There are plenty of South Florida food staples (exhibit A: our fabulous cafecito; exhibit B: our unique uses of the plantain), but classic Southern barbecue is not necessarily one of them.
With the newest location of Brother Jimmy's BBQ, owner and NFL star Jonathan Vilma hopes that will soon change. Born and raised in Coral Gables, Vilma knows firsthand the types of food found in Miami, which is what led him to open the first Brother Jimmy's BBQ two years ago.
Vilma was introduced to Brother Jimmy's when he was playing for the Jets and living in New York. "I needed a place where I could relax and watch the games in the off-season," he says, adding how a friend recommended the New York City restaurant, which turned into an ideal spot for him.
Brother Jimmy's North Carolina slow-smoked barbecue and its country-style atmosphere really impressed Vilma, who decided to add one in South Florida.
"I felt like Miami needed something like [Brother Jimmy's], so I bought the franchise rights for South Florida and made it a reality."
The first Brother Jimmy's opened in Mary Brickell Village in 2012, but the chain has been thriving for more than two decades. It boasts nine locations -- five in Manhattan; one in New Brunswick, New Jersey; one in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and now two in Miami -- making the Magic City pretty special with a pair of outposts.
"I knew I wanted to expand when I saw the turnout last year during all the different sporting events," Vilma explains. "We were slammed!"
Brother Jimmy's was apparently "the spot," Vilma says, to watch the Heat playoffs, University of Miami games, and other local matchups. "I knew that if I kept the quality of the food and service at premium, the franchise would work throughout Miami and South Florida."
Part of what attracts the sports-frenzied is location, location, location. And with this new spot smack in the middle of South Miami at the Shops of Sunset Place, so close to the University of Miami, it's bound to pull in the crowd Vilma hungers for. Plus, it's a little coincidental humor that the restaurant now inhabits the space once occupied by Marino's, which was also owned and operated by a former football star, Miami Dolphins legend Dan Marino.
"Sunset Place was a location I had my eye on before opening my first location in Brickell," he says, claiming the restaurant is an ideal fit for the residents living in and around the South Miami/Coral Gables area. "College kids will definitely enjoy the food and atmosphere we have to offer -- especially during the football and basketball season."
Though Brother Jimmy's is a chain, Vilma has taken a few artistic liberties in making his two South Florida locations more unique. Aside from using more square footage in the restaurants -- Miami, after all, has more space than the concrete jungle of NYC -- Vilma has also included an outdoor bar at each spot.
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"I want to take advantage of the beautiful weather Miami has to offer by letting my customers enjoy the 75-degree spring days while having a pulled-pork sandwich and a cocktail."
Also unique to the Sunset Place location is the addition of a ten-ounce skirt steak. "I felt the menu is something new and different to South Miami, which customers would appreciate... Legitimate slow-smoked barbecue is not something you'll find on every corner down U.S. 1, so our menu makes us unique, and the quality of our food will keep everyone coming back."
For Brother Jimmy's first-timers, Vilma recommends his favorite: the marbled brisket dinner with a side of baked beans. "Our brisket is so soft and tender because we slow-smoke it for 12 hours to give it that rich, savory flavor." It was the first meal he tried in New York City, and he knows it will turn new patrons into repeat customers.