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Restaurants & Bars Florida BBQ


andrew huse | | May 18, 2000 09:00 PM

anyone know of GOOD SMOKY BBQ in Florida? Preferably the west coast (Tampa) or Orlando. Since Fla isn't really part of the Deep South, there is a limited supply.

To make up for the shortage, i barbecue regularly, at least once every two weeks. I've cooked just about everything in my smoker, from pork shoulder, brisket, sausage, salmon, steak, turkey and chicken to eggplant, stuffed peppers, onions (for soup and frying), shrimp, cheese, and tomatoes (for sauces and salsa). But sometimes i just have to check out the competition.

i even considered starting a Slow-Food Convivium (check them out on the net--- an interesting European anti-fast food, pro-regional food club), but figured i already had a de facto club of about 25, those who attend my cook-outs.

finding real smoked barbecue is quite difficult when dining out. most places are just marginally okay, not very smoky, with sub-standard sides. Here's a list of the places in Tampa i've tried.

Campbell's Agape BBQ: good 'cue, but the sides are of typical mediocre quality. will work in a fix, but does not dazzle. corn bread a plus.

Big Ben's BBQ: actually a bbq truck with a smoker in tow that is sometimes parked in the parking lot of a north Tampa convenience store. Surprisingly good stuff made by Ben, a friendly guy that peddles his cue because his family has encouraged him to share his great stuff with the world. great generous pork sandwiches. steamed whole crabs are good. haven't tried the sides.

VP's: a Bulgarian BBQ joint on 301. generally good, smoky bbq. The country ribs, which are amazingly tender and sliced thin, are not to be missed. i almost bought a few pounds of it just to take home. once again, the side orders are lame. beans straight out of the can, etc.

fat Cat's bbq: kind of a biker place, a hole in the wall along Waters ave. a biker couple seem to run the place, and the cue is honest and smoky. sausage, ribs, pork, etc. once again, the sides pale next to the meats.

B-Man's Ybor City bbq: decent cue with real smoke, but once again the sides are drivel. canned beans and applesauce served in pre-packages Mott's cups. good lord!

Betty's Corner: on a corner (46th st?) in the middle of College Hill, a poor and rough neighborhood near the projects. a convenience store that serves hot food. without a doubt, go during the day, but is well worth the drive. kick-ass soul food that features bbq daily as well as fried fish, liver, etc. different items on different days.

a woman tends the steam tray inside, which shelters such homey sides as butter beans, hommade mac n cheese, black eyed peas, yellow rice, banana pudding, chitterlings, etc. a man tends the large smoker outside while hanging out with friends. The barbecue was the highlight of our visit. Ribs and especially chicken were excellent, with a sauce beyond compare (not too sweet). when i asked to buy some sauce, i was refused with a suspicious attitude.

Betty's is one of the few places i've been to whose sides were as good as the cue. why do proprietors serve such drivel? weak sides may be a tradition in the south, but potato salad and cole slaw do not make a good meal. why serve the meat on the cheapest buns you can find? why only half an ear of corn--- c'mon, people! i've dreamed of opening my own bbq shack for many years, mainly so i could serve worthy sides with sublime smoked meats.

anyone have an idea why bbq sides suck so bad? this has bothered me ever since i fell in love with the stuff.

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