Follow your nose to Blue Willy's Barbecue in Pompano Beach

Blue Willy's photos by Linda Bladholm for the Miami Herald.
Blue Willy's photos by Linda Bladholm for the Miami Herald.

Look for the yellow sign that says “BARBECUE” in black letters sandwiched between a closed auto dealership and a psychic. 

Ribbons of wood smoke hit when you enter Blue Willy’s, a den made of brick and repurposed barn planks. 

There’s Texas brisket, racks of spare ribs, pulled pork (good on an onion roll with sauce and slaw), kielbasa sausage and birds by the quarter or half. 

On Thursday, owner Will Banks offers his dry-cured, smoked pastrami, piled on rye with house mustard (lunch only).

Banks grew up in Tyler, Texas, just east of Dallas, helping his grandfather at the Al Green Hickory Hut. After burning out in the corporate world he came to South Florida and went back to his roots, starting with a food truck with a built-in smoker that he put into use out back when he opened last September.

Settlers brought pit barbecue to Texas, and immigrant German and Czech butchers built enclosed smokers for smoking leftover cuts and sausages. When the smoky goodness became popular, they converted into barbecue joints. 

Brisket is king in the Lone Star State, and the version here is smoked low and slow over hickory, oak and pecan woods. The meat smokes for about eight hours, until it’s black and shiny on the outside and the connective tissues melt within, tenderizing the tough cut from the lower chest of a steer. 

Banks can be seen in a glassed-in tin-and-wood counter, working over a battered cutting board, slicing slabs of brisket against the grain into strips with a large knife. 

Accompany the strips with baked beans, collards or cornbread. Choose from housemade tomato- and vinegar-based barbecue sauce, peppery Alabama-style mayo sauce or Carolina-style sweet and tangy mustard sauce to slather on the smoke-infused meat. 

Be sure to grab some paper towels from the rolls on each table to sop up the hot mess.

Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.