The quest for 'Real" Bar-B-Q at Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q
In summer resorts around the United States, Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start of the summer tourist season. Another tradition linked with Memorial Day is Bar-B-Q. In honor of that tradition, we decided to get some real Bar-B-Q. We decided to try Tom Jenkins Bar-B-Q.
I knew the legend of two guys in their trailer selling Bar-B-Q on South Federal Highway, in southern Fort Lauderdale. I used to pass the trailer everyday, and smell the Bar-B-Q in the air. Since those days, I'm in that part of town less, but I knew the guys in the trailer had opened a restaurant across the street, but on my few-and-far-between trips past, I had never even made notice of the exact building itself, so I decided to find it.
Sometimes the simple thought of "Dinner out," becomes almost a quest, almost an adventure as you find the commitment to have the "Dinner out" you originally planned, a quest to see your adventure through to the prize at the end of the rainbow. The quest for Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q ribs and fixin's on the Saturday night of a long Memorial weekend, is a little bit like that, it takes commitment, but as soon as you enter the restaurant and the smell hits you, you just obediently take your place in line, and wait it out, one step forward at a time.
Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q looks like a country lodge on the outside. Inside is a small space decorated in "Poor Country American" with five or six full acrylic coated picnic tables, and a sort of half-acrylic picnic tables seating around the wall. The ambiance is summed up with classic country music playing, while the Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q kitchen works it's magic. But I digress.
First you must park. They really do have ample parking, but on a Saturday night, at 6:30 p.m., it seems like everybody is going to Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q. I was a TJBBQ virgin, though I had heard of the mystique and legend, when I saw that parking lot, I instantly became determined to taste this legend. The trick about the parking lot at Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q, is that inside, they do keep the line moving, one order number at a time, so there's a whole lot of coming and going. Here's where the first level of commitment comes into play. Keep circling. We made three full passes, just barely missing newly opened spaces on two occasions, the next time we entered, the first spot in the lot opened up and we slid right in.
Feeling proud to have secured a temporary resting place for our vehicle, I had new-found determination to taste these ribs. A young woman walked out with her two take-out bags bursting with Styrofoam and plastic containers. Dinner for four, at least. She kind of looked robotic in her movements, but she had an expression of tired bliss on her face.
As I reached for the door, a young man came out carrying dinner for two in a stretched white plastic bag, he had a big smile on his face. I stood there and held the door for him, and then the smell hit me. I looked in, and the people were lined up, around the outside periphery of the small dining room leading to the counter in front of the bright light of the Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q kitchen. The smell was fantastic. It was like the best Bar-B-Q smell you could ever imagine.
At that point there's really nothing to do but get in line, and wait, moving forward one step at a time, watching people eating ribs at low picnic tables, hearing the phone ring, with an old fashioned phone-ringer, moving forward, people smiling, and all the while you get closer, each time they bellow out another number. Each step of the way, in what seems like an eternity between you and those ribs, you realize, it doesn't matter, because you're not leaving that place without your own white plastic bag full of Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q.
We had a 1/2 rack of Pork Spare Ribs, a 1/2 slab of Baby Back Ribs, each came with two sides and a corn muffin. We chose, delicious Collard Greens, French Fries, tangy-not sweet Baked Beans and creamy finely chopped Cole Slaw, that mixed in good on the fork with the baked beans and collard greens. And then, because of that smell, I just had to try the chicken, so I ordered a Quarter Chicken, meat only. All of the meat was juicy, perfectly flavored and really didn't even need Tom Jenkins' famous Bar-B-Q sauce. At Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q, all orders are served with their tangy, not-sweet Bar-B-Q sauce on the side. I believe it's a wise move because it really allows the meat and the Bar-B-Q pit flavors to shine on their own, great if you are more or less of a sauce aficionado.
The total order cost just under $33.00. I put it on plastic, and took my place with the other receipt-grippers, waiting for that magic moment when you number is called and you can pick up your Bar-B-Q. My number was 1133, I'll never forget it. It took another 15 minutes before they shouted out "Eleven-thirty-three-ee-ee!" But, I had done it. Victorious with my two white plastic bags the crowd parting to let the victor through, one more out of their way. When I got in the car where my wife was waiting, the contents of the bags filled up the car with that smell. Hog Heaven on wheels. It got us safely home.
I'm sure it's not always like Saturday night at Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q, but trust me, once you're there, with that smell, you'll know it's worth every penny, and worth every minute you might have to wait, because once the quest is conquered, and it's all said and done, you've got Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q, the stuff of legend.
1236 South Federal Highway
Fort Lauderdale, FL
**** A Must Try, and Huge Bang-for-the-Buck $ (Inexpensive)
$ = Inexpensive - Less than $15 / person , excluding drinks
$$ = Moderate - Between $15 and $25 / person excluding drinks
$$$ = Expensive - Between $26 and $35 / person excluding drinks
$$$$ = Very Expensive - Over $35 / person excluding drinks
Bill's menu recommendations: Spare Ribs, Baby Back Ribs, Bar-B-Q'd Chicken, Collard Greens, Baked Beans, Cole Slaw.
Location: South Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale. One block south of Davie Boulevard, on the east side of the street.
Eat-in: Lunch, Dinner
Credit Cards accepted: Yes
Photo credit: W. Skordelis
Source: Tom Jenkins Bar-B-Q.com