What does the local barbecue scene taste like? Our Off the Clock team set out to explore the landscape, searching for good ‘cue – or echoes of authentic barbecue regions. We skipped the food trucks and focused on brick-and-mortar spots with regular hours of operation. Here are our findings in Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Boca Raton and south Palm Beach County.
THE ‘CUE: Pig-Sty is the domain of award-winning pitmaster Bryan Tyrell, who pays homage to the low-and-slow, wood-smoked barbecue style of his native Kansas City. Tyrell knows a thing or two about ‘cue. Back in Missouri, he was smokehouse manager at the famed Oklahoma Joe’s, a spot Zagat deemed to be “Best BBQ restaurant in the world.”
GOOD BITES: So you may not come to a Kansas City-style ‘cue joint for pastrami, but if it’s Friday, pastrami ($9.99) is what you must have. It’s smoked, juicy and generous in portion. Stacked high on rye, it’s arguably the best pastrami in the county. Other noteworthy options include pit-smoked meats (pulled pork, brisket, smoked ham, sausage, smoked salmon), an overloaded Frito Pie ($6.99), $8.99 sandwiches like The Big Pig (heap of pulled pork, sausage, bacon), even a smoked veggie sandwich called Hippy Picnic.
Impressive sides ($3 to $9) include meaty chili, Grandmama’s Cheesy Mac (so good) and a tangy-creamy loaded potato salad. Sweets: Tyrell has been making delicious no-churn ice cream in a variety of flavors. We loved the blueberry ice cream. We also loved Pig-Sty’s Gooey Butter Cake, even though its crumbs stuck to our fingers when we peeled off the plastic wrap Tyrell uses to keep them fresh.
SKIP: The free popcorn. You will need the room for the ‘cue feast ahead.
VIBE: Rustic and real. The food is served cafeteria-style. You walk up to the counter and watch them carve your meat and scoop out your side dishes. The desserts are self-serve from the fridge. Expect no frills here, just outstanding barbecue. There is music, however: Thursdays are now “Grateful Thursdays,” featuring jam-band performances.
-- Liz Balmaseda
Lucille’s to the Bone
THE ‘CUE: It seems Lucille’s has taken a detour from a classic barbecue joint. My first thought was: “How can a barbecue place not serve collard greens or mac and cheese as sides?” Signs in the restaurant promise “real-pit BBQ,” and while there is plenty of barbecue, the menu has a lot more to offer, like wings, burgers, seafood, tacos, wraps and a large variety of salads.
GOOD BITES: My son finished every drop of his pulled pork sandwich, which came piled high on the bun ($5.99). The pulled pork went especially well with the Carolina Mustard sauce. It was our favorite sauce, with mustard, vinegar and just the right amount of spice. Lucille’s offers three other specialty sauces (House BBQ, Smokey BBQ and Spicy BBQ). The Spicy BBQ was our second favorite. The baby back ribs, which I like served naked, came smothered with barbecue sauce. They did have a nice smokey flavor. We had ours on the Pit Platter IV (22.99), which also included chopped beef brisket and pulled pork. The creamed spinach was our favorite side.
SKIP: The beef brisket. I was looking forward to a traditional brisket prepared slow-cooked, with a nice seared crispy outside. Lucille’s brisket comes chopped up with barbecue sauce, red onions and sweet relish. That’s overly prepared for my taste.
VIBE: This is a family-friendly full-service restaurant. We visited on a Wednesday night when kids eat free. It offers a fun atmosphere where the wait staff wear shirts that say “Nice Rack,’ and “Peace, Love and BBQ.” The service was outstanding.
HOURS AND INFO: Open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Lucile’s has three locations: 3011 Yamato Rd., Boca Raton; 6691 Boynton Beach Blvd., Boynton Beach and 9173 Atlantic Ave., Suite 120, Delray Beach. badtothebonebbq.com
-- Laura Lordi
THE ‘CUE: The Troy’s business, which started as a very popular Southern barbecue food truck, recently expanded to a brick-and-mortar restaurant. It still serves some of the best barbecue I’ve tasted. However, due to its recent transition, it still has some kinks to work out. For example, on a recent lunch visit, when trying to order collard greens, I was told they wouldn’t be ready for another 1 ½ hours. On the recent Tuesday visit, the ribs tasted like they were left over from the weekend.
