The sweet, smokey scent of barbecue hangs in the air at the corner of Livingston Avenue and Sunset Boulevard in Lutz. This is where you'll find Hot Rod's BBQ and Grill. It's a family owned restaurant, named after Rod, that opened in February of 1998. The restaurant includes a produce stand, country store, indoor and outdoor seating. Outside is referred to as "The Swamp". An array of nets, signs and old tools take their various places around a pond filled with crawfish, frogs and lily pads. There's even an old bathtub being used as a planter. Adjacent to the Swamp is the smoker where they smoke ribs, wings, steaks and mullet. Hot Rod's also features a unique culinary find inspired by Rod and his wife Helen's trip to Rio — barbecued "swamp bat".
Rod saw bat on a menu and thought, You know what? That is just a great idea. Upon their return to Lutz, he added his take on bat to the menu. I didn't really think we would sell any, says Rod. It turned out that the barbecued dish is quite popular. It's marinated in cherry and pineapple juice, grilled and seasoned with Rod's own Fo Play Rub. If you think the bat tastes a bit like chicken, it's because it's actually farm-raised quail. Still a bit unusual, but not the furry, flying mammal you thought you were eating. It's all part of the fun at Hot Rod's.