This summer, new barbecue restaurants are firing up in Broward and Palm Beach counties, run by veteran pitmasters and even fine-dining chefs with James Beard Award nominations.
The result is a strong diversity of flame-grilled flavors, from Texas-style and Southern soul-food barbecue to Korean and what one shack dubs Florida-style barbecue.
Of course, seasoned barbecue lovers know these differences are glaring: Korean-style favors delicate, tender slices, compared with Texas barbecue’s bigger-is-better slabs of dry-rubbed beef, chicken and pork butts. Southern-style meats emphasize the sauce and the ample portions, while so-called Florida barbecue harnesses the essence of the Caribbean.
We’ve compiled a lineup of what’s new in South Florida’s BBQ scene. With the exception of one out-of-state chain, these are all independently owned pit stops. A few have yet to open.
Off Tha Bone BBQ
1516 N. Tamarind Ave., West Palm Beach, and 4065 Haverhill Road, Suite B1, West Palm Beach (opening August); FallOffThaBone.com
Before opening his first brick-and-mortar joint Off Tha Bone BBQ in West Palm Beach, Daniel Spann fired hickory-smoked spare ribs, chicken and turkey legs out of a grill hitched to his pickup on Australian Avenue.
Holding court with a Heineken on an empty lot beside his parents’ house, Spann would heap five bones on customers’ plates, equivalent to a half-rack and probably “too much for one person,” he says his family told him.
Still, “I hoped they would go and tell everybody,” he recalls. The gambit worked: Word of his heaping portions spread in the neighborhood, his popularity exploded, and two years later he upgraded from the roadside into his first storefront in 2017.
Now Spann’s reputation for generous barbecue has evolved into his second Off Tha Bone BBQ location, scheduled to open in late August at 4065 Haverhill Road, Suite B1, in West Palm Beach. The son of a gospel singer and a first-generation pitmaster, Spann says his ambitious plan — to open even more locations over the coming years — is a blueprint for his family’s legacy. Which is why his second location is nicknamed “Tha Blueprint.”
“My goal is to give a restaurant to each of my three sons,” Spann says of his children: Daniel Jr., 9; Bentley, 3; and Benji, 2. “We’ve got to carry this into the next generation.”
The Suncoast High School graduate played tenor drum for Florida A&M University’s marching band before realizing he wanted to be a pitmaster. Mostly, he got tired of watching his father burn pork spare ribs into tough, charred rubber on the backyard grill, he says jokingly. “Let’s just say I had a little more patience,” he adds.
At Off Tha Bone, Spann, 38, specializes in Southern-style spare ribs and soul food spanning dark-meat chicken and smoked sausage to corn bread and collards. The portions are slightly smaller now — four ribs instead of five — at his current barbecue shack, a stout red-brick building on North Tamarind Avenue. But they hardly compare with his turkey legs, which are glistening hocks of smoked meat so colossal they look like they belong at Medieval Times. The meats come slathered in Carolina Tangy Gold and a sweet, ketchup-based sauce he makes in-house.
Off Tha Bone also serves buttered toast, pigeon peas and rice, mac and cheese and candied yams. On Sundays, he turns out a special lunch menu for post-church crowds: meatloaf and pork chops drenched in brown gravy.
1551 NW Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale (opening October); BDTrap.com
It’s been kicking up construction dust since 2020, but this pit-stop devoted to Texas-style brisket, pork spare ribs, sliced turkey breast and smoked chicken is expected to finally debut in October on Sistrunk Boulevard.
At the new 2,500-square-foot barbecue house, a trio of ovens — two Ole Hickory Pits smokers inside and one 500-gallon offset smoker on the patio — will turn out oak-accented meats by the pound and in sandwich form. The pandemic-delayed project comes from co-owner and hospitality veteran Kevin Rodriguez (The Doral Yard food hall, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando) and chef Orelle Young.
The choice to tackle Texas-style meats, as opposed to Memphis- or Kansas City-style, came down to Young’s expertise, Rodriguez says. Earlier this year, the pitmaster competed on Food Network Canada’s barbecue competition series “Fire Masters” after a globetrotting career opening Texas smokehouses in Dubai, London and New York, as well as The Beast by Todd English in Las Vegas.
“It’s harder to fake Texas barbecue,” Rodriguez says. “The focus is the meat, so if you need to put a bunch of sauce on it, you’re doing something wrong. And when we had Orelle’s brisket, it was tender and soft, rub-seasoned perfectly, ribs super-soft and falling off the bone, and I knew this was our guy.”
Rodriguez wants the $1.45 million restaurant, which earned a $350,000 grant from Fort Lauderdale’s Community Redevelopment Agency, to drive more traffic to a part of western Sistrunk Boulevard that’s “ripe for new business.”
Its name is an homage to Da Daiquiri Trap, which operated at the same address until that building was demolished in 2022. While the 45-seat counter won’t serve daiquiris, B&D’s menu will offer wine and craft beer, including a house brew created in collaboration with a Fort Lauderdale brewery. Customers will order dishes from the counter and carry platters out to B&D’s Astroturfed patio with eight picnic tables and overhead cooling fans.
