Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Gators BBQ- Jacksonville,FL

I'm frequently in Jacksonville for work, so I've tried a fair number of the barbecue establishments in the River City. I was surprised then, when a 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.

   I was impressed with the pulled pork. Large chunks of tender smoked meat and small bits of flavorful bark were mixed nicely. Smoke flavor was there, but not overly strong. Beans and Macaroni salad were both average, run of the mill supporting actors.


   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.

  Only one was labeled as mustard sauce, but they seemed to all be variations of the same recipe, one a little sweeter and one slightly hotter than the regular. I like a good mustard sauce, and these didn't disappoint.

   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.


Gators BBQ on Urbanspoon

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