Summer and grilling go hand-in-hand, and Memorial Day in the U.S. is the unofficial kickoff of the season.
Grilling is a year-round tradition for many, and it’s those memories of barbecues from summers past that fill our scents: of the smoke drifting ever upward from neighbors’ yards as they were grilling ribs, brisket or chicken.
So it only makes sense that here in the Sunshine State we offer up some of our favorite barbecue to try from a restaurant or food truck.
Pearl Country Store & Barbecue
106 NE Highway 441 A, Micanopy; 352-466-4025; pearlcountrystore.com
If you’re in Gainesville visiting the University of Florida or camping out in nearby Paynes Prairie State Park, consider driving a little ways out of town to Pearl Country Store & Barbecue.
Don’t be fooled by its unassuming looks — Pearl is inside a Marathon gas station convenience store, but locals often say it’s the best barbecue in the area.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, Pearl serves pulled pork, beef brisket and roasted chicken as sandwiches and by the pound with sides. Meats are served with a choice of sweet, hot and mustard-style sauces.
If you have a sweet tooth, you might want to save room for banana pudding or a slice of homemade cake or pie for dessert. — Emily Mavrakis, The Gainesville Sun
Kojak’s House of Ribs
2808 W. Gandy Blvd., Tampa; 813-837-3774; kojaksbbq.net
While Tampa Bay is most famous for its Cuban sandwiches and fresh grouper from the Gulf of Mexico, it’s also home to some great barbecue joints — with perhaps none more beloved than Kojak’s House of Ribs in South Tampa. Occupying a charming bungalow under a canopy of sprawling live oak trees with rooms for indoor dining as well as front porch seating, Kojak’s has been owned and operated by the same Forney family since 1978.
Any visit to Kojak’s House of Ribs should of course feature a slab of their signature, dry-rubbed pork spare ribs but also be sure to order a serving of their equally famous barbecue chicken. Using a similarly brilliant mix of spices, the dry-rubbed poultry is smoked to fall-off-the bone perfection and served by the half or quarter. Oh, and for one of the best dining deals in Tampa Bay, stop by Kojak’s before 4 p.m. for the quarter barbecue chicken and two sides special for $6.50. Pair that with an ice-cold draft beer and you’re still under 10 bucks.
The smoked hot sausage is another popular item and you can’t go wrong with the pulled pork covered with their sweet, mild, hot (which I highly recommend) or Carolina-style mustard sauce. For sides, one must indulge in the buttery goodness of their parsley potatoes, with the baked beans, macaroni salad and coleslaw also among the house-made faves.
And save room for dessert. Kojak’s serves Mama Forney’s chocolate cake with a frosting that’s like fudge and her distinctive apple cake (yes, apple cake) with brown sugar glaze frosting. Both arrive warm and are best enjoyed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
Need to walk off some of those calories? Take a stroll along nearby Bayshore Boulevard. Dubbed the “Longest Continuous Sidewalk in the United States,” it hugs Hillsborough Bay and serves as the unofficial gym of South Tampa. Kojak’s is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. — Wade Tatangelo, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
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401 E New Haven Ave., Melbourne; 321-914-0276; crydermansbarbecue.com
There’s a reason a line forms outside both Crydermans Barbecue locations.
The Central Texas-style smokehouses only make so much turkey, brisket, sausage and other meaty fare. When it’s gone, the doors close. The original location is in Cocoa Village in an old service station. You can smell it when you drive by.
With a location also in downtown Melbourne, Crydermans is perfect for the walk-up lunch crowd or for early dinner. And people line up at lunchtime to order. Seating is outside, picnic-style.
Pro tip: If bread pudding is the dessert special of the day, don’t pass up a chance to try it. — Suzy Fleming Leonard, Florida Today
Hot Spot Barbecue
901 E. La Rua St., Pensacola; 850-497-6060; facebook.com/HotSpotPensacola/
Any Pensacolian whose lived here long enough has driven up North Ninth Avenue on their way out of downtown and seen the smoke.
That smoke that, morning, noon and night, permeates the busy intersection of Ninth and East Lua Street, is courtesy of the industrial-sized smoker planted in the parking lot of Hot Spot Barbecue.
