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BBQ Query

I've been researching a lot for an upcoming trip to Orlando and some decisions have been easier than others. Does anyone want to weigh in on the best barbecue. I like the sounds of Smokey Bones, O'Boys and Bubbalou's. Any advice/suggestions?

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  1. I dont know what you consider good 'Q ,but the best I've had in the Orlando area is Brothers and Sisters, decent 'Q,excellent cobbler (the peach is mind numbing!),the service is very friendly albeit slow...just make time for it and enjoy your meal,here is a review from the paper http://www.orlandosentinel.com/entert... i am from the southwest (N.M.),and 'Q is a differnt beast out there,and much better IMO ,but that's just me, if you should go to Bubbalous ,the burgers are better than the 'Q, I would also reccomend Cecil's Texas style BBQ,at I -4 and Lee rd, good 'Q,good sides.MrsGif,now that i think about it,if you want good grilled meat,ask a question about authentic Jamaican Jerk, i have only bought it at Goldencrust bakery,and it is ok,but i know a lady from the island that has fixed it for me several times,and i must say it is wonderful stuff ,i hope this helps,and i hope y'all enjoy your stay!

    1. Don't bother with Smokey Bones. It's a chain owned by Darden (of Olive Garden and Red Lobster fame), and their barbecue is so mediocre, they've been changing the menus and phasing it out.

      I personally like Sonny's, a Florida chain based in Maitland (in the Orlando area), but some people would beg to differ. I think Bubbalou's is good (at least their original location on Lee Road near 17-92 in Winter Park), but still prefer Sonny's. I haven't been to O'Boys, but my girlfriend has tried them and she prefers Sonny's. I've heard great things about Cecil's and keep meaning to try them. I believe they specialize in big barbecue beef ribs, but they may be only available on Fridays (or perhaps they only offer all-you-can-eat beef ribs on Fridays).

      3 Replies
      1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

        I agree that you should skip Smokey Bones..........definitely mediocre!!!

        I had the brisket there, and it was'nt quite terrible enough to send back, but it was'nt too good either...

        The best thing was the waitress; she was so kind and attentive that it helped make up for the lousy meal

        1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

          I gotta agree on the Sonnys recommendation, not great,but good ,and certinly reasonable...dont know why i forgot to include them....brain fade i guess.

          1. re: jword2001

            Sonny's can be extremely inconsistent, and much of it depends on if it is franchised or still owned by Sonny. I ate at onve near Ocala and was shocked to have a good meal. Mostly, Sonny's is forgettable or bad. Neither is worth it when I'm on vacation.

        2. Agree with everyone on skipping Smokey Bone's, I eat there every couple months but then again I live in Orlando so sometimes it ends up being convenient, it's not bad but nothing worth seeking out.

          Your other ideas on the other hand are both good IMHO, another place is Blackwater BBQ on Edgewater. Sonny's isn't bad either but not worth seeking out in my opinion.

          1. Well, I was going to throw in a recommendation for Park Ave BBQ but it seems they're all on the east coast of FL. Sorry folks, but at least I did my research first. Tell us what you find in Orlando because I have reason to go over (and up) there every so often and always love to find good BBQ

            1. My favorite BBQ in Orlando is Brothers and Sisters. It's a bit out of the way but worth the trek. In town, I like the Bubbalou's on Lee Road. Don't bother with the other franchise locations, they just aren't as good as the original.

              Smokey Bones (it makes me sick just to type the name) is to BBQ what Olive Garden is to Italian and Red Lobster is to seafood. It's less than mediocre, cafeteria grade drek, although Yankee tourists seem to like the donuts and televisions. Boy howdy, that's what I go to a BBQ place for.

              1 Reply
              1. re: bkhuna

                You may want to try the new olive garden in Altamonte springs, i always hated it also,but had lunch at a friend's insistence, and was pleasantly suprised , not high end Italian,but a HUGE improvement over the old Olive garden, as for Bubbalou's on lee rd, i need to try it,i'vebeen in two others and neither did much for me...good burger though.

              2. bubbalous is good

                i liked wildfires in thornton park - although i haven't been there in several years.

                sugarboos in mount dora (only open on fri, sat, sun)

                chickasaw willies in winter garden

                3 Replies
                1. re: hitachino

                  I went to Wildfires and it wasn't bad at all. Nice place to sit outside on a cool evening and have drinks with your friends. The barbecue didn't knock my socks off, but it was better than Smokey Bones. Of course, there won't be too many more cool evenings from here on out.

