Spending our youth in the South, I suppose we all fancy ourselves as experts on meat that comes off the grill and what it is coated with. I enjoyed Lamar’s remembrances and I hope I can be of some help in his quest for the “holy grail of mustard based BBQ sauces”.
Lamar mentioned an establishment “north of Roosevelt High”. I assume he is referring to a location on Tamarind Ave. and, as strange as it may seem to most of you, this was one of my old stomping grounds!
Beginning in grade school and continuing until I went off to college, I spent most of my summer Saturday and Sunday afternoons sitting on the back of an old stake-bodied truck in front of Stevens Brothers Funeral Home on the corner of 17th St. & Tamarind Ave. I was in business! There was no sign but none was needed. The old Diamond T would be loaded to the brim with “Congos” or “Cannon Balls” (watermelons) and a couple would be displayed cut in half and smiling in all their crimson glory. On one of these weekends something happened that members of my family are still laughing about.
Unbeknownst to my parents, a family friend from North Carolina and his wife were traveling through WPB and decided to pay a surprise visit. The couple did not know where we lived so they did what all of us did in the “50s”; they picked up a phone book. It was easier than they imagined – nestled between E. B. Powell (my father Eugene) and the E.W. Powell was Eugene Powell and the address was somewhere off Rosemary on 12th or 13th Street. When the folks drove by the house and saw the neighborhood they were convinced that they had better go back to the phone book for another try because “the Powells definitely did not live here”! Looking for a phone booth they made the turn onto Tamarind Ave. and there I was plugging a melon for one customer while another was “thumping” a likely candidate and reaching for his wallet. They recognized me immediately and drove on by without even slowing down. No one knows for sure what was said in the car but seeing me had assuredly removed all doubts about where we lived. Within a few days my father and mother were getting phone calls from friends and relatives in Hendersonville asking “if we can help out because we hear the produce business isn’t doing too well?”.
Having established my credentials let me dip my finger into the Tamarind Ave. Bar-B-Que joint world of mustard sauce expertise. First, I’m sure it was there but I don’t remember a restaurant north of where the Blue Front was located (before their move to PB Lakes Blvd.), just south of 15th where Roosevelt High was. My personal favorite was Harvey’s on the SW corner of 7th and Tamarind. Lamar, I suspect this is the restaurant you remember because both the meat and rib sandwiches came inside lightly toasted white bread dripping with yellow nectar! The old man behind the caged counter just inside the door to the right was Albert and he never had much to say. He had his back to the pits and smoker and spent most of the time hammering away on pork ribs and butts with a meat cleaver. Being Caucasian and observing protocol I, and all of my friends, realized that we were not allowed to actually enter the dining area so, when we were picking up our food, the counter was as far as we got.
As strange as it may seem, this segregated interaction extended even into my workday. As a boy I would ride on deliveries and help carry the produce in the back doors of the kitchens or storage areas. Deliveries to Harvey’s were always the same – 2 bushels of jumbo yams. This was the key ingredient in their famous sweet potato pies. When the driver I was with was black I would wait in the truck while he walked through the kitchen into the restaurant and collected the money from Albert. When the driver was a white man or in later years when I was driving the truck myself, we had to wait outside while one of the kitchen help took the invoice inside. We never gave it a thought, it was just the way it was.
Albert’s nephew opened McCray’s Bar-B-Que on Old Dixie in Riviera and, although the sandwiches were a little different, the sauce was virtually the same. Last I heard; McCray’s is still in business at different locations in Palm Beach County including a semi-mobile unit on 45th St. in WPB. I haven’t eaten at these new sites so I will let our classmate experts to the south fill you in.
A good start at finding what you’re looking for would be a stop off in Ft. Pierce on any of your trips this way. Dale’s Bar-B-Que has two locations there and Dee and I routinely travel over 40 miles, round trip, for a fix. As far as the sauce recipe is concerned, check with Avon Pinder. He did, and may still, work for Dale’s food purveyor: Cheney Bros. All of the main ingredients (dry and prepared mustard, cider vinegar, etc.) in the exact proportions (except tomato catsup) would be exposed by going over their invoices for a few weeks.
Keep up the good work Lamar and if your picking up the tab and need a second opinion on any of the best Bar-B-Que joints around – (772) 223-9482.