Carnivores' Conclave

Westside barbecue Gators BBQ joint touts eight meat offerings

The chopped pork plate (with two side items) is a hearty lunch for less than $8.  
Caron Streibich
Perfectly golden on the outside, the creamy corn nuggets pair nicely with ranch dressing. 
Caron Streibich
Sample cups of banana pudding studded with crisp Nilla Wafers and banana pieces were a sweet way to end 
the meal.
Caron Streibich
The chopped brisket was tender and moist, and ordering it as a plate earns you two side items – like slaw and crinkle-cut fries.  
Caron Streibich
The special slow-smoked beef brisket sandwich comes with pickles and white onions.  
Caron Streibich
Several cake (think chocolate and carrot) and cookie options line the counter.  
Caron Streibich
The collard greens were flavorful and generously portioned.  
Caron Streibich
With both mustard-based and tomato-based sauces, there's something for all palates.  
Caron Streibich
Owners John and Sandy Shepherd smoke all of Gators' meat low and slow.  
Caron Streibich
Located off Interstate 10, Gators BBQ is a fantastic find for lunch or dinner.  
Caron Streibich

8083 Baymar St., Westside


Caron Streibich covers dining out throughout Northeast Florida. If you have information about new restaurant openings, menu changes or other food-related news, contact her here. Streibich is also the host of our regular Folio Weekly Bite Club gatherings. Follow the Bite Club on Facebook or Twitter to learn more about it.

For a finger-lickin' good barbecue experience that's off the beaten track, drive west on Interstate 10 and take the exit for Marietta — then follow your nose.

Gators BBQ owners John and Sandy Shepherd's smoker cooks the signature meats low and slow.

Located in an old house converted into a restaurant, Gators may be small and no-frills, but portions are generous, and the prices are right. Start by ordering at the counter then take a seat. With fewer than 10 tables inside and on the small front porch area, you may find yourself sharing a table with strangers — but it's worth it.

There are the requisite starters — corn nuggets, fried okra, onion rings and Brunswick stew. The menu's broken into plates (your choice of meat plus two sides and garlic bread), sandwiches (served with one side), fresh seafood (with two sides and hushpuppies), family meals, an Angus beef hamburger, a hot dog and BBQ salad. With more than eight varieties of meat, channel your inner carnivore.

The tender, moist brisket and chopped pork had a nice smoky flavor and hardly any fat, with pieces of flavorful bark mixed in. An assortment of sauces is available, but a special sweet thicker sauce is spot-on (request it from the counter). Our tablemates had the smoked pork ribs which looked — and smelled — amazing.

As for sides, I'd order the collard greens and baked beans again, but the mac 'n' cheese was nothing special. Other options include potato salad, cole slaw, macaroni salad, corn on the cob, green beans and crinkle-cut French fries. The bite-sized corn nuggets with ranch dressing were perfectly golden pockets of creamy sweet corn, and can be a side item for an upcharge.

An incredibly friendly and warm staff greeted us; one woman with a slight Southern drawl brought out complementary small cups of freshly made banana pudding for everyone. The creamy, sweet dessert was studded with chunks of banana and crisp Nilla Wafers.

Closed on Sundays, Gators is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. the rest of the week. Despite its tucked-away location, diners packed the house on my most recent visit at 11:45 a.m. on a Friday.

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