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People's Bar-B-Que and Soul Food



People's Bar-B-Que and Soul Food

The Overtown restaurant, a Miami institution, serves slow-grilled pork, chicken and beef, as well as fish, turkey, souse and all the requisite sides.


Published 3/1/04 in The Miami Herald

Most people, at least the ones I'd want to associate with on a regular basis, have a fondness for what's commonly known as barbecue (or barbeque, bar-b-q, bar-b-que). We'll define that as beef, pork or chicken, slow-grilled (preferably over hard wood or other aromatic kindling), though numerous variants, such as barbecued shrimp are allowed.

But what passes for barbecue locally is a mixed bag. Far too many joints in this town take a perfectly good slab of pork ribs, give 'em a quick dunk in some hot liquid, slather the parboiled pig parts in a sweet, bottled sauce, then bake or throw them on a hot grill. Some may even truly barbecue the meat with oak or hickory, which is a long, slow process, then heat it up when the server presents your order to the kitchen. It's easy to understand their compulsion toward precooking. But that doesn't make it right -- or actual barbecue.

Fortunately, there are a few places that keep the fires burning -- slowly -- and serve the genuine article on a regular basis.

People's Bar-B-Que and Soul Food is a Miami institution, a landmark. The barbecue is real: pork, chicken and beef, as well as well-prepared fish, turkey, souse and all the requisite sides.

Joined by Lee Zimmerman, WFOR-CBS 4 communications director, and Ed Bell, WLRN producer and host of South Florida Arts Beat, I recently feasted on a luncheon rib platter at People's.

In addition to the meaty ''short end ribs,'' which were cooked over hardwood (the air in and around People's is redolent with its smoky scent, which I swear I can smell as I drive along nearby I-95) and dappled with its signature mustard-based sauce, the platter included two side dishes. I chose collard greens and pigeon peas and rice. The authentically presweetened ice tea is a bit too intense for my refined taste, so I opted for a 7 Up.

My guests chose a beef platter with a side salad and French fries, and chicken with black-eyed peas and corn, respectively, and Pepsis (no Cokes served here).

Alas! Our friendly server told us that they were all out of beef, so Lee, eschewing ribs out of fear of a sauced white shirt, opted for a sliced pork platter instead.

As we sat at our table (with salt, pepper, hot sauce and pickled peppers in vinegar on hand), a steady procession of hungry folks queued by the counter to pick up their lunch orders and go back to work (or wherever). Clearly, the hearty food, fair portions and reasonable prices attract a dedicated clientele to People's, a place that lives up to its name without pretense.

The restaurant is clean, Spartan and welcoming. A television set mounted high in a corner offered Jerry Springer's daily fun fest, for those so inclined. The walls are plain, but signed photos of sports personages attesting to People's mastery of its chosen cuisine provide simple but effective decorative accents.

The staff is always friendly and efficient, but during the lunchtime rush, the multitasking sometimes gets the better of the service. Also, those favoring piping hot entrees may demur at the sometimes-tepid presentation of the dishes.

Though their ribs are my favorites, People's does a fine job with smothered pork chops, and also offers meatloaf, baked ham, T-bone steak and other delights depending on the day, date, time and availability. Nice conch salad, too, and a friend of mine swears by their macaroni and cheese. They also feature a variety of desserts, but I've always been too full to proceed!

People's Overtown location is close to downtown, Brickell, Bayside, AmericanAirlines Arena and the moribund Miami Arena, so it's an ultra-convenient location for lunch. But is barbecue an appropriate cuisine for a midday business meal?

Sure, but discretion is advised. If you're entertaining a stranger, a stuffy CEO or an uptight underling, maybe not. Seeking to score points with a slick, superficial, social climbing Gordon Gekko-type? Ditto. But if you're looking for genuine barbecue and soul food at a fair price, with friendly service, the power is People's!


• Rating: *** (The highest rating is four stars.)

• Details: Parking lot in rear of building. Near Miami Arena. Not the swankiest neighborhood, but no guts, no glory.


• Address: 360 NW Eighth St., Miami. 305-373-8080.

• Type of Food: Soul food (food for the soul).

• Average Prices: $10 per person for main course, two side dishes, soft drink and tip.

• Service: Friendly, though sometimes harried.

• Atmosphere: Functional, not fancy.

• Best for: Relaxing lunch with fellow barbecue devotees.

• Linger Factor: As needed.

• Hours: Tuesday - Saturday. Lunch: 11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. Dinner: 4:15 p.m.- midnight.
Sunday: 1 p.m. - 10 p.m.

• Credit cards: all major.

• Reservations: For large parties, not a bad idea.