Smoky allure

Bubbalou's Bodacious Bar-B-Que seduces you before you even lay eyes on it, which is just what good barbecue ought to do. The siren smell of smoky, sweet meats is in the air outside this new location, just north of Universal Studios Florida. Even from the parking lot, Bubbalou's is alluring, with that bold, unblushing name lit up in neon, flanked by three hot-pink piglets tip-toeing over flames.

Inside, the atmosphere is cheerful and bright. It's roomier than the original Winter Park eatery, but both dish up Big Barbecue. You name it and they smoke it: pork, chicken, beef, turkey, ham, sausage, lamb; and for the barbecue rebel, gizzards and livers. Country music hits are on the sound system, and a stuffed bear rises over the wood-paneled dining room.

My guest and I placed orders at the counter, choosing from an array of sandwiches, baskets and dinners, priced from $2.69 to $8.99. We found seats at a picnic table in back, the only spot that hadn't been claimed by a hungry, lunchtime crowd.

The food soon arrived, and we dived in with abandon. I tried "Bubbalou's Special" ($8.99), a sampler platter with four side-orders, and quickly honed in on the spare ribs. They were divine in the most primal way: succulent on the inside and slightly charred outside. Of the shredded meats, the pork was moist and tender, but the beef was a bit dry by comparison.

My guest ordered the quarter chicken basket with two sides ($3.99). Her chicken, like mine, was glazed to a rich, brown hue. On the inside, it was well-done, yet juicy. While most of the smoked meats stood on their own, we laced them with the barbecue sauces anyway: "Mild" had a hint of sweetness with a gentle bite; "Hot" was warm with a tangy edge; "Killer" was fiery enough to make your mouth glow.

On the side, baked beans were sweetly simmered with pork. The cole slaw was creamy yet light. Corn bread was moist and savory, which was nice given that the grilled bread was a bit limp and unexciting. Ripple-cut french fries were delicious. My only quibble is the size of some side-orders. At $8.99 for a dinner plate combo, I expected more than a cuplet of beans and a dollop of slaw.

Although Bubbalou's was approaching capacity when we arrived, we were on our way with boxed leftovers within 50 minutes. And we swore to do some bodacious workouts so we can go back soon.


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