While Miami is almost as far south as one can get in the contiguous 48 states, it's really not considered the South (which is home to what's known as "real barbecue"). Nor is our city part of the Midwestern and Western barbecue capitals of St. Louis and Texas.
But don't let this discourage you from seeking a nice juicy rack (and we're not talking about the kind found on the beaches, either).
Miami has its share of people willing to take the time to smoke their meat low and slow. You just have to know where to look. Here's a list of our ten favorite old-fashioned, down-home American barbecue joints. Just remember to wear clothes you don't mind getting smeared.
10. Austen's Q
The third barbecue joint in this location, on the corner of 16th Street and Washington Avenue in Miami Beach, proves to be a charm for the space that housed Hogzilla and Barbeque Beach before it. Austen's Q slow-cooks its proteins low and slow. We're talking pork, chicken, and beef cooked in a wood stove at 200 degrees for 24 hours. This is clearly not barbecue for folks in a hurry. Plus, it's the only place for decent 'cue in SoBe.
9. Mad Man Jack's
Chef-owner Michael Herran saw the need for a good place to get inexpensive barbecue in Miami and ran with it. Mad Man Jack's, named for the man who taught him how to fish, fits the bill with slow-cooked meats and homemade sauces and marinades. Spare ribs cooked low and slow are $9 for a third rack, $14 for a half rack, and $25 for a full rack of meaty goodness. A pulled-pork sandwich to die for is only $7. Slow food at fast-food prices? This guy must be as mad as his name implies.
8. People's Bar-B-Q
This Miami institution has been smoking meat over oak wood since 1962, which is probably longer than your mother has been alive. Just off I-95 in Overtown, People's Bar-B-Q proffers down-home Southern barbecue at its finest. Loosen your belt and dig into ham hocks ($8.50), a slab of ribs ($23), barbecued chicken ($16), and barbecued beef ($8). Leave room for sides such as macaroni 'n' cheese ($1.50), collard greens ($1.50), black-eyed peas ($1.50), and candied yams ($1.50), before they wheel you out in a food coma.
7. Bulldog Barbeque
Top Chef alum Howie "Bulldog" Kleinberg's little barbecue shop in Aventura might look a bit too suburban and clean to house the kind of 'cue that sets your heart aflutter. But don't sell Bulldog Barbeque or the chef short, because his operation is neat and well lit. St. Louis-style ribs are messy, sweet, and tangy ($7 to $22), while beef brisket falls apart in your mouth like bovine cotton candy ($11 to 19). A barbecue platter with three meats and cornbread ($24) is plenty to share, and the place is attractive enough to bring a date or your mom -- as long as she's a carnivore.
6. Tobacco Road
Sure, it's Miami's oldest roadhouse. Of course, it's the place to hear great live music and get your drink on until early the next morning. But did you know Tobacco Road also smokes its own meat out back? See? You have newfound respect for "the Road." A 12-hour smoked brisket platter ($10.95) and St. Louis-style ribs ($13.95) come with your choice of potato. Wash it all down with a few bourbons and you have a great meal in the most iconic setting in Miami. Rock on!
5. Shorty's Bar-B-Q
Say what you will about Shorty's Bar-B-Q -- that it was better before "the fire," that you've had "more authentic" barbecue at your cousin Carol's wedding in North Carolina. But Shorty's and Miami go together. Period. Say something bad about this place and you've dissed the part of South Florida that still rejects neon lights, Pitbull, and breast implants. Shorty's has been around since 1951, surviving hurricanes, recessions, and fires. Plus, you can still get a barbecue brisket plate with sides for $10.79. Got a gripe about Shorty's? Just stuff your face with some sliced pork ($8.49) and shut up already.
4. Shiver's BBQ
To get to Shiver's BBQ, just drive south on South Dixie Highway. Way south. Like, next-stop-Florida-Keys south. Is the drive to Homestead worth it? You bet your pork it is. For the past 50 years or so, people who are serious about their meat have flocked to this wagon-wheel-decorated shrine to barbecue. Go Tuesday or Wednesday for all-you-can-eat barbecued beef or pork for only $9.49. Go any day you have a hankering for ribs -- pork spare, baby-back, or beef. Can't decide? Order a trio of ribs for $17.95, which includes two sides such as coleslaw and beans. Order extra Shiver sauce ($3.95), because you'll want to pour it, dip it, drink it, and bathe in it before the evening is over.
3. Harvey's Smokehouse BBQ
Down Old Cutler Road in Cutler Bay you'll find a mecca of Southern cooking, Harvey's Smokehouse BBQ. Chef-owner Harvey Alexander gets off on rubbing his meat. Make every dirty joke you want, but Alexander has his own method that produces the some of the best barbecue you've ever tried. Taking the best from every school of barbecue, Alexander first wet-rubs, then dry-rubs, and then smokes his meat. The result: fall-off-the-bone goodness to die for. Go with a few buddies (or a major appetite and a medical insurance card) and dig into the smokehouse sampler. For $50, you'll get a full rack of baby-back ribs, a whole
chicken, a pound of pulled pork, a pound beef brisket, a large side of mac 'n' cheese, a large side of baked beans, a large coleslaw or potato salad, and six pieces of Texas toast. Defibrillator not included (but what a way to go).
2. Bo Leg's Barbeque
There's no other place on our list where you can eat ribs and clean your clothes at the same time. Bo Leg's Barbeque, the mobile pit located in the parking lot of the Foxy Lady Laundromat in North Miami holds that distinction. Which might actually be serendipitous when you get barbecue sauce all over your shirt and tie. There are two lines -- one for pork and one for jerk chicken -- and both are long. Sometimes you'll wait a half-hour. Sometimes the wait is longer. Who cares? With platters around ten bucks, and the intoxicating scent of cooking animal flesh caressing you, simply bring your laundry, get in line, and take comfort in knowing you're accomplishing a hated household chore at the same time you're sating your appetite. Open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until the last rinse cycle.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
1. The Pit Bar-B-Q
Built in 1965 as a tourist trap for visitors on the way to view wildlife in the Everglades, the Pit offers a giant chickee hut as shelter for the hundreds of families who travel from all over Miami-Dade to chow down on ribs ($14.99) cooked low and slow over an open pit stoked with black oak wood. Live music, karaoke, and Latin American favorites make this spot a mishmash of craziness. Throw in real ponies (to ride, not to eat), and this place is so old-school Miami kitsch that it's impossible not to name the Pit number one for barbecue in Miami.