Hot Spot has more than lived up to its mantra as a “no frills BBQ joint with big portions” since it opened in 2013. It’s far from a one-dimensional barbecue restaurant, having been lauded for its brisket, moist and tender chicken and its full spare ribs over the years.
If you had to slap a region on its rib style, managing owners Jim and Cheri Hlubek call them St. Louis-style, with the caveat that in St. Louis they generally cut the riblets off. Hot Spot leaves them on.
“Our No. 1 focus is on customer service,” Jim Hlubek said. “We do original, Southern barbecue. We don’t try to fancy it up or do too much with it.”
— Jacob Newby, Pensacola News Journal
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Multiple trucks serving Hendry, Lee and Collier counties; jonesezbbq.com
There’s no mistaking a Jonesez BBQ rib. It’s the chew of the bark, the pink of the smoke ring, the way meat clings to bone just so.
And, at the Jonesez trucks, ribs are just the barbecue beginning.
There’s pulled pork laced with that same crusty bark. There’s juicy smoked chicken. And there are sides. Oh sweet Jonesez, are there sides. These are Mrs. Vickie Jones’s handiwork; acts of love that take the form of gooey macaroni and cheese, buttery cornbread and proper collard greens speckled with ham hocks. Of serious potato salad and pork-infused beans. Of yellow rice and Southern-style green beans.
Jonesez BBQ has fans near and far, from the hordes of locals willing to line up in the Florida heat for this barbecue, to Food Network host and celebrity chef Tyler Florence who fell in love with Jonesez’ smoky offerings while shooting “The Great Food Truck Race” in spring 2019.
The Jones family — Vickie’s husband Andre and his brother Remus serve as pit masters — have created such an abundance of deliciousness, they’ve had to expand to meet demand. The one food truck they started with in 2009 has grown to three. They park their trucks at locations in and around LaBelle, Fort Myers and Naples — wherever they see an unmistakable barbecue need.
— Annabelle Tometich, Fort Myers News-Press
4 Rivers Smokehouse
1866 Victory Cir J-100, Daytona Beach; 844-474-8377; 4rsmokehouse.com/daytona/
Barbecue and stock car racing just go together, so it was no surprise in 2020 that 4 Rivers Smokehouse was a hit as soon as it opened across the street from Daytona International Speedway at the One Daytona shopping complex.
The restaurant’s signature offering is its beef brisket smoked for 18 hours. Its burnt ends are celebrated. But it’s not all old school, Texas-style barbecue; there are quirks in this barbecue menu, too. The restaurant’s inclusion of a vegan “Beyond Burnt Ends” on its menu may seem like barbecue apostasy but just try it.
Don’t let the line out the door dissuade you from coming in, the staff moves fast.
Open Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; 4-8 p.m. on the day of the Daytona 500. Closed Sundays. — Mark Lane, The News-Journal
The Bearded Pig
1224 Kings Ave., Jacksonville, 904-619-2247; and 1700 Third Street S., Jacksonville Beach, 904-518-3915; thebeardedpigbbq.com
When it comes to barbecue joints, Jacksonville has its fair share, including a couple of locally-based chains dating back decades.
But it’s the relative newcomer Bearded Pig that has much of the buzz. When it first opened in 2016, the Southbank restaurant closed up early some nights after lunchtime and dinner crowds regularly pigged out on pulled pork. The same happened in March 2021, when the restaurant opened a second location at Jacksonville Beach. (A third will open soon, down the street from the original.)
On the menu, you’ll find Texas-style barbecue staples brisket, pulled pork, burnt ends, chicken and more, available a-la-carte and on sandwiches and platters, as well as classic BBQ sides, including favorite Mac-N-Cheese.
Pro tip: Try the Bearded Poutine ($9), the Bearded Pig’s take on the Canadian import. But instead of smothered in gravy and cheese curds, french fries instead are dressed in beef brisket burnt ends, cheese curds and pimento cheese.
