6 best BBQ joints in Gainesville
By Joe Kukura
We’re not blowing smoke when we say that Gainesville, Florida, is one of the finest cities in the South for BBQ pork, beef, chicken and ribs. You’ll find a lot more BBQ restaurants per capita in Florida than in most states, and Gainesville can pit itself against any city in Florida for a traditional, quality BBQ meal. Whether you’re looking for an elegant gourmet BBQ experience or an old-fashioned paper-plate BBQ experience, Gainesville has the special sauce for any BBQ lover’s palate.
With that in mind, we’ve put together this list of the finest BBQ restaurants to help you pig out during your trip to Gainesville.
Pearl Country Store
One of the best-kept BBQ secrets is down the road about 10 miles south of Gainesville at Pearl Country Store in Micanopy. Don’t be fooled by the gas-station facade or the styrofoam plates and plastic silverware; this is the real-deal Southern BBQ experience. All the meats at Pearl’s are smoked in-house, portions are humongous and many Floridians swear that Pearl Country Store is the restaurant in Micanopy — even if it is also a gas station and convenience store.
David's Real Pit BBQ
The sauce is boss at David’s Real Pit BBQ, where BBQ sauce connoisseurs will note they serve the hard-to-find mustard-based and vinegar-based sauces. Choosing a sauce is tough, but not compared to choosing from the many side dishes like sweet corn nuggets and the famous onion rings. Not only is the sweet tea outstanding, but David’s also serves a sweet-tea-infused pork brisket.
Adam's Rib Co.
You’d better come hungry when you come to Adam’s Rib Co., a BBQ shack where your meal is served on plastic plates and wax paper. But, oh, is there a giant pile of delicious BBQ food on that plate with wax paper. Adam’s Rib Co.’s baked beans are known for their giant chunks of bacon in the mix, and the cornbread and sweet potato fries are also extremely popular. Adam’s even serves that rare Southern soda Cheerwine.
Newberry's Backyard BBQ
Newberry is about five miles west of Gainesville, and Newberry’s Backyard BBQ is worth the drive. Probably the most elegant of the BBQ restaurants listed here (food served on real plates!), the presentation at Newberry’s Backyard is excellent and the interior is classy. You’ll find the BBQ meats juicy, the baked beans superb and the fried green tomatoes a hit.
There are more than 150 Sonny’s BBQ restaurants across the United States, but the very first one was in Gainesville. It was called Sonny’s Real Pit BBQ back in 1968, and it’s still there at its original spot at 2700 Waldo Rd. in Gainesville, where Floyd “Sonny” Tillman opened his first BBQ restaurant. That alone makes this a must-eat meal for a BBQ lover’s trip to Gainesville.
4 Rivers Smokehouse
At 4 Rivers Smokehouse in Gainesville, you get Texas-style BBQ served on a plastic tray with styrofoam-cup side dishes, and you eat it sitting at a counter. You’ll love every bite until your stuffed tummy is crying uncle. Known for its pork and beef brisket, 4 Rivers also offers some unforgettable sides like baked cheese grits, fried pickles and cornbread salad. And 4 Rivers has a little dessert sweet shop that will just blow your mind.
You’ll relish all the great BBQ options in Gainesville, where all of the BBQ is very well done.