Whose Bark Has Bite? 10Best Tackles Orlando Barbecue

Whether you like your pork pulled and saucy, your beef dry-rubbed and fall-off-the-bone tender or perhaps either/or shredded into a street taco, Orlando has some stellar options for those who crave the smoky-decadent goodness of quality barbecue. The rep of the renowned 4Rivers Smokehouse generally precedes itself – and for good reason – its food is as good as it’s lines are long, but with an ever-growing number of locations, locals have less distance to travel (and can always call ahead for pickup). In Windermere, Yellow Dog Eats prides itself on quality Q - not to mention great beer and live music. Both Ocoee and Apopka have farther-flung local favorites in Ellie Lou’s Brews & BBQ and the beloved Porkie’s Original, where both barbecue- and motorcycle enthusiasts cruise in quite regularly for generous helpings of both. Down in a hip habitat on Mills Ave. (and another in Lake Nona) Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa infuses international flair into its takes on the traditional. Try the sticky-sweet plantains as a side!


Apopka/Winter Garden

Barbecue aficionados in just about any town will often cite more local, off-the-path venues among their favorites and such is the case with Porkie's, a casual, friendly, little place with a massive following they've built over the decade-plus they've been open. Slow-cooked oak- and hickory-smoked ribs are the specialty, but Porkie's burgers, chicken, steaks and hearty sandwiches have some serious proponents. Porkie's has a regular Bike Night, so you can come for the Q and stay for the show as motorcycle enthusiasts roll in for a family-friendly event that draws impressive crowds. Porkie's sauce selection ensures there's a delicious drizzle for every palate.

There's just something about beef brisket and slaw that gets the mouth watering. Or maybe you're a rib aficionado. Or have a thing for smoked turkey. The beauty of Southern barbecue is that you don't really have to choose. Just get a multi-meat plate and dig the H in. One taste of Harry & Larry's wares and you're transported back to that last roadside smoker you hit up on your way from somewhere to someplace else and the only thing you remember is trying to get one more taste of the sauce out from under your nails before resorting to that old Wet-Nap in your glove compartment. Brisket, ribs, sausage and turkey beckon. Stop in for a slab or buy it by the pound and haul it home and become the hero of dinner.

Generous portions and fall-off-the-bone goodness awaits Q-obsessed carnivores at this Clermont outpost, a family-run business that has accrued multiple honors on the Florida and â€" perhaps more impressively â€" Kansas City barbecue circuits. Chicken, pork, ribs, brisket, and other delights abound. Meat here is slow-cooked with oak and a signature dry rub that will have fans of midwestern 'cue salivating. Looking for spice? Try the jalapeno-cheddar sausage alongside a host of traditional, carb-laden sides. Uncle Kenny's offers up a choice of sauces – and they're so popular you can even buy them by the bottle at several locations around the area or online. Come hungry.


This charming, off-the-beaten-path venue is charming and rustic, evocative of some diamond-in-the-rough surprise you'd stumble upon while road tripping. Its food is surprising, too. Sandwiches, salads, scrumptious starters and a whole lotta barbecue. A host of offerings showcase piles of YDE's signature pulled pork, including the Fire Pig (a wrap with apple wood-smoked bacon, gouda, fried onions and sriracha) and the Rufus (pork topped with thick-cut Brie, cherry ring peppers and topped with raspberry melba sauce). Ribs are available by the half-rack, as well. And YDE's house slaw is a sweet, tangy treat. Live music in the restaurant's outdoor beer garden adds ear candy to the menu.

4Rivers' Winter Park location (not its original outpost; its success quickly outgrew that venue) is its flagship, the nucleus around which this Orlando-based, Texas-style barbecue empire operates. Brisket, ribs, pulled pork and smoked turkey are a few of its signature items. Not surprisingly, so are crowds. No one seems to mind waiting but you're welcome to opt for take-out instead. Barbecue is never neat eating, but even 4Rivers' sandwiches (take the Messy Pig and its two layers of slaw, for example) push the envelope. Some fans swear by the desserts, as well. Their menu is ample! If you've got a sweet tooth, they are Southern-inspired and sinful as you-know-where.

So, are you interested in 12-hour-smoked brisket, or a homemade cake doughnut with Kentucky bourbon and maple glaze. The smart answer at the Smoke & Donuts mobile bistro (yes, that means food truck) is "yes." Though you can easily enjoy the duality of their wares in a traditionally separate fashion - e.g. brown butter-smoked turkey breast with house pickles, cucumber and cabbage slaw on an Olde Heart Bakery potato roll for dinner and a Madagascar vanilla-glazed doughnut for dessert, you can also combine them in creations like the brisket or pulled pork slider, served ON one of their signature doughnuts.

What pairs better than blues and barbecue? At Fuel, you'd most likely get an emphatic "nada," particularly after you've had their burnt ends, which pair nicely with an impromptu harmonica break. And an al fresco seat on the increasingly hip streets of Sanford makes it an especially delicious trio. Fuel (so named because it is housed in a former gas station) sits adjacent to the Alley, a longtime blues haunt here in what locals often call "the Bokey," and the businesses are owned in tandem. Fuel's quality Q. Flavorful brisket, smoky, St. Louis-style ribs and tender pulled chicken are among the items holding court. Sides include smoked mac-n-cheese, fried okra, BBQ beans and a tasty corn bread that begs to be the canvas for your sauce sampling.

Ellie Lou's web site promises they'll "rub you the right way," and as they've cultivated many a fan out in Ocoee (and a host of others who make the drive from more central Orlando-area locations to get their Q fix), it appears they're holding up their end of the bargain. With offerings like the Pork & Bleu (chopped pork with EL's signature bleu cheese cole slaw), classics including fried green tomatoes and cheddar grits along with delicious dry-rubbed ribs â€" you choose your sauce â€" this is a family-friendly haven with a place in its heart for beer lovers. Start your little brew-masters young with a root beer; they've got it on tap.

We've been touting the joys of the Caro-Bama food truck for a while now and with this late-year list update, we're excited to report that they've now added a brick-and-mortar location at the North Quarter Market! The pair behind Caro-Bama combined the BBQ pizazz of their respective home regions (the Carolinas and Alabama) to the delight of diners who definitely don't mind eating their sandwiches with a fork. And that's pretty much a necessity. The basics begin with pulled pork, brisket or chopped chicken. From there, it's up to you to decide which of the sauces and toppings to slather on. Caro-Bama makes it easy, though, offering up a roster of proven favorites from which to choose if creativity's less your thing than consumption.

Pig Floyd's Urban Barbakoa's location amid the multicultural stretch of Mills on which it sits is ideal, and not merely for the hip vibe its confines â€" particularly the lovely open-air section â€" help breed. With Caribbean, Latin and Asian culinary influences finding its way into the menu, PF's allows lovers of traditional Southern Q and those with a hankering for flavors from far-flung places to have fun sampling the menu. Here you'll find the surprise of soy, citrus and curry along with the sweet, smoky profiles you'd expect. Succulent pork belly, tender brisket and pulled share the bill with an array of street tacos, BBQ banh mi and other intriguing selections.


Meet A.D. Thompson

Amy Drew has spent nearly three decades as a professional writer and roughly half her life as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

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