                  1. re: hitachino

                    heh, i was just trying to search for a BBQ place that might have good beef ribs and ran across this thread again -- i notice that i misnamed two places in one post.

                    it's wildside's in thornton park and choctaw willies in winter garden

                    loud and wrong, that's me

                    1. re: hitachino

                      I think the Choctaw Willie's in Winter Garden has closed, but the one in Minneola is still open . . .


                  2. I like Smokey Bones but I get the Buffalo Burger, not the BBQ

                    1. Blackwater BBQ is a definite must IMO. I believe they have two locations.

                      Get the "extra meat". You will be stuffed and happy :)

                      1. Thank you all very much for the suggestions and particularly the warnings!

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: mrsgif

                          In general I agree with most of the reccs, especialy the smaller out of the way places like Brothers and Sisters.

                          Skip Smokey Bones.

                          Bubbalou's, Sonny's, Keller's and O-Boy's are average, except for the lamb at Bubbalou's which is only served in some of their locations.

                          There are a couple of places such as Jack Benny's in Clermont, which I find highly overrated and BC's Country Store in Yalaha, which is vastly underrate -- if they are open -- and some others. Here's a thread that addresses the subject, although sad to say "It's a Secret" is gone since this was written.

                          Wildsides in Thornton Park is good -- smoked whole chicken is the best.

                          My top three are:
                          Uncle Jones in Altamonte for ribs, had a slab two weeks ago and they are still awesome. Take it out, get some corn bread and some collards if you like, but don't eat in the restaurant.

                          Cecil's -- two locations -- S. Orange Ave. and Lee Road, -- but only if you like Texas-style 'que. Brisket is pretty reliable. Hot links sandwich good -- had one last week. Sides are excellent. Beef short ribs when they have them and a Shiner Bock.

                          Blackwater - competition 'que, kansas City style sauce, dry-rubbed ribbs and shoulder, All good.


                          1. re: Bob Mervine

                            Bob -- can you give a little more detail about Uncle Jones? I'm planning on hitting Altamonte Mall one upcoming weekend with a girlfriend, and we both love ribs. Why should we avoid the restaurant -- is the nabe sketchy? Do you recommend the spares or the baby backs? Thanks. :-)

                            1. re: Covert Ops

                              There's little to recommend eating in. The sides, generally, are only average. Although the do make a nice sweet potato pie.

                              Kowing you, I think you would probably be ok with it, It's just an old, hole in the wall converted house that's been a barbecue joint for 30-plus years with all the usual caveats that go with it.

                              Under the circumstances you describe, if your girlfriend is up for the experience, it will be fine.

                              I am a spare rib rather than a baby back rib person. They are both good, I just like the Sr. Louis cut better and I never thought the price difference betwen the two was worth it. Not at Jones, anywhere.


                              1. re: Bob Mervine

                                I agree with you Bob on the price difference on the ribs. There is no reason for it.


                                1. re: RibDog

                                  Why do so many of these places under cook ribs?? Sonny's, Bryan's, Widfires, Sugarboo's all of them make you pick up the rib bone and tear the meat off with your teeth! I shouldn't have to do that! I want to pick up the rib and have the meat fall off! These places are more worried about volume sales. BBQ NEWSFLASH! I recently decided to try Jack Benny's in clermont. I had heard it was overated. One day driving by i could smellem so i stopped and tried a 1/4 slab of ribs. It wasn't very much for $5 but it was good. Jack Bennys was bought and now it is just plain Jack's BBQ.And from what the locals say,,its much better now. It's amustard based que as Bob puts it. I liked them and will go back!

                                  1. re: mountdorahound

                                    i've never tried jacks, nor bryans or sonnys for ribs, but i've definitely had great ribs at sugarboos and we get ribs from there pretty often. i don't think anyone who's been to sugarboos could get the idea that they're in it simply for the 'high volume sales' (it's a tiny place) ;0)

                                    i'm not even absolutely sure if completely-fall-off-the-bone ribs are what great Qers strive for -- isn't that more for the shoulder/pulled pork? either way, i've found sugarboo's ribs to be very tender and very tasty every single time i've had them. i've had their chicken and pulled pork many times and give those high marks as well.

