When you step into the small dining room at El Balbiquiu and glance at the menu, you’ll see words like “brisket” and “ribs” and “pulled pork.” This might make you assume this is just another classic barbecue spot. But don’t do that. Because while the North Bay Village restaurant does cover the classics very well, they do it with a delicious Puerto Rican and Latin influence - and it makes this place one of the more interesting barbecue experiences in Miami.
Sometimes the influence is subtle, like in the chimichurri sprinkled atop the brisket or the adobo seasoning in the pulled pork. And other times it’s loud and obvious, like in the incredible tripleta sandwich, arroz con gandules, or the towering and delicious brisket mofongo, which looks a bit like a volcano with big pieces of meat spilling over the sides. And like any proper barbecue restaurant, the sides are outrageously good. The mac and cheese is an obvious winner, but the perfectly charred corn ribs, drizzled with garlic aioli, also need to be on the table.
They offer beer and a few bottles of wine, but this is definitely a place you come to eat rather than hang out and drink. Feel free to linger for an extra ten minutes after your last bite though, and watch the Soul Train reruns playing on the TV while you both digest and reflect on how good everything you just ate was.
This isn’t one of those briskets so tender that it completely falls apart when you try to lift it up. It has some bite to it, and will stand up to a fork and knife. But it’s still packed full of flavor and goes really well with the lines of chimichurri sprinkled on top.
All the sides here were good, but these caught us off guard with their deliciousness. The chunks of corn have been sliced off the cob (though the kernels remain stuck together) and charred to a smoky perfection. There’s also a few lines of garlic aioli smeared across the corn that really make this a must-order side.
Like the brisket, these ribs also have a bite to them, and won’t fall off the bone the second you look at them. But the meat is tender, with just enough sweetness from the sauce and a subtle smoke. There’s also some seasonings on here that give it a slight herbaceous flavor.
The mofongo has a great texture, consistency, and subtle garlic flavor. The best part, though, is that you can order it topped with chicken, pulled pork, or a big (very big) pile of brisket.
The tripleta has a protein mix of chicken, pork, and beef - and the ratios of each are perfect and balanced. Also involved in this incredibly good sandwich: papitas and iceberg lettuce for crunch, as well as a garlic-mayo-ketchup that binds everything together. Plus, they wrap it in foil, so the bread gets soft from the steam.