When I go to a city, I always google “best bbq in _________.” It’s brain stem activity by now. When Nancy and I were headed to Sarasota for a few days en route to Marco Island, I automatically googled “best BBQ in Sarasota” and, lo and behold, the top pick was Nancy’s Bar-B-Q, right downtown, only a short walk from our hotel. There are two chances that I will skip a barbecue place sharing the name of the love of my life: slim and none. Off we went for lunch, after a pleasant tour of the Mary Selby Botanical Gardens.
Nancy’s is situated in a ramshackle building that, as we approached from the back, I imagined used to be a garage. See the towers looming over it.
Once inside, and especially if you look at the bright red antique tractor out front, you realize that considerable effort went into making it look like an old ramshackle garage.
You order cafeteria style, and take your tray to one of the picnic tables in a shaded area outside or in one of two indoor rooms. I ordered a pork tray with collard greens and macaroni and cheese — the classic order.
Nancy — the real Nancy, not the Restaurant Nancy — ordered four sides: cucumber and onions, potatoes au gratin, creamy slaw, and sesame crunch slaw.
First, the pork. Nancy’s pork is rubbed with 14 spices before it’s placed in the cooker. They cook exclusively with wood, as God intended — oak, no gas or electricity, but in a box rather than a pit, alas. The result is pork that is moist and tender, but lacking in flavor, either flavor of smoke or pork or 14 spices. You can add one of their three sauces, the aptly named Sweet, the Chipolte, which is also sweet, and/or a vinegar sauce that has a little pepper, but it won’t make it taste like good barbecue.
The sides are a mixed bag. The collards had been cooked with sugar, and with barely a hint of meat. Sugar for side meat is a bad trade. The vinegar-pepper sauce didn’t help much. The macaroni and cheese, on the other hand, was good, as were the potatoes au gratin. Nancy liked the creamy slaw, which was not excessively creamy, but did not like the sesame crunch slaw, which needed some sort of dressing.
The hit of the meal was the cucumber and onions, dressed with dill and vinegar, and some sugar that they could have done without. It was flavorful and refreshing, and a good idea as a companion to some rich barbecue, or it would be if they had some rich barbecue.
Nancy’s Bar-B-Q has a second location, lil’ Nancy’s at the Ranch, which is in a shopping center. The also appear to have a big catering business. Nancy’s was selected to cater a Town Hall event featuring President Clinton, who grew up with good barbecue, such as that at McClard’s in Hot Springs. I take the choice of Nancy’s to cater the Clinton event as evidence that Sarasota is a Republican area. You don’t do that to someone you like.