By: Jason Perlow
Florida, despite being in the South, does not maintain its own tradition of wood smoked barbecue.
That being said, folks around here have very strong opinions of how they like their low and slow-cooked meats, especially when their preferences originate from somewhere else.
And a lot of people really have no idea what real barbecue is at all, especially if they are originally from up north and have never been exposed to it elsewhere.
Grilling, which happens using temperatures above 500 degrees, just in case you are wondering, is not Southern-style barbecue. Not even close.
We’ve only just started to get an influx of real southern-style barbecue restaurants – ones which actually smoke their meat at low temperature (225-250 degrees) for hours at a time over hardwood charcoal in the Coral Springs area.
Many other restaurants that serve “barbecue” (and I am specifically excluding the Latin-American and Asian variants from this) are in fact, grilling or steaming ribs and finishing them off under a broiler.
The smoke flavor you get is often a commercially made liquid product that is added, and if your ribs are falling apart, that’s a telltale sign of bad execution and fake ‘Q.
Four Rivers, a small Texas-style barbecue restaurant chain, with multiple Florida locations, opened a branch on University Drive in September of 2016. Real ‘Q.
Fat Boyz, which began as a family and veteran-owned food truck, opened its nearby Deerfield Beach location in April of 2017, taking over the historic Little Red Caboose on Powerline Road. Also Real ‘Q.
Its Coral Springs location just opened on July 21, and what an opening it was. A line of at least one hundred deep during prime lunch hours, it barely let up come dinner time.
We may not completely understand what barbecue is ’round here, but if you smoke it, we’re sure gonna line up for it in droves and eat it. But perhaps you need some CliffsNotes on the various styles.
Texas-style barbecue which is popular in the rural areas outside Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio concentrates mostly on beef brisket, and beef hot links, to be specific. Its spicing, like that at Four Rivers, is heavy on the black peppercorn and rock salt, and a reliance on smoking using silver oak that gives it its signature taste.
Using barbecue sauce, in some parts of the state, such as the famous Kreuz Market in Lockhart, is not just discouraged but prohibited. It’s all about the meat.
North and South Carolina is all about the pork shoulder and ribs with tangy, pungent vinegar and mustard based sauces, and smoking with Hickory, Cherry, and Apple woods.
Kansas City and St. Louis, on the other hand, is something of a hybrid, with a strong brisket as well as a ribs and pork tradition, and sweeter barbecue sauces overall.
The rub used is typically a melange of brown sugar and paprika as a base, and one tends to see a mix of spices like garlic, onion and chili powder as well as cayenne to balance it all out with salt and pepper.
Fat Boyz is definitely doing barbecue in a Kansas City/St. Louis style, which borrows from other places as well, such as Memphis and South Carolina.
The meats, for the most part, are served “dry”, with rub only, with the sauces on the side.
The two exceptions to this are the pulled pork shoulder, which is tossed with an Eastern South Carolina (Columbia) sweet mustard-based sauce, and the Burnt Ends — the smokiest, meat candy parts of the brisket — are tossed in a traditional tomato-based sauce that is common to Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis and Western North Carolina.
Both of these sauces, as well as the hickory sauce (which was our favorite next to the Carolina) are supplied in large squeeze bottles at the table in case you want more.
The one thing that is prevalent here is the hickory wood smoke, and you can really see how they have paid attention to the smoking process at Fat Boyz. The red/pink color you see in the meat is not an indication of it being underdone – it’s the smoke ring. That’s how you know you are getting the real deal.
You taste it in all the meats, but you really get it in the brisket, which is the flat end of the cut, because it takes the longest to cook – about 16 to 18 hours depending on the size of the primal and the temperature of the smoker.
Pork shoulder takes about 12 hours, spare ribs about four to six hours, and chicken about two hours. We didn’t drill the pitmasters about the specifics.
I can quibble about certain stylistic choices and my own personal preferences (I don’t like anything pre-sauced) but I cannot deny the skill of the overall execution — which is operating at a very high level for a barbecue restaurant.
We tried all the major meats, and in our opinion, they do all of them exceptionally. Our favorite is the by far the brisket and the burnt ends, but the Saint Louis ribs were excellent, as was the chicken, which was juicy, not at all dried out, and perfectly bronzed.
We also tried the smoked pastrami, which they brine and rub in-house using the same brisket cuts as the barbecue. I liked it, but because it is hot-smoked, rather than cold-smoked, and is the flat part of the primal rather than the thicker and fattier deckle, and is not steamed prior to slicing, it lacks that characteristic soft, almost gelatinous deli texture that melts in your mouth.
My wife, the other former New Yorker/Jerseyite at the table gave it a strong “feh”.
This instead has the texture of sliced barbecue brisket with the flavor of pastrami – a different animal entirely. It would work well chopped up in a hash or an omelet.
Sides were all deemed universally good. The mac and cheese are appropriately cheesy, and when served with a huge pile of chopped brisket on the “Whoz Ya Daddy” sandwich from the food truck side of the menu, it’s a monster that nobody other than a giant adult or a very hungry teenager can easily conquer.
The jalapeño cheese cornbread was very good, although the real eye-opener was the sweet corn nuggets, which you can practically eat as a dessert item (they don’t do dessert). French fries are of the regular commercial variety.
Greens were cooked “enough” but not to death, and were of the sweet, but not overly vinegary or peppery type. I was on the fence, wanting them to be spicier and tangy, and cooked more, but everyone else at the table loved them.
Baked beans are both sweet and smoky, which it gets from a nice dose of chopped brisket in it.
Other than the pre-saucing of some items my only real beef with this otherwise excellent barbecue restaurant is the lack of unsweetened iced tea — they only have the sweet kind — which is authentic, but also a diabetic nightmare. For those of us watching our sugar, not being able to have a big tall glass of iced tea with our ‘Q is kind of a bummer.
Oh well, we’ll just drink water. Pass the sweet corn nuggets.
FAT BOYZ BARBECUE
6192 W Sample Rd, Coral Springs (near Best Buy at 441)
Tuesday – Friday 11:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Friday – Sunday 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Jason Perlow is a long-time foodie who spent 20 years in the New York City and New Jersey metro areas reviewing restaurants for The New York Times and his personal food blog, Off The Broiler, which he started in 2006 and ran for ten years. He is also the founder of eGullet, a popular food discussion site and not-for-profit organization that was formed in 2001, which was featured on Tony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” cable television program.
As a technologist by profession, he writes the Tech Broiler blog for CBS’s ZDNet web site. He has been a Coral Springs resident since moving to South Florida in 2012.