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Perhaps it's the closely guarded techniques, sauces and rubs that make rib enthusiasts, whether they're eating or cooking them, so devout. It could be the way smoke and heat transform tough slabs of bone and connective tissue into tender sweet magic. The fact that they're handheld, and supposed to be messy might also have something to do with it.
Miami by geography is a southern city, yet no one we know would say Miami is "in The South." Nonetheless there's no shortage of racks being smoked, cooked and slathered in sauce. Here are a few who do it best.
5. Babyback Ribs at Shorty's Barbecue
The 50-year-old restaurant, now with several locations across Miami, has had locations burn to the ground and even change ownership in 1980. Nonetheless they continue to dish out top notch, hickory-smoked ribs. What makes it all special, besides the log cabins dropped in the middle of suburban Miami, is the spicy, sweet vinegary sauce that comes in a glass that's most often a Parmesan cheese shaker. Apply liberally.
4. Asian White Boy Ribs at The Dutch
Andrew Carmellini is one of the latest New York big wig toques to open a Miami outpost. He's been doing a decent job, spending plenty of time in the Magic City and giving up his posh eatery at the W Hotel on Miami Beach for a Hurricane Sandy fundraiser. The White Boy Ribs (at $9 apiece) come with a sweet hoisin glaze with a pop of acid thanks to the addition of rice vinegar. If you're going to shell out big bucks for ribs, this is place to do it.
It's a barbecue pit situated in the parking lot of Club Lexx, the strip club once known as Club Rolex near Opa-Locka. A midsummer's night shooting in the parking lot killed one man, sent two to the hospital and Miami-Dade police arrested one of the club's security guards. Forget all that. Come here for a chicken-and-rib combo slathered in a mustard-based barbecue sauce.
2. Baby Back Ribs and Sparky's Roadside Barbecue
Since opening in 2011 Sparky's, owned and operated by Hans Seitz and Kevin Kehoe, has become a southern barbecue oasis in the middle of lawyer-and-banker-filled downtown Miami. Ribs here are smoked with apple and hickory wood and come with two sides. We suggest the stewed collard greens and macaroni and cheese.
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1. Baby Back Ribs at Ribs-2-Go
Grillmaster Mark Wilson came to South Florida via Compton in 2006. In 2009 he was transferred to Miami, where he began selling barbecue to his Liberty City flock. You can usually find him in the Midtown area with a white Ford E-Class toting a nondescript black mesh cage emitting clouds of smoke. Gibson coats his ribs with a secret rub before slow cooking them. Get them with his special vinegar-and-mustard golden sauce. Be prompt though, he sells out quickly.
For more follow Zach on Twitter @ZachIsWeird.