot is frequently featured on TV programs, including a recent episode of Holy Smokers; it's that legit.
When it comes to barbecue, two elements are key: proper smoking and a damned good sauce. This place handles both remarkably well, especially when it comes to ribs. Before you arrive, the sweet smell of hickory and oak will greet you from down the street. It only gets better as you move closer. Owner Jack May's barbecue sauce is like traveling down memory lane -- if tangy flavors permeate your dreams. His recipe has been passed down from his father and has become one of the main reasons customers visit over and over again. His juicy spare ribs are slathered in the sauce, as are his boneless rib tips, and the results are outstanding. With locations in Oakland Park and Margate, for Broward residents, these meaty treats are never too far away.
4. Red Cow
When it comes to different styles and cuts of ribs, this Fort Lauderdale place is at the top of the game. Winner of New Times' "Best Barbecue - 2014, it offers bony, smoked meat like you've never seen before. Texas-born chef Steve Shockey spent weeks cooking more than 1,000 pounds of meat, trying to perfect recipes and methods. It shows. Selections include stacked beef ribs (Wagyu beef brushed with pomegranate molasses), flanken beef ribs (braised and smoked short ribs), baby back pork ribs (dry-rubbed and steamed with beer), and the old reliable dry-rubbed pork spare ribs. We dare you to try finding a greater selection. (Spoiler: You can't.)
Everyone is always going on about "fall off the bone" ribs. We don't want to fight to get that luscious, fatty meat off the skeleton. But we do like a bit of bite. And this outdoor shack finds the equilibrium between soft and chewy for a rib consistency that is just right. Using an open-barrel process, these juicy morsels are touched with the right amount of smoke. They're then slathered with a sweet and slightly sour tomato and vinegar sauce that perfectly primes the meat for your mouth. By the time you leave, you'll probably be covered in meat juice and sauce. But that's the objective when consuming barbecue at the shack, on the side of the road. Make sure to wear appropriate clothes.
Take a step (or, more realistically, a drive) anywhere near the intersection of Davie Boulevard and Federal Highway and you're sure to be transfixed by the sweet scent of oak and meat wafting through the air. Since 1990, this place has been Fort Lauderdalians' mecca for Southern-style barbecue, and the ribs are the most popular item on the menu. Smoky tender spare ribs are coated in a rich, viscous sauce. Developed by the owners from old family recipes, it's a thick, tasty blend of molasses, honey, and a variety of secret ingredients. It's so good, it's now bottled and sold on its own.
Ask any South Floridian where to go when you're looking for some 'cue and one name is sure to pop up over and over again: Blue Willy's. Just last summer, Will Banks packed up his food truck (which was parked across from the courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale) and unloaded his smokers to a brick-and-mortar location, just across the Pompano border. Since the day he opened his doors, the place has been packed with hordes of professionals in suits, blue-collar workers in uniforms, and stragglers in T-shirts and shorts looking to get elbow deep into some serious smoked meat. Although you can't go wrong with anything here -- especially the brisket -- Banks' ribs are hard to beat. Succulent spare ribs are served dry, with several house-made sauce selections on the side. Just one bite and you'll completely understand the mile-long line.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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