Cole Pepper is a barbecue snob. Here are 5 of his favorite local spots

Looking for some slow & low in the Jacksonville area? Start here


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s easy to overthink what qualifies as good food, and sometimes when you’re going out for a big meal, you get lost in all the different options when really, you can’t beat a pile of slow cooked, juicy meat that’s falling off the bone.

Of course I’m talking about barbecue, and there’s a plethora of amazing options throughout the Jacksonville area. So, who better to break down the best spots for some slow-n-low than a guy who’s a self-proclaimed “barbecue snob?”

Photo: Laura Evans
Photo: Laura Evans

We all know Cole Pepper is the man when it comes to sports, especially the Jaguars. But did you know he’s also a connoisseur of slow-cooked meats? Maybe that’s due in part to growing up in Kansas City.

When he was a baby, Cole’s mom even used a spare rib instead of a pacifier. True story. Probably. 

Sorry. Getting sidetracked.

Ribs: G’s Slow Smoked BBQ

Speaking of ribs, Cole recommends you head over to Orange Park and order a rack at G’s Slow TVSmoked BBQ, which specializes in southern-style barbecue.

“Those ribs are the stuff. Tender, but flavorful,” Cole said. “Gary Park who runs the joint, a former, very successful barbecue contest cook opened up his place a few years ago. Everything is good there but I really like his ribs a lot.”

Park brings about two decades of experience along with him. The simplicity of the menu is a big plus for me.

Also, dinners come with three sides and banana pudding counts. (Thumbs up emoji)

Burnt ends: The Bearded Pig

It’s literally a hop skip and a jump from Channel 4, and The Bearded Pig in San Marco is Cole’s favorite spot for some burnt ends.

“This is a Kansas City tradition, so I have a high expectation for this. Kind of close to my heart. The best burnt ends are at Bearded Pig, but you’ve got to get there early because they run out of them because everyone knows they’re the best,” Cole said.

TVPersonally, I think it’s the best thing to order, and I always get excited when I see burnt ends on the menu. In case you didn’t know, burnt ends are the thin part of a brisket and used to be a throwaway meet (sacrilege now).

“It’s versatile and delicious,” Cole said. “There’s fat and cow and who doesn’t like that.”

Chances are pretty good you’ll love whatever you choose at The Bearded Pig. I know I do. Reviews.org actually named it the best restaurant, that’s right, restaurant, in the state of Florida.

I’m on my way there right now before the burnt ends run out.

Brisket: MOJO no.4 Urban BBQ Whiskey Bar

This is a tough piece of meat to get right and some Florida barbecue contests don’t even touch it. But TVwhile we’re switching gears from the topic of burnt ends, Cole recommends MOJO, specifically no.4 Urban BBQ Whiskey Bar, for brisket.

“They season it well, but they don’t overcook it, and it’s very easy to dry out brisket,” Cole said. 

Cole’s favorite way to have brisket, which I’d have to concur with, is sliced. That’s opposed to either pulled or chopped.

“Some places you can ask for fatty or lean, I like a mix. But sometimes the lean can get dry if it’s not cooked right,” Cole said.

I do like the vibe at MOJO no.4, but I’ve been to several. Each has its own unique feel, and regardless of the location, the barbecue is phenomenal.

Chicken: Treemendous BBQ

We’re not talking wings here, we’re talking like a quarter or a half chicken, and Cole’s favorite spot for some barbecue chicken in Jville is Treemendous BBQ on the Westside.

TV“To me, the key with chicken is, is it good with the skin and without the skin? You have the option of whatever season or rub you’re putting on it, but, especially with dark meat, if your dark meat is flavorful, you can do that without a lot of sauce,” Cole said.

Barbecue chicken isn’t usually something my eyes are attracted to on the menu, not to mention, I usually lean more towards white meat. Apparently, I’ve been doing it wrong.

“It’s all about the dark meat,” Cole said. “That’s where the flavor is.”

I’ve visited Treemendous only once, and I went with the pork and brisket. Both were excellent. I’ll be back to try the chicken.

Pork: Southern Soul Barbeque


True, everything on this list has been in Northeast Florida, but you'll need to travel to Southeast Georgia to find Cole's favorite spot for pork: Southern Soul Barbeque.

"Great barbecue is worth traveling for," Cole said. "And it's worth taking a few hours out of your day to get to St. Simon's Island and dig in. I've never had anything I didn't like from Southern Soul."

Looking at the list of "soulful sides," it's definitely got my mouth watering. Apart from brisket, pork is a personal favorite of my own.

Looks like I'll be making a trip across state lines to try this one out myself.

(Bonus) Turkey: Monroe's Smokehouse Bar-B-Q

Often overlooked on the menu, but usually it’s not even there, is barbecue turkey. Cole says Monroe’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Q is the top spot in Jacksonville for some turkey.TV

“They do a great job getting smoked flavor into it,” Cole said. “In the south, you don't always find as much smoke. I really like how they balance the smoke with the turkey flavor.”

This comes as no surprise to me, as Monroe’s is right at the top of my personal list of favorite barbecue restaurants. I especially like the one on Highway Avenue.

“Turkey is fantastic,” Cole said. “Really flavorful. Really good.”

So what's your favorite place to get some barbecue? Did we hit one of your top spots? Let us know in the comments and take a vote in our poll!

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