GOOD BITES: The brisket ($20.59 as a brisket and ribs combo dinner). Although somewhat fatty, the meat had an amazing smokey taste and was very moist with a good, crisp char on it. You can’t go wrong with a pulled pork sandwich here. It’s served on a soft potato bun (lunch combo with fries special $10). The sides were a major hit: The mac and cheese was served the way my momma use to make -- soul food style, baked with lots of cheese with bits of crust throughout. The baked beans were served thick, with what tasted like molasses and brown sugar with bits of bacon.
SKIP: The ribs. I was so looking forward to them, but they were small, dry with barely any meat.
VIBE: The new sit-down restaurant is a no thrills kind of place. Order from the line and take your food to go or dine in.
HOURS AND INFO: Open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Mondays at 1920 S. Federal Hwy., Boynton Beach; 561-740-1125; bbqtroys.com
-- Laura Lordi
Park Avenue (PA) BBQ
THE ‘CUE: Although barbecue geeks might snub this Lake Park-founded local chain, it is a reader favorite. And there are good reasons for this. They welcome you with sweet-spicy pickles. Although the concept doesn’t embrace any particular barbecue region, the meats are cooked in custom-built smokers at each location. The sauces are delicious and diverse. The cornbread could be dessert. And dessert includes a to-die-for, homey buttermilk cake.
GOOD BITES: Our favorite bites include the baby-back ribs ($13 half, $20 full), the hand-sliced BBQ Beef Brisket sandwich ($10- $12) and the pulled pork platter with original sauce ($12). On the side, the smoky baked beans, tasty collards and refreshing slaw are must-haves ($2.50 each). On the sweet side, can’t beat Mary’s Buttermilk Cake ($5).
SKIP: The purist attitude. There’s good grub to be found here. Dig in.
VIBE: Each location offers a relaxed, family-friendly vibe in a full-service restaurant setting. Takeout service is excellent as well.
HOURS AND INFO: Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with locations in Jupiter, North Palm Beach, Wellington, West Palm Beach and Boynton Beach (plus Stuart and St. Lucie West); visit pabbqgrille.com for details.
-- Liz Balmaseda
THE ‘CUE: I wasn’t aware that Mississippi BBQ was a thing, and for me, the barbecue was a tasty, generic version. The baby back ribs are seasoned and the perfect kind of messy. And the tips of the ribs? Yes, you get some char in there from the grill, which is a win for any ‘cue-craving human. The standout here is in the pulled meat division. The beef and pork are expertly seasoned and don’t beg for sauce. Though your sauce choices -- a mild red or mild mustard sauce -- offer a great compliment to the Texas-style toast that accompanies the pulled beef and pork platter.
GOOD BITES: More sweet cornbread, please! Man, that is some good stuff. Get extra (.99). Trust me. While the platters offer a mix for the indecisive and the ribs ($19.99 full slab/ 14.59 half slab) are, indeed, fall-off-the-bone, the winner here was of the pulled variety. No need for a big appetite when the pulled pork is so darn good. Get it on a roll ($7.79) with the mustard sauce, and save your fingers for licking at the end.
SKIP: If you’re going for takeout, skip the Mississippi Sweets as a side -- that is, the thinly-sliced and deep fried sweet potatoes. They do not travel well, and there’s nothing worse than soft potato chips. Also, not impressed with the green beans. Tasted like they were poured from a can.
VIBE: A cute, full-service restaurant that’s family-friendly. Tables aren’t on top of each other and there are TVs, so whether you bring the fam or just want to catch a game over some ‘cue, Mississippi Sweets is a good fit. It’s a great neighborhood establishment with an easy-going vibe. But barbecue snobs beware: The ‘cue is tasty but not taste-bud-shattering.
HOURS AND INFO: Lake Worth location: Open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. 9859-29 Lake Worth Rd, Lake Worth, 561-642-4748.
Boca Raton location: Open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. at 2399 N Federal Hwy, Boca Raton, 561-394-6779; mississippisweetsbbq.com
-- Samantha Ragland