Florida Times-Union reader poll named a joint I'd never heard of as the best in Jax. Of course, I had to see for myself. In fact, I made two separate trips to the industrial Westside to see what all the fuss at Gators BBQ was about. It sits shoehorned into an old home under a couple oak trees, surrounded by lumberyards and auto repair shops.
Inside is a crowded dining room with seating for about 25, and an even smaller kitchen. Both times it was nearly full, but I was still able to find a seat. Orders are placed as you enter at a counter separating the two rooms, and brought to your table when ready.
On my first visit, I sampled their pulled pork, along with beans and macaroni salad. The second time I went big, choosing a two meat combo with ribs and brisket plus potato salad and beans (again), so I think we've got the basics covered. There is a lot more on their menu, including the namesake gator, so another return may be in order.
The ribs had a nice black crust. They had good flavor and were perfectly tender, but a little dry. Though it was chopped into little strips, the brisket had decent flavor too. It would have been better if the 1/4" layer of fat on the edge had been given time to cook into the meat. Both of these meats seemed like they could use a little sauce, so I gave the yellow bottles a try.
Again the sides were average. Garlic toast was so cold the butter wouldn't melt.
This places epitomizes the atmosphere of a good bbq joint, and they are on the right track with their meats. Even though some of the details need work, I would say they edge out Monroe's as my new favorite place in Jacksonville.