6. Potato salad and coleslaw can't be beat as barbecue sides.
Sure they can: baked beans, collard greens, and corn on the cob. Jenkins' greens taste fresh (the potato salad and coleslaw are also good), but its baked beans are too similar to the ones from a can of Heinz. Shiver's tenders a wider array of choices, including black-eyed peas, fried okra, and a couple of items you don't often see pulled from a fryer — like corn on the cob, and mac 'n' cheese, which brings breaded, quarter-size discs of cheddar and noodles. (If McDonald's ever comes out with Cheese 'n' Mac Nuggets, they will look and taste like these.) Jenkins' more traditional version gets the nod.
Shiver's Bar-B-Q, 28001 S Dixie Hwy, Homestead; 305-248-2272. Open daily for lunch and dinner 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q, 1236 S Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale; 954-522-5046. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
7. There are numerous wines (Argentine Malbecs, Super Tuscans, Zinfandels, and so forth) that pleasantly pair with the assertively smoky flavors of the grill.
This is actually true. But beer goes better. I don't know why; it just does. If you must, a $3 glass of house wine is offered at Shiver's. What kind is it? At that price it's best not to ask — and better still not to drink. A pitcher of Bud is only $7.95, but if you want that fancy imported stuff the city folk prefer, there is Corona, Heineken, Amstel, and the like. Jenkins' doesn't serve beer or wine, but the fresh-squeezed lemonade cuts against grease in a most refreshing way.
8. Desserts are part and parcel of a great barbecue dining experience.
Yes and no. And no. Yes for Jenkins' luscious, buttery-crusted sweet potato pie. No for its peach cobbler, made with canned fruit and too much cornstarch (available only Fridays and Saturdays after 5:00 p.m.). No at Shiver's, with the possible exception of a housemade peach cobbler that was unavailable when we visited. Other desserts such as pecan pie and coconut custard pie sounded fetching but were prefab wedges of pedestrian quality.
9. Not all African-Americans are great barbecue chefs, but all great barbecue chefs are African-American.
Not true, although the guys working the smoker at Shiver's are, indeed, African-American. So are the guys manning the pit at Jenkins'. But there are quite a few barbecue masters of Caucasian persuasion, one such fellow being Mike Mills of 17th St. Barbecue in Marion, Illinois. That said, if you're looking for worthy barbecue in an unfamiliar city, better to ask around in a black neighborhood than garner recommendations from the scrawny white desk clerk at your hotel.
10. Shiver's is just as good as Jenkins'.
Nah. Its ribs are equal, maybe even better, but Jenkins' chopped pork smokes anything at Shiver's. Sides are slightly better, too, and then there is that sweet potato pie. Prices at the two are similar, meaning $10 will fill your tank, and $20 will fill you with regret for having eaten too much.
I've heard it said that Shiver's has slowly slid downhill over the decades. Truth be told, this latest trip to Jenkins' didn't impress as much as it used to, either. Still, these are two of our best barbecue joints, so if the mood for seriously, smokily delectable fare should strike, just follow this simple formula: When up north, jaunt to Jenkins'. When south, seek Shiver's. Then just eat. And chill.
An efficient pit can in 14 hours cook up to 700 pounds of meat.