Miami's Bar-B-Que Ribs Chicken & Jerk Shack Goes From Good to Great

Back in the day, you used to see strippers run out of the club to grab a rack of ribs," Waymond Thomas says. He's standing outside Bar-B-Que Ribs Chicken & Jerk Shack (12001 NW 27th Ave., Miami; 305-681-3536), cater-cornered to Miami Dade College's north campus. The air is thick with smoke from a 20-foot-long hybrid grill-smoker that two cooks tend at the same time. The sweet smell of molasses-laced barbecue sauce lingers, and a line stretches out the door.

Just a few years ago, that queue used to be a line of cars wrapped around the parking lot of the adjacent strip club. Once known as Rol-Lexx and Club Lexx, the columned fortress has been plagued by violence. In 2012, one of the club's bouncers was arrested and charged with murder after a shooting he said happened after he was threatened by two patrons. In 2014, one person was grazed by a stray bullet during another shooting. All the while, Skebo Jenkins and head chef Johnny ''Sugar Ray Jay'' Floyd's rib and chicken operation prospered under a white pop-up tent in the parking lot. "I'd always come down no matter what," says Thomas, a 61-year-old Hollywood resident. "It's something about the taste, the smoke."

Indeed, there's something special about these ribs. Across Miami, many street-corner barbecue stands char their racks over steel grates. The results are rich and fatty but don't offer the meaty tenderness that signifies the best. Yet here, ribs ($13 for a half-rack) go low and slow over the heat of burning oak and hickory for about four hours. There's a thin, salty bark and a pink smoke ring penetrating the flesh.

In 2012, Jenkins moved his operation across the street to a permanent location after he partnered with Ken Ivory. "We took it to a different level, started doing collard greens, yams, Jamaican jerk," Ivory says. The place also expanded into a 24-hour eatery carrying that hefty lineup throughout the day and night. There's even breakfast ($10). So stop by during the wee hours after a long night of making it rain next door. Fill up on eggs, corned-beef hash, and shrimp 'n' grits, and you're ready to face the day. Don't forget to grab a rib sandwich ($9) to keep you going through lunch.

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