It's a funny thing finding a barbecue joint in Miami. You never know what you're gonna get.
Enter Mad Man Jack's Bar-B-Que, a newborn to the Magic City. It's been open for a little more than two months, peddling Alabama-style 'cue from an unassuming location.
Walk in and notice the quintessential Southern vibe most barbecue places have: red, white, and deep-brown decorative colors. The logo includes a pig holding something in flames. It all fits. Then you notice the beverage cooler of Jupiña and Materva next to the door, and the phone cards to El Salvador and Nicaragua just above the kitchen. Then you hear the Latin music cable channel Mun2 playing on the flatscreen.
This ain't your ordinary barbecue place.
Upon entering Mad Man Jack's, we weren't expecting much. It wasn't that we'd heard bad things about it, or that we read somewhere that it wasn't good. No, no, we just knew nothing.
The menu is pretty standard: a solid selection of barbecue choices, fish, salads, and burgers. Every day, Mike Herran, the owner, scrawls a "workman's lunch special" on the chalkboard by the door. A full meal with a drink goes for less than ten bucks. The deal speaks for itself.
Herran told us everything on the menu is made fresh in-house (the only exception is the fries; they're fresh but not made on the premises). He'll start the smoker and get the ribs going early in the morning so they're ready in time for lunch or early dinner. The place opens at 7 a.m. for breakfast.
Barbecue pulled pork sandwich. Yes, on Cuban bread.
On this particular day, we opted for a barbecued pulled-pork sandwich ($7) and, yes, Materva. We were the only ones in the restaurant for most of our stay, save a few pick-up orders that came rushing in and out. That said, it didn't take long for our sandwich to arrive.
And it was huge -- a monstrosity of a barbecued pork sandwich sitting next to a pile of seasoned fries. We were hungry, but this portion would take two people to devour.
We dove right into the messiness of it, surprised by the sweetness and tenderness of the pork. The coarsely sliced onions complemented the casualness of the whole show. It was a good sandwich, and we had no intention of letting size get in our way.
So we ordered a side of cornbread ($2) with the intention of making this a half decent evaluation of the place. The stuff was just as good as the sandwich -- warm, moist, and everything cornbread should be.
Quite honestly, we were floored that the meal had been so satisfying. The Materva and heavily Spanish-accented waitstaff made everything close to home.
When Herran stopped in, he candidly asked about the meal and the service. It seemed like it was the type of conversation he made with all of his customers -- and that's a good thing. We love it when owners are present at their locations, getting their hands dirty
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We told Herran that our meal was great, and we brought up that we appreciated the Miami vibe of the place. "Take a look at what you're eating," he said. "It's pan con lechón... Who doesn't eat their pan con lechón with a Materva?" Good point.
We'll be back.