Lord knows Miami could use some serious barbecue in a fun atmosphere that doesn’t involve wagon wheels or fly swatters.
And I can see why Myron Mixon was tagged to head up just such a joint in Wynwood. From humble beginnings helping his dad run a barbecue sauce business, the white-bearded fireball went on to win hundreds of awards on the barbecue circuit.
The thing is, Mixon and his Miami backers have gotten a bit too ambitious with an encyclopedic menu loaded with every Southern snack or fixin’ and then some. They would have been wise to heed Mixon’s own advice: “Barbecue is a simple food. Don’t mess it up.”
Still, after some weeks of tweaking, Pride & Joy has proved pretty darn good at serving up nice slabs of smoked meat, coleslaw and cold beer.
They got the look right, too, with chandeliers of vintage beer cans, saddle-backed booths and well-worn wooden tables. Neon lettering and kitschy signs lend a city edge.
B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Led Zeppelin on the playlist make for a fun, if somewhat deafening, time, and staffers have been genuinely friendly on our visits.
Tender, glossy baby-backs ribs with just a hint of smoke disappeared from the table faster than a sinner on Sunday. Sweet, meaty pulled pork was meltingly soft, but the St. Louis-style ribs were dry. The smoked brisket could use a bit more smoke, but the bowl of burnt ends is worth a trip for the crispy-edged nibs of moist beef that go down like movie popcorn.
Jalapeño cornbread with peach butter was drier than crackers on our first visit and unavailable on our second and third. Instead we got gently toasted white bread that made for a good sandwich, especially with the hickory-smoked barbecue sauce. Four house-made sauces in plastic squeeze bottles range from a sweet vinegar to spicy mustard.
“Big bites” include Mixon’s chicken cupcakes, boneless thighs that have been shoved into a cupcake tin and cooked until the skin is melted and slippery. They are coated in a sweet, slightly spicy and overly buttery sauce. Fried chicken, a fatty half bird, is too heavily breaded and greasy, too.
Side dishes — all a la carte, making the tab here much higher than you would expect — are disappointing. Mac and cheese in a milky orange sauce resembles school cafeteria fare. Fried pickles and french fries are heavy. Collard greens, though dotted with shredded pork, are tasteless.
Only the cooling, creamy Mama’s Coleslaw, an addictively tangy-sweet combination of shredded green cabbage and tomato, charmed me. Well, that and soupy baked beans that were as sweet as candy.
Craft and draft beer lovers can choose from more than a dozen brews on tap and twice as many in the bottle.
Banana pudding that tastes like it’s straight off the back of the Nilla Wafer box — and that’s a good thing — goes a long way toward making up for the rollercoaster ride of a meal here. The creamy, butter-yellow custard gets extra pop from the shatteringly crisp, brulee coating on the slices of sugar-ripe banana.
It looks as though Mixon knows a thing or two about barbecue, and in time I suspect he’ll prove it in honky-tonk Miami. Up next is New York City, and if he can make it there … Well, you know the rest.
Miami Herald critics dine anonymously at the newspaper’s expense.