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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Tropical Smokehouse puts Florida on the BBQ Map

Is Florida BBQ the next big culinary thing in the Sunshine State? Leave it to Tropical Smokehouse — Florida's craft barbecue — now with two locations in West Palm Beach to put us on the BBQ map! 

When you fuse the words food and the Sunshine State in the same sentence, barbecue is not ordinarily the first foodie feast on top of your list. Barbecue may have yet to be invented in Florida, but James Beard, Semifinalist, chef, and pitmaster Rick Mace, has perfected it here. He specializes in outstanding succulent slow-smoked meats cooked for hours on a custom-built pit that never goes out. Since he opened Tropical Smokehouse in 2021, West Palm Beach’s South Dixie Highway Corridor foodies have been having a BBQ feast on the trendy strip. 

Last month, Southern Living Magazine listed Tropical Smokehouse among “The Top 50 BBQ Joints of 2023.” Earlier in the year, it also named Tropical Smokehouse “The Best Locally Owned Restaurant in Florida.” If more than that buzz was needed, the restaurant opened its second WPB location, Tropical BBQ Market, at 206 S. Olive Street in Downtown West Palm Beach.   

The fast-casual restaurant boasts a deli market where customers can snag meats, salads, and other grab-and-go items. They serve breakfast from 7-10 a.m. with items including Brisket, Egg and Cheese, Sando and Chorizo, and Egg and cheese Roti. Mace also offers Bulk BBQ by the pound and other items— sandwiches, snacks, and BBQ plates — all crafted with his signature Florida-meets-Caribbean BBQ like jerk turkey and mojo pulled pork. 

Local families and singletons looking to plan their meals for the week will be glad to hear that the market offers a whole smoked chicken dinner with two quarts of sides like peas and cheesy grits. Now, high marks on the grits. If the smoked chicken and the rum cake don’t leave your mouth watering uncontrollably, the cheesy grits will. It’s best you loosen your belts and forget about the calories for a night because you’re in for an authentic Florida barbecue treat!  

In an exclusive interview with Chef Mace, he reveals how West Palm Beach’s community has welcomed him and his restaurant with open arms. Regular customers at his BBQ joint would probably admit that we’re simply not that nice. Still, the award-winning chef and his signature barbecue dishes and sauces — the perfect blend of Caribbean and Southern cooking and the balance of sweet and tangy — keep us coming back.

Since you opened Tropical Smokehouse in 2021, what has been the greatest highlight and the biggest challenge? 

The greatest highlight to date for me is the sheer amount of people coming through our door! We are tremendously grateful to have a bustling restaurant! It’s hard to acknowledge any individual event attributed to it as a greater highlight. Yes, we have received numerous awards and accolades. Yes, we are super proud to have received them all. But, most importantly, they have collectively set the stage for us to be a fixture within the community, which is our single greatest accomplishment. Opening a restaurant in the midst of a global pandemic would understandably be the biggest challenge that we have faced.

Tropical Smokehouse entered the West Palm Beach Green Market last year. What led you to participate as one of the vendors? 

We wanted to connect with people downtown and seed the brand in preparation for the opening of Tropical Smokehouse Market. This year, we are offering breakfast items and brisket from the new location to double down on that effort. The market also offers great point-of-purchase marketing for our Holiday specialties, like Thanksgiving Turkeys and Christmas Rum Cakes, when they are available for pre-order. 

What inspired you to open Tropical Smokehouse Market, your brand’s second location in WPB? 

To continue working towards our promise to be Florida’s Craft Barbecue, we want to share our food with more and more people. Today, we are doing that here in our area with the opening of Tropical Barbecue Market (TBM), an efficient and practical counter-service model of our original concept. Through this, we hope to learn more about our customers’ wants and routines and then integrate them into our brand-new ideas and products to meet their needs better. 

How different is the market from the restaurant on Dixie Highway? 

The two serve different purposes. Our original Dixie Hwy location is more like a traditional sit-down restaurant. It also has a hybrid service model with self-order and pay at the table. This new technology was necessary during the opening, and we have found that many of our guests prefer the efficiency of it. 

Tropical Barbecue Market is a counter-service BBQ. Here, we specialize in BBQs made in our M+M Rotisserie Smoker, served quickly with fresh seasonal sides and simple sweets.

In summary, the new one is built for speed, and the original is built for comfort. 

Aside from me, of course, who are your most loyal customers in WPB? 

This is a divisive question, but it boils down to two major camps of loyalists: the BBQ fans and the Burger fans. We’ve said for a long time that we might be a barbecue restaurant with a burger problem. I think, at this point, we’ve amassed a cult following for both. 

How do you think this new market will help serve the young professionals living in downtown WPB?

We are certainly here for them. We brew string coffee every morning and make breakfast muffins, roti, sandwiches, and juice. We serve BBQ from 11-5, and then from 5-6, we offer what we think is the best carryout chicken in the city. By design, we have an attractive option for all daytime meal periods. 

What are the sides of the Whole Smoked Chicken family dinner, and how can people place their orders for pick up? And will you be offering any other family dinners like this one in the near future? 

Our Smoked Chicken Family Meals can be pre-ordered online and available to walk-in guests until sold out for the day. The choice of sides is based on today’s menu and also sells out from time to time by the end of the day. Our retail items are also great additions to your purchase. Take home our Spicy Smoked Wahoo Dip or a Key Lime Pie! 

Is there anything else you’d like to add? 

Try the Smoked Curry Chicken!!

To learn more about Florida’s craft barbecue, visit www.eattropical.com or check out Tropical Smokehouse Market’s menu

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