The other day I mentioned the ‘Cue Sheet, a weekly newsletter put out by Robert Moss. He’s the Barbecue Editor for Southern Living. Nice job. Thanks to Mr. Moss, I bring hopeful news about the barbecue situation in Florida.
Regular readers will know that, after some unpleasant experiences, I all but abandoned my quest for great barbecue in Florida in favor of local seafood and Cuban food. My Momma didn’t raise no fools. Well, hardly any. Garden and Gun illustrated the hapless state of barbecue in Florida back in 2015 when they picked as one of only two Barbecue Bucket List places in Florida Pearl’s Country Store & Barbecue in Micopany. Pearl’s Facebook page features photos of a big smoker hooked up to … propane tanks; and the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. The other Bucket List pick was Ted Peter’s Famous Smoked Fish, which only smokes fish, not meat. The ‘Cue Sheet itself points to the smoked mullet at Sims Smoked Barbecue and Seafood as a potential source of a Florida barbecue tradition. I’m all for it if the smoked fish dip at Havana Cabana in Key West is a guide.
The February 9 issue of the ‘Cue Sheet spotlighted a Southern Living article by Moss, A Tampa Bay Barbecue Sampler, that mentions some very promising places. At the top of the list is Big John’s Alabama Barbecue, an East Tampa place that cooks barbecue as the Good Lord intended, in a brick pit with a window onto the restaurant, as in this photo inexpertly pirated from their website.
As Moss points out, that’s how they cook at the matchless Archibald’s in Tuscaloosa and Bob Sykes in Bessemer. For those who haven’t seen one, here’s a wider view of the one at Miss Myra’s, with some of their soon-to-be ethereal chicken going in:
Moss also mentions BJ’s Alabama BBQ, which is run by Big John’s daughter, and which uses a metal pit. It’s not clear whether it uses direct or indirect heat.
Another place Moss mentions is the Deviled Pig, a new-style place run by a competition/TV chef. That could be good, uneven, or flat bad. Another new place with a celebrity background is Dr. BBQ, which uses a big Oyler smoker. Oylers use all wood — no gas — but cook with an electric air control system that is supposed to ensure even quality without any work. That can work very well or it can go horribly wrong. They do have something more clearly Floridian — a “gator fish spread” of smoked alligator and grouper blended together. Now that sounds good.
Hats off to Robert Moss. I owe him a debt — we all do. I hope to get to Tampa, possibly in connection with a trip down to Marco Island, and I’m currently on the lookout for barbecue places in Palm Beach County. Certainly there must be some fancy new craft barbecue places with Duroc pork and Wagyu beef down there. Meanwhile, please share any experience you have with the Tampa places — or with other Florida barbecue places. Or smoked fish places.
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