It's pretty amazing what's happening on the west side of Winter Park. Avoiding for the moment the social and economic implications of the area's growth, I'll just say that on the dining front, we're getting a lot more choices.
Some choices didn't work. The East India Market, an upscale and rather tony shop, has given way to the latest location for O'Boys Real Smoked Bar-B-Q, and for the most part it's a change for the better. (Although as far as I'm concerned, you just can't have too many places that sell walnut vinegar.)
O'Boys -- which sort of sounds like another teen band -- has been a longtime fave at its West Colonial location near the O-rena. I mean the TD Waterhouse Centre. It's a step or two up from the level of roadhouse-shack smoker joint (which we all love) and many steps below the themed, expensive, "barbecue is an art form" establishment that dots the tourist landscape. You know the ones: all smoke, no flavor. O'Boys, on the other hand, definitely has flavor. It's a nice, comfortable place, nothing fancy about it, with booths around a small bar and a pleasant outdoor eating area. And it sure smells good.
The menu offers enough variations to satisfy most folk, including Caesar, chef's and green salads liberally topped with chicken or turkey, and a wide range of sandwiches and burgers. But we came here for barbecue, and by gum, we got it.
Specials after 3 p.m. are "all-you-can-eat," and if you're lucky enough to come on a Saturday, you can chose beef, pork, chicken or ribs. Otherwise, I'd suggest the "sampler platter," which includes a huge amount of everything for $10.95. The short ribs are moist, and the sliced beef and pork are quite wonderful, slightly pink on the edges with just the right smoked flavor. I have to say I wasn't all that happy with the chicken. It's not as smothered in sauce as some places insist on doing, but the white meat was rather dry. I don't like to have to work quite that hard to chew. I did like the thin-sliced smoked turkey -- tender, with a nice hickory flavor.
Dinners come with salad or a finely chopped slaw, baked beans and garlic bread, which is nice as long as you eat it when it's hot. Avoid the uninspired french fries; wait until after 5 p.m. and have a baked sweet potato instead. Yum.
The boys of O'Boys pride themselves on their secret-recipe sauces, and three are offered at the table: a vinegar base, a lovely sweet-and-warm mustard and the Red Bottle. Red means "warning" -- this stuff is hot!
O'Boys is a local favorite, and rightfully so. Grab a rack and dig in.