In 1983, "Beefalo" Bob DiMartino began a small-scale catering operation built around no-frills, classic recipes of pit-roasted barbecue, growing his business to include a carry-out joint, sports bar, and even an upscale banquet hall. Bob's process is simple: slow cooking beef, ham, turkey, slabs of ribs and morsels of pork and chicken over smoking hickory fires and not cutting corners with gas jets or heat vision. The sports bar garnishes these backyard-style feasts with plates of oysters, lump crab cakes, and strip steak, as well as sports games on 20 big-screen TVs and rivers of cold beer.
True to its roots as a catering outfit, Beefalo Bob's supplies parties of up to 10,000 with bull roasts, crab feasts, and roasted pigs, as well as rentals of tents, tables, and moon bounces. Fancy occasions find a home in the 250-person Reflections Hall, decked out with chandeliers, DJs, a fireplace, hints of sparkly gold, and a wide-open hardwood dance floor.
Though his dishes once occupied the white-linen tablecloths of Philadelphia’s finest restaurants, Chef Gerald Dougherty now prefers making napkins messy with his signature recipes of rich, meaty barbecue fare. The former head chef of L'Aigla D'Or and Founders at the Bellevue, Chef Gerald currently oversees the pit at Little Louie's BBQ, a casual eatery he opened to satisfy his hankering for down-home grub. Not one to color within the lines, he draws on barbecue styles from across the country—think North Carolina, Kansas City, and Memphis—and smokes his meats over cherrywood, applewood, and hickory chips.
Little Louie’s dining room betrays the same down-home inspirations as its menu. Rustic lumber lines the countertops, and light fixtures reminiscent of branches illuminate the expansive space. If they can peel their eyes away from the beef brisket and pulled pork on their plates, guests will notice Butch Cassidy and Lone Ranger posters hanging from the walls, classic Western movies playing on the 70-inch flat-screen television, and outlaws discreetly taking down Wanted signs that bear their uncanny resemblances.
Fat Jack's BBQ?s proprietor Glenn Gross has always been passionate about barbecue. Starting at the age of 11, Glenn manned the grill at family cookouts, fine-tuning his technique and flavors over the years. He eventually brushed aside career paths in dentistry and music to claim his favorite job title?pitmaster.
In order to develop the combination of meats, rubs, and sauces that Fat Jack?s uses to this day, in the early ?90s, Glenn traveled to the nation's barbecue meccas?Texas, the Carolinas, Kansas City, and Memphis. He learned how to create dishes such as Carolina pulled pork, St. Louis?style ribs, and Texas beef brisket. Now, his rich blends of spice rubs and notes of smoke have won him more than 200 national and local awards including being winner of Burger Brawl 2013 - Best Burger in Philly, 3rd overall Best Burger in the World Food Championships, and being featured on Destination America's BBQ Pitmasters.
In a city known for its cheesesteaks, it can be difficult to find a beef brisket smoked to Midwestern perfection. Enter Anastasio Botsaris, the chef and owner of Phoebe's Bar-B-Q. Botsaris and his pit crew call forth a wide array of Oklahoma-style barbecue meats from the fires of their kitchen. They stress simplicity above all else, letting their smoked rotisserie chickens and pulled-pork sandwiches speak for themselves. They don't skimp on the sides, either, which include candied yams and collard greens, which are best washed down with a tall pint of barbecue sauce.
The windows of El Camino Real are painted with elaborate mini-murals: you’ll find Mexican wrestlers, goats, dragons and gunslingers all depicted in a row. This somewhat-boisterous but never off-putting Northern Liberties spot serves what might be called Tex-Mex and barbecue comfort-food staples, like huge plates of nachos, tacos that range from chicken to bacon, beef short-rib, pulled pork sandwiches and barbecue platters. A handful of less-expected items include vegetarian wings that will satisfy even the staunchest of meat eaters. The yellow stucco walls and banquettes lined with Mexican blankets might make you want to settle in to a Southwestern reverie with one of El Camino’s blood-orange margaritas.
Instead of limiting themselves to one type of cuisine, S & J Crab Ranch has included two of their favorites?Maryland seafood and southern barbecue. Local flavors pile up at the raw bar, where diners can order gulf shrimp by the pound or plates of clams and seasoned mussels; however, as the restaurant?s name implies, crabs are the signature item. They can be steamed and served whole, as jumbo lump crab cakes, or in a creamy soup spiked with a bit of sherry.
Of course, the seafood seeps into the southern-inspired meals as well. A selection of classic southern sandwiches includes fried catfish with creole mustard. Regional cuisine builds out the rest of the menu, giving diners options such as slow-cooked Texas brisket, Carolina-style pulled pork, and st. louis ribs rubbed with secret spices. Even the classic American dishes take cues from S & J?s penchant for the ocean?fresh crab meat bulks up the mac ?n? cheese, and pulled pork and barbecue sauce enhance a pile of nachos.