Well, the wait is over, and Fuel BBQ in Historic Downtown Sanford have finally opened....softly. First of all, my verdict...and that is....outstanding 'cue! Top notch. Best BBQ. But now that the excitement and anticipation of what I think is over, let me elaborate.
I saw on social media thatFuel had opened on Thursday, April 28th. Not wanting to rush things, Tommy and I headed over there for dinner early on the next afternoon, Friday the 29th. The wait was not bad at all, but the bad news was that the Beef Brisket that had Tommy excited was 86'd--they were out. No Brisket! So, Tommy ordered the BBQ chicken half and I had the ribs, a half rack, but a large half rack. The ribs? Fantastic! They were easy to pull off the bones, but still had a nice texture, full of flavor and moisture. The ribs were dry in that they had only a dry rub on them, but were still juicy and flavorful--I only aspire to make ribs this good. We both had BBQ beans for a side, he had the mac n cheese, i had coleslaw, and we also got cornbread. Read on for the details. My ribs are pictured to the left.
Then on Sunday May 1st, we headed over again for lunch with friends, during the St. John's River Festival of the Arts. We all ordered the Brisket. OMG. It was like butter. Let me be specific--best brisket I've ever eaten, no doubt. Top of the line. Out of the world. So fantastic. I also had the green beans, and Tommy again the Mac N Cheese.
So, now for the details. The picture at right is a poor representation of the brisket. It was like butter. But butter with a nice bite to it, with some pepper and other great flavors. The brisket was absolutely perfectly grilled/smoked....it needed no sauce at all and was tender and flavorful. I could eat this brisket all day. All four of us had the brisket sandwich, and we all loved it, no doubt about it. It's the stuff of dreams. We all agreed that it was superb, excellent, and whatever other flavorful superlative you want to choose.
So far, score for brisket, score for ribs.
Now on to the rest. The first night there, when they (on their soft opening) were out of Brisket, Tommy went for the half chicken. It was salty. Even when you pulled the skin off, and though it had a nice flavor, it was just too salty--over brined, I think. It has potential, but they have to work that out.
But there is good news in here. The cornbread was OK. The beans were OK for me--maybe a bit too much tomato, not enough smoky/BBQ flavor. I think they need some work, maybe some brisket or pork end pieces in them, just something to kick them up a notch. They weren't bad, just not "over the top. The Mac N Cheese was very good, no doubt. And my coleslaw---yes, very good, though just a tad dry.
And as for my green beans....well, as one who grows and cooks his own, I'd say these were very good "southern style" green beans--that is, they are cooked a lot and very soft, but also with a load of flavor.
So, as i mentioned we were there--two times--during their soft opening. I have no problem with slightly slow service (though they were working hard) and a few missteps during a soft opening--and they did very well. When we sat down, we were checked on a few times and if we asked for something or about something, the response was instantaneous. For me, I think the flow of operation will just take a bit of time to work itself out...they are working hard, trying hard, very busy, and have an excellent product to back themselves up with..top notch. Now, i have not yet tried the pulled pork, but i'll be back, and soon, to try that. I cannot wait for the pulled pork!
There was one mishap, and i witnessed it twice, though they quickly recovered from it. On my first visit, when trying to add or rearrange a hotel pan full of mac n cheese to the steam table, it fell into the water bath. Unfortunately, there was too much water in the steam table and it got a dose of water in it... so much for the mac n cheese. But on my second visit, i witnessed the same disaster with a hotel pan full of pulled pork. I felt very bad for them, but was impressed by the recovery--I heard someone in charge of the kitchen giving orders to all kitchen help to stop what they were doing and get some pulled pork out ASAP, and it appeared in minutes! My hat is off to people who know how to get results, and they did. But they need to learn to put less water into the steam table--these disasters could have been mitigated--less water, just check on it occasionally, the water is there for the steam, hence the name "steam table." They'll learn, it's a hard lesson.
Yes, this is a long post. But i am passionate about at least two things in life... good 'cue, and Sanford. Fuel is the marriage of both things, IMHO....it is great BBQ (from my ribs to my brisket) and a great addition to the dining scene in Sanford, which already boasts a lot of great restaurants and bars..
So, my advice to you is to run, don't walk, to Fuel in Historic Downtown Sanford. Give their homemade sauces a try (so far so good), but come for the brisket or the ribs, no doubt. You will not be disappointed and you will not leave hungry. Remember, they are still in their "soft opening." If it's this good for a soft opening, what will it be like when they have some time and experience under their belts? I am betting on superb food and experience. I am so expecting that is will be the best BBQ in all of central Florida--maybe even in the south!