Crow is not on the menu at Fat Boyz Barbecue in Coral Springs, but after I enjoyed just about every smoked morsel in the place — ribs, brisket, pastrami, chicken and turkey — I will gladly eat it. Proverbially speaking, of course. Fat Boyz Coral Springs, which opened in July 2018, may well be the best barbecue joint in Broward County.
It is clean, spacious and comfortable, with a recently-annexed second room raising capacity to 100 seats. Smoke perfumes the air and workers greet customers with smiles and cries of, “How ya’ doing?” The brisket is Texas-style and the hospitality is Southern. Dry-rubbed ribs, kissed with hickory and spice, have proper smoke ring and firm meat that falls off the bone the old-fashioned way — through low-and-slow cooking, not cheap shortcuts like parboiling. Chicken has glazed dark skin crisped to perfection.
So raise a piece of jalapeño corn bread and a glass of birch beer and say, “Here’s to redemption.”
When I reviewed Fat Boyz Barbecue’s Deerfield Beach flagship in September 2017, I liked the vibe and back story of husband-and-wife owners Jarael and Yolanda Holston-Jones, locals who started with a food truck and quit other jobs to pursue their barbecue passion. But the food? That I did not like so much. Most of what I ate tasted mediocre, either soggy, salty or too sweet. The ribs — St. Louis spare ribs and baby backs — looked good but were lifeless.
There were extenuating circumstances, however. It was a couple weeks after Hurricane Irma, and Jarael explained at the time that the head cook was sidelined dealing with hurricane damage at home. Still, the eatery was open for business. In the minds of editors and me, that made it fair game for review. But I don’t know if it was an entirely fair review, given the wallop South Florida had just taken. I described the pulled pork as “a mushy bland mess, a brown heap tinged with Carolina mustard sauce that … looked like some of the Irma debris sitting on my block.”
Jarael Holston-Jones, a church pastor, U.S. Army veteran and Ely High graduate from Pompano Beach, took the negative review admirably, with turn-the-other-cheek understanding and humility. He admitted some things needed improvement and went back to work. Then, he says, something heartening occurred: Fat Boyz’s large and loyal fan base rallied around the eatery. Business actually improved. Jarael and Yolanda persevered through other trials, including a vandalism incident at the Deerfield location.
The Coral Springs outpost, in a Sample Road shopping center just west of State Road 7 and the Seminole Coconut Creek Casino, gave the couple a chance to win new converts. And it gave me an opportunity to give Fat Boyz a long-awaited second chance.
That pulled pork still looks a mess, but this time it was ugly delicious. The mustard sauce packed a little more punch, which I enlivened with hits of vinegar and Crystal hot sauce found at my table. Nearly everything had done a 180. The St. Louis spare ribs and baby backs were both excellent, particularly when dunked in a bit of Spicy Sam barbecue sauce, named for a customer who likes things hot. The collard greens, flecked with shreds of smoked turkey and cooked just right (not too hard, not too soft), had all the depth of flavor of versions that use pork. Jarael says he’s using pork alternatives in side dishes — brisket chunks instead of bacon in the smoky-sweet baked beans — for the health conscious. I don’t think anyone will confuse this with health food, but the lighter touches are appreciated.
I still have some nitpicks. I wish the two-meat combination platter ($15.99 with two sides, plus surcharges for certain items) would come atop a slice of white bread or two to sop up flavor. And I wish a true North Carolina vinegar-and-red-pepper-flake sauce was available to bolster the assortment of house sauces that veer toward the sweet (traditional, hickory and a South Carolina mustard-vinegar sauce). And I don’t understand how anybody likes — or can get their mouths around — the Big Daddy sandwich ($12), a combination of overly-sauced pulled pork, chopped brisket and mac-and-cheese on a kaiser roll. “We call that a fork sandwich,” Holston-Jones says. “You can eat it with a fork because everything spills out, or you can eat it sloppy.”
I preferred the simplicity of smoked pastrami on kaiser ($11.99), with a dash of Gulden’s mustard. These faint pink slices of lean, brined brisket were not the classic fatty, coriander-spiced deckle-cut pastrami of New York delis, but the sandwich still tasted mighty fine.
The Coral Springs Fat Boyz, like the Deerfield Beach original, is a fast-casual restaurant where diners order at the counter, then wait for food to be delivered. Just about all the little touches are right. The soda machine features specialty flavors made locally for Fat Boyz, including cream, birch beer and strawberry. Tubs of sweet and unsweetened iced tea sit side by side, a welcomed improvement over the Deerfield store, where only the sickly sweet option is available. (Jarael says the unsweetened didn’t sell there, so he stopped making it.)
Things have been going so well in Coral Springs that Fat Boyz took over adjacent space and added the second room last month. It will soon feature a stage and live music, including karaoke nights. The Coral Springs location is more relaxed than Deerfield, doing business all day instead of a concentrated lunch burst. Now the couple wants families to come and linger. Beer and wine will soon be available. A senior early-bird dinner (baby back ribs and two sides for $10.99) is offered 3-6 p.m. weekdays. Children (10 and younger) eat free weekdays from 3 p.m. until closing, with a choice of chicken nuggets, pulled pork sandwich or hot dog with mac and cheese.
Jarael and Yolanda have come a long way from their early days, when they would barbecue for church events and fundraisers. That led to the food truck, which serviced the Broward County Courthouse for a year before they opened the Deerfield Beach location in February 2017.
“It started as a hobby and became a passion,” Jarael says. And now it’s an expanding empire. A third Fat Boys location is scheduled to soon open in Fort Lauderdale, Fat Boyz has three food trucks. The couple also has been busy with their recent opening of a seafood restaurant in Pompano Beach, Crazy Cajun Crabs. Are their plates too full?
The results in Coral Springs say no. These smokers are on fire.
Fat Boyz Barbecue
6192 W. Sample Road, Coral Springs
Cuisine: American/Southern barbecue
Cost: Inexpensive-moderate. Sandwiches cost $7.99 to $12, platters (with two sides) $11.99-$23.99, sides $1.50-$5.25, rib racks and meats by the pound available
Hours: 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday
Reservations: No. First come, first served
Credit cards: All major
Bar: No alcohol yet, but beer and wine coming soon. Specialty soda machine (locally made birch beer, cream and strawberry soda) and tubs of sweet and unsweetened iced tea
Noise level: Mellow with occasional bursts of chopping and hacking of pork and rib racks. Live music and karaoke coming soon to annexed room
Wheelchair access: Ground level
Parking: Free lot
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