Virginia-bred chef Phil Bryant calls himself a die-hard barbecue fan but says it's difficult to feed his craving for meat in Miami because barbecue in general "just isn't very good here."
So the executive chef at Coral Gables' the Local Craft Food & Drink has his heart set on a new concept: the Local 'Q, a barefaced barbecue spot fusing meats and simple sides such as macaroni and cabbage-and-fennel coleslaw.
"What it comes down to is when you get good barbecue, there's nothing like it," he says. "We want it without all the frills." Bryant admits that sometimes he gets in his own way. "It's the chef in me who makes me want to do something more eclectic or eccentric," he says. "But then the other part of me just wants a great piece of smoked brisket and simple greens.
"I miss something that's just straightforward, honest, delicious, and craveable," he says. "A lot of times, chefs in general try to overcomplicate things. They create a menu revolving around barbecue, and then all these weird entrées and appetizers come in. I want to do something simple. I think we've seen evidence with other chefs like Danny Serfer at Blue Collar and Mignonette that it's possible to do simple and straightforward food that's also craveable. Miamians want to go somewhere without the glitz and glamour sometimes."
He says the Local 'Q will incorporate the Local Craft Food & Drink's "craft" techniques, such as making most ingredients in-house by hand, while playing around with different cuts of meats like ribs, brisket, and pulled pork. "We're definitely not going to get too crazy or chef-driven," he says. "We want to make something so simple that people can easily crave it. The meats will be high-quality, and the rest will be easy."
Because the Local is often mistaken for a barbecue joint, Bryant hopes his new concept will separate the two. "A lot of people associate the Local with comfort food and Southern food," he says. "I'm a big fan of that, but barbecue is still something more straightforward. I want to stick to the cuisine I love and I grew up with and just promote that."
Though the Local 'Q is still in development, possible menu offerings include dry-rubbed spare ribs with house smoke and pepper mop; Kansas City-style burnt ends with papi’s barbecue sauce and spiced peanuts; slow-smoked pulled pork with uncle Phil’s smoky hot sauce and house-made dill pickles; pastrami-spiced chicken wings with coriander and cabbage; macaroni with house-made Velveeta; and cabbage-and-fennel coleslaw with herbed buttermilk dressing.
"I want people to be able to order a couple dozen racks of ribs with simple vegetable side dishes," he says. "I'm hoping this will give me a vehicle to make some of those simpler dishes like roasted turnips and braised collards, because that's a huge part of the concept and of Southern cuisine. Predominantly, barbecue and Southern cuisine is about greens and vegetables, not just fried chicken and meats."
Bryant says pricing will reasonable and affordable. Certain plates might be a bit more expensive because of the use of high-quality cuts of meat and ingredients, he says, but nothing over-the-top.
"We want to let Miamians experience what barbecue really is," he says. "People equate barbecue with dumping barbecue sauce all over everything, but that's not even close to what it is and what we're going for."
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He and his team are in the process of locking in a space in the Coral Gables/Coconut Grove area, with the hopes of opening before 2017. He plans to add a bar scene to the restaurant too, with a courtyard featuring a Southern-style beer garden.
Bryant debuted the Local 'Q at Giralda Under the Stars this past April but since has concentrated on opening its brick-and-mortar location. As of now, there is no definite opening date.
"We have angst to get it going this year," he says. "We're working hard, but it's not a restaurant until you ring in your first dollar."