Bands and Barbecue
One little-known fact about food writers: The background of many American restaurant reviewers does not include a stint at culinary school. Rather, these critics including the New York Times' Eric Asimov, Gourmet's Jonathan Gold, the Village Voice's Robert Sietsema, and many more were musicians. The connections between expertise in music and food are fascinating and numerous. But let's leave it at this for now: Lugging heavy amps is hungry work, and there is little to do between sound check and gig except prowl for interesting eats.
The first time I visited Miami in the early Nineties was not for a food gig; I played bass guitar in a rock band that had a Top 10 hit. After we set up our equipment, the record company's A&R guy, a Miami native, took us to refuel at a knock-out eatery called Flynn's Dixie Ribs. And between the dynamite food and equally exciting audience reception, I was left with a lasting impression of Miami as a great town for live bands and barbecue.
Fortunately, for the past six months, Scrap Bar & Smokehouse, located just off Collins Avenue in North Beach, has been laboring to bring my misconstrued impression of the city back to life. The little joint is too new to have that baked-in-for-decades beer smell that typifies classic rock and roll holes. Nevertheless the music which happens Thursday through Sunday is the real thing, made by musicians who play instruments, not turntables. Unlike the late, legendary Scrap Bar in NYC (immortalized in Guns N' Roses' song "Scrap Bar Daze"), this beach bar has food. And, authentic or not, you would not want any other odor to interfere with the enticing smokiness of the place's barbecue, slow-cooked out back over hickory wood, daily.
Although noncarnivores are out of luck no smoked fish there is a large choice of meat: ribs, ham, sausage, chicken, turkey, chopped beef, sliced beef, and pulled pork. Ribs sell out fast (by 6:00 p.m. one recent Sunday), for good reason: The racks are big, meaty, just fatty enough to be tasty, and falling-off-the-bone tender. Pulled pork, available on either a sandwich or a "smoked dinner" platter, was even better. Today's leaner pigs produce pork that often cooks up mighty dry, but Scrap's is juicy and full of flavor, even without a scrap of sweet or spicy barbecue sauce.
Sausage was also superior, the slices of bratwurstlike link cut on the bias to pick up maximum wood-fire taste and appealing grill marks. And though my opinion of well-done beef is, generally, that I would rather eat cardboard, the thin, smoky slices were much better than I expected savory, moist, not at all like packing cartons.
Considering all meals and sandwiches are served with generous housemade sides (excellent onion rings, as well as more expected barbecue accompaniments such as coleslaw and baked beans), diners do not need appetizers. But for drinkers attracted by Scrap Bar's beer deals like an NFL special of five bottles for ten bucks Sundays and Mondays there is a tasty bar bites menu comprising all the usual suspects, including some truly tasty smoked wings.
And don't worry if you like to converse over dinner. The live-music-loving owners handle the band scheduling sensibly so the getting-down generally begins after the chowing-down ends around 11:00 p.m. except Sundays, when there is music all day.
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