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Barbecue food trucks in Sarasota thrive on roads less traveled

A short drive from the bustling streets of downtown, you can find the smoky flavors of fresh barbecue.

Meat sits ready to be served at Alday's BBQ.
Meat sits ready to be served at Alday's BBQ.
Photo by Ian Swaby
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Away from the bustling streets of downtown, you can still find the smoky scent of fresh barbecue.

In fact, some of Sarasota’s most popular barbecue locations include those without complex recipes or even walls of their own. But they still have classic offerings prepared with care.

Here are some food trucks and spots serving the classics. 

D&R BBQ & Catering

2813 17th St.; 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays; catering services available

Dale Hill has spent 30 years serving barbecue from the corner of the Jesus Prayerband Church.

“I never wanted a place. I never did want a business anywhere but right here,” he said.

Hill's cousin Mildred Snipes, the founder of the church, came to him one day and told him she had had a vision of him selling barbecue from the church lot. Ever since then, it has been the location of D&R BBQ & Catering.

Meat cooks on the grill at D&R BBQ & Catering.
Photo by Ian Swaby 

But Hill had been in the business before. 

He had become interested in barbecue because his father-in-law Jerome Stevens, who would often cook for friends and other guests, showed him the technique and the work involved.

At the time, Hill worked as a salesperson for Flowers Baking Co., and after working for Coca-Cola in the same capacity, he decided to finally buy a barbecue truck. 

Beginning at a BP station off State Road 64, and later moving to The Landings, he gradually established a following through word of mouth.

Dale Hill
Photo by Ian Swaby

What led to his success, he said, is the quality of the meat, including the chicken and the pulled pork, which he finds from various sources based on price and availability.

“If I wouldn’t eat it, Dale Hill wouldn’t eat it, you wouldn’t be able to taste it,” he said. “That's what it's all about — giving your customer something that you would eat. If you would eat it, then you would give it to your customer.”


Perry's Roadside BBQ

The New Catering Kitchen, 936 42nd St.;11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays; hours subject to change based on catering events

At the farm where he grew up in Georgia, Washington Perry would cook barbecue on the weekends with his uncle. 

When he came to Florida in 1964, he brought his childhood with him. Since 2005, he has been in the barbecue business, but it was something he had thought about even before then. 

While working in food service roles for establishments like Denny’s and Morrison’s, he would take his trailer to the street corner on the weekends to make barbecue.

When he decided to enter the business full time, he knew he would have to give it all his effort.

His work appears to have paid off. 

Washington Perry
Photo by Ian Swaby

A major moment of his career was gaining the notice of Todd Morton, owner of Morton's Gourmet Market, who invited him to cook in front of the store, for its deli. 

Perry has received recognition, including the 2018 Readers Choice Award from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and an appearance in the book “America's Best BBQ: 100 Recipes from America's Best Smokehouses, Pits, Shacks, Rib Joints, Roadhouses, and Restaurants” by Ardie Davis.

One of his items which has received particular attention has been his exclusive sauce brand, Perry’s Sauce, a mildly spicy, tomato-based sauce. 

He notes that while everyone uses the same meat, not everyone gets the same results.

“The key to success is love. If you love it, it's not a job. It's a hobby. And I took my hobby and made a job out of it.” 


A & G Caribbean Ribs

3250 Desoto Road; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays; catering services available

When Coco De Los Santos came to Sarasota in 1989 from the Dominican Republic, he did not speak English. 

When he visited a restaurant, he would stand behind a friend in line. When they ordered their food, he would state, “same thing.”

A former baseball player in the Dominican Republic whose uncle was Tony Fernández, a five-time All-Star in Major League Baseball, De Los Santos was left unable to play the sport after breaking his ankle. 

Then, after he lost his job with a commercial refrigerator company in Sarasota, a friend suggested he start a cooking business, he found a place for his native barbecue cuisine and its distinct seasonings and flavors. 

His mother had always liked to cook, and he had also liked to host parties and barbecues with his friends. 

Although he didn’t have the money to buy an enclosed trailer, he built one himself.

Coco De Los Santos
Photo by Ian Swaby

“I just bought me a weld machine and started,” he said. “When you don’t got the money, you got to be creative.”

He built a grill and found a space on Tallevast Road, then moved to University Parkway and eventually to his current space on DeSoto Road. 

“I do this because I love it, because I like to do it, not to have a big franchise,” he said. “I love to be on the street and see the people’s faces when they eat the food, and try to improve every day and get better and better and better. That’s the best reward.”


Alday’s BBQ

3877 Clark Road; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays to Sundays; catering services available

When he worked in the rodeo for about 10 years, Jeff Alday was on the road constantly, but after changing careers, he had to come up with a new plan. 

He asked his father not to sell the cookers he had been using to make barbecue for parties and friends, and he and his wife Lisa Alday started a business. 

They built additional cookers and went on to establish a catering business, as well as the restaurant Alday's BBQ in a building on Clark Road, which eventually switched to a different building along the road after outgrowing its first location. 

However, a project on Clark Road eventually put the restaurant out of business.

Alday worked in construction for a year, but the efforts did not pan out, so 12 years ago he decided to return to the restaurant business, this time with just a tent and a cooker.

Meats are ready to be served at Alday's BBQ.
Photo by Ian Swaby 

The success of his two barbecue stands grew quickly — one is in Sarasota and the other is in Bradenton.

“A lot of people don't think much of a roadside stand sometimes, but come take a look at my place," he said. "My trailers are clean over here and we’ve got good, clean working people in there.”

The key to their success, he said, is fresh barbecue every day, as the recipes are simple, requiring only salt and pepper.

“My saying is over here you'll never make a living selling yesterday's barbecue today," he said. 

In fact, he takes the leftover meat to Harvest Tabernacle of Sarasota, as well as to the Salvation Army. 

That isn't to say that there isn't plenty of work involved, however; work begins in the early morning, with about seven hours in the barbecue stand before a piece of meat can be served. 

"A lot of people, they ask me all the time, 'I wish I had your job. I say, 'Well, you know what? Why don't you come follow me sometimes if you think it's easy?"



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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