The folks behind Snootie’s BBQ are living the dream. From a brief conversation with the man who served me a delicious pulled pork sandwich, I gathered the following about their annual calendar: Halloween is their food truck’s final day of business in Sandusky, Ohio. Following that, the crew pulls up stakes and heads south to Tampa, where they set up shop through April at Bearss Groves near Lake Magdalene. I’ve had made many fruit and vegetable purchases at the Groves, a fairly extensive covered farmer’s market. I’ve also eaten many barbecue sandwiches at Snootie’s, and I further knew that they were native Ohioans, like me, from the hip, industrialized, Lake Erie side of the state. But I’d never really heard their “story,” so to speak, preferring for the last few years to grumble to myself how much I’d like to be living in Ohio during those months when Florida becomes a tropical inferno where the air itself exudes sweat, and to be here in Tampa when Ohio enters its annual ice age.
The tale of the Snootie’s maiden pilgrimage to Bearss Groves and its discovering a winter home there, like so many other snowbirds, is on their website. But being from their neck of the woods, and on some level jealous of their seasonal arrangement, I thought I’d ask the staff directly about how they ended up where they did. Turns out, it’s a fairly run-of-the-mill arrival-in-Florida tale to the outsider (although obviously momentous and life-changing for the owners themselves), involving a trip to Daytona Bike Week, an acquaintance on the Gulf Coast, an available spot for a food truck at a farmer’s market in Tampa, a slab of ribs transported in a cooler, and a quickly settled-on residence.
And as for the barbecue itself, maybe I’m just not a connoisseur. I’m pretty easy to please. The pork is great, the sauce thick and a bit tart, and the assemble-it-yourself sandwich was gone in less than five minutes. The otherwise unremarkable bun, just a regular grocery-store white, is made noteworthy, softened and imbued with meaty flavor after being wrapped it in foil and placed atop a mound of pulled pork within the to-go container. The bun didn’t get in the way, as breads sometimes have a way of doing with sandwiches. I’m not sure why I found this so appealing and tasty, but there you go.
Snootie’s voyage here is a typical example of perhaps the oldest Florida immigration story ever. When the truck first arrived at Bearss Groves, the market was bounded by fields that were regularly plowed, tilled, planted, and harvested; a wide-open green space. Today, it’s enclosed within a cookie-cutter, developer-owned planned community. And although I can certainly understand why this fact might scare you off, I hope it won’t. Wait for the snowbird months, come for the barbeque, and stay for the vegetables and fruits. As Snootie’s bio states, “If you have a picky eater, they haven’t tried our pork yet.”
Christopher Nank, Ph.D., is adjunct instructor of literature at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. He resides in Tampa.