Absolutely incredible barbecue with just-as-incredible starters, sides and desserts. A hip beach-bar-restaurant that knows what they’re doing in the kitchen and in the smoker!
149 Avenida Messina, Sarasota, FL 34242
Cuisine: Barbecue, American, Burgers
Price Rating:Entrees $15 to $25
Review Date: August 16 and September 1, 2012
This review is part of a series of restaurant reviews that follows The Watering Mouth’s restaurant review guidelines.
Background Info on the Review
The Blu Que Island Grill is located just off the strip near the popular intersection of Avenida Messina and Ocean Blvd. It’s right across the street from the Broken Egg breakfast place. The unfortunate part about this place is that it’s not more visible, because they have some of the best barbecue in the whole wide world. Add that to the proximity from the beach, lots of great drinks and live music every day, and you’ve got a recipe for a great time at lunch or dinner.
My Dad and I went on this Tasting together and I’m really glad I took him because we had a really awesome time here and would go back in a heartbeat. In fact, I told the hubby about this place when he got back from the trip he was on – and he seemed really sad that he missed out! I would be if I were him!
When my reviewers visited, which was around noon on a Saturday, they felt that it was a really great atmosphere and not too loud. But weekend nights seem to be a different story: when Dad and I went on a Thursday night, it was very loud inside – more like a beach bar scene. Live music wafting in from outdoors, colorful people, alcohol-induced “outside voices”. There are two bars – one inside and one out so it feels very hip and happening. The bar area is very nice looking with a cool blue lighting scheme, but the furniture is a bit torn up and because it’s a beach place with open doors, you might catch the occasional ant visiting you. If you’re one who likes to hear the company you’re with, I’d suggest going on a weekday or for lunch because seriously, the food here is not to be missed – it’s most definitely NOT just your average bar fare. Incredible!! And if you sit outside, they have nice misters to help with the heat.
One cool thing I noticed when we were leaving was that my fingers smelled smokey for a while after – the tell of good barbecue! Or at least that we ate a lot of it!
Cheri’s Food Review
So, first of all we tried the Fried Calamari. I was told by Matt the owner that he thought Blu Que has the best calamari in the whole entire world. I thought this was a prettttty tall order, so I was excited to make this my first stop on the menu. They were lightly breaded and perfectly crispy, tossed with fresh tomato and red onion and a spicy sweet chili sauce. The breading on the outside was not too heavy. Personally, I thought they were a little bit too chewy for my tastes, but the flavor was incredible. They even had a little spicy kick.
**** Next up was the Chicken Wings a la Blu Que. I have to tell you – these were literally another Death Row Meal. You know, that thing I would order as my last meal if I were ever on death row. Seriously. Both Dad and I were really struggling with this because we knew this was one of our first eats and that there would be loads more, but pulling us away from them was like taking a pacifier away from a baby. They are smoked perfectly with tender, juicy chicken meat. There was a perfect little spicy kick and a slight sesame taste. Even though they were served with Bleu Cheese, we didn’t once dip them, they were that good. Not enough synonyms for “amazing” in the English language for these babies.
*** The Fish Tacos here are reallygood – I was under the impression that Mahi can be a bit more firm than other fish, but that was just because where I’ve had them before, didn’t prepare them like this! These. Were. Heaven. So completely tender and falling apart – light breading and light flavor. Moist and covered in a creamy avocado aioli. The pico de gallo gives a great spicy kick every once in a while and everything is piled on a soft, warm tortilla. What else could you ask for? Blue cheese coleslaw that comes along side if you order it is creamy and dreamy – just a kick of blue cheese flavor.At this point, Dad commented on how incredibly everything is cooked – it’s all done so right, and so great.
**** Now THESE RIBS. I mean, I sound like I’m just fawning over everything here, but that’s because man, it’s all good stuff here. We ordered Big Aaron’s Baby Back Ribs, dry, with the sauce on the side. The sauces really hit the spot – if you’re even going to use them! Ranging from spicy to honey mustard. The rib rub is heavenly and the meat literally just falls off the bone. This is the way I’m used to my ribs and these will please any barbecue lover! They’re amazing – so flavorful. We were even impressed with the sides of red cabbage – so sweet and soft and flavorful. A perfect complement to the ribs, and the waffle fries! Real potatoes, fresh, salted, cooked lightly and a great substantial side with the ribs (or any meal!). I literally had to warn Dad again to stop eating these, lest he be in major pain later.
I ordered a little bit of each of the other kinds of meat, so what you’re seeing in this picture isn’t a full meal, but there is some Pulled Pork on the lower left, Chicken on the right and the Brisket on the top. I thought that the Chicken was absolutely perfect. It was succulent, flavorful and had that nice “toothy” quality that I love – where you chew and you can feel the texture between your teeth. A great pairing with the honey mustard sauce. The same description goes for the Pulled Pork. Spot-on. Dad was a huge fan of the pulled pork and gave it more attention than anything else. I’ve got to be honest here and tell you that the first brisket slices we received were a bit tough and chewy, but when we said something, they brought out a different set of slices and these were just great – pull-apart tender and something you wanna eat with your fingers!
