Do you know what’s been missing from Miami all these years? A fabulous BBQ spot. Now, we’ve finally got one at 1200 NW 22nd Street, just west of Wynwood, in a cool, large industrial warehouse space, located in the Allapattah neighbourhood. The setting, just north of the Jackson Memorial medical complex, is blocks and blocks of mostly bustling, sometimes grimy warehouses and distribution centers for everything from fresh produce to construction materials. At night the area is eerily dead. But all this will slowly be changing because of the move by the Rubell’s bringing their art museum to the neighbourhood and the opening of Hometown BBQ, this Brooklyn export by restauranteur Billy Durney, who learned the art of barbecue in Texas and has one of the country’s best barbecue restaurants, garnering him a cult-like following. And now he has landed another location right here in Allapattah, Miami, already known for its authentic pit-smoked meats and traditional sides. But lucky for us, this location is cooking up even more than the original, thanks to a fellow Canadian originally from Montreal, Chef Alex Smith. He says there isn’t a barbecue restaurant in North America he hasn’t tried. By the looks and taste of his food, I believe he has put the best of what he has learned and observed into his creations. There are three smokers, a wood-fired oven and a grill to cook up all your favourites.
The casual, edgy space is large and can accommodate up to 200 guests. You enter under a large neon sign. You can dine out front, inside, or out back on the patio or “sandy beach ”style lower level. The design features concrete floors, wood tables, many used communally, accented by strung twinkle lights, and a large open kitchen. The original Brother’s Produce sign is seen throughout. The owner obviously likes Andy Warhol because the walls outside the washrooms are plastered in his pictures, and inside the individual bathrooms you will see the famous Warhol Flowers wallpaper. There is plenty of free, self street parking reserved for the patrons. Great music plays in the background and the vibe is friendly and warm from the moment you enter.
The restaurant has counter-only service for lunch, available 7 days a week, but at dinner time (not available Mondays) Hometown becomes a full-service restaurant serving up luscious and soulful smoked meats like tender USDA prime brisket, perfectly marbled, or pulled pork, turkey, and awesome slab jerk bacon, done in a scotch bonnet with caramelized ginger, garlic and pineapple sauce. I like how the chef adds a bit of local Southern flavours and seasonings to his dishes, which bring them to another level. The most popular thing on the menu is the gigantic fatty beef ribs, sold by the pound, and are fall off the bone good, but the pork ribs are equally impressive. Smoked wings are another favourite by many. On the night we dined they ran out of the homemade rolls, so I didn’t get to try one of their brisket, pork, lamb or smoked turkey sandwiches, but I definitely will on my return. Everything is served on metal roasting pans. At this location only, Chef Alex offers wood-fired specials. So for nonmeat eaters you can try the roasted daily catch, which is always local. Or you can enjoy fire-roasted mushrooms, or plancha broccoli with chili oil, and charred poblano crema. There is also whole smoked lamb breast to share and tamarind glazed chicken hearts. They also create a succulent wood-fired Oaxacan chicken, brined for 24 hours, and marinated for 3 days before it is roasted in the wood-fired oven and then finishes it on the open grill, with salsa verde, pickled onions, cornbread and slaw that is big enough to share. Did I mention the cornbread? For my money, it is the best I have ever tasted, topped with honey butter and browned to perfection. There are other sides like slaw, black-eyed peas, corn pudding, and queso mac and cheese, all served in paper cups at $6 each.
The bar has created some interesting craft cocktails. I enjoyed a Hibiscus spritz, made with sparkling wine, pink peppercorn, and hibiscus, which is delicious if you prefer your drink on the sweeter side. If you want something nonalcoholic there are refreshers like sweet or unsweetened tea, watermelon ginger limeade, Mexican cola or topo chico. There is a large selection of beers on draught, as well as bottles and cans.
Hometown Barbecue is finger-licking good and Chef Alex Smith has made it worth the drive to this area that is slowly developing into a new hot spot. He has definitely mastered the art of crowd-pleasing BBQ.