Meet the Pitmaster of Backyard BBQ & Brew
Last year Backyard BBQ & Brew re-opened under the watchful eye of the celebrated kosher pitmaster Mendel Segal aka RaBBi-Q and his elevated taste has brought award-winning kosher BBQ to Harding Avenue.
Mendel’s start in BBQ hails back to Kansas City, a place that has a fierce history with BBQ. At the time, as a newcomer newly transplanted from Chicago, he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. “I’d always been into food and when I moved to Kansas I kept hearing about BBQ. After a while, I was interested. I attended an event where a BBQ restaurant was serving some kosher BBQ – I only eat kosher – and was hooked from there. It was like nothing I had tasted,” he says.
Shortly after, Mendel started experimenting with smoking different meats and creating his own sauces, perfecting a tomato-based flavor he fondly calls “sweet heat.” Eventually what started as a hobby blossomed into a business; he started bottling his own BBQ sauces and entering local competitions. And he won. A lot.
The competitions led to more competitions – some that he himself organized – and more winnings, leading to Mendel’s interest in opening his own place. “My wife and I were already considering moving to South Florida, so when the opportunity came up to move to Surfside, we decided to make the change,” says Mendel. “This area is an incredible concentration of people – the community, the setting, you can’t ask for anything better.”
Since Mendel has taken over the kitchen at Backyard, there is a new menu and an expansion of the ‘brews’ program. “We went from four (4) craft beers to over 50. We have the largest craft beer offering in the area with beers from local breweries like Wynwood and MIA and the Kansas-based Boulevard Brewing Company.” The menu expanded to include a wider variety of meats, an expansion of small plates and more signature sides. His competition-winning menu items have titles like “Championship” and “World Famous”.
As for the meat, Mendel recommends trying the Kansas-City style burnt ends – his claim to fame – the slow smoked brisket, the BBQ beef back ribs, or the dinosaur beef short rib, which is a limited specialty. Mendel points out that the rib specialty has a following, evidenced by the menu’s cheeky description “Once u go Dino u never go back.”
The smoke is attained by using hickory and Applewood, a key ingredient to attaining the flavor profile that Mendel has perfected. “BBQ is about the attention to detail. You have to consider the time and temperature in the smoker, the wood, the meat, the sauce. It’s the sum of all parts - it’s a science,” he says.
For the full experience, try the sampler platter. “We really encourage people to order a sampler platter for a taste of everything. The BBQ Sundae, a mountain of layered slaw, beans, BBQ beef and, and crispy onions, is really all of my signatures together. That’s what you have if you really want a real taste of my favorites.”
The restaurant is a casual affair with a large bar, wood plank walls and TV screens that play a variety of sporting events. It’s also the type of place where eating with your hands is encouraged and diners roll in from the beach for a casual lunch or bring the family for dinner in the evening.
As for what’s next? For now, Mendel says he’s focusing on the restaurant. An expansion may be in the future. There’s also a possibility he’ll find the time to go back to his roots and organize a BBQ competition in Surfside. “Never say never,” he says.
Dine Out at Backyard BBQ and Brew
In the mood for BBQ? Head to Backyard BBQ and Brews on Harding Avenue. You can view the menu here.
Surfside, FL 33154
Sun - Thurs Noon to 11 pm
Fri - Noon to 3 pm
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