While barbecue fans can easily discuss the differences between Texas, North Carolina, Memphis, and St. Louis styles, few are probably familiar with the nuances of Florida barbecue.
Now they can find out: Tropical Smokehouse, devoted to the indigenous barbecue of the Sunshine State, opened in January in the former Mazie’s location in West Palm Beach. The restaurant is a joint venture between Mazie’s co-owner Jason Lakow and long-time Café Boulud executive chef Rick Mace.
“Barbecue is the flavor of a place,” says Mace. “The Florida style is a blend of Caribbean, Cuban, and Latin American influences, with unique flavors such as citrus and Jamaican jerk. It goes all the way back to the first settlers who cooked over smoldering fires.”
Diners will see things on the Tropical Smokehouse menu that they won’t find anywhere else. “Smoked fish is Florida’s main contribution to the barbecue world,” says Mace, who hand-built a special smoker to slow cook salmon, mahi, and cobia. He also ordered a 500-gallon smoker from Georgia to produce chicken, jerk turkey breast, mojo pulled pork, and barbecue meatloaf. Begin your meal with snacks such as smoked fish dip or sour-orange wings and accompany it with sides like sweet plantains or Caribbean coleslaw.
The restaurant also reflects the pandemic-inspired shift away from formal, upscale dining and toward a more relaxed, casual experience. “We’re somewhere between quick service and fine dining,” says Lakow. “Technology has revolutionized dining—you can now order your whole meal directly from your phone if you want to. It’s a different world.”