Chow Town

Barbecue postcard from Sarasota

Nancy’s marbled brisket, ribs and sausage.
Nancy’s marbled brisket, ribs and sausage. Special to The Star

The architecture, infrastructure and lifestyle amenities of downtown Sarasota, Fla., live up to one word: excellent.

Networks of scenic sidewalks, walking trails, green space, bicycle lanes, marinas and public beaches attract residents and visitors of all ages to engage in outdoor fun and exercise.

Sculptures are sprinkled prominently throughout the city — Jorge Blanco’s “Smile” and “The Runners” are among my favorites.

Fresh, locally sourced seafood and produce are major culinary attractions. The downtown Farmers Market every Saturday rivals the best anywhere in user-friendly scale and variety.

Alpine Steakhouse does a brisk business in the market, selling breakfast items, pit-smoked barbecue, and their famous oven-roasted Turducken. We happened by when the line wasn’t long, so I took the opportunity to order a brisket sandwich. The customer ahead of me told me he favors the pulled pork sandwich. Since he is from Asheville, N.C., home of 12 Bones Smokehouse and other seriously good barbecue joints, that’s a big compliment to Alpine.

Alpine doesn’t offer naked brisket with sauce on the side. Not a problem. Their thin, lightly seasoned tomato-laced broth for keeping the brisket hot and moist complements the meat flavor.

I didn’t have time to wait in line at Brick’s Slow Smoked Barbeque booth. A peek at their Texas-style brisket on the cutting board left no doubt that I missed out on a big treat.

Of the 20-plus Sarasota barbecue joints on my list that showed promise, I only had time for four. So many barbecues, so little time!

Blu Que Island Grill & Bar’s brisket and ribs earn high marks on tenderness and flavor from slow smoking in a Southern Pride pit. Their tender juicy oak and hickory smoked brisket in a branded toasted bun, trumps the ribs on appearance.

With or without sauce, “Big Aaron’s” babyback ribs taste better than they look. The surface was dark with rub. The ribs weren’t sliced into individual bones for ease of eating. The flavor and tenderness, however, was excellent, with or without sauce. I wish I’d had room for Ken’s Pulled Pork topped with Blu Slaw and Jack Daniel’s sauce.

Nancy’s Bar-B-Q is a fun, funky joint with good eats. Pig eye candy, hand-painted signs and a bluegrass/country soundtrack sets the mood. We ate brisket, ribs, sausage and pulled pork. Our favorites were pulled pork and sausage. When asked how I wanted my brisket, I replied, “sliced,” thinking it was a choice between sliced or chopped. The meat cutter behind the serving line said, “Do you want it marbled or lean?” I chose marbled, remembering the marbled brisket at Oklahoma City’s Back Door Barbecue. Nancy’s marbled brisket was flavorful, but more fat than lean.

Next week we’ll take a look at Sarasota Perry’s Original Roadside Barbecue, with love.

Ardie Davis founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on food shows and writes for barbecue-related publications. His most recent release is “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”