Meat-loving grill masters in the local dining industry have been banking on our collective appreciation of barbecue. The past couple of years have brought us a good batch of new and expanded ‘cue concepts.
Fine-dining executive chef Rick Mace traded truffle-season dinners at Café Boulud Palm Beach for mojo pork and the daily catch he cooks in a handmade fish smoker at his Florida-inspired barbecue restaurant, Tropical Smokehouse on West Palm Beach’s Antique Row.
Steakhouse king Ralph Lewis, whose family has owned West Palm’s iconic Okeechobee Steakhouse for 74 years, opened up a roadside barbecue stand two years ago. It’s a huge hit.
Longtime weekend pitmaster Cleveland Stubbs recently left his longtime job in the automotive industry to open a barbecue restaurant called Palm Beach Brisket and BBQ. He parked a 500-gallon smoker and a rotisserie behind his Village Commons plaza space in West Palm Beach and has been serving Saturday and Sunday pop-up crowds. Their favorite on a menu that combines flavors from American regional and Caribbean barbecue: the smoky beef brisket.
“It pays to sit there and watch the fire for 17 hours, just to see how much they love it,” says Stubbs, who will host the restaurant’s official grand opening on Memorial Day weekend. Meantime, he’s taking online orders for weekend eats at PalmBeachBrisketandBBQ.com/home.
Add to these new spots some other planned barbecue ventures, like Brooklyn’s acclaimed Pig Beach, which hosts occasional pop-ups at the South Dixie Highway site where owners plan to open a West Palm outpost.
For the love of barbecue
Be it a return to comfort foods and super-casual dining or a renewed appreciation for smoked meats, or both, barbecue love in Palm Beach County appears to be following U.S. industry trends of the past five years. During that time, the barbecue restaurant industry has seen a boost in demand, according to a report this year by the industry market research firm IBISWorld.
“Barbecue menu items, such as pulled pork, brisket and ribs have been trending in restaurants,” according to the report, which traced an annualized increase of 2 % in industry revenue to $4 billion in the past five years.
Maybe this is why you’re craving low-and-slow ribs and other smoky meats? If that’s the case, here are our four favorite places to get your fill of local barbecue right now.
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West Palm Beach
Late last year, chef Rick Mace opened a brazenly different barbecue restaurant called Tropical Smokehouse, a spot that’s all about Florida’s underappreciated barbecue history.
Opening the place was his way of paying tribute to the state that caught his fancy more than seven years ago. Together with business partner Jason Lakow, Mace has created a concept that combines his love for locally caught fish with Floribbean flavors (think sour-orange marinades) and classic barbecue-smoking techniques.
These days he’s serving smoky dishes like prime brisket with espresso barbecue sauce, heritage pork baby back ribs, jerk turkey breast and smoked cobia and mahi (that also make Tropical’s mean fish dip). His side dishes go from Southern to Caribbean: white cheddar mac, smoky black beans, coconut black-eyed peas and rice, Caribbean slaw, sweet plantains.
“We want to express Florida barbecue as best as we can by giving it a stage,” he says.
Located on West Palm’s busy South Dixie Highway, Tropical Smokehouse offers indoor and outdoor seating as well as a full cocktail bar.
Tropical Smokehouse: 3815 S. Dixie Hwy, West Palm Beach, 561-323-2573, EatTropical.com
Love BBQ? What’s your favorite barbecue restaurant in Palm Beach County? Please tell us here.
Ceasar’s Famous Ribs
What began as a roadside barbecue stand in downtown Delray Beach morphed into a free-standing restaurant last summer. Ceasar’s Famous Ribs is a testament to the work of Bill and Pauline Ceasar, whose smoked, jerk-seasoned spare ribs and good deeds in the community have earned them a strong local following.
Menu highlights include jerk chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, jerk ribs, combo plates and, of course, those famous barbecued spare ribs.
Ceasar’s is open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Ceasar’s Famous Ribs: 37 SW 5th Ave. in Delray Beach, 561-303-1398, CeasarsFamousRibs.com
Okeechobee Prime Barbecue
West Palm Beach
Located across a side street from Okeechobee Steakhouse, its dressier sister Okeechobee Prime Barbecue started as a Memorial Day weekend pop-up in 2019. By popular demand, the barbecue trailer became a fixture on Wabasso Drive.
The barbecue here starts with the same quality meats you’ll find at the sit-down steakhouse. The stand offers full meals you can order a la carte, by the pound or in sandwich form. The must-try sandwich here is Boss Hog, which stacks smoked heritage pork shoulder with pork belly burnt ends and smoked red onion and drizzles it all with a homemade bourbon-barbecue glaze.
The roadside trailer is open Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and offers some outdoor picnic tables. You can also pick up Okeechobee Prime’s barbecue offerings inside the adjacent Okeechobee Prime Meat Market on Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Okeechobee Prime Barbecue: 1959 Wabasso Dr., in the parking lot outside Okeechobee Prime Meat Market, West Palm Beach, 561-305-7835, OkeePrimeBBQ.com
Off Tha Bone BBQ
West Palm Beach
It may appear to be a fuss-free takeout barbecue restaurant, one that brings steady weekend crowds to the corner of Tamarind Avenue and 15th Street in West Palm Beach. But, really, Off Tha Bone BBQ is part of chef/owner Daniel Spann’s legacy plan for his family.
“I have three sons,” says Spann, who just welcomed a new baby, also a son. “I want to leave each of them a restaurant to run.”
That means Spann has Off Tha Bone expansion plans for his barbecue and soul food concept. And he has good reason to believe his takeout shop’s popularity will prove catchy. His menu of smoky, Southern-style ‘cue and soul food favorites, all served in generous portions, sparked a cult following since its early days as a roadside stand.
Spann, who opened the brick-and-mortar location in 2017, three years after he set up the roadside stand, describes his concept as “a hybrid of Texas and Memphis style” with Deep South flavors.
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“It’s a true Southern-style barbecue. Ours is not just salt-and-pepper barbecue, but just a well-seasoned product. The seasoning’s on point. It doesn’t need sauce, though you can add it,” says Spann, whose top seller is the pork spare ribs.
He says he hopes to open a sit-down Off Tha Bone restaurant, one “that’s going to be The One,” sometime soon.
While his meats take inspiration from Off Tha Bone’s grill, the pitmaster takes inspiration from something more durable than smoke.
“My inspiration is just that I’m able to do this for my mom, my dad and my family,” says Spann. “I just want to be a blessing to them and to just bring some joy.”
Off Tha Bone BBQ: 1516 N. Tamarind Ave., West Palm Beach, 561-294-9717, FallOffThaBone.com
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: BBQ near me: Best restaurants for barbecue in West Palm Beach, Delray