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North Florida/Georgia "Real" Barbecue

I'm going to be in the St. Augustine/Jacksonville area for the week after July 4th, and will have considerable time to kill. I'm looking for the best barbecue places within 4 hours or so of St. Augustine.

I lived in Florida for a few years in the late 20th century, so I'm familiar with the "chains" - Sonny's, Woody's, etc. Not that I'm knocking them, but what I'm looking for is the little independent place - the little 10-table concrete-block building 20 miles from anywhere, the guy selling smoked meats through a window in a grocery store, or even the guy that sets up a smoker in a gas station parking lot, and is only open on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 11:00 and 2:30. I want to see the pile of oak or hickory sitting out back, and be able to smell the smoke from the place 5 minutes before I can see it.

Any recommendations of this nature in North Florida or Georgia - say, north to Savannah, west to Tallahassee, and south to Vero Beach? If you happen to know that the place keeps odd hours, please include that info in your recommendation.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Greg, you beat me to it by a few minutes!

    I just logged on to ask the same question about possibilities in the Daytona/St. Augustine area - what a coincidence!

    You worded it much better than I could have. I hope you get some decent replys.

    I've stopped many times on my way north at the Georgia Pig in Brunswick, Ga. Opinions seem to be varied on this board but they meet all the criteria you've outlined. I've enjoyed it quite a bit over the years although I should qualify this by adding that I'm hooked on their chopped pork sandwich and rarely order anything else.

    16 Replies
    1. re: cucuzza

      I'll post if I dig anything else up. I've read a few good reviews of this place:

      http://fredcottenbbq.com/

      Anybody got anything to say about it either way?

      I've read the mixed reviews of the GA Pig - it's only 2 hours from St. Augustine, though - might be worth a trip just to find out for myself...

      1. re: greghoffman

        GA Pig is one of my very favorites! Their BBQ is top notch, but their Brunswick Stew has to be the best in the world! The ambience is what the Mom & Pop places strive for. Give it a shot....you won't be sorry.

        1. re: 1stmakearoux

          georgia pig is not great bbq. it is average. not worth a trip from st. augustine!
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4420...

          the link is to my post on ga. pig, but see the whole thread.....it's right up your alley, greghoffman.

          ~~~~~
          another thread to check out: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5160...

          1. re: alkapal

            Great threads - lots of good suggestions. I really want to try Fuller's, now. It's about 6.5 hours from St. Augustine - but a trip up the coast through GA/SC/NC might be nice.

            I could even stop at "South of the Border" on the way...

            Thanks for the pointers.

            1. re: alkapal

              I live in Brunswick and for the life of me I do not understand the love that the Ga Pig gets on this and other boards. I think a good bit of it must be northeners who don't know real cue & are too lazy to gey far off of 95 to search it out. Allens & Gary Lees both within a 2 miles of 95 are superior.

              1. re: beteez

                beteez, i can't believe that ga. pig's sausage is locally-made. it was *so far * from what i'd call good down-home sausage! and the 'cue was so very "meh"...i wish i'd known of the options you mention before that trip! however, even if it were a choice between sonny's & ga. pig, i'd go to sonny's, frankly.

                1. re: alkapal

                  Not to badmouth Sonny's - it's fine, and I'll eat there myself - but saying you'd take that over GA Pig isn't saying much about GA Pig. I'll probably look for Allen's and/or Gary Lee's.

                  1. re: greghoffman

                    Gary Lee's is the same exit as Ga. Pig 1-2 miles west of 95 on the right hand side in a small grocery store, Allens is next exit north go north on 341 around 1 mile on the right in Winn Dixie shopping center, great briskett & ribs.

                2. re: beteez

                  Not sure about "all the love", but they cook over wood, they chop the pork fresh when a sandwich is ordered, and the price is reasonable. What more do you want? Let's face it, BBQ is not rocket science -- light a fire (WOOD ONLY), throw some flesh on it, with or without a dry rub, get it nice and charred, slather with some sauce, and serve it up. These BBQ shows and cook-offs on TV have created an image of hi-line cuisine; which it s not.

                  By the way, I've eaten "Q" in Kansas City, Memphis, all over Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and both of the Carolinas. Only Q I haven't sampled is that from the Lone Star State.

                  1. re: cucuzza

                    there's a little more to making good 'cue than cooking over wood. and they didn't chop the pork while we were waiting (and i don't recall them slathering it with sauce -- to their credit). and their sausage was gristly, greasy.

                    i'm not fooled by tv bbq, i grew up with bbq.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      I agree with alkapa. You don't just fire up some wood and drop some flesh on it. And you shouldn't pre-slather sauce on it, a common mistake.

                      In southeast Fla., BBQ is way below average. There is zero smoke flavor and never any pieces with bark. Pulled pork here is bland and often mushy.

                      To me, BBQ is the most scrutinized cuisine that I know of other then "NY style" pizza. I don't care what kind of sauces they serve if their Q process is made for the masses. And the masses do not like smoke. $1000 smokers are merely a gimmick since they are not ultilized properly.

                      I'm stepping down off of my pedestal and if you want good BBQ in SE Fla, you need to do it yourself. Which reminds me, my perfectly smoked and dry rubbed ribs need tending to.

