When Dean Lavallee opened the first Park Avenue BBQ in 1988, he had one lofty mission in mind: to serve the best barbecue ever made. Despite the seemingly impossible nature of his goal, he and his team continue to rise to the challenge, dry-rubbing their meats to smoke and char-grill on-site. They use all-natural, grain-fed, domestic pork for their traditional and Carolina-style barbecue pork—pulled by hand—and only use fresh, never-frozen ribs that are smoked daily over hickory. As diners chow down on hearty homestyle sides, seafood platters, or buffalo wings tossed in one of six sauces, they can admire the dining room's pictures of their city's most prominent people, places, and robot mayors.
Park Avenue BBQ arranges their meats into fun, hearty dishes such as the Dempublican sandwich, which combines smoked pork and beef brisket separated only by cheese and bacon to create a sizeable sandwich that the team has dubbed "porkalicious". They whip up Funnybonz, which look and taste like miniature ribs, using tender, lean pork that's prepared by cooking up regular ribs beneath a shrink ray. In 2008, their dedication to each dish caused Cityvoter's users to name Park Avenue BBQ the best barbecue in town.
With swinging wood saloon doors, hanging lamps made from cowboy hats, and local ranchers' brands seared into each tabletop, Cowboys' Bar-B-Q & Steak Co.'s three locations make visitors feel as though they've just stumbled in from the Texas lowlands. Many of founder Jim McCoin's self-devised recipes come from years of careful cooking while on the professional barbecue-competition circuit, which regularly led his team "Big Daddy Q" to victory. Wings strut across plates dressed in up to 20 sauce flavors, compelling tongues to quench thirst with 10 draft beers or Western-themed margaritas. Beverages are served in mason jars, carried past decorations such as photographs representing local ranching families. For outside eaters, Cowboys' supplies its hearty grilled fare through take-out and catering each day of the week.
The owners of Bobbi Sue BBQ are proud to hail from the South. To pay homage to the heritage of Southern food—with its focus on wholesome ingredients and slow cooking—they draw on family recipes to smoke beef brisket and ribs, brine pork shoulder for an entire day, and deep-fry hand-battered chicken. After their dinner guests chow down on classic barbecue dishes and a veritable who's who of starters and sides, ranging from chili and fried pickles to collards and fried green tomatoes, they can complete meals with red velvet cake or deep-fried Oreos.
Most barbecue joints slather their food in one type of sauce—the smoky Texas style, the sweet Memphis style, or the vinegary North Carolina style. That’s not the case at Red's Backwoods BBQ. There, six signature sauces from various regions coat fall-off-the-bone ribs, slow-cooked pulled pork, and juicy chicken.
The chefs also use a secret rub to bring out the flavor of their homemade gator bites. And though the large portions of meat and two sides offer filling meals by themselves, taste buds pine for decadent Southern sweets such as housemade banana pudding, Kentucky bourbon pecan pie topped with scoops of ice cream, and frothy root-beer floats that harken back to a simpler time when everyone moved at a slower pace and rode dinosaurs everywhere.
Lucille's Bad to the Bone BBQ slathers on the delicious with its signature grilled dishes. Its roughshod renegade chili ($5.25) or luscious split pea soup with pulled pork ($4.25) will warm up the palate enough for it to take off its tear-away windbreaker, and the crispy chicken salad, with its buttermilk-battered chicken, crispy noodles, bacon, and honey barbecue dressing, will exercise crunch muscles ($10.99). The best of both worlds, combining half a rack of baby back with half a rack of St. Louis–style ribs, will coat taste buds in its toothsome sauciness ($19.99), and the variety of blackened, grilled, or fried fish will transport the sea's savoriness to local stomachs ($13.99+). Barbecue buffs who like to protect their fingers from an onslaught of sauce with shields of wheat can chomp on the buffalo chicken wrap with blue cheese ($8.99), the mahi Reuben ($9.99), or the barbecue sandwich in one of three ways: pulled pork, beef brisket, or pulled chicken ($8.99).
Keeping one secret can be challenging for some, but the chefs who brew Chez Porky's housemade barbecue sauce have to keep at least 25. That's how many ingredients go into the signature marinade—one of nine memorable sauces on the menu. Another popular and equally guarded recipe yields the sweet-and-sour raspberry sauce, which decorates helpings of wings and skewered, bacon-wrapped shrimp. The jamaican jerk sauce, meanwhile, bespeaks the staff’s talent for mingling tropical spices. They channel this skill set to produce plates of farm-raised new zealand mussels—prepped with Cajun-spiced butter—and to stir up zesty bowls of caribbean coconut soup. Even steaks benefit from their sauce expertise; the bourbon street new york strip steak, for example, basks in a bourbon-rosemary-teriyaki mixture.
The kitchen has been coating entrees in tangy house flavors since 1985. Cooks refrain from freezing any of their seafood or meat and instead offer cool refreshment in the form of domestic and imported bottles of beer that patrons can stuff up their sleeves. They also cater meals for any type of special event, transporting pans of gumbo, smoked sausage, and barbecue pork to parties both big and small.