                                    i'll have to try jacks sometime soon - i'll pass on sonny's and bryans.....

                                    1. re: hitachino

                                      I will admit I have had decent ribs at sugarboos when they catered a party at a freind's house,,I usually have had tough ones there. The only thing I order from sugarboos is their jumbo turkey legs. I have yet to taste a better one! If you want ribs in lake county go to the old grow bbq on 19 north of umatilla. Or The Damn Smoker on 19 north of eustis. Kings in eustis is good too if you like good ribs.

                                    2. re: mountdorahound

                                      I just had amazing baby back ribs at Houston's, of all places. It isn't a restaurant known for barbecue, but they were amazingly tender. The meat fell right off the bone and melted in my mouth. Best ribs I've had in a while, actually.

                                      1. re: mountdorahound

                                        Mt Dora Hound, Does Jack's still have all of the UF decorations and the hats that Jack Benny's had?

                              1. re: Lovthebluz

                                whatever happened to toms ribs in boca?

                                1. re: karins

                                  just gone....no word that I've heard of. I'm in the biz and usually hear the chatter. Lot's of us suprised that it's closed.

                              2. most of the posters to this query will be happy to learn that Smokey Bones is no more - this according to a poster on the Tri State board. while you rejoice, i will morn the loss of "Q" in my area. sonny's i tried in florida several years ago on a trip from the west coast to the pb area and was not overwhelmed. Smokey Bones by contrast served a pretty good st louis style rib in my neck of the woods. a number of the "local" Q shops on the east coast don't bother to smoke the meat - i guess liquid smoke works for them. Dale's in Ft Pierce is/was quite good (of course that is out of the location in question). i am planning a longer trip to florida later in the year and am always interested in good "q", so i beg you to keep up the search and comment whenever you find good stuff

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: feelinpeckish

                                  To be more specific, all the Smokey Bones locations OUTSIDE of Florida will be closed. The nine Central Florida locations will be sold -- not sure to another BBQ concept, or what. Apparently Florida was the only place they did fairly well.


                                2. Someone posted earlier about the meat falling off the bone. That means they have been parboiled. Properly smoked pork ribs cling to the bone. They are loose, but not liquid.


                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: Bob Mervine

                                    Florida isn't exactly BBQ heaven, much like the Carolinas, Georgia, or Kentucky. That said, however, from a "reasonable price" point of view....it would be hard to beat Sonny's statewide, and Bono's in the North Florida area(Jacksonville, Gainesville, Ocala, & Tallahassee).

                                    Many of the towns in the north part of the state(Lake City/Live Oak/Perry) have some good local places such as Ken's, Rhodes' & Tiny's.....If this is your passion, happy hunting and "Bone Appeitit"

                                    1. re: Foodman53

                                      the south in general (including all the states that you mentioned) are indeed bastions of great Q **for people who enjoy southern style Q** - odd that you would think there's not much to offer here yet rec sonnys and bonos.....

                                      places like the carolinas, the midwest and texas have their own standards and sauces and also have amazingly great BBQ restaurants - just somewhat different from southern style.

                                      personally, i like them all!!

                                      (not big on really vinegar heavy sauces, nor mustard sauces --- although we always stop at that one huge chain place when driving through columbia SC and i must say they have a tasty mustard sauce based pulled pork sandwich)

                                      i'd love to try the places that use a mayo based sauce on chicken (bob gibson?)

                                      lately, i've been preferring altogther sauceless (on ribs and chicken) -- guess that's another discussion ;0)

                                      1. re: hitachino

                                        I couldn't agree with you more!, i am from the west ,and still prefer that style of Q, but i also enjoy every style i have tried in the south, the biggest surprise was the pulled pork,with a clear vinegar (hot) sauce in North Carolina, when i saw it i thought"you call this BBQ?", when i tasted it I simply said WOW this is really good!

                                    2. re: Bob Mervine

                                      I always heard that ideal baby back ribs should be boiled, then smoked for ideal loose consistency. Personally, I kinda love it when they fall off the bone.

                                      1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                        Oh, nothing wrong with the process, although it does remove some of the fat/flavor. Low and slow cooking over smoke is much mopre time-consuming and tedious, but the end process is always better . . .


                                        1. re: Bob Mervine

                                          There is also a way you can steam ribs while they are being smoked. This will let the spare rib meat be cut properly and the bone comes out with ease. When i bite the meat off,, there should only be a little meat left on the bone around the edges where the cartlidge is. I go to these places and I loose a tooth riping it of ribs that were undercooked. I have also seen a baking methon that makes them fall off. I'm with you Bob,, I don't like pre boiling,,,it does remove the flavor.

                                        2. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                          there is a thread going on about boiling or not boiling ribs on another board (general topics i think - wish there was a specific BBQ board)

                                          i've had really fall off the bone pork ribs, usually country style slowed cooked in foil in the oven, and sometimes it's just too mushy or gloppy and the consistency isn't pleasing. after having ribs that cling to the bone somewhat yet are still amazingly tender, i now prefer that consistency. i guess it has to do with how much liquid is used (when you cook in foil or in a crockpot you get the ultra fall apart consistency)

                                          i guess that's what makes good Q such an art - somehow consistently hitting that perfect area between mush and overdone......

                                          i've perused various Qer's forums for ideas and noticed that many backyard gurus use a combination of low indirect smoking, then foil cooking, then some direct grilling.

                                          i've yet to master any technique - hence the frequent trips to sugarboos.....

                                          1. re: hitachino

                                            Being a lifelong Floridian, I've found that the best & most authentic "cue" is eithe found in Mom & Pop places in the rural North and Central Florida areas...or, in the cities, principally in the black neighborhoods. These two ethnicities just seem to have a knack for the cuisine that isn't easily replicated in the chain joints...examples of these would be Tiny's on Blountsville Highway outside of Tallahassee, or Jenkins BBQ just off from downtown Jacksonville. Places such as these...which I'm sure there are many of...would "set the bar" for BBQ here in the land of the "hanging chad"....

                                            1. re: Foodman53

                                              you can find some good stuff in the most unexpected places -- we were tailgating last minute at a UCF game and hadn't brought food - we were hungry and the smell of folks grilling was driving me nuts, so i ran over to a man and woman who were selling jerk and Q out of their van/bus parked at a convenience store (or maybe it was a gas station). i ordered a couple of rib plates (not realizing they were beef ribs til i opened the box). it was some of the tastiest meat and sauce i've had in a long time.

                                              1. re: Foodman53

                                                In Tally don't forget Jacks out on 27.....yum...and the "Ribman" in the S Adams Harvey's parking lot.

                                                1. re: benedpo

                                                  Cecil's has excellent hot links - the brisket is good too. And free soft-serve ice cream to soothe your mouth after the hot links.

                                        3. We just had dinner at Sonny's on Orange Blossom. My husband thought it was ok, I thought it was awful. We ordered a lot of different plates because we wanted to try a little bit of everything. Low prices and ridiculously huge portions. We finished about 1/3 of the food.

                                          Atmosphere: like a Ponderosa or other chain. Super casual, including the service.

                                          Appetizers: "sizzlin' sweet" chicken wings were covered in a too-sweet, gloppy sauce. Corn nuggets were interesting at best: fried little corn fritters covered with powdered sugar. The salad bar was mediocre.

                                          Entrees: my husband ordered the Super Combo: BBQ chicken breast, St. Louis-style ribs, and sliced pork. The chicken was dry, the ribs and pork were ok. Acc to the menu, this combo includes beef, but there was none on his plate. Sides were mac' and cheese (over-cooked cheez-whiz mush), crinkle-cut fries and cornbread. The cornbread was moist and sweet, like a muffin. I ordered the rib sampler: St. Louis-stlye ribs and baby back ribs. I thought the baby backs were mushy and almost water-logged. My husband liked them. My sides were a sweet potato which was wrapped in foil and completely mushy, mac' and cheese, and garlic toast.

                                          Appetizers and entrees arrived at the same time. Always a bad sign. The waitress apologized and returned our entrees to the kitchen to keep them warm in the smoker. One of my ribs had a "sell by" sticker on it. The waitress apologized and brought me two replacement ribs.

                                          Desserts: banana pudding and peach cobbler. The pudding was good: vanilla wafers and pieces of bananas. The peach cobbler was made from canned peaches and a super-sweet brown sugary topping. Both came with Cool Whip, which I don't like.

                                          The check came to $42 including diet Cokes, which were not listed on our check. All in all, I would not recommend.