1. Orlando’s new king of Q is business-man-turned-smoke-master John Rivers, owner of 4Rivers Smokehouse (4rsmokehouse.com). Since the restaurant opened in late 2009, meat lovers have formed a near-continuous line out the door eager to devour meats fresh from the smoker. Rivers defies barbecue tradition by mixing regional styles. The Kansas City-style Burnt End sandwich unites brisket with pulled pork under one bun, and the Texas Destroyer combines brisket that smokes for 18 hours with provolone, jalapeños and onion rings. As one regular says, “As far as barbecue is concerned, this is the place.” Average entrée: $8.
2. Almost every Sunday after the beach, barbecue junkies gather in the parking lot of Blu Smoke Island Grill (blusmokeislandgrill.com) on Siesta Key to turn the pig. Adults quaff cold beers, kids dance and the pork falls off the bone, forming a mound of tender, juicy shavings that are piled onto buns and served with a side of blue-cheese slaw or crispy homemade chips. Banking on a promise from his dad to help him open a restaurant, Matt Diveley created this Sarasota-area newbie after graduating culinary school. The blue-backlit outdoor tables and bar create a beachy vibe. Average entrée: $15.
3. Chef Jonathan Eismann answers the demand for barbecue in Miami’s Design District with his new Q American Barbeque (qamericanbarbeque.com). Aromas from the pit ignite smoky flavors that are amply delivered—the juicy pulled pork and ribs coated in a dry rub are so flavorful that they barely need sauce. A full bar plus weekend blues bands equals a Memphis honky-tonk vibe, only with a sleek Miami interior. Average entrée: $15.
4. Serving fall-off-the-bone ribs since 1949, Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q (bonosbarbq.com) has been a local Jacksonville favorite for 61 years. For more than 50 of them, Harvey Green has manned the pit at the original Beach Boulevard location, cutting the slow-cooked meats and chatting up the diners. Fans keep coming back for Bono’s mustard-based barbecue sauce. Average entrée: $8.