Uncle Tom's Barbecue was a Miami staple for generations. One of the last "old Florida" icons, the neon sign pointed weary and hungry travelers to some good old-fashioned grub since 1948, back in the days when SW 8th Street was the main way for folks to get from Miami to Naples.
Then, after decades of serving ribs and chicken to generations of Miami, the oversized neon went dim. Last Summer, the restaurant closed due to a "Notice to Vacate" issued by Miami-Dade County on July 9, 2013, citing several violations including "hazardous electrical or mechanical installations, unsanitary conditions due to inadequate or malfunctioning sanitary facilities or waste disposal systems, work done without permit or with expired permit, and fire or windstorm hazard".
Now, the restaurant is poised for a grand reopening with new owners, a bit of rock 'n roll, and a "new" menu that actually pays tribute to the restaurant's historical roots.
The Rodriguez family, who owns and operates Pasta del Giornio in Pinecrest, purchased the restaurant and decided to return the menu to its basic roots, incorporating recipes and techniques that made the restaurant famous over the years. The reason?
One part nostalgia and one part business acumen, as owner Ariel Rodriguez states. "I grew up eating at Uncle Tom's Barbecue. My family and I considered it an institution and when the opportunity arose to purchase the restaurant, we jumped at the chance to re-introduce that legacy. We're not only bringing back the local favorites from the first menu, we're bringing back the brand's insanely addicting homemade sauce thanks to the original owners, the Fantis family."
In a nod to its original 1948 menu, Uncle Tom's Barbecue will feature genuine pit barbecue dishes like baby back ribs, spare ribs, chicken, and brisket platters.
And yes, Uncle Tom's Secret Sauce is making a comeback, after a decade-and-a-half of being lost in the shuffle.
The reopening of course, also meant an extensive renovation of the existing building, which was deemed unsafe last summer due to a fire. Uncle Tom's is reopening with a new roof, canopy, light, bathrooms, and kitchen appliances, bringing the barbecue joint into the 21st century -- and up to code.
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The Rodriguez is so bullish on the Uncle Tom's Barbecue brand, that they're already planning an additional location in Pinecrest, set to open late Summer 2014.
Uncle Tom's Barbecue will be open daily for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to midnight.