Tonight's second Finals face-off between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Arena (ours not theirs, dummy) is the hottest ticket in town. Millions more watching the game at bars, restaurants and homes throughout Miami, Dallas and beyond. Indeed the first game drew the largest finals audience in seven years.
We've decided to handicap Miami vs. Dallas...in barbecue.
Sure, you might think that Dallas has a clear advantage over the home team, being that its famous for cattle, cowboys, and barbecue joints. But Miami, being a cosmopolitan city with strong Latin and Southern roots, has two unique kinds of barbecue while Dallas has only one. Besides, according to its own hometown rag, D Magazine, Dallas doesn't have the best barbecue. Maybe Dallas really is big hat, no cattle after all. Let's take a look:
Back Country Bar B Que in Dallas serves up some serious beef brisket with a side order of patriotism. They invite veterans to come in and share war stories (if they're exaggerated, so much the better). An order of slow-braised beef with two sides and a generous helping of Texas toast comes out to $10.95. Since 1975, they've been smoking their own meat and barbecuing to a loyal following, who come for the homestyle cooking and hospitality.
Score: 3/5. Back Country has large portions, fair prices and is nice to our troops.
Shorty's Bar B Que has staying power. The familiar log cabin on U.S. 1 was built in 1951, burnt down in 1972, was rebuilt in 1974 and was damaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Through all of that, Shorty's has gained a reputation for family-friendly grub at reasonable prices. There are few places where you can feed a family of four (fast-food joints excluded) for under $40, but Shorty's does it well. A rib platter, complete with fries, cole slaw and bread is $10.99 and that's one of the priciest items on the menu.
Score: 2/5. Shorty's has survived fire, hurricanes and will probably still be feeding hungry Miamians 1,000 years from now.
Just outside of Dallas, lies the real barbecue capital of Texas: Lockhart. Lockhart Smokehouse doesn't fool around. Your food arrives on butcher paper, not plates. Where's your fork? At the end of your arm (real men and women don't need no city-folk utensils). Walk over to the counter at the back of the restaurant (near the smoker that uses only Texas oak), choose your meat - brisket, ribs, sausage, and pay by the pound ($7.50 for a 1/2 pound of brisket). Wash it down with a beer or whiskey, then ride off into the sunset on your trusty steed.
Score: 3/5. This is as Texas as you can get. Simple barbeque done the traditional way, with no frills (or forks).
Drive west (way out west) on Tamiami Trail and right before you hit the Everglades, you'll see The Pit in all its glory - hundreds of cars taking over the parking lot and ever adjacent patch of land, pony rides for the kids, a live band, and cigar rollers. This is both southern hoedown and Latin fiesta, with a generous helping of carnival. Probably the only place in town where you can get authentic Churasco ($14.99) or chicken with a side of frogs legs ($7.99) and alligator bites ($11.99), The Pit is a Miami institution. But more than that, it brings together Miami's two main cultural roots -- old south and Latin together in food. And ponies.
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Score: 5/5. The Pit celebrates both great barbeque styles of Miami. And has ponies. How in the world can you top that?
Who's the winner? While Dallas might be known for their cattle, Miami's got diversity. And that diversity makes for great competition. We're thinking that Miami smokes Dallas in barbecue. And basketball.