The first thing we noticed while waiting in line, besides the great smells coming out of the kitchen, was that people were being friendly to each other. One guy turned around to the lady in front of us and said this was "the best bbq he's ever had." She agreed. Maybe great food puts everyone in a good mood. Whatever the reason, it was nice to see strangers getting along.
Listening to the chopping of the meat and the buzz of the kitchen just made me hungrier as we waited in line. The line moved quickly and after getting to the counter I ordered a pork and beef combo plate with sides of spicy macaroni salad and cole slaw. Traci ordered smoked turkey with fries and macaroni. Service is fast and next thing we knew we were paying for our orders and grabbing an open table. From our table we watched as the line built even further out the door.
The pork and the beef were both excellent (juicy and moist) and I loved the spicy macaroni, which was indeed spicy, but not too much bite to ruin things. I was tempted to order some macaroni to go. The smoked turkey was some of the best I've ever had. The coleslaw was good- not too sweet, but not bitter either.
We left First Choice stuffed and only a little lighter in the wallet. While I haven't tried Big John's yet, I'm willing to go out on a limb and say First Choice is the best barbecue in Tampa Bay. This comes after trying Jimbo's (still good in a pinch and I like the inside dining room), Hickory Hollow (good food overshadowed by poor service), Kojak's (food was disappointing, but cool atmosphere), Fred Fleming's, and yes even Sonny's a few years ago.
I know I've reviewed a lot of barbecue places lately and that barbecue isn't for everyone. So drop me a line and let me know what restaurants around the area you'd like me to check out.
Bottom-line: When I first heard about First Choice, I thought the place was over-hyped. After eating there, I actually think this place isn't talked about enough. Simply great barbecue!
Inspection Scorecard: Last Inspection - August 2006 violations - Critical (0), Non-Critical (1).