Check out the full slideshow of Georgia Pig here.
You can see it pluming up all the way down Davie Boulevard, and south down 441: It's smoke. Thick ribbons of smoke, reaching up and over the busy highway from the soot-stained chimney of the Georgia Pig. Even with your windows up, you can't drive through that stretch of old State Road 7 and not feel drawn in by its rich scent, the perfume of smoldering oak and slowly rendered pork.
As far as barbecue goes, it's one of the true purveyors of the craft, far more art than simple cookery. And owners Wayne and Joann Anderson know the trade inside and out -- they've done it nearly all their lives. A Fort Lauderdale institution, the Georgia Pig has remain nearly untouched since Wayne's parents Linton and Frances Anderson opened it on February 13, 1953, more than half a century ago. And it still packs up daily with folks looking for old-fashioned, stick to your ribs food.
Nearly everything is here old-fashioned. The central open pit is stoked every day, early in the morning. The staff is quick and kind and call you "hon" when they drop your pork platters. The walls are lined with black and white photos and yellowed newspaper clippings. The Georgia Pig is a true picture of Fort Lauderdale as it once was, and in some ways, still is.
We sat down to talk with owners Wayne and Joann about the restaurant's amazing history, its legacy, and what it is that makes damn fine 'cue.
What were your parents' background in barbecue?
Wayne: They were both from the farm, so they knew had to cook. But my
mother had a sister back home in Jesup [Georgia] who knew how to
barbecue. They had opened a place in the '40s called the Pig, and it
was doing really well. Dad had come down here to do carpentry when they
were starting to build Fort Lauderdale -- a lot of people from that
area came here. But [his sister] kept telling mom and dad you ought to
do barbecue, you'd do real well.
How did they first open the Georgia Pig?
Well it's a long story but dad basically [had an accident] one day and
got to thinking that maybe he ought to do something else. [Laughs] So
they had started a grocery store across the street here, and this was a
meat market. And they bought it, and decided to turn it into a
So this was a meat market at one point?
Yes, the small building out in the back was and part of this building,
so they just built off of it. It was not a gas station...
(The young pit man Richie Thompson chimes in): Let's set the record straight?
Wayne: Someone started the rumor it was a gas station, and it's not true. I was here.
How old were you when it opened?
I was six.
So you grew up here?
Joann: And our daughter did too. Everybody in the family, he had three
sisters, every one of them worked here. That was, you know, what you
How long have you worked here, Richie?
Richie: Four years.
Are you teaching him everything you know?
Wayne: Well, not everything. [Laughs]
Joann: You gotta keep some secrets! [Wayne's] mom was like that. When she
would give me a recipe she'd always leave something out so hers would
be better. It really wasn't on purpose though, because someone who has
done it for years and years, they just do it and don't think about it
Are your children going to take over someday?
Wayne: Doesn't look like it. We have one daughter and she's in New York, of all places.
Joann: She works for Scholastic. I think she would be crushed if
something happened to the place and it's not around, but I don't think
she's particularly interested in running it.
Eventually you'll want to retire though? What will you do with the place?
Wayne: I don't know, we've had our problems. But when everything is going on smooth, [it's easy to] keep working.
Joann: This is wonderful. If you're not working up a storm, this is a fun place to be.
You've spent your life here, so you must love it.
Yes, it truly is a great place to be. Our friends are here.
[Wayne's] mother worked until she got sick. I always thought I would
that, but if you can get to a point where you're not killing yourself
doing it, then why not?
You have a lot of staff to help, too.
And they've all been here forever. Pearl how long have you been here?
(Pearl, a waitress, answers across the room): 16 years.
Joann: 16. Terri's been here over 20. Gilbert's been here 12 years. So even if they're not family they're like family.
Richie: I've worked here four years, am I family?
Joann: Yes! And Mercy's been here five?
Mercy: Five in February.
Joann: And she's getting ready to have her little one, which will be a new addition to our family.
Most buildings in Fort Lauderdale aren't this old let alone restaurants. What does it mean for you guys to have been in this town so long?
Wayne: I've seen it change, that's for sure. Some of it's better. Some is a lot worse.
What is better about it?
There used to be a bunch of really bad bars around here.
Joann: There used to be seven bars right in this area, and [Frances]
spent a lot of time just trying to sober people up. That was wonderful.
But you still have the neighborhood personality. It's a diverse
neighborhood with Indians, Latin Americans.
Wayne: We've had Seminoles here since the day we opened. And Micosukees.
