FORK ON THE ROAD: T Weston’s Smokehouse

tweston-1113-001If you love tender ribs, tasty beef brisket, and juicy pulled pork, T Weston’s Smokehouse on the fringe of downtown Wildwood is proving to be the place for those looking for barbecue with some extra oomph.

story: Shemir Wiles  photos: Fred Lopez + Shemir Wiles

tweston-1113-002Heading east on Main Street in Wildwood, I felt the pangs of hunger and a hankering for something unique yet satisfying. Set just slightly off the road, T Weston’s Smokehouse — with its name emblazoned across the side of the brick red building — immediately caught my attention. And I knew right then it was time to stop and enjoy some barbecue.

T Weston’s is the new kid on block; it’s only been open for six months. But don’t let its infancy speak to its quality, especially since co-owner and pit-master/chef Tracy Smith has years of barbecuing experience under his belt. And with his wife and co-owner Aileen Smith managing the business side of the venture, this Wildwood couple knows for a fact T Weston’s is destined to become a local favorite.

Tracy’s background is in culinary arts, but he got away from it about 10 years ago while living the rock ‘n roll lifestyle in California as a guitarist. Burned out and ready for a change, Tracy moved to Wildwood and started his own landscaping business. To draw in new customers, he used his passion for barbecue.

“I would take my smoker and do demonstrations while passing out business cards,” he says. “They would always turn into block parties where people would show up just for the barbecue.”

Soon, Tracy dreamed of owning a restaurant, but he only wanted to open one if he could own the building that would house it. Luckily, the building at 1210 N. Main St., which used to be home to Buddy’s BBQ, became available for purchase, so the Smiths jumped at the opportunity. After performing a complete overhaul on the property, T Weston’s opened in February. In the meantime, both Tracy and Aileen became heavily involved with the Florida Barbecue Association as judges and competitors. “Now, I’m in competition every day,” says Tracy.

What makes T Weston’s stand out above other barbecue restaurants is the competition-style attention given to the food. Tracy explains that all the love and care he gives to his meats and sauces during competition he brings to the restaurant. That was apparent in the first dish I tried — the barbecue appetizer sampler. Typically chef’s choice, the platter on this day consisted of a St. Louis-style rib, smoked beef brisket, and a pulled pork slider. The quality of the brisket was exceptional, perhaps because the Smiths use Wagyu beef, which is known for its marbling characteristics. The St. Louis-style rib was fall-off-the-bone tender and seasoned generously with a flavorful dry rub, and the pulled pork melted in my mouth.

tweston-1113-003Next, Tracy brought out the T Weston’s Big Burger. At first, it just seemed like an ordinary charbroiled Angus beef burger topped with applewood-smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onions. However, what made the burger unusually delectable is the addition of T Weston’s pulled pork and a fried egg. I couldn’t wrangle it with two hands and it was almost too tall to fit in my mouth. Nevertheless, this burger was certainly enjoyable. Both the egg and pulled pork added more complexity to what could have been just a typical restaurant burger. Crunchy and well-seasoned french fries were also a pleasant surprise. This particular dish made a huge impression on me, and I would say it’s a must-try for anyone who visits T Weston’s.

For his finale, Tracy demonstrated his Southern California influence by letting me try one of the restaurant’s biggest sellers: the Santa Maria-style tri-tip steak. Originally a California cut, this steak has become increasingly popular because it’s great for grilling and is quite affordable compared to other equally delicious but high-priced steaks like ribeye. Mesquite smoked and hand carved in the kitchen, the flavorful steak was very tender yet had very little fat. The steak was  served with white pepper mashed potatoes, which were creamy and piquant, and a fresh seasonal vegetable.

As for T Weston’s ambiance, it is hard to miss the assortment of artwork on the walls. Both Tracy and Aileen make an effort to feature local artists. In addition, Aileen explained that while designing the restaurant she wanted it to feel casual enough for lunch but still exude fine dining for dinner.

“I wanted something warm and welcoming but also upper class. We have red cedar at the bar and installed wood flooring and booths that match the cedar color,” she says. “Then we brought in a bit of Sumter in the artwork that features oak trees and railroad tracks.”

Overall, T Weston’s certainly adds a bit of refinement to the local barbecue scene. The excellent food and great customer service guarantee this restaurant will become a true fixture in Wildwood.

Bev-and-John-Rovelli“This afternoon we were running errands and we saw that we had time to finally eat here. This place has been recommended to us twice,” says Bev.
John adds, “I’m 100 percent Italian, so when it comes to food I’m very fussy. This place is nice and clean. It’s nicely set up. The food is great. I am very impressed.”

— Bev and John Rovelli, The Villages

Barbecue sampler appetizer: $8
Pulled pork sandwich: $8
Santa Maria-style black Angus tri-tip sandwich: $12
Baby back ribs: $15
Smokehouse wings: $6
T Weston’s Big Burger: $12
Full rack of St. Louis-style ribs: $27
Smoked prime rib: $24
Aileen’s homemade apple pie al a mode: $7
Tres leches cake: $4

Address: 1210 N. Main St., Wildwood, FL 34785
Phone: 352.748.9378
Hours of operation: Tuesday–Thursday,11a.m.–8p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 11a.m.–9p.m.; Closed Sunday and Monday.

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