Wolfing it Down: Casper's BBQ is a heavenly dive

Kenneth City's Casper's BBQ serves up a transcendent feast to the pack.

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click to enlarge Pulled pork, smoked salmon and mullet are among the fare at Casper’s. - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
Pulled pork, smoked salmon and mullet are among the fare at Casper’s.
Tucked away along 54th Avenue deep in the heart of Kenneth City, the town-between-towns in central Pinellas County, there's a delicious no-frills dive of meaty goodness called Casper’s BBQ.

The first thing we notice when we arrive at Casper’s is a garden collection of old puppets, mannequins and faux plants. It’s an odd, mulchy playground in the corner of the property where we take a breather to ride the pine and catch up with each other before lunch.

Inside a screen-covered garage behind one of the area’s oldest homes, we’re greeted by owner Dan “Casper” Cantara. An ironworker in his previous career, Cantara, who once lived at the house-turned-barbecuery with his grandmother, creates and serves the spot’s barbecued specialties.

click to enlarge Casper's owner Dan Cantara has been crafting his 'cue since 2010. - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
Casper's owner Dan Cantara has been crafting his 'cue since 2010.
Cantara got his start making ’cue at a former produce stand near his current location. When the stand closed unexpectedly, he was given two weeks to relocate, and luckily, his grandmother’s old digs were up for rent. He recalls all sorts of stories about his time growing up in the house, like how he’d drive his dad’s old stock car around in a big field behind the home as a kid.

Aside from the sunny garden area, Casper’s doesn’t offer much seating. Most of the customers, several of whom stop in for their carry-out orders while Cantara prepares ours, swing through for meals on their way elsewhere.

Slightly sweaty and stomachs howling, we find a seat out back on Cantara’s wood and dig right in. The portions here are hefty, and the prices won’t take a huge bite out of your wallet.

Pulled pork, as you know, is typically Michael J. Wolf’s favorite. And while the pig is superb in all respects, the real slam dunk is the dry-rub beef brisket, which becomes an historic alley-oop of tastiness when combined with the eatery’s sauce. This barbecue rivals the best of ’em.

It doesn’t take long for Good Wolf to attack a gorgeous piece of smoked mullet, wolfing it down before anyone else can get their paws on it.

click to enlarge The pack relaxes in the barbecuery's peculiar garden area. - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
The pack relaxes in the barbecuery's peculiar garden area.
Fortunately for the rest of us, the meal also features a delicious serving of smoked salmon. We quickly tear through the ribs, too.

The side dishes are all top-notch, including staples like baked beans and collard greens. Some unexpected accompaniments are delectable as well: brisket chili, spicy beer cheese and damn-good grilled cabbage.

Our feast at Casper’s shows us that heaven is real. It’s in an unexpected place; it’s a little weird, a little hot, and Dan Cantara is there to greet you at the gates.

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