Slow and Low-The Best Damn Barbecue in Cocoa Beach

Slow and Low-The Best Damn Barbecue in Cocoa Beach
Note: this review of mine is taken from a visit in April of 2015 and originally appeared on a well-known travel site. My latest visit to this island of barbecue perfection was five days ago, and they’re still the best on the beach! 

This top-shelf barbecue joint in Cocoa Beach has become my go-to spot when I want to get out-of-town for the weekend. If you’ve ever been to Slow ‘n Low, you know why.

I had the pulled-pork sandwich this time. On their delicious garlic bread, of course. I started with an order of the fried okra for an appetizer, as I often do. It was perfect and their mild horseradish sauce is just the right accent to compliment this often under-appreciated member of the vegetable family. Okra is often over-breaded or under-cooked, but they got it just right.

The green beans and garlic mashed potatoes make great sides with their tasty pork sandwich. I believe I’ve had all their sides over the years, and this is one of the things they do very well. Many barbecue joints have only three or four sides and tiny portions, but you won’t find that sort of thing at Slow ‘n Low.

I rarely get dessert here, as I almost never have room, but I enjoyed their Chocolate Peanut Butter pie on my last visit and went for it again. Yeah, it was scrumptious! My server brewed a fresh pot of coffee to go with this fine concoction; what more could a diner ask for?

Slow ‘n Low has a good variety of beers on tap, way more selection than most barbecue establishments, and a staff that consistently delivers good service. I’ve had their Combo Plate and the Blackened Prime Rib Sandwich many times and can recommend it all. Their patio is jammed with patrons most of the time, though there is also inside seating available. They usually feature live acoustic music on the patio Friday through Sunday nights. Tee shirts and ball caps are also on sale and yes, they do catering. They are also family-friendly and a thirty second drive away from the beach. Check out Slow ‘n Low the next time you’re in Brevard County.

 

One additional note from December 2016 visit: they’ve recently upgraded the TV’s in the bar, making their patio an excellent choice for sports fans who also like great chow!

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Fuel, the new barbecue joint next to The Alley in Sanford

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If you’re into bars in Sanford’s historic district and like live music, you probably know about The Alley. They’ve been around for about twelve years now and everyone who’s anyone has played there. In addition to the killer music, they’ve got cold beer, a full bar, good help and loyal customers. What more could you ask for? Yeah, you’ve got it: good chow.

Along came Fuel. This new barbecue joint is on the south side of The Alley, in the new addition that came from the major renovation and expansion completed about six months or so ago.

I had heard quite a lot about it from friends and had to go check it out. I’m glad I did. The design is suitable for any good barbecue joint, looking not too “uptown” but not looking like a dump either. Not always an easy balance to achieve, but they did well with this addition.  I imagine it took at least three expert carpenters with massive tool belts and beat up pick up trucks to pull it off! Seriously, the perfect “feel” for an eatery of its type.

And the food is quite good. My pulled pork dinner was tasty, the sides were filling and as good as any I’ve had. And I’ve had them all. There was gobs of pork in the baked beans–as there should be–and they were not too sweet. Sugar is a common ingredient in baked beans, but they didn’t get carried away with it at Fuel.

The green beans really got over with me. I honestly have never tasted better. Those alone would have me coming back! And I enjoyed the collard greens as well, could have eaten them all day.

Anyone who knows me knows that I really focus on side dishes in a barbecue joint. Theirs at Fuel are way better than most and are served in ample portions. Service is a really big deal, too and the crew at this new spot in downtown Sanford was friendly, helpful and efficient. What’s worse than a place with good chow, staffed by an indifferent, poorly-trained staff? Few things I know of!

The patio seating on the south side is so cool. A really nice ambiance, especially if you’re dining after dark. If you like blues music and good barbecue, Fuel at The Alley is heaven-on-earth! Park Ave between 1st and 2nd Streets. Hope to see your face in the place soon!

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Hard to Beat Cecil’s Texas Style BBQ in O-town

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Cecil’s Texas Style BBQ is most definitely one of my favorite spots in south Orlando. I’m not the only devotee, the place is consistently packed at lunch-time. I’ve had just about everything they have to offer and have found their chow to be first-rate all the way.

The Chicken Dinner is a favorite, the meat is tender and the smoky flavor lingers well after you’ve finished your dinner. The only way they serve chicken is a “whole half”, so don’t ask for “pieces and parts!” This ain’t fast food! All dinners come with your choice of two sides. I especially recommend the black-eyed peas, the spicy pinto beans and the collards. If you like your ‘taters with a little zing, you’ll love their mashed potatoes; the addition of bits of jalapeno makes this one of the tastier offerings in the entire barbecue universe! Among the cold sides, my fave is the potato salad.

I’ve enjoyed the barbecue turkey and the pulled pork dinner over and over as well. I’ve nothing but good to say about these entrees. And the ribs are quite tasty; I’m pretty certain that Saturday night is still “All You Can Eat” for ribs but I haven’t gone that route in years. Not sure if my arteries can take that kind of thing anymore and my doctor would definitely blow a gasket!

