The goods: Barbecue joints have been gaining momentum in Miami, particularly the hip, casual kind with stylish interiors and branded sauces. There's Bulldog Barbecue in North Miami, Smoke't in the Gables and now Q American Barbecue, chef Jonathan Eismann's Design District addition. With this third restaurant in two-block radius, Eismann solidifies his neighborhood stronghold, bringing an upscale roadhouse feel to the old Sheba space. There's live music on the weekends (blues, classic rock), a creative list of bourbon cocktails and draft beers like Narragansett Lager and Shiner Bock.
Ambience: Vintage Americana that Eismann has collected over the years. Highlights include an old gas pump, black-and-white photos of backyard Q's and a sofa fashioned from the back seat of a car.
The grub: A pastiche of regional American barbecue that combined elements from the major hubs - Kansas City, Texas and the Carolinas. Prices are wallet-friendly given Eismann's fine dining orientation, with platters $9-$24 (most include a side) and desserts around $6.
The food is heavy and hearty and the portions are generous - look forward to leftovers. Condiments are made in house, so expect a rotating selection including a fiery guava-habanero hot sauce and a vinegary tomato-based drench. Go "whole hog" with pit-roasted Carolina pulled pork available as a trio of sliders or over a slice of Texas toast with coleslaw and pit beans. Beef brisket is given a coffee-tinged dry rub, wrapped in foil and slow-cooked in the barbecue pit for 14 hours. Pork spare ribs are given the dry rub treatment, buried in a mix of chili powder, paprika and brown sugar for a day and then grilled to form a thick crust.
Desserts like strawberry shortcake on a buttermilk biscuit and blueberry "buckle" crumb cake add to the down-home feel.
Verdict: Cleaned-up Southern barbecue in a sophisticated honky-tonk setting in the Design District.