Make us your home page
Instagram

Review: Holy smoke! Urban Brew and BBQ does it right in Grand Central

By Laura Reiley

Times Food Critic

ST. PETERSBURG

The second time I called Andy Salyards I could hear power tools. He was cutting bricks in half for Urban Brew and BBQ's new patio. He's a can-do kind of guy, having started as a merchant marine after getting a mechanical engineering degree, then following that up with a master's in business. He came to the Tampa Bay area following his wife, Jill, who was here doing a dermatology residency. It was "find a job or create one," he says, so he did the latter.

When Urban Brew and BBQ opened in June it filled a peculiar void in the barbecue arena in downtown St. Petersburg. Since then, Witches BBQ Den has opened, but it still seems like downtown has room for more wood smoke perfuming the air. A man with a plan, Salyards did his homework, figuring that most barbecue restaurants err on timing. Because old-school pit barbecues require constant tinkering and attendance, barbecue restaurants often cook their meats during the day, then cool and reheat them as necessary. Salyards loads his automated Cookshack smoker at 10 p.m., and by morning the meat is ready to eat.

He's doing a handful of things in the smoker — brisket, baby-back ribs, pulled pork, chicken — offering them as full plates, with a side and a roll, or as excellent and well-priced sliders. On my first visit I was utterly smitten by a moist, flavorful pile of brisket ($5) sliced onto a little roll, offered with a choice of sauces from really sweet to really hot to vinegar-tangy. The meat had that delicate pink discoloration of meat just under the surface crust (in the biz this is the "bark") that signals skilled smoking, with a savory, rich flavor to the plush beef.

Then pair this with a scoop of crunchy, fresh-tasting cole slaw ($2.50) or a cup of smoky-sweet baked beans studded with big hunks of smoked pork ($2.50). Really, all the sides at Urban Brew are keepers, the top offering the skillet mac and cheese ($5) with wisps of prosciutto, crunchy bread crumb topping and a flavor that brings the sharpness of Cheddar with the rounder smokiness of Gouda.

Chicken ($10) and ribs ($13 for half, $25 for full rack) hit the sweet spot. They are tender but not mushy, the meat pulling off the bone with slight resistance in long, sumptuous strands. Sauce them how you like, but their dry rub and expert smoking obviate the need for any sauce at all.

Then there's the beer. Eighteen taps that change constantly (160 beers have been showcased since Urban opened), everything $6 a pint (except nearby Cycle, which is $5), with half-pours available if you want to try a few. Salyards makes a clear stand with all-American beer, many local, but in the full array of styles from hoppy IPAs to browns, fruit beers and ciders. Okay, wine enthusiasts have only a few choices, and only by the bottle; beer is the thing here, with a drink card that gets punched, not for sheer number of beers ordered, but number of types. Salyards is trying to expand your repertoire.

I almost didn't see one of the coolest things about Urban because of my camel bladder (T.M.I., I know). The restroom floors are decorated in pennies, 5,000 on each floor, the men's room with heads-up pennies in rows and fields, the women's room tails-up and in diamond patterns (some of them wheat pennies — maybe a beer reference?). The rest of the decor is no frills but inviting, equally appropriate for a quick business lunch or an evening out along the increasingly lively Central Avenue corridor.

Laura Reiley can be reached at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.

.review

Urban Brew and BBQ

1939 Central Ave., St. Petersburg

(727) 822-8919; urbanbrewandbbq.com

Cuisine: Barbecue

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday

Details: AmEx, V, MC, Disc.; reservations accepted; beer and wine

Prices: $5-$16

Rating out of four stars:

Food: ★★★ Service: ★★

Atmosphere: ★★

Overall: ★★½

Review: Holy smoke! Urban Brew and BBQ does it right in Grand Central 11/18/13 [Last modified: Thursday, November 21, 2013 2:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 8 things to do in Tampa Bay on Aug. 17

    Events

    Clearwater Threshers: vs. St. Lucie Mets: For "Taps and Tacos" night, 16 local craft beers on tap near the Tijuana Flats kiosk, located on the concourse along the third-base line. 7 p.m., Spectrum Field, 601 N Old Coachman Road, Clearwater. $6-$10. (727) 467-4457.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow during the Mets at Threshers game at Spectrum Field on Monday, August 14, 2017, in Clearwater, Fla. Monday night was Tim Tebow's 30th Birthday Party celebration.
  2. What's new in theaters: 'The Hitman's Bodyguard,' 'Logan Lucky,' 'Wind River'

    Movies

    OPENING FRIDAY:

    THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD

    Loving the trailer for The Hitman's Bodyguard (R) poking fun at quotes from reviewers prone to phrases like "It's a roller coaster ride!" for better chances to see their names in TV ads.

    Salma Hayek and Samuel L. Jackson in The Hitman’s Bodyguard.
  3. There's a local memorial for Linkin Park's Chester Bennington this weekend

    Music & Concerts

    Because he sang so often, and so passionately, about the trials of pushing through pain and desperation, Linkin Park fans have taken the July 20 suicide of singer Chester Bennington really hard.

    Chester Bennington, left, performs during the MMRBQ Music Festival 2015 in Camden, N.J. Hundreds of Linkin Park fans are gathering to pay tribute to late singer weeks after his death. (Associated Press [2015])
  4. Top shows on stage this week: 321 Improv Festival, Andrew Dice Clay

    Stage

    JUST POPPED UP: 321 IMPROV FESTIVAL

    Improv duo From Justin to Kelly spend most of the show in silence.
  5. This art show celebrates the '90s nostalgia with a DJ bumping jams

    Visual Arts

    THROWBACK: KID AT HE(ART)

    Artist collective He(Art) puts together art exhibits around Ybor, and their latest one — Kid at He(Art) — happens Saturday at the Creative Loafing event space. The show features the work of 14 artists, including Sebastian Coolidge, Daisy Robles

    Emiliano Settecasi’s work is part of the Young at HeART exhibit.