By Linda Bladholm
The setting of LJ’s Backstage Café – which sits in the Airport Plaza Arcade across from Air Reserve Park — is fitting for owners Umphrey and Lisa Jackson, who were Army brats when they met at the American high school in Nürnberg, Germany, in 1976.
A songwriter, poet and producer, Umphrey traveled for 10 years doing staging and lighting. for various artists. He was always into barbecue on the road. Lisa, better known as Mama J, has 20 years of experience in food service. In 2006 they started making barbecue at Cauley Square and developed such a following that they moved to the new location. The spacious place is no-frills, with the focus on the brisket, ribs and chicken barbecued out back on a big charcoal grill on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Many customers come just for the baby-back ribs — marinated in a dry rub of Cajun seasonings, then slow-smoked for six or more hours. Be sure to ask for the sweet hickory barbecue sauce. Or have the pulled pork sandwich made from shredded rib meat. Sides include mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, collard greens, corn, baked beans and coleslaw.
The pizza oven is fired up each morning to bake the cinnamon raisin biscuits served with eggs, bacon and grits for breakfast. For lunch and dinner, hot sandwiches (fried chicken, grilled steak, fried tilapia) are offered, along with salads. Fried wings are popular, too, with sweet and spicy or lemon pepper dips. There are budget-priced dinners every day. Favorites include meatloaf, smothered pork chops and pot roast. If you have room for dessert, Mama J’s homemade peach cobbler is hard to resist.
On Sundays, radio station WDNA-FM (88.9) sponsors live blues with barbecue next door. Musicians in town also come here after shows to jam — and eat ‘cue.
LJ’s Backstage Café, 12783 SW 280th St., Homestead (concert hall at 12777 SW 280th St.); 305-257-1006, 786-255-1642. 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon-Fri, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat and Sun. Breakfast $2.50-$4.99, sandwiches $4.50-$7.50, ribs $6.99-$25
FYI: Barbecue Friday, Saturday and Sunday only. Catering available.
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