Brothers Jimmie and Jeremy Smith keep their father’s legacy of barbecue alive and well in Winter Garden.
| 9:47 a.m. March 3, 2021
West Orange Times & Observer
Sitting on the tailgate of a pickup, Jeremy Smith reaches for an old cloth to wipe the sweat from his brow and the smoke out of his eyes.
It’s Saturday, Feb. 27, and with it being about 2 p.m., he’s on grill-watch mode for the rest of the evening, so now is just as good a time as any to rest his bones for a quick minute.
The tent above his head provides some shade, but it’s not nearly enough to cool off on a warm day — especially when that day includes keeping watch over a fiery, smoky grill.
“I’ll be honest with you, it’s some real hard work,” Jeremy Smith said. “Like now, particularly when you’re going into the summer? Brutal. Honestly, we’ll keep the truck running, so whenever I’m not on the grill, I’m in the truck. That’s how I have to stay cool — if I don’t do that, honestly, I’d pass out.
“And I learned that the hard way,” he said. “Before that, I was getting cups of water and pouring that on my head and all that kind of stuff — anything to keep cool.”
On the side of Avalon Road in Winter Garden, in an empty lot owned by brother Jimmie Smith Jr.’s father-in-law, sits the Bo’s Boys Barbecue pop-up, which consists of two large grills, a table for taking orders, and a white trailer used to house food and put together plates.
From the road, it doesn’t look like much, but for Jeremy and Jimmie Smith Jr., it’s a weekly makeshift family reunion that takes place every Saturday — the only day they open shop — and a continuation of their father’s legacy. In fact, you can’t shake a stick during a Saturday at Bo’s Boys without hitting a member of the family.
“The cashier is my brother’s daughter, that gentleman right there is our nephew, the other gentleman over there that is his brother — so, again, like our nephew — and inside, that’s our cousin, and the one next to him is a nephew, as well,” Jeremy Smith said. “So, it’s basically all family. That, again, is what we’re very proud of.”
If you ask the Smith brothers how their father got into barbecuing, they couldn’t tell you — they just know it’s always been a thing.
When they were children, the Smith brothers’ father — Jimmie Smith — always grilled around the house, but the two didn’t really get involved until they were both in high school at West Orange in the mid-90s.
“For me and my brother, I guess it was one of the ways that we got to bond with him,” Jimmie Smith Jr. said. “It was something he was doing that we did, so as we got older, it was something that — from time to time — we may go out there and help him out. And then as we got older, he started teaching us more of what to do and how to do it.”
The Smith brothers learned from their father how to tell when the coals were right and when the meat was perfect — a combination that consisted of getting the right color and watching the bones come off the meat. There was a definite learning curve, and plenty of trial and error, but the brothers got the hang of it as time progressed.
But then, in 2007, Jimmie Smith Sr. died. A close cousin — who had worked with their dad — took them under his wing and helped get them really started in the business.
“Unfortunately, (our father) didn’t quite see us in our glory,” Jimmie Smith Jr. said. “Our glory kind of came when a cousin of ours who had done barbecue with my dad, and when my dad passed … (my cousin) started looking at us and said, ‘Well, do y’all want to do it?’ And so he kind of took us and coached us along and kind of really watched us get on the grill.”
The years that followed saw them pop up at events around the area — including the Zora Neale Hurston Festival and when football games were played at Camping World Stadium.
A decade after their father’s death — in 2017 — the Smith brothers began cooking their own way, before a year later making things more official with the birth of Bo’s Boys BBQ.
It was an exciting time for the Smith brothers, but as Jimmie Smith Jr. recalled, it was also nerve-wracking. In the early days, Bo’s Boys consisted of a single blue tent, a couple of tables, a U-Haul pickup truck, and an old green grill.
And there was always a worry about how people would react to their food.
“The first day we went out there, we had two cases of ribs, maybe a case of chicken, one or two cases of pork and maybe one or two briskets,” Jimmie Smith Jr. said. “And you get