On the side of Hwy 231 in Alford, Florida sits Laropa’s BBQ. If you find yourself in this small North Florida town in the mood for BBQ, my advice to you is to keep on driving. Rarely does a restaurant so thoroughly disappoint that I leave wondering how on earth it can still be in business. This was one of those occasions.
Laropa’s is housed in what appears to be a re-purposed storage shed. A simple plastic banner with red letters marks the restaurants spot. Pulling into the crushed rock driveway I was unsure if it was open for lunch as the open sign was unlit and there were no other cars in the parking lot. Tugging on the large metal door revealed it was open and serving lunch. I walked through a sparsely furnished front area towards the rear of the shack. The owners of Laropa’s are huge Gator fans and orange and blue memorabilia dotted the walls. I took a seat at the counter and peered over my right shoulder at a make shift shrine to Tim Tebow. A Soap opera played on a small television.
I was greeted by a smiling older woman who handed me a simple plastic covered menu. Laropa’s serves up BBQ chicken, pork, beef, and pork ribs. For non-BBQ fans steaks and shrimp are also available. The waitress said their ribs and pork were the best meats they fixed. I ordered a two meat BBQ plate with pulled pork, pork ribs, baked beans, slaw and Texas toast. A tall glass of sweet tea completed the meal.
Moments after placing my order a woman appeared from a side door carrying a white foam plate. She indicated she was one of the owners and slide my lunch towards the edge of the counter. I eagerly picked up a rib. The outside was charred and a thick layer of fat covered the length of the rib. I took a bite. The mixture of burned meat and fat served cold was too much, and I delicately spit the piece into a paper towel. I picked up the second rib which was cooked with even less skill than the first. The ribs were easily some of the worst I have ever eaten.
Discouraged I moved onto the pulled pork. It was dry, cold and utterly flavorless. My stomach gnawed on itself and I doused the unfortunate looking pork with a hearty helping of BBQ sauce. The sauce made the pork moderately tolerable and I finished about half of the serving.
As for the sides, the baked beans were straight out of a can and dotted with pieced of the flavorless pork. The slaw was a sea of mayonnaise and bagged shredded cabbage. The sweet tea was watery. Sadly, the star of the meal was the Texas toast which was at least nicely toasted.
My meal was utterly unsatisfying and I had to stop at a minute market before merging onto I-10 for the long hungry drive back to Tallahassee. If for some reason you want to pay Laropa’s a visit the BBQ joint is open Thursday – Saturday from 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., and on Sunday from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
Sweet Tea & Bourbon’s Rating:
Funny how some places that look like total dives are the perfect hole-in-the-wall gems with amazing food and lots of character. And then there’s Laropa’s…
Exactly. I love dives, and will visit them without hesitation. Unfortunately sometimes you find a dud.
Ugh. The worst restaurants are those that don’t even bother to try. Like Renee said above…You expect to find a gem in a hole- in- the- wall dive, and then there is Laropa’s.
That the was the worst part, they’re were not even trying! Depressing.
Perhaps the Gator memorabilia… and especially the shrine to Tebow… was an omen you missed due to hunger.
Ha! I try not to let a restaurant owner’s football affiliation impact my judgment.