3877 Clark Road, Sarasota; 5530 State Road 64, Bradenton; (941) 477-2114, aldaysbbq.com
Alday's sets up its barbecue wagons at two locations in the area, offering a variety of smoked meats, including pork, spare ribs, chicken, baby back ribs, brisket and salmon. Everything we've tried is delicious, but the perfectly seasoned beef—dipped in Alday's homemade mustard sauce—is a favorite.
1528 State St., Sarasota, (941) 993-1435, brickssmokedmeats.com
The true star at Brick’s is the fire-engine red J&R Oyler Pit smoker that stands almost two stories tall and produces exceptional brisket. Other proteins include pulled pork, house-recipe sausages, lightly smoked turkey and grilled chicken—meaty options buttressed by sandwiches, tacos and salads. The restaurant pays homage to the food of central Texas, referencing the smoked meat traditions of Central European immigrants, as well as the influence of Mexican cooking.
12119 U.S. Highway 301 N., Parrish, (941) 776-1440, cksmokehousebbq.com
Despite a surge in the number of residents in Parrish, the area hasn’t yet developed a huge dining scene. But we dig C&K, a neighborly barbecue restaurant that specializes in outstanding pulled pork. Be sure to grab a side of fried okra. The macaroni and cheese is also fantastic.
2813 17th St., Sarasota, (941) 993-6925
For more than a decade, D&R has appeared like magic at a church at the corner of 17th Street and N. Tuttle Avenue on Saturdays, serving "chicken and ribs that talk back." Those ribs, smothered in an assertive mustard-based sauce, are a particular favorite. Idling in your car at the nearby intersection, you'll smell the smoke from D&R, and your car just has a way of finding itself pulling into the parking lot.
4705 U.S. 301, Ellenton, (941) 722-3932, hickoryhollowbbq.com
Hickory Hollow has been an Ellenton staple for more than 30 years, and while its take on classic North Carolina-style barbecue is excellent, we also love the sides, particularly the deep-fried corn on the cob, and the fried catfish.
5445 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, (941) 315-9008, hawaiianbarbecue.com
Spam is one of the key ingredients at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, a popular chain that opened in Sarasota this summer, but if the canned meat product isn't your thing, try the Kalua pork ($7.95-$11.95). Smoky and juicy, the shredded meat is tossed with ribbons of steamed cabbage and served with rice and macaroni salad.
Mouthole pops up at various public and private events around town, with fans lining up for owner Ray Mabalot's barbecue. The meat options include brisket, short ribs, spare ribs, chicken, pulled pork and more. Don't miss the sides (beans, coleslaw and potato salad) or the homemade desserts (maple-bacon cupcakes, Key lime pie and more).
14475 State Road 70, Lakewood Ranch, (941) 999-2390, nancysbarbq.com
Nancy Krohngold has a special relationship with the pig, an intuitive bond that results in exceptional Western North Carolina-style smoked pork. Krohngold’s base recipe includes salt, three types of pepper, two types of sugar, dry mustard and cinnamon, plus the patience to let the meat cook slowly. The result would taste good anywhere, but it helps that Nancy’s is also one of the most fun places to gather in the area.