Doing BBQ this many years, what is the one thing you would say is most important?
Richie: I'm curious as to what he's going to say because I just wrote a paper about it!
What did you write?
I wrote that it was the complex way that we cook the meat, because
there's actually a few combined ways we're cooking it. The smoke's coming
off the meat, the fire's broiling it, and when I spray it with water
that's steam. So cooking method is what sets us apart for most.
Wayne: It's experience. You have to know when the meat is ready.
People always ask me 'how long do you cook that?' And I don't want to
even tell anybody time anymore. It's all different, every piece is a
different size. It also depends on how the fire is drawing that day, if
it's hotter. It's all different.
You have to have a connection to the meat, in other words?
Well, you have to know when to turn it, know when it's done.
And you do chopped pork, not pulled.
Joann: Some people will actually ask us for pulled pork. Once in a while, we'll do it, but chopped is better. You get the right texture and flavor.
What wood do you use?
Wayne: We use oak. But we use a lot more wood than a place that smokes,
because when you smoke you close in the heat. We have an open pit so
everything passes through.
So what style of barbecue would you call what you do?
It's southern barbecue. This is pretty much the way it should be done. Even in Lexington
[North Carolina] which some consider ground zero for barbecue. I've
stopped there and talked to guys there and they do pretty much the same
thing. They use shoulders or butts, they have outdoor pits, usually.
They chop the meat by hand. What changes a
lot is the sauces are different. The sauce we have is pretty unique,
I've only seen it in Georgia and not even very often there.
Yeah, it's like a very thin mustard sauce.
I wouldn't even call it that, I'm not sure what I would call it. [Laughs] It's ours, that's all.
So what's the story behind it?
It's a variation of the sauce my aunt and uncle came up with. It's almost the same.
But it is thinner than most sauces.
No, vinegar sauces are much thinner.
Most people are used to that thick, pasty tomato sauce type, though.
Yeah, I call it Kraft sauce.
Yeah, that's what I call it. [Laughs] That's what most people are used
to. So I tell them, if you want to get closer to that just add a little
ketchup. Even with a beef sandwich sometimes I put a little ketchup on
What are the benefits of your sauce?
It's a good, everyday sauce.
Joann: We have people who come in and buy it and put it on everything
they eat. I like it on my cole slaw, it's just unique and it goes
wonderful with pork.
It doesn't overwhelm the meat.
Joann: Right. We have people that come in that have never had a sauce
like this before, and they ask for a "real" barbecue sauce. And I tell
'em, to me, barbecue is the meat, and the sauce is the bonus. And this
sauce doesn't overwhelm the flavor.
Richie: I said that in my paper!
Richie: Yeah, the other sauce is too overpowering, and it's terrible
because when people think of barbecue they think of that sauce as the
flavor. But to me, it's the meat.
So do you eat barbecue all the time?
Wayne: We eat it three times a week or so.
Richie: Not me, I eat it every day! I'll cut down as I get older, but while I'm young I'll enjoy it.
What's your favorite part?
The pork sandwich, for sure.
It's just so juicy and playful. You can eat the sandwich with the sauce
bottle in your hand. You can put the cole slaw on sometimes. You have
the option to do that. I've seen people put baked beans on it, onions, or
cheese, and it just adds a different dimension.
Where do you get your bread?
Wayne: Flowers Bakery. They deliver it every day. Plain, simple bun.
Some people like white bread, that's good too. We used to serve that. What I like to do is take cold ribs and white bread
and just eat them one after the other.
Joann: One thing that I think is kind of interesting is we still make
our own sausage out of fresh pork. And then we use the sausage to make
biscuits and gravy.
Wayne: We have the best sausage gravy around, because we have the best
sausage. People ask us all the time why our gravy is so different, and
it's the sausage.
(Across the room, one of the regulars shouts out at Wayne): Hey Wayne, what happened to Georgia Tech?
Wayne: They got outrun! I watched em when they played Clemson, and at
the end of the game they were dying. Tech was just hanging on, I don't
know how they won the game.
Joann: [Wayne] went to Georgia Tech, and they played Miami last night.
People come in here and they immediately ask, "Where's your red?" They
think we're big Georgia fans. But we went to Tech, that's where we met.
Wayne: We have to put up with all these Gator fans!
Customer: We're going to Gainseville right after we get done here!
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But you had to stop here first?
Customer: We've been coming here every week for years.
Wayne: With their colors on and everything.
1285 SW State Rd. 7, Fort Lauderdale