Started as a “first come, first served” pop-up, La Traila was founded by Austin native Mel Rodriguez and Buffalo Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie, the latter a Miami native. The friends met through Rodriguez’s girlfriend, Chantel, and realized they shared a love of hosting cookouts.
Rodriguez happened to own a 20-foot smoker he'd purchased in Austin, and he drove it down to Miami. Throughout early 2020, the smoker lay dormant in a friend’s yard as COVID raged through the land.
When South Florida started to open, Rodriguez and McKenzie began hosting barbecues. “After cooking for friends and family, it just came to me: Maybe this is my calling. Folks loved it," Rodriguez tells New Times.
Rodriguez also decided to stay in Miami.
"If I hadn't bought a smoker, chances were I probably would have moved back to Austin," he says, adding that if he hadn't begun making his own Texas-style barbecue he would have missed it too much to stay in the Sunshine State. "Barbecue is to Texans as the Cubano sandwich is to Miamians. We just crave it," he says.
In the summer of 2020, La Traila began its pop-up journey. Demand increased, outpacing the food truck’s capabilities, and it became clear that brick and mortar was the way to go. A location was secured in Miami Lakes, on NW 154th Street just west of the Palmetto Expressway.
“For example, we'll do green chile pork carnitas from the pulled pork, or a brisket guisada, which is cubed brisket smothered in a Mexican gravy,” he explains.
If there's one dish that's a must-try for your Instagram feed, it's the brisket sundae ($14). A take on extreme fair food, the dish starts with a mac-and-cheese base that's layered with creamed corn and baked beans, then topped with cotija cheese, smoked brisket, house sauce, and crema.
If you're hungry, the barbecue stack is a triple threat of meat. Smoked sausage, sliced brisket, and pulled pork are piled high on a plate and smothered with onions, house sauce, and pickles.
Then there's Rodriguez's favorite, the Texas Trinity platter, which features slow-smoked brisket, beef "dino" ribs, smoked pulled pork, jalapeño cheddar sausage, pork spare ribs, and garlic pork sausage. Rodriguez describes it as "a very generous platter that will feed four to six people."
Meat-free eaters are welcomed with vegetarian-friendly choices that include the "Impossibly Smoked" burger, a cowboy salad, and the "All Natural" (smoked pulled jackfruit tossed in a house sauce and topped with onions and pickles).
“We can't wait to serve our community and beyond, and to let you taste what countless hours of carefully planned and executed food tastes like,” Rodriguez says. “It's our labor of love and we can't wait to share it!”
La Traila Barbecue. 8030 NW 154th St., Miami Lakes; latrailabbq.com. Tuesday through Friday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Opens Saturday, May 29.