The cartoon characters and vignettes painted on the outside of Smokin' Joe's gets lots of attention. Here is one example.

Are you taking a road trip this weekend? When I leave Southwest Florida on a Friday, I almost always need a pit stop. I’ve been up since 4am, am often hungry, tired and in need of a pick-me-up. If you’re like me, there are pit stops like this party place on I-75 in Manatee County. And then there is this fantastic crab shack on US17 in Punta Gorda. However, this Central Florida BBQ pit stop is smokin’ hot.

It’s Smoking’ Joes BBQ in Bowling Green. If you’ve ever been to the famous golf resort Streamsong, you might be familiar with this small community. Otherwise, most people fly right through.

You might just smell this Central Florida BBQ pit stop before you see it. But when you see it, it’s hard not to do a double take.  Described by some as a BBQ dive. The long building is painted with cheeky cartoons and a large smoker sits roadside, tempting passersby with its aromas. The building has been there for decades. It’s been a family run BBQ joint for about 26 years.

Not that I ever expect a BBQ place to be chic, but the décor here is indeed interesting.  The dining room looks like an old dance hall with a disco ball hanging from the ceiling and a light system. Half of the dining area is filled with tables; the other half appears to be used for storage. I always grabbed my food to go from the counter.

To Go menu from Smokin' Joes BBQ

The menu from Smokin’ Joes in Bowling Green. Pick up some BBQ to go next time you drive through.

About the food at this Central Florida pit stop

Side dishes are the ones you might expect at a BBQ joint. The coleslaw is creamy, balanced and great with the pulled pork, whether on the side or piled into the sandwich. Mac-n-Cheese is also creamy. Baked beans are the kind you crave with BBQ. They have a sweet and savory edge. There is also collard greens, yams, fried okra and lots more.

Pulled pork is their specialty. Get it in a sandwich, a platter or by the pound. It is even piled high in Smokin’ Joe’s Cuban Sandwich. The fries are crinkly, salty and crisp. Other smoked meats include brisket, ribs, chicken and sausage.

In addition, fried catfish, flounder and shrimp are on the menu. There are signs for smoked mullet and Central Florida’s famous boiled peanuts, both of which I plan to try next. If you have a sweet tooth, try the hand dipped ice cream and milk shakes. The fruit crumbles are homemade. Are you getting hungry?

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