Wolfing it Down: Carnal bliss at Mr. I Got 'Em

Good Wolf's go-to barbecue spot, St. Pete's Mr. I Got 'Em, gets a visit from the whole pack.

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Fang Ratings:
5 fangs: Howl at the Moon
4 fangs: Slam Dunk
3 fangs: Roof-Riding Good
2 fangs: Teen Wolf Too
1 fang: Worse than Tony’s Liquor

click to enlarge TWO BY TWO: Marketgoers line up for Mr. I Got 'Em's 'cued specialties. - Todd Bates
Todd Bates
TWO BY TWO: Marketgoers line up for Mr. I Got 'Em's 'cued specialties.
Some days are perfect, and some barbecue divine — the sort of stuff we dream about every night before crawling out of the wolves’ den. As we learn, Mr. I Got ’Em is the man of our dreams.

Good Wolf has been sneaking off between fat bass licks to maintain a long-running affair with the dapper gentleman who serves up ’cue behind a St. Pete Saturday Morning Market vendor booth. Now he's finally ready to share his juicy secret with the rest of the pack, as we join in on his carnal bliss.

Parking is scarce when we arrive late in the morning. Ahead of the upcoming Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the market relocated for the weekend. Vendors moved from their usual spots in the Al Lang Stadium parking lot to nearby Central Avenue, which is open only to pedestrian traffic.

click to enlarge Where the St. Pete barbecue booth's magic happens. - Todd Bates
Todd Bates
Where the St. Pete barbecue booth's magic happens.
We don’t search too long, or hard, for Mr. I Got ’Em’s booth. Our heightened canine senses quickly pick up the scent of smoked meat near the end of the block. After stopping for photos with star-struck babes and beaus, we find a place in the fast-moving line among hungry Homo sapiens.

Mr. I Got ’Em, whose real name is Brady Johnson, participated in the historic 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery marches, and recently returned to Alabama alongside President Barack Obama and others to commemorate the Voting Rights Movement’s 50th anniversary. Sporting a tuxedo, he greets customers with catchphrases like “You’ve tried the rest, now you gonna have the best!” and “It ain’t braggin’ if it’s the truth.”

The man doesn’t lie. He’s got the recipe for the best-ipee.

click to enlarge The afternoon's spread of mac, ribs, collard greens, pulled pork and more. - Todd Bates
Todd Bates
The afternoon's spread of mac, ribs, collard greens, pulled pork and more.
We order three lunch specials: pulled pork, smoked sausage and ribs. Each meal is accompanied by our choice of two sides. The sides include mac and cheese, coleslaw, potato salad, collard greens, corn on the cob and sweet potato. They say silence is golden, and that must be music to a chef’s ears. For a howling pack of wolves, we are remarkably silent during our feast, apart from a groaning orchestra of intense mouthy pleasure.

The pulled pork is smoky but not overpowering. According to Michael J. Wolf, it’s “orgasmic” when mixed with the deliciously gooey mac and cheese. Unsurprisingly, Wolf-Fart can’t keep his paws off the sausage, gurgling, “It slips right through my fur with a gentle ease.” Even Rain-Wolf was singing high praises. Not every side incorporates meat, which makes the booth a safe space for our vegetarian packmate.

Purveyors of Tampa Bay barbecue take note: Mr. I Got ‘Em sets the bar, and he sets it high. He’s also a remarkably tall fellow, so you may need a stepladder if you ever plan to reach it.

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