Keys foodies have long argued that “good” barbecue is hard to find along the island chain. Upper Keys residents won’t have to travel too far now, thanks to Mike Porcari, owner of Mike’s BBQ 101 food truck. 

The up-and-coming pit master arrived in Key Largo earlier this year with more than 20 years of culinary experience. Mastering his own brand of barbecue is a dream come true for Porcari, who said he’s eager to show locals what authentic smoked meats should taste like. “I’m ready to conquer the world and make some great food,” he said.

101’s menu has all the staples of a finger-licking feast. The selection of sandwiches – which include Carolina Pulled Pork, Texas Beef Brisket, Smoked Sausage, and BBQ chicken – all impress. The pulled pork sandwich is served with tangy Carolina barbecue sauce and a hearty serving of coleslaw on top.

If you consider yourself a rib connoisseur, a half rack or full rack of Mike’s won’t disappoint. Side item choices include macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, baked beans, green beans, corn bread, chips, or a roll. All are made from scratch.

The difference between 101’s barbecue and everybody else’s is the process by which the meat is cooked, said Porcari. While most commercial cooking operations use gas-assisted burners, Mike’s BBQ 101 only uses smoke and heat from a wood burner. 

“Stick burner” smokers burn wood in a lower compartment separate from the meat. The heat and smoke created by the wood rise and circulate around the meat, cooking it evenly. It sounds simple, but Porcari said managing the small things, like the burning coals and color of the smoke, greatly affect the meat’s taste. He’d reveal more secrets, but said he’d rather let guests taste the difference.

Mike’s BBQ 101 is located at the MM 101 market by Keys Kritters. Food truck hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to sundown. Call ahead for orders at 954-654-5259 or email [email protected] for catering inquires. 

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