Blue Willy’s Barbecue

Blue Willy’s Barbecue – 1386 S Federal Hwy, Pompano Beach, (954) 224-6120, http://on.fb.me/1dmTZ61

I’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time. A local Florida BBQ joint that just does it right…with folks who know what they’re doing and enjoy it! The owner, Will Banks, not only tends to the smoker and meat prep, but also works the line while schmoozing with the customers. Originally from Tennessee, this guy is no stranger to BBQ biz and in years past could be seen flogging Que from his food truck parked near the Courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale. In July he opened his first brick & mortar store off Federal Hwy in Pompano Beach. Using social media and word of mouth they came…the foodies, former food truck customers, BBQ aficionados & the curious…all to sample some of the wonderful meats he prepares. Now this is not a fancy sit-down restaurant with table service. Some days there’s a line just to get in. But once you do you’ll be in BBQ heaven. The experience is reminiscent of Lockhart, Texas, where they’re famous for serving up your meat order on trays lined with butcher paper with some bread and plastic utensils. The focus here is on the food.

The place has got a kind of strange electricity about it. Grown men seated around communal wood tables eating their treasured trays of Que and discussing with others, in most cases perfect strangers, the great favors and techniques that must have been employed to achieve it! One gentleman quickly sat down near us with his Pastrami sandwich and immediately called his friend, “get down here now” he implored, “they’ve got it and its going fast!”  My group left that day…belly’s full, appetites sated and new friendships made.

So what should you have at Blue Willy’s?  Well first of all bring some friends so you can taste everything. I’d start off with a pound of Brisket…so juicy it will make your mouth water and your momma cry. Nice bark and smoke ring…this is the real deal, Texas style. Next have rack of St. Louis style spare ribs with that nice dark bark and wonderful smoky porky taste you want. Got room? The Carolina chopped pork is moist…good on a sandwich, but I order, by the pound and eat it with a squirt of sauce.  You must try the house made sausage. This is just great stuff. Half an order is good if you’re sampling. Thursday is Pastrami day and this you must try! This stuff is so popular that devoted fans, me included, wait on-line to get a couple of sandwiches and it’s all gone by 1 or 2pm. All hand cut and house made, Blue Willy’s is one of a handful of places in Florida that can produce a product like this and do it well.  The sides we tasted were good…we had the Mac n’ Cheese, Cornbread, & Baked Beans. There are several sauces on the tables that represent some of the regional favorites. If your like me you’ll taste a little of each.  Check out all my Blue Willy’s pix at http://on.fb.me/1j2sbFg

For me this trip was the best of all things…eating some of the best local BBQ, meeting an owner/operator who has built his business by working hard and a staff that shares the owner’s excitement about what they do.  Also… it didn’t bother me at all that I finally ate somewhere, really good, before Guy Fieri, Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain.  Just say’n!

Blue Willy's BBQBlue Willy's BBQBlue Willy's BBQBlue Willy's BBQBlue Willy's BBQBlue Willy's BBQBlue Willy's BBQBlue Willy's BBQ

© 2013 alanEATS

Valentino Cucina Italiana

Valentino Cucina Italiana– 620 S Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, (954) 523-5767, http://www.valentinocucinaitaliana.com

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

It’s all about fine Italian dining. This is one of those places you hear about when folks gather to speak of great meals they’ve had. Chef Giovanni Rocchio has created a beautiful setting to enjoy his menu, to which he adds daily specials. A unique feature of the restaurant is limited seating at the kitchen bar, where you can view all of the action in the open kitchen. And then there’s Chef Enzo DiPasquale, from Milan, who cooks a special menu of unique small bites, which look as interesting as they taste. Try the Calamari Artichoke Tart appetizer, the Black Bass and the Short Rib entrees. There are truly no bad dishes. Service and decor are in keeping with a restaurant of this caliber and is never fussy or pretentious. Reservations are a must.

ValentinoValentinoValentino's Valentino's

Valentino Valentino Valentino Valentino

Texas Hold’em BBQ

Texas Hold ’em BBQ, 2528 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, (954) 527-4115 – http://www.texasholdembbq.com

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

This place recently moved to a new water view location on Federal Hwy. They say “third times the charm”, so if true, owner Jay Armstead is well on his way. This is Texas style BBQ…smoked with dry rub and a tangy vinegar based sauce offered on the side. BBQ favorites include Pork Ribs (Spare Rib & Baby Back), Pulled Pork, Brisket, BBQ Chicken and more. I usually order the 6-bone Spare Rib dinner with collards and slaw. Liked their Mac ’n Cheese too. Click here for more info.

