Best Soul Food - 2006
Crabby's Smoke House
An area located off the tourist track -- despite being home to the largest collection of Moorish architecture in the Western Hemisphere -- and far from the ocean might not seem like the best place to go for a dynamite grouper-'n'-grits dinner. But Opa-locka's African-American population has given a big thumbs-up to this soulful smoke house. Other South Floridians reportedly drive here from as far as Palm Beach County for the housemade barbecue. Crabby's also offers numerous types of fresh fish and shellfish served with all the fixings, namely hush puppies, collards, mac 'n' cheese, and baked beans (all sides are $1.45). More unusual yet equally delectable Southern-style sides are also available, including a huge potato pancake studded with tingly hot pepper chunks, or pickled souse (often called head cheese because it originates from cheap, throw-away pig parts such as heads and feet). Unlike many soul food joints, this is a real smoke house, so ribs, pulled pork, and chicken do not depend on sauce for savor; the 'cue has intense black oak flavor even without the place's nicely tangy dip. Baby-back or spare ribs with two sides is $13.95; a "workin' man's" special plate (chicken thigh and leg plus two sides) is $5.95, as is a pork 'cue sandwich with fries. Nonsmoked seafood entrées include shell-on garlic crabs (blue crab is $8.50 per pound) -- a festive production served on paper, with a bib, and a big box of napkins that never seems to hold quite enough. Don't worry. This is the kind of homey place with a sink conveniently located in the main dining room to take care of the rest of the mess.