If I had to describe Thomas Geer, owner of Florida Man Smokehouse and Deli, in one word, it would be passionate. And not just because that’s what he told me to say.
“I love barbecue,” Thomas said as he welcomed me into his humble new Pinellas Park restaurant. “I love the product, I love the prepping—I absolutely love what I do.”
We sat down at a polished wooden table. He slid a condiment cup of slow-cooked meat towards me.
“Here,” he said. “Have a shot of brisket.”
Twenty years of barbecue passion
Thomas opened Florida Man Smokehouse a few months ago on July 4th, but his love of barbecue is nothing new.
“I got into cooking about 20 years ago,” he said. “My ex-wife, Lorrie—who’s now my kitchen manager—and I used to own a place out in Montana until we moved here ten years ago. I spent years making jerky and playing around with smokers, but I always knew I wanted my own restaurant in Florida. I love Florida.”
I took the shot. The brisket was tender and flavorful.
“I love this community,” he continued, his eyes brightening at the sight of two regulars approaching. “I love Pinellas Park. I love people.”
I held back a chuckle. “Is there anything you don’t like?” I asked.
His smile disappeared. “The dishes. I absolutely hate the dishes.”
High-quality food “cooked with love”
Now, there’s something to be said about talent, but food “cooked with love” always tastes better. So, after a few minutes of hearing about Tom’s undying passion for barbecue, I knew his food was going to be good—and it was.
Beyond just being tasty, however, the items on Thomas’ menu are innovative, creative and sourced with the highest quality ingredients. None of that comes as a surprise, though, given the amount of pride and time he dedicates to his work.
Curious what some of those unique, scratch-made offerings are? Don’t worry—I won’t leave you hanging.
It’s time to check out the highlights.
Smoked Brisket Philly
A clear example of Florida Man innovating barbecue is the restaurant’s play on the Philly Cheesesteak. Rather than serving his smoky brisket on a plate “with two sides,” Thomas piles his slow-cooked, hand-pulled meat on a roll (with house made cheese sauce) in an ode to a traditional northeast favorite.
The Brisket Reuben is not only the most popular item on Florida Man’s menu, it is also Thomas’ personal favorite.
With USDA prime meat, sauerkraut-from-scratch, and gooey pepper jack cheese, though, this doesn’t come as a surprise—especially since its served on hot, buttered marble rye.
Pulled Pork Sliders
A best-selling secret menu item, Florida Man’s pulled pork sliders are next level. The sweet rolls come grilled and buttered, the pork is smoked with hickory and cherry, and every mini sandwich features crunchy fried pickle chips.
To top that all off? Diners can choose to have their meat marinated in any of Thomas’ house-made BBQ sauces.
BBQ Smoked Chicken Wings and Ribs
Chicken wings and pork ribs are both barbecue classics. Juicy, tender and topped with a savory dry rub, however, you won’t find these bad boys at your backyard cookout.
Oh, and pro-tip? You can also order the ribs deep-fried in panko breadcrumbs and smothered in Asian BBQ sauce. Just ask Thomas for the “Fried Smoked Ribs.”
Pulled Pork Po’ Boy
Another innovative way to serve barbecue, this sandwich is absolutely stuffed to the brim with pulled pork, baked beans, and coleslaw. If you’ve got a big appetite, but a small budget (think $11), this sandwich was made for a “Po’ boy” like you.
A new style of ‘cue
As a food writer, I’m pretty familiar with the different regions of barbecue. Memphis has dry rub, the Carolinas love their vinegar, and Alabama is home to that delicious white sauce. My visit to Florida Man Smokehouse, however, was the first time I’ve ever heard of “Florida”-style ‘cue.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Thomas said of the genre. “It’s just Florida.”
He thought for a second, eventually giving up.
“Yup, it’s just Florida.”
So, if—one hundred years from now—“Florida” becomes the fifth official style of barbecue, we’ve got Pinellas Park, and Thomas’ creativity and passion, to thank for it.
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