Texas Hold'en BBQ Texas Hold'en BBQ Texas Hold'en BBQ Texas Hold'en BBQ

© 2013 alanEATS | A Food Blog

Betty’s Soul Food Restaurant

Betty’s Soul Food Restaurant- ‪‪601 NW 22nd Rd, Fort Lauderdale

Betty’s is to Fort Lauderdale what Sylvia’s is to Harlem. And like that great New York soul food restaurant, people who know good Southern cooking in Fort Lauderdale must inevitably show up at Betty’s. I’ve heard about this place forever so after further recommendations from Clean Plate Charlie and an article from Jamie Long, both from New Times, I ventured out to try Betty’s with a foodie friend who knows Southern cooking. The place has thirteen tables and seven counter stools, all full when we arrived for lunch. I’m told Betty plays to a full house every day and for many good reasons. One would be for the Fried Chicken and that’s what I came for this day. “Hello there, I hear the chicken is good here” I said to the server. “Best you’ll ever have,” she answered confidently! With our orders placed, I continued to lust over the menu. It was difficult to pass up some of my other Southern favorites like Oxtail, Beef Ribs, Smothered Pork Chops, Chicken Livers and Fried Mullet. And then there was the stuff I always wanted to try like Pigs Tails, Ham Hocks, Neck Bones and Chitterlings. Oh my! …you must never leave me alone in this place or I’ll order it all!  Regaining my composure I stuck to the plan, crispy Fried Chicken, with Candied Yams and Black-eyed Peas. The Chicken here is nothing short of amazing.  Each order is prepared using Betty’s secret wet batter and fried up as needed, served hot and cooked perfectly. After a short while I had done such a good job of striping every morsel of meat off the bones they could have reassembled it as a science project. The sides of Yams and Peas were perfect for me, but next time I need to try the Mac N Cheese, Collards, Pigeon Peas & Rice, and Cabbage.  Sadly I did not get to meet Betty on this trip, but I did chat with our server on the way out to tell her how much we enjoyed lunch, to which she replied with a big smile and a wink, “I told you it was the best you’d ever tasted!”  I’ll be back soon Betty!

Update- March 26, 2012 – And back I did go recently for another helping of that really good Fried Chicken with Collards and Mac & Cheese this time. My dining companion had the same with the Fried Okra. Everyone in the place is genuine and happy to see you, even when we walked in after the normal lunch service. Regards to Connie, our server on this visit, a person who it seemed could be in many places at the same time. And finally, I did get to meet Betty. I thought she might scold me for not coming back sooner, as I had promised. Not so, but I’ll try not to let that happen again, I’ve got far too much to try!

© 2011 alanEATS

Sonny’s Famous Steak Hogies

Sonny’s Famous Steak Hogies- 1857 N. 66th Avenue, Hollywood  http://www.sonnysfamoussteakhogies.com/index.html

John Nigro started Sonny’s over 50 years ago. I just caught up with history! I confess up front…I did not find this place. I heard about it while discussing, the best Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich on the planet, with a few of my foodie friends. I lamented that we can’t get that in Florida and one guy quickly responded, “I know where you can get the best Steak Hogies.” So, when someone gives me a name I Google it and find out what the buzz is.  That brought me to a video clip from Guy Fieri’s food show, Diners, Dive-ins & Dives (http://youtu.be/DLMP-eSEV8Y). If you’ve not seen this Food Channel show, it’s a hoot.  Guy visits small food establishments around the country and chats with the owner/chef as they prepare their signature dishes for the time-lapse camera.  Seeing that video was all it took for me to call some of my pals and head down to Hollywood to see for ourselves. When you go…and you will…you just have to start with the Sonny’s Famous Steak Hogie. It’s a sliced Boneless Rib-Eye, cooked on a flat top, with or without onions and served with or without homemade sauce on a hogie roll baked fresh on premises every day. All four variations are numbered, but to understand the system will drive you crazy even after they explain why there’s a #50, 90, 95 & a 9. OK, I ordered a #90 – Steak Hogie, Plain with Fried Onions. The roll is slightly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and holds up well to the meat and onions. Also a winner was the homemade meatball hogie, not numbered and the pizza, which is thicker than most I’m used to, but not deep, dish. This crispy pizza was loaded with cheese and sauce and we added some more of the meatballs. Believe me when I say that nothing was left! I’ve since been back for a second visit and was rewarded with another fine meal. John’s son and daughter now run the place and from what people lucky enough to live nearby say… it’s still the best. And I agree!

© 2011 alanEATS