Seating inside is limited to 65, but regulars know the covered patio/beer garden is the best seat in the house, thanks to the generous cooling misters to provide relief from the Florida heat. The enclosed courtyard is family-friendly, with a patch of grass for cornhole boards and other fun.
The Bearded Pig is open daily, from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (10 p.m. Friday and Saturday). — Gary T. Mills, The Florida Times-Union
110 State Road 206, St. Augustine and 1409 N. Ponce de Leon Blvd., St Augustine; 904-295-8952; smokindbbq.com
If you’re looking for a place to grab good barbecue fast, Smokin’ D’s is worth a stop.
Business namesake Daryl Perritt started Smokin’ D’s more than 10 years ago. Since then, his award-winning operation has expanded to a second location.
Smokin’ D’s offers smoked pork, turkey, brisket, ribs and chicken made fresh daily. Have a sandwich or try the meat on its own, top it off with a range of sauces made from scratch ― Florida datil pepper, Memphis sweet, Texas heat, Georgia house mustard, Carolina vinegar, Alabama white ― and pair with a side such as coleslaw, potato salad, southern yellow rice or slow-smoked beans. The business also brews sweet tea, unsweet tea and lemonade every day.
The buildings are for grab-and-go orders, but outdoor seating is available. ― Sheldon Gardner, The St. Augustine Record
3815 S. Dixie Hwy, West Palm Beach; 561-323-2573; EatTropical.com
Late last year, chef Rick Mace left his fine-dining kitchen at Café Boulud Palm Beach for the underappreciated world of Florida barbecue. He traded truffle-season dinners for a handmade fish smoker, caviar-and-blinis for gator sausage and mojo pork.
It’s a wild, tropical dream for a guy from Medina, Ohio, but for Mace it was a chance to pay homage to Florida, the state that earned his fascination more than seven years ago. The result is Tropical Smokehouse, a West Palm Beach ‘cue joint that combines classic barbecue-smoking techniques with a love for locally caught fish and New-World Florida flavors from Latin America and the Caribbean.
What it means for you, intrepid diner, is barbecue that’s worth a drive. It means smoky meats like prime brisket with espresso barbecue sauce, heritage pork baby back ribs, smoked jerk turkey breast and smoked cobia and mahi. It also means the fish dip is made with freshly smoked local fish, the wings get a sour orange marinade, the queso is studded with smoked brisket.
The side dishes sing the praises of the South as well as the Caribbean: white cheddar mac, smoky black beans, coconut black-eyed peas and rice, Caribbean slaw, sweet plantains.
Mace cooks the meats on a fearsome, 500-gallon smoker that’s parked out back. He had it custom-built in Georgia. He built the smaller, indoor fish smoker himself.
“We want to express Florida barbecue as best as we can by giving it a stage,” he says.
Located on West Palm’s busy South Dixie Highway, Tropical Smokehouse offers indoor and outdoor seating as well as a full cocktail bar. — Liz Balmaseda, The Palm Beach Post
9200 S. Dixie Highway, Miami; 305-670-7732; shortys.com
The line outside the original Shorty’s Bar-B-Q has been as iconic as the southern Miami favorite itself. As a kid, you may have thought that line outside the log-cabin-like structure interminable, but you knew the payoff would be glorious: smoky spare ribs, pulled pork sandwiches doused with that warm barbecue sauce you’d sprinkle from a shaker and corn on the cob with all the butter you could slather. All of it devoured at the long picnic tables you’d share with other barbecue lovers.
Miami may have grown in unimaginable ways and the highway that runs by the original Shorty’s location may be perennially traffic-choked, but the old-school spot is still there and still smoking beneath a neon fringe and signature striped awning. Founded in 1951, the place is as resilient as Miami itself, having come back after a devastating fire in 1972 and later after it took a beating from Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Your payoff, should you make the drive, is a menu where classics still reign: barbecue sandwiches piled high, Texas-style smoked brisket plates, combo platters for the famished and undecided, dreamy baked beans studded with bits of pulled pork and, because why not, key lime pie.
Shorty’s has locations in West Miami, Doral and Davie — but if you’re a newbie, go with the original and commune with the spirits of vintage Miami. — Liz Balmaseda, The Palm Beach Post