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Squirrel's Kitchen

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Forget about the sit-down chains. Forget any preconceived notions you might have about what barbecue is or could be.

Squirrel's Kitchen - a trailer parked diagonally in a lot at Bloomingdale Avenue and Watson Road near Brandon - offers the best barbecue around. Lines of customers at lunch and dinner six days a week say it all. Even those who have to wait don't seem to mind.

Jackie Wilson of Riverview owns the outdoor restaurant, which includes a canopy and picnic tables, but mostly sells food to go.

Her husband, Earl "Squirrel" Wilson, does the cooking. Squirrel, 41, learned the art of barbecue from family members while growing up in Tampa's College Hill neighborhood.

"I just have a tongue for it," he says. "I can make something out of nothing."

For $7.50, you get a rib sandwich with two sides. The Wilsons sell between 200 and 300 slabs each week at $20 each.

Cooked slowly over oak or hickory, this rib meat is often tender enough to come off the bone with the slightest touch.

The kitchen stocks more than good ribs. An aroma rising from the baked beans hints at bacon. The potato salad is fluffy and complex. The collards will talk back to you.

"If you want some good old-fashioned food, come see us," Jackie Wilson says.

Squirrel's Kitchen is at the corner of Bloomingdale Avenue and Watson Road. It's open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at 661-2431 or