Ultimate Barbecue Joint

By LAURA REILEY, Times Food Critic
Published June 28, 2007

Kojak's House of Ribs, Tampa

"Please don't feed the squirrels, " says the sign. Rookie Kojak's-goers might ask: "Will a squirrel eat barbecued ribs?" And then they'll decide: "Well, I'm not sharing these ribs with any dang squirrels." Since 1978, Kojak's - a white house with barbecue sauce-colored trim, its wide front porch and knotty pine-paneled dining room as comfy as a '70s rec room - has built a market share with its all-natural pork spareribs, which are dry-rubbed overnight, smoked for 2-3 hours and then served in the buff. They don't need any embellishment, but there's a hot 'cue sauce (red bottle) and a mild sauce (clear bottle) on the table. Chicken gets the same treatment; results are moist and flavorful, with thin burnished skin you'll have a hard time passing up. While the rib recipe hails from Midwest City, Okla., the links are straight out of South Georgia - smoky, flecked with crushed red pepper and bouncy as a SuperBall. Kojak's House of Ribs: 2808 Gandy Blvd, Tampa, (813) 837-3774.

How you voted

Kojak's House of Ribs, Tampa: 51%

Jimbo's Pit Bar-B-Q, Tampa: 17%

Big John's Alabama BBQ, Tampa: 11%

Big Tim's Uptown Bar B Q, St. Petersburg: 11%

Other: 9%

Eli's Bar-B-Que, Dunedin: 0%