They’ve got some great cocktails here as well – this was the Cucumber Martini. I’ve always wanted to try one of those and I was glad I did. Light yet intoxicatingly good – get it?? Lolz. This was a winner in my book – I’d definitely order it again. And an interesting take on the traditional martini!
I ordered the Mango Martini at the last minute and was glad I did because it really did its job. It is pretty strong and goes straight to your head and legs, and has a really sweet mango-ey flavor that any chick would dig. And the drink just looks great, doesn’t it??
**** Now just look at that fanfare!! I love sparklers, it was so great. Only thing was, this Chocolate Molten Lava Cake was so molten-y on the inside, the sparkler had a hard time standing up! But I managed to get this great shot before it was too late. Dad said that as a connoisseur of chocolate cake he had one major complaint – the cake should have been bigger!! Ha! This is quite possibly my favorite dessert in the whole Sarasota area. I’m not exaggerating. The cake is perfectly tender and moist, just exactly how I like it, with some warm sweet chocolate inside. The ice cream is the perfect creamy consistency and the chocolate sauce on top is really exceptional. It’s this warm kind where when it gets on the ice cream, it turns a little more thick…and well, what else can I say? I loved the blueberry touch as well – but let’s face it, that was only a garnish to me. We really meant to only have a few bites because I was already getting to the painful stage of my meal, but we ended up eating every single last bite of this dessert. This cake is worth it’s own trip to this place.
The worst part of the dessert section was that we were so ridiculously spoiled with the Lava Cake that to move onto the Bourbon Bread Pudding afterwards was a sin. Waitress and Owner alike said that the bread pudding was the best ever, but try telling that to a couple of chocoholics! We did like this dessert and both agreed that the crust was hands-down the best part. The chocolate sauce over top is a melted German Chocolate and made a great combination with the fresh fruit. I couldn’t get enough of the chocolate in either of these desserts! And don’t get me started on how obsessed with Creme Anglaise I am…this was a hit. Even if it paled in comparison to the Lava Cake, in our humble opinions, this was good Bread Pudding!
Cloaked Restaurant Review
This is the part where I have an anonymous review done to critique the entire restaurant experience in a undercover way so that you can get a good idea of what it’s like for the typical restaurant-goer like yourself! It keeps us all honest!! Here’s what they said:
Sarasota seems to be making a concerted effort towards becoming known for its barbecue as much as its artistic culture and beaches, and the Blu Que Island Grill is definitely a restaurant that pushes that effort in a positive way. Nestled right in the middle of Siesta Village, Blu Que looks like it would fit right in as an upscale eatery in the Keys, and boasts both comfortable outdoor seating and a cool, shaded, stylish interior dining. While there are a few tv’s hanging around, it doesn’t come off as a sports bar, and the blue backlit bar and wine storage is a great touch that comes off as tasteful, not tacky. We ate indoors, and during our meal a singer/guitarist set up and began playing outside, but it was at a level comfortable enough to talk over, and if you were outside, not so loud that you couldn’t still enjoy yourself.
Right off the bat, we knew we had to try the Blu Cheese Chips ($8) and the Kobe Beef Sliders ($12), since the menu boasted ingredients that sound delicious and we had tried similar starters at other restaurants. We definitely were not disappointed. The chips were completely self-indulgent and decadent, and were able to stay crispy from not being drowned in too much bleu cheese and balsamic reduction. The Sliders were top-notch. We ordered them cooked medium, and not only were they perfectly prepared, the flavor of the beef completely blew us away. With only three on the plate, it was hard to not fight each other to devour the last one (we ended up splitting it like civilized people). My sidekick’s main course was the Fish Tacos ($13), which came out as a generous portion of battered fish in soft tortillas with lettuce, pico and an avocado aioli that was unexpectedly spicy in a good way. I opted for the K. R. D. St. Louis Ribs ($17 for a half-rack) to see what Blu Que’s smoker had going for it, and they were great. I ordered them dry so I could sample the regular, Gold and Kansas City sauces on the table, and they all were tangy, bold and went well with the pork. Personally, I enjoyed the Kansas City sauce the most, but I really would recommend any of them. The waffle fries we both ordered were perfectly done and outshined any popular drive-thru, and my seasoned veggies were surprisingly good. Most places just dish out seasoned veggies that maybe were cooked to order and maybe weren’t, and are almost always soft and soggy, but these were fresh and firm, and were a smart addition to my meal (although I was tempted to try the mac and cheese because, well… mac and cheese…). We were completely stuffed after all of it, so we had to decline the waitress’s offer for dessert, but we definitely plan on returning to try the Chocolate Molten Lava Cake, which looked fantastic when it was served to a nearby table.
Our visit to Blu Que was a completely positive experience. The staff was friendly but professional, and aside from a lone hiccup in waiting for drink refills, the service was great and the food was definitely something to write home about. The slightly higher prices keep it from being too casual of a stop, but if you get what you pay for, Blu Que delivers on all fronts. No one looking for tasty BBQ will be disappointed.
Cloaked Review Ratings
|Food Quality & Menu|
Go to my Flickr account to check out my Blu Que Island Grill, Siesta Key, Sarasota, FL, Restaurant Review images set to see the full set of pics.