Discover Mouthwatering Munchies at Mouthole Smashburgers and BBQ

Good Bite

Pictured: Often available as a dinner special on Saturdays at 5pm, the Meat Locker platter is packed with ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and sausage. Sides include slaw, smoked beans, mac and cheese and skull cornbread. Courtesy photo.

In another lifetime, Ray Mabalot was a tradesman and his wife Nikki Mabalot was a clothing designer with a storefront in the Gulf Gate neighborhood of Sarasota.

“It was never really on our radar that the food service industry would be one of our things,” says Ray.

Three or four times a year, Ray and Nikki hosted huge cookouts where they served up homemade barbecue to their friends. Their gatherings grew until they were feeding fifty or sixty people.

“A lot of our friends were like, ‘Man, you could really charge for this,’” Ray remembers. The couple took a chance on themselves and started the Mouthole BBQ food truck. Over the next ten years it would become a local favorite, receiving several honors including multiple Best of SRQ Local awards for Best Food Truck and Best BBQ. They also began doing pop-ups at local restaurants where they developed new menu items like their signature smashburger.

Through happenstance, Ray and Nikki got the chance to transition Mouthole into a brick and mortar setting. While the initial location didn’t suit their needs, some food truck acquaintances were looking to get out of a lease in Gulf Gate and this spot was a perfect fit. The Mouthole Smashburgers and BBQ storefront opened on April 20th and already business has been booming.

The restaurant is open for lunch from 12pm-3pm and for dinner from 5pm-8pm Tuesday through Saturday. It is closed Sunday and Monday. Smashburgers are a must-try menu item. One of their most popular burgers is The B.B.C., which features a certified Angus beef patty topped with bacon and boursin cheese and served on a toasted brioche with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and mayo. It’s so locally-famous, you may have seen it on the Suncoast View. Throughout the week you can also find inventive specials like smoked meatloaf topped with pickled red onion and candied jalapeno and drizzled with housemade chipotle BBQ sauce.

While the Mouthole food truck was all about the barbecue, in the restaurant it’s only on the menu on Fridays and Saturdays.

“The biggest reason for that is because we smoke the meat Thursday night for Fridays, and before we leave Friday night I put the meat on to smoke for Saturday,” Ray explains. “That way it ensures that all the meat from that service is gone. I don’t want to smoke meat on Tuesday and still be serving it on Friday, which is accepted in the industry. A lot of people smoke meat in batches and they just reheat it during the week, but we’re small enough to where we can still do it fresh. I would just rather sell out than hold onto it and try to serve it again.”

If you visit on a Friday or Saturday, check to see if the Meat Locker is available. This sampler features smoked sausage, brisket, pulled pork, a half rack of St. Louis ribs, plus all the sides, and can comfortably feed all three or four people. One special touch is the homemade cornbread Nikki bakes in the shape of little skulls.

To keep up with the latest menu items, be sure to visit the Mouthole Facebook page. There you can also find out how to pre-order barbecue items to make sure you don’t miss out.

Mouthole Smashburgers and BBQ, 2637 Mall Drive, Sarasota, (727) 746-4653, facebook.com/inyourmouthole.

Pictured: Often available as a dinner special on Saturdays at 5pm, the Meat Locker platter is packed with ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and sausage. Sides include slaw, smoked beans, mac and cheese and skull cornbread. Courtesy photo.

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