The meaty aromas of kalua pork and mahi-mahi waft across the patio at SmokeHouse Chili Grill as diners bid farewell to summer with sauce-stained handkerchiefs. Though renowned for their much-hyped chili, the grill’s chefs pack their charcoal bags for an island paradise of meats simmering in Hawaiian spices. Ukuleles join in with lip-smacking xylophones of baby back ribs to make sweet music on the palate while taste buds hold luaus in anticipation of the authentic pig roast. Waves of teriyaki shrimp and mahi-mahi crash on grills, beckoning guests to dive into second or third helpings throughout the afternoon.
When the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives came to visit Mo Gridder’s BBQ, host Guy Fieri couldn’t get over that barbecue this delicious was being served in the parking lot of a Bronx auto-repair shop. But when, like Fred Donley, you’re both a head mechanic and a head chef, you have to keep your workplaces close together. Fred picked up BBQ as a hobby a few years back and started to bring in samples for his customers at the auto shop. Their rave reviews encouraged him to make it a part of his business. Now you’ll find a 35-foot cooking trailer in the parking lot and a dining area in a room where he used to service cars. On certain days, you can even get special deals that combine Fred’s two passions, such as a windshield replacement and a rack of ribs.
Despite its unusual setting, Mo Gridder’s still serves up barbecue “so good you’ll think you’re in Texas,” according to Fieri. Fred slow-cooks all his meats in a massive cooker, so whether it’s his signature pulled pork sandwiches, brisket, chicken, or ribs, it’s tender and juicy.
Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too, lauded in the New York Times and Oprah magazine, dishes out a menu full of Dixie comfort fare. The southern-fried chicken ($13.95) is escorted by two sides and a choice of bread, and the North Carolina barbecue ribs ($15.95) enthralls diners with an off-the-bone flavor collage. Louisiana catfish ($16.95) arrives flanked by sides such as candied yams, corn-bread stuffing, or potato salad ($3.95 each), making for a diverse collection of ammo during food fights. To wash down meals, diners can swig drinks including fresh-squeezed lemonade ($3.95) and Spoonbread punch ($3), and cap off meals with desserts including sweet-potato pie ($3.50 value), red-velvet cake ($4.95 value), and homemade peach cobbler ($4.95 value).
Owned by baseball legend and semiprofessional magician Darryl Strawberry, Strawberry's Sports Grill pleases crowds and palates with a menu of updated American favorites and thoughtful comfort food. Slide head- and feet-first into a plate of crawfish-and-cheddar hushpuppies ($8.95) or get started with some championship chili ($7.95), loaded with enough ground beef, brisket, red beans, peppers, and onions to dominate chili challenges and handball round-robins. A bevy of burgers features beef, lamb, turkey, and falafel options, including the Hellenic 1986 burger ($12.95), with a lamb patty, feta cheese, cucumbers, and tzatziki sauce, and Strawberry's "Double Beef" burger ($14.95), whose beef patty is stuffed with chopped brisket and topped with fried onions and barbecue sauce. Barbecued ribs ($18.95) and chicken ($16.95) are smoked in-house, while surf and turf ($29.95) pits land (16-ounce rib eye) against sea (fried shrimp) in the greatest elemental cage match since wind defeated fire in 1937.
In Carioca Grill's open kitchen, skewers of sirloin, sausage, and short ribs roast in the fiery churrasco. Steam rises from a nearby buffet, forming stratus clouds above hot dishes including fried yucca and shrimp stew. At the back of the dining area, a cashier weighs fare by the pound after taking off its shoes. Though the restaurant has a minimalist, casual vibe, its food brims with complex flavors and tropical ingredients prevalent in Brazilian cooking.