People's Bar-B-Que: An Overtown Institution
All Photos by Kareem Shaker
Look to your right the next time you pass the NW Eighth Street exit on southbound I-95 and you might catch a glimpse of an Overtown institution -- People's Bar-B-Que.
When Bobby Lewis Sr. opened what was then People's Pharmacy in 1925 just across the street from the current location on NW Eighth Street at Fourth Avenue, the surrounding neighborhoods were practically wilderness. A North Carolina native and the county's first black pharmacist, Lewis eventually began selling barbecue in the stand next door, and it was then known as People's Pharmacy and Barbecue. His sons -- Bobby Lewis Jr., Bobby Lewis III, and Derek Lewis -- along with Derek's wife, Gloria, took over the business after the patriarch's death at age 99 and focused on just the barbecue business.
"That is what we are known for, the barbecue," says Gloria, who has sat in the same chair in front of the register for the past 48 years. "We cook it slow and use a secret family blend of spices."
You can get barbecued ribs, chicken, beef, or pork sandwiches and platters at reasonable prices. The barbecue sandwiches come with a pile of meat that's devoid of chewy fat or stiff end pieces. The beef or pork sandwich is just $6, and the rib sandwich goes for $7.
Really hungry? Try the rib and chicken combo sandwich for $11.50 or a whole chicken sandwich for $12. The barbecue platters run between $9.50 for dark-meat chicken to $27 for a full rib slab with two large sides and four muffins. Your choice of sides include collard greens, pigeon peas, macaroni 'n' cheese, yellow rice, white rice, and string beans.
"The macaroni 'n' cheese is the best I have ever had," says local resident and frequent People's patron Clifford Jackson. "I have been coming here with my family for decades, and the quality has always been the same. "
In addition to the barbecue that made it famous, People's offers a range of traditional family dinners such as t-bone steak ($14), baked ham ($10), and oxtail ($11.75). The fried chicken ($10) was a New Times "Best of Miami" winner, and the pork chops ($10) also garner praise for their tendency to fall off the bone.
The free-standing building on one of Overtown's busiest corners is undergoing an extensive renovation funded by the Miami Community Redevelopment Agency. The windows have already been replaced, and pretty much everything -- including the chairs, tables, and grills -- will be updated. The renovation is proceeding slowly but should be completed by 2015.
People's is a testament to hard work paying off, a true success story with staying power.
"It's the food," one patron says when asked what has made People's a mainstay. "No matter what your marketing plan is, you won't stay around unless you serve amazing food."
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