Along with meats, the eatery will sling sides of potato salad, french fries, mac and cheese, baked beans and cornbread.
Tropical BBQ Market
206 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach (opening August); EatTropical.com
There’s only a prep counter, a refrigerator and a massive rotisserie smoker in the kitchen at chef Rick Mace and Jason Lakow’s pit-stop spinoff of their popular Tropical Smokehouse restaurant.
Part lunch-dinner counter and part retail shop, the centerpiece of the 1,900-square-foot market is their Texas-built smoker, which will fire meats low and slow with charcoal, oak and hickory, says Lakow (formerly with Mazie’s in West Palm Beach). When it soft-opens to the public on Aug. 15, the new Tropical BBQ Market will fire up only the greatest hits from their flagship Tropical Smokehouse 2.6 miles south, including mojo pulled pork, jerk turkey breast, brisket, pork spare ribs and barbecue jackfruit.
Mace, who picked up a James Beard Award semifinalist nod earlier this year for Tropical Smokehouse, says the new menu features Florida-style barbecue, evoking the state’s rich fusion of Cuban and Caribbean flavors.
“I’m not trying to reinvent barbecue with this place,” Mace says during a recent tour. “I’m here to smoke meats and merge things that are special to this multicultural place, and the market is an expansion on that idea.”
Custom wood shelving and tables, hand-built by Mace, will display barbecue-inspired retail items, including brisket beef tallow soap, corn grits and cornbread flour, South Carolina rice, sea island red peas and grab-and-go lunches and dinners.
Sides, sold in small and large portions, include housemade smoked fish dip and chorizo queso, along with smoked sweet potato, roasted plantains and Jimmy Red cornbread.
Juice, a 600-square-foot cocktail bar serving libations inspired by Florida-grown fruits, will open next door in the evenings, after Tropical BBQ Market closes. That bar is scheduled to debut in September.
Gen Korean BBQ House
1301 E. Las Olas Blvd., Bay 150, Fort Lauderdale; 954-271-3343; GenKoreanBBQ.com
We already have Brazilian and Argentinian versions on ritzy Las Olas Boulevard, and now all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue has arrived in the form of cofounder David Kim’s California chain, which debuted June 10.
Here, the bottomless barrage of meats arrive at the table, 45 in total, each equipped with built-in burners and kitchen hoods, where customers grill premium top sirloin, pork bulgogi, chadol baegi (thinly sliced beef brisket), yangnyeom galbi (Korean barbecue short ribs), grilled calamari and Hawaiian chicken.
The founder of the Baja Fresh chain of fast-casual Tex Mex restaurants — yes, he once showed up on an episode of CBS’ “Undercover Boss” — sold that brand when he realized Korean barbecue was a growing, untapped market outside of the Golden State. And that includes the Sunshine State.
“Korean barbecue is way more of a novelty here, but it’s gaining acceptance, as opposed to California, where it’s more commonplace,” Kim tells the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Cook-it-yourself barbecue keeps staffing costs low and prices modest (currently $24.95 for lunch and $30.95 for dinner), says Kim, who operates 33 locations in seven states.
Along with entrees, appetizers include mandu (Korean-style dumplings), popcorn chicken, breaded calamari, crispy fish katsu and cheese tonkatsu (a deep-fried pork cutlet).
Of course, the critical part of any Korean barbecue experience is banchan, or small side dishes that envelop the table with the protein entrees, such as edamame, spicy cucumber and housemade kimchi. Kim recommends folding the blistered meats and banchan into lettuce leaves, like a taco, before taking bites.
If Gen Korean is successful on Las Olas, Kim says he plans to open new locations in Doral, Kendall, Brickell, Tampa and Jacksonville through the end of 2024.
4801 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; TheAustinRepublic.com
Any restaurant daring to offer Tex-Mex and barbecue is practically begging for skepticism, but chef Jimmy Strine tackles this ambitious premise aboard his new shipping container on wheels that quietly opened to the public in late April.
Parked in the shade at the former Braille Club on South Dixie Highway, beside Phipps Park, Austin Republic is a squat, red-brown box strung out with market lights and stocked with a rotisserie. A custom smoker, perched on a trailer bed nearby, turns out Texas hot-link sausages, pork spare ribs and prime brisket crusted in tender black bark, perfuming the air with salt and smoke and coarse pepper.
The pit stop is a partnership between Strine and Roxy’s Pub owner John Webb, whose hometown inspired the name.
What makes it Tex-Mex, naturally, are the tacos. Strine (who worked in the high-end kitchens of Café Boulud, Buccan, Grato and Sundy House before this enterprise) piles carnitas, chicken and chopped brisket into heirloom corn tortillas. There are also rotisserie chicken taquitos, taco salads and a burrito stuffed with rice, beans, barbacoa, queso fresco, lettuce, avocado and sour cream.
Sides include thick “rancho” beans, mac-and-cheese pasta shells swimming in rich queso, and warm potato salad. By next year, Strine is plotting a brick-and-mortar location with live music, a bar and outdoor games.