BBQ is extremely Popular in North America. In 2020, two-thirds of U.S. adults owned a grill or smoker. Contemporary surveys list (in order of popularity) flavor, lifestyle, convenience and entertainment as the top four reasons people grill. I can’t help but think that the concept of roasting food over an open flame is hard-wired into humanity since ancient times.
As with all foods, the flavor is particularly appealing to me. That being said, I thought I’d share a couple of dining experiences I had at The BBQ Shop in Naples. The BBQ shop features two local pitmasters, Chris Jones and Stephan T. Nedwetzky.
Chris, the proprietor of Industry Beer and Barbecue, has brought his craft to North Naples. Stephan, the proprietor of Pit Commander Barbecue, operates out of the BBQ Shop on Saturdays. Both have very different BBQ styles.
Traditionally and at its most basic, BBQ is divided into 4 different Regional Styles. Simplistically, Carolina-style BBQ uses mustard- or tomato-based sauces to marinate primarily pork, which can even be a whole hog. Kansas City-style BBQ typically uses dry rubs, with sauces served on the side. In Memphis-style BBQ ribs and pulled pork are most known. Ribs associated with this BBQ style can be cooked with dry rubs or marinated with sauce before and after cooking.
Pulled pork is commonly served as a sandwich topped with BBQ sauce and coleslaw. Now you know where the concept of coleslaw on BBQ sandwiches comes from! Finally, there is Texas-style, frequently employing the use of offset (indirect) smokers cooking “low and slow”. For those cooking using offset smokers, the type of wood used can impart very different flavors to the finished product.
Chris is sort of a “mutt” with his BBQ style. His BBQ uses offset smokers seen frequently in Texas-style BBQ. His sauces draw on the tomato and mustard-based sauces of Carolina and Kansas City BBQ styles, respectively.
Stephan’s BBQ style is central Texas-style. Cooking BBQ for over 25 years, he has perfected his craft with rubs and offset smokers using Texas post oak producing product that is most remarkable. Chris, using Florida live oak, makes an equally delicious, but very different-flavored BBQ.
I made a few visits to The BBQ Shop to get a good feel for their food and sampled a number of things off their weekday menu, most appropriately displayed on butcher paper.
The first thing ordered was the brisket with two sides. The brisket was excellent. If you look closely you can see a lot of blackening of the meat on the outer portion of this cut and a red band immediately following that. The rubs they use produce what is known as Bark on the outer meat surface. This as you imagine, produces a lot of flavor. Adding to this is the Smoke Ring, a red line immediately inside the interior of the bark. This forms when the carbon monoxide in the smoke interacts with the proteins in the more shallow regions of the cut of meat. Both of these chemical reactions happen in different ways, providing a tsunami of flavor synergy. Adding to this were the pickled onions and green beans served as condiments.
My dining companion and I ordered smoked gouda mac “n” cheese and borracho beans as sides. Both were very good. A borracho in Spanish is someone that drinks too much. These beans are appropriately named as they are cooked using dark beer, in addition to other ingredients. I thought this was a great offering from the restaurant. We also ordered takeaway pulled pork for later. It was also very good and reasonably priced at $18/lb.
We returned the following Saturday to sample some Pit Commander offerings. The line was long for something no one else does in the area, Central Texas BBQ done very well.
The menu is simple but comprehensive, just like the food on it. To start, we ordered the Texas twinkies. Jalapeno peppers are stuffed with cream cheese and smoked brisket, then wrapped in bacon and smoked on the grill. A lovely Texas import and highly recommended.
We also tried a couple of sandwiches. They are served on in-house-made buns. The pulled pork sandwich was excellent, as was the brisket.
I’ve combined the above pictures to illustrate the portion size of the brisket sandwich (upper photo). From the lower photograph, I would guess each sandwich has close to a half-pound of brisket on it. Fabuloso. We also sampled their beans which were great. They are a very different style than that served during the week. They were very tomato forward and made much better by adding whatever scraps of pork or beef were left over from that day.
Some of you may not be familiar with what brisket is or how it’s prepared or cut. There were a number of videos on this subject from Aaron Franklin, a “god” of central Texas BBQ. I thought this video really good and would “scratch the surface” of what good Central Texas BBQ brisket was all about. The best part of the video starts at 5:45.
There are many other things served Saturdays. I did not order these but they certainly got my attention. The beef ribs looked fantastic. This is a product no one else is serving in the area. Beef ribs, being the “mastodon” portions they are, can run from one and a half to two pounds. This can be a somewhat expensive venture at $36/lb. but worth every penny. He also serves Pork Belly Burnt Ends. I did not sample these, as with the beef ribs, but they sure looked fantastic.
When I was there, they started selling out of things about an hour after they opened. This was due to the tremendous pre-orders that are made on Saturdays. The cliched adage, “you snooze you lose” very much applies here. Come early before they sell out of menu items.
On a final visit, I was pleased to see Chrison was serving pulled pork tacos, which I hastily ordered lest they sell out.
The tacos were excellent. They’re made from six-inch in house-made flour tortillas. The tortillas are graced with pulled pork, onion, cilantro, salsa verde and Queso Fresco. On the day I ordered these, they were an incredible deal for two tacos/$10.00. The amount of filling was somewhere in between that seen in an enchilada and a burrito. Highly recommended.
The food served at The BBQ Shop is great to exceptional. There are a couple of different BBQ styles served here and I’m sure there’s something here for everyone. If you haven’t had Central Texas BBQ come here on Saturdays. This is a totally different BBQ style than that served during the weekdays which I’m sure all will like. This is a unique venue in Southwest Florida that all should experience.
It’s a wrap for another post on Forks.
The BBQ Shop
1040 Collier Center Way
Naples, FL 34110
Pit Commander BBQ at The BBQ Shop
Saturdays from 11 AM to 3 PM