Uncle Tom's BBQ has been a Miami staple for over 60 years. After a fire forced the Tamiami Trail restaurant to close last year, the operation is back and ready for a resurgence. A location in Pinecrest is scheduled to open, as well as future locations in West Kendall, Doral/Miami Lakes, and Fort Lauderdale.
The owners have preserved the integrity of the original structure, while also implementing necessary upgrades and changes to both the interior and exterior deck. After the fire, the building got a complete overhaul that included a new electrical system and renovated bathrooms.
"We put in a lot of work to bring the building up to code," said co-owner Ariel Rodriguez. "We put in the awning, which wasn't originally here, but we kept the original tables and deck."
Other stylistic updates include black and white snapshots of the restaurant's early days, which adorn the bathroom, as well as the LED lights that brighten up the original Uncle Tom's sign. Inside you can get a variety of craft beers on tap, and there are several television screens to watch sports games.
Although Uncle Tom's is still in the soft-opening phase, it has already attracted a sizable following. "People keep coming in and they say, finally, you're open!" said co-owner Orlando Morales.
The commitment to authentic barbecue is alive and well at Uncle Tom's, where the taste and preparation of the food is paramount.
"Our goal is to bring back what was successful, and to shake it up. There is a certain way barbecue should be done...We don't smother our ribs," Rodriguez said. "Barbecue is a regional thing: What we do here might not work in Louisiana, or Texas. South Florida has its own flavor of barbecue."
On a recent visit, the Stuffed Mac-N-Cheese ($10.95) and the half rack of ribs ($15.95/$19.95 for the full rack) were served with the famous "special sauce" that is used at the restaurant. The sauce is a vinegar base, but you can also taste hints of cinnamon and other delicious ingredients. Yum. The ribs came on a heaping pile of French fries, with a side of coleslaw and toast.
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The owners of Uncle Tom's intend to make it a mecca for Miami sports-viewing nights. "We had a party for the Heat game this past Monday and ran out of food because so many people walked in," Rodriguez said.
"We're considering theme nights [and other events] as well," Morales added. "World Cup events, biker nights, exotic car nights, live music, and a graffiti night."
Uncle Tom's Barbecue will be open daily for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to midnight.