                      1. re: freakerdude

                        I dunno FD....I have one of those $1000 smokers.....A Big Green Egg....and I'm turning out Championship Caliber BBQ on it......I'm a KCBS certified judge....I know what championship caliber BBQ tastes like....and the BGE delivers!!

                        EMac

                        1. re: LargeLife

                          i'm guessing that freakerdude would say that you *are* utilizing the $1,000 smoker "properly."
                          ;-).

                        2. re: freakerdude

                          In SE Florida the Georgia Pig on State Road 7 in Plantation (?) serves some mighty fine BBQ - chopped pork with smoky flavor and "bark."

                          For my money they make the best BBQ sandwich around -- stacks up well against any other, anywhere.

                          1. re: floridan

                            Yeah, I gotta agree here - Georgia Pig's chopped pork is intensely smokey and has the textural variance of bark/soft tender bits that is the hallmark of great Q. Beats anything else around that I've tried hands down. Unsure if these people knocking GA have tried its chopped pork, but it's definitely quality. Ribs, etc.. .meh, not quite as much.

                  2. re: alkapal

                    re:alkapal
                    I won't argue "great"-an undefinable term IMHO but GA Pig is mighty good and after having "discovered" it on a drive to FL a few years ago, haven't found much better (really good enjoyable BBQ and sides. Oh yes, the sides - above average to be modest. My greatest disappointment is that I haven't been able to get back this year - no FL trip this year for us. Sadness comes in all forms.

            2. Smok'n Pig, just northside of Valdosta off I-75. It's not a tiny hole-in-the-wall but they're doing it right.
              http://www.smoknpig.com/

              4 Replies
              1. re: johnhicks

                Oooo - pecan-smoked. Might have to add it to the list...

                Thanks.

                1. re: greghoffman

                  I recently ate at The Georgia Pig in Jacksonville.....Hole in the wall.....Real smoked meat....Generous portions.....Delicious.....

                  EMac

                  1. re: LargeLife

                    I don't see a Georgia Pig in Jacksonville. There's one in Ft. Lauderdale and in Brunswick, GA, but I can't find one in Jacksonville. Do you have an address?

                2. re: johnhicks

                  We drove 80 miles today just to try Smok'n Pig. The pork was undercooked, gristly, with no smoke flavor. The sides are straight off the Cysco truck. This is a chain (worse than Sonny's), just with an expanded menu. The tea was so weak, it was barely flavored water. Sauces are standard store-bought stuff. What a waste of a meal.

                3. Frog's in Williston, Florida, near Gainesville. Seats about 10. Limited menu, but the chopped pork sandwich with medium sauce is great. Anyone near there can tell you how to find it (I think it is on US 27). You won't regret it

                  1. So funny that you asked this. I just drove by Fred Cotten's yesterday and told the hubby it was time for a trip there. I love their sauce in bottles with holes pokes through the lid.
                    And their rib sandwich on white bread.

                    I like Georgia pig too - about an hour north of Jacksonville off 95. My parents ALWAYS eat there when driving by - actually come to think of it we do too. We just don't drive north as much as they do.

                    But Cotten's is what I crave.

                    Also my hubby eats at Jenkins downtown Jax a bit. I haven't been but he likes it.

                    1. Hehe...this brings up a place I ran across during a pit stop 2 years ago. If you are going to drive to Georgia Pig in Brunswick, maybe you should pull a pit stop at this trailer off of the Kingsland exit. I am a huge Q fanatic and here is my review from the past.

                      If you are ever on I-95 near the Ga-Fla border and are looking for some good bbq, stop off at the Kingsland/St. Mary's exit and try out Blues BBQ. It was the first of my 2 Q stops and it was really good. It's just a small shack located near the exit and they have a good sized smoker outside. You can only eat outside on their 2 benches or in your car.

                      I had the staple of a large chopped pork sandwich and baked beans. The pork sandwich was great and the well smoked meat had all of the nice crusted bits and moist too. Pork was smoked to the level that I prefer and they load the sandwich down to where it falls out the sides. They heat your buns right on the smoker and the Q is kept in the smoker. Everything that is smoked is directly pulled from the smoker and I saw them kicking out some ribs for the ppl in front of me. I had a yearning to try the ribs too but I passed them up. They have a fair amount of local paper articles posted on the windows. The beans were pretty good for a Q shack. The bbq sauce is a light mustard based sauce and not too sweet.

                      Blues Barbecue
                      1330 Boone Avenue Extension East
                      Kingsland, GA (Georgia) 31548-6511
                      Phone: (912) 576-8682

                      -----
                      Blues Barbecue
                      1330 Boone Ave Ext E, Kingsland, GA

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: freakerdude

                        Thanks for the sugestions - Blues Barbecue sounds _exactly_ like the kind of thing I'm looking for. Are they still open? It appears that Larry Harris, the owner, had a problem with the law, based on a Google search...

                        I'll also have the check out Frog's.

                        1. re: greghoffman

                          It ain't the Blues (BBQ) unless they've had problems with the law....just kidding. My visit was over two years ago, as noted, so I'd get on the telly and call them.

                        2. re: freakerdude

                          Hmmmmmm... I smell a trip to Kingsland in our near future!
                          I have a friend up there, have to ask him about this place. He's in Brunswick, I think...