It would be nice if Miami barbecue were a simple creature: one kind of meat, one way to cook it, and maybe a couple of sauces. But life is never simple. And setting out to find whether Miami has its own style of barbecue reveals a truth — that there are more methods, meat, and madness than any one city should ever contain.
Miami has soul food. It has
10. Mr. Boneless
"This is world-famous Mr. Boneless," 40-year-old Liberty City native Cedric Halyard says. "I've been coming here every week. Even when he was on the street corner, I would chase him down.” Terry Watts started selling food on those street corners nearly two decades ago. After years of hosting cookouts for friends, pleas to turn his hobby into a business grew relentless. Hence, Mr. Boneless (1807 NW 79th St., Miami; 561-891-3015) was born more than a decade ago. And his regulars swear by his ribs ($12 platter/$8 sandwich) and chicken ($10 platter/$7 sandwich) — no bones, of course, and cooked slow over oak.
9. The Pit Bar-B-Q
After his bath salts wear off, Florida Man visits this chickee hut at the edge of the Everglades for alligator ribs. There are also frogs' legs ($7.99 for three), shipped in overnight from Louisiana. What was once a go-cart track was, in 1965, converted into a restaurant that has become something of a pilgrimage for locals, though less so lately because of suburban sprawl. Still, the Pit captures everything that’s so alluring about barbecue and Miami all on the same table. Where else can you get maduros ($3.50) and fried biscuits with honey ($2.50) to accompany racks of baby-back ribs ($24)?
8. Saint City Coffee Shop
The sign says coffee shop, but the twin grills puffing smoke in the parking lot say different. This barbecue joint housed within the Saint City Church of God (9302 NW 22nd Ave., Miami; 305-693-3877) in West Little River opened more than four decades ago to feed a ravenous flock copious amounts of supple rib slabs ($16 half rack) lacquered in a sweet auburn sauce. Bishop James Jenkins had the good foresight to know the neighborhood would need just such a spot. Back then, there weren’t many such places around, says a worker named Ty, who began volunteering there 35 years ago. Although the bishop passed away three years ago, his wife Helen has kept things just the way they’ve always been.
7. People’s Bar-B-Que
Bobby Lewis Sr. opened what was then People's Pharmacy in 1925 just across the street from the current location on NW Eighth Street at Fourth Avenue. This was long before Overtown was a major black cultural hub of the South and decades before the forthcoming interstate would fracture the neighborhood. Today his sons run the place, smoking ribs, chicken, over oak wood and racking them up with addictive sides such as cornbread, mac 'n' cheese (two New Times favorites), collard greens, pigeon peas, yellow rice, white rice, and string beans.
6. Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann
One would be remiss in discussing barbecue in Miami and not mentioning the Argentine asador. There are two ways to do this: Find a friend who happens to have a side of beef, a whole lamb, and a few iron crosses. Light your beach fires. Plunge the metal into the ground, strap up your meat, sit back, and drink through the long, slow wait for it to be done. Or simply visit Francis Mallmann’s spot in the sumptuous Faena Hotel Miami Beach. Here, the offerings are supremely simple: a rib eye ($42), a whole chicken hung and roasted over embers ($42), or some gorgeously charred sweetbreads ($21). What exactly is barbecue is an argument without end. But everyone can agree that expertly cooked meat is at its heart, and who knows that better than an Argentine?
5. Sparky’s Roadside Barbecue
Dining downtown can be a bear. Pricey hotel restaurants and sketchy cafeterias abound. Thankfully, Sparky’s owners, Hans Seitz and Kevin Kehoe, fixed that problem a few years ago with their place that perfumes the street with smoke and offers craft beer by the pitcher. They even smoke their own picnic hams for a riff on the Cuban sandwich called the Ex-Patriot ($9.95). Obviously, the St. Louis ribs ($17 half-rack, $26 whole) and pulled pork ($13.75) will keep you coming back, but just one time, try the smoked-then-fried chicken ($14). You can thank us later.
4. BBQ Rib Shack
Two ten-foot-long grills exhale smoke onto the Clasixx strip club parking lot. You want what’s inside — the grills, that is. A few years ago, when the notorious spot was called Club Lexx, Skebo Jenkins and head chef Johnny ''Sugar Ray Jay'' Floyd's rib-and-chicken operation, BBQ Rib Shack (12001 NW 27th Ave., Miami; 305-681-3536), prospered under a white pop-up tent in the parking lot. There are still the ribs ($13 for a half-rack) that go low and slow over the heat of burning oak and hickory for about four hours. They’re left with a thin, salty bark and a pink smoke ring penetrating the flesh. Though the business may have lost just a touch of its panache, moving inside was actually for the better. Now you can even get breakfast after you stumble out of the club.
3. Smokey Trails BBQ
If you’re looking for that hard-earned smoke ring, stop by Greg Moody’s hulking smoker conveniently parked on NW 103rd Street just off I-95. His brisket ($8 for a sandwich, $12 for a meal, and $16 per pound) method can be traced back to his time as a long-haul truck driver. He gave a day’s labor, and in return, his meat was blessed with a two-day process that begins with a lengthy sit in a simple rub — little more than paprika, onion, and garlic powder — followed by a dozen hours in the smoker. The meat spends a few more hours in the heat, separating the brisket's natural juices, and then a final, finishing smoke in those concentrated juices Moody calls "black gold."
Is it Mexican? Is it barbecue? Who cares. When Josh Marcus turns the pizza oven in his hardly kosher deli into a smoker, you should want a piece of the action, no matter what comes out of it. The spicy ribs ($14/$27) — marinated in sour orange, habanero and guajillo peppers, apple juice, and garlic and then rubbed with pastrami spice — are critical. They're smoked for three hours, slow-roasted for another three, and then wrapped and roasted for two hours. The process yields a rib that jars the mouth with spice and fills the head with the perfume of coriander, juniper, and cumin. Then it’s up to you to decide whether you also want octopus. No matter what you choose, you’ll love unpacking it from butcher paper and wrapping it all up in hot tortillas with cilantro and pickled onions.
1. Bo Leg’s BBQ
No matter whether his stand is situated on NW 167th Street or Dixie Highway, Kevin Dority’s barbecue is a North Dade staple. He grew up in Edisto Beach — a speck of an island eight miles off Charleston, South Carolina. There, Bo, nicknamed so for his bowed legs, was brought up on authentic family-made barbecue and was a vegetable farmer with his brothers on his family's farm. When you stop at Bo Leg's (250 NE 167th St., Miami; 305-303-2134), go for the beef brisket ($14) or the ribs ($12). Mustard sauce is the only choice.
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