Food & Drink

Break out the sauce: Locals recommend the best barbecue places in Manatee

There are lots of great options for barbecue in Manatee County.
There are lots of great options for barbecue in Manatee County. Creative commons

What makes barbecue such a wonderful comfort food?

Is it the smoky allure? The permeating flavor of the firewood? Is it the sauce? (Let’s skip right over that messy tomato vs. vinegar debate. They’re both tasty.)

Is it the sight of your dad standing over the backyard grill, beer in hand and somehow managing not to singe his eyebrows off?

Maybe it’s all of those things.

And while no one is going to make it better than your family’s designated barbecue cook, you still need a back up.

That’s why we asked Bradenton Herald Facebook group “Manatee Eats” where to find the best barbecue in Manatee County.

Here’s where they recommend:

c&k smokehouse bbq
A smoked mullet plate at C&K Smokehouse BBQ in Parrish. C&K Smokehouse BBQ

C&K Smoke House BBQ

C&K’s barbecue is generously spiced and seasoned, dry rubbed, and then slow-smoked over oak and citrus woods for a truly flavorful experience.

The menu features barbecue sandwiches (several for less than $5), plus standard and family meals. Alternatively, you can taste the smoked magic in its purest form and order meats like chicken, ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket on their own.

Don’t forget the sides (collard greens, garlic potatoes, fried okra, etc.) and a slice of pecan pie.

C&K Smoke House BBQ is at 12119 US Highway 301 N., Parrish.

Mission BBQ

Mission BBQ, the restaurant chain that got its start in Glen Burnie, Md., has two themes: good barbeque and patriotism.

Mission’s barbecue craft is a combination of traditions from around the country, and it’s a tasty mix.

The menu’s meat selection is extensive and includes brisket, pulled chicken, pulled pork, turkey, sausage, ribs and even salmon. There are five varieties of barbecue sandwich to pick from, too.

Pair your entree with a made-from-scratch side like “Maggie’s Mac-N-Cheese” or fresh cut fries.

Mission BBQ is at 4501 14th St. W., Bradenton.

Hickory Hollow Barbecue

Like the name says, this Ellenton restaurant’s barbecue is hickory-smoked for the ultimate flavor.

Hickory Hollow also aims to please all kinds of barbecue lovers with a menu that includes both tomato and vinegar-based sauces. However, their specialty is eastern North Carolina style barbecue (hickory-smoked and marinated in sweet vinegar and seasonings).

Barbecue offerings include pulled pork, chicken, pork shank and baby back ribs. “Famous sides” include Southern classics like corn on the cob, potato salad, mashed potatoes and sugar snap peas (there are over 20 to choose from daily).

Hickory Hollow is at 4705 US Highway 301 N., Ellenton.

Other recommendations:

Pig Out BBQ and Southern Soul Food, 5718 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, 4406 53rd Ave. E., Bradenton.

Li’l Nancy’s Bar-B-Q, 8141 Lakewood Main St. #104, Lakewood Ranch.

Cortez Clam Factory, 10104 Cortez Rd. W., Bradenton.

Alday’s Bar-b-que, 5206 73rd Ln. E., Bradenton and 5530 E. SR 64, Bradenton.

O’Shucks Raw Bar & Grill, 12012 Cortez Rd. W. Bradenton.

Smokin’ Momma Lora’s BBQ Mobile (food truck).