Cecil’s recently added an appetizer. Try the bacon-wrapped, roasted, stuffed jalapenos. A bit salty, but you’ll be glad you tried ’em. I don’t care at all for Texas toast; it comes with any dinner selection. It’s not an issue with the house, I’ve just always hated the stuff. Being born in El Paso doesn’t help at all! I just wanted to warn you that you will not find the customary garlic toast finished on a grill. Your meal does include a soft-serve ice cream cone if you’d like some desert. The kids are all over that, of course.

The service is cafeteria-style and it suits the atmosphere perfectly. There are TV’s in all the right places, but you’ll not hear the audio as Mike, the owner, has opted for Country Music over the sound system instead. I’d rather hear George Strait than the talking heads on Cable News channels anyway. The dining room is rustic, styled like an outdoor patio space. A roll of paper towels at each booth is a nice and very practical touch.

One other sign that Cecil’s is the real deal: it’s a big-time hang-out for OPD and the Orange Co. Sheriff’s Department. The ‘cue is absolutely top-shelf and you’ll certainly never have to worry about security while dining at Cecil’s Texas Style BBQ!

You’ll find this gem of a restaurant on So. Orange Ave, just south of where Orange meets Michigan St. It’s across from the Publix and the Chik Fil-A. They do have have mild, sweet and hot barbecue sauces on the sauce/condiment bar, a decent selection of domestic beers and a very friendly staff. Prices are moderate, the sides are all freshly-made and are the talk of South Orlando. If you’ve never been to C.T.S. BBQ, get there soon. I promise you your first visit will not be your last!

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

No gator tail but great ‘cue at Adam’s Rib

No gator tail but great ‘cue at Adam’s Rib

I was in Gainesville for a sporting event last weekend and noticed Adam’s Rib right around dinner time. I liked the totally-indie look of the place; I eat at chain restaurants as much as anyone but always enjoy those “small joints” that feature great food and a unique vibe. Adam’s Rib is just such a place.

It’s somewhat small-ish but features fine barbecue with big taste. I went for a combo plate that was one of the specials that night and was very impressed with their chow. Get a load of this: a pulled pork sandwich and half a rack of ribs with one side for $12.95. And there was nothing low-end about this entree.

I opted for the collard greens with those two main selections and found them to be very tasty and not bitter at all. No need to douse that dish with pepper sauce to off-set a bitter taste. Collard greens with generous ham chunks are a staple at many places with good victuals and theirs did not disappoint. The ribs were as good as any I’ve had; I’ve been to more barbecue joints than I could ever count and was very impressed with this one.

This may seem like a little thing, but I really appreciated the roll of paper towels on my table. Even though this is not unusual for an eatery of this type, it’s always a good thing to see I won’t have to beg for more than one napkin. And the service was very good even though I was there at prime-time. The joint was jammin’ and the staff had no problem keeping up.

They feature a decent beer selection here. This was a surprise to me as the place is so small that I don’t think they’d be able to get a beer and wine license in many towns. Where I come from, the square footage and parking requirements would leave a place of their size without a beer tap. Because G’ville is the home of the University of Florida, it’s likely that the city is not looking for ways to block the brew; a good thing in my book. A lot of the patrons at A.R. that night were of college age. No surprise there. And most of the staff were as well, no doubt many were Gators by day and servers by night.

As I wrap up, let me say that the “no gator tail” phrase in my intro was an attempt at humor; with Adam’s Rib right in the middle of campus, that’s the last thing you’d find on the menu! The colorful and unique decor is “totally gator” and it adds to the charm of the place. By the way, I am NOT an alumnus of that esteemed institution and in fact had come from an event where “my team” was thoroughly licked by the home team. And when I stopped in for dinner at this popular spot, my taste buds were totally conquered as well. Losing never tasted so good!

Unique Eatery in Gotha with Fine Food and a Funky Feel.

Unique Eatery in Gotha with Fine Food and a Funky Feel.

I made my second visit to Yellow Dog Eats recently and loved it just as much as I did that first time! I’ve said in reviews of other places how much I like restaurants and bars that have a unique style and it’s true. Let me tell you that Y.D.E. takes “unique” to a whole new level.

And the food is top-shelf. This time I tried their jack-up pulled pork wrap called the Fire Pig. It’s done with pecan-smoked bacon, Gouda cheese, slaw and their home-made sauce in a wrap; it’s really tasty. A lot of their seating is on the patio out back, you’ve got to see it to really appreciate it. It’s fully sheltered from the elements and not quite like any other patio I’ve seen at other eateries. There is a stage adjoining the patio where live music is featured Thursday through Sunday from 6 to 9; just one more thing to like about Yellow Dog Eats.

The beer selection is good and the staff is friendly. It’s the kind of joint where you place your order up front, then find your table. One of the crew will find you when your chow is ready.

Speaking of beers, they have one of my faves, La Fin du Monde. Don’t ask what it means, but, by all means, try it! If you don’t care for the hearty taste and never order it again, it won’t be the end of the world! Sorry, couldn’t resist! If you passed French class in High School, that last crack just might bring a smile to your face…

If you want something different, a place that features cool ambience, unique dishes conceived and crafted right there combined with good service and live entertainment, Yellow Dog Eats is your place. Gotha is a small town just south of Winter Garden and west of the Metro West development. There is ample parking across Hemphill Ave and they’re open 7 days a week from 11am to 9pm. I’m heading back soon; so much good food and so little time!

To view their web site and their unique menu offerings follow this link