The aroma from the Smokin' Rib Shack BBQ is unmistakable. For the last five years, the sweet smell of Curt Luke's barbecue has enticed the workday lunch crowd, commuters heading home and spectators on their way to Largo High School football games. The business cooks up Southern-style barbecued ribs, chicken, pork and beef sandwiches. And if the crowd around lunchtime is any indication, the restaurant is doing well. The meat and poultry are cooked in huge, custom-made smokers. Luke starts the fire with a mix of charcoal and oak. He pairs the barbecue with cole slaw or baked beans. Perhaps Luke's success boils down to a secret family recipe. It comes in hot, medium or mild. "My grandfather, Johnnie Mack, taught my father, who taught me, to barbecue," said Luke, 39. "We call it the Grandpa Johnnie Mack's Famous Barbecue Sauce because that's what it is, my grandfather's sauce.'' Luke, who graduated from University of South Florida with a business degree, first started the business in the Ridgecrest section of Largo about seven years ago. He focused on takeout. With the help of Corey Miller, a friend and cousin through marriage, Luke expanded to a larger takeout location on Walsingham Road. He wanted to grow the business further, however, and he opened the sit-down restaurant in Largo's downtown district in the summer of 2004. When Luke first graduated from USF, he envisioned owning several locations. "But over the years, I've realized bigger isn't necessarily better,'' he said. "Our success is consistency. Our customers come in here, and they know what they want, and we're able to give it to them.''
Slow-smoked barbecue packs 'em in at Largo's Smokin' Rib Shack BBQ
If you go
Rib Shack BBQ
Where: 600 W Bay Drive, Largo
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
For more information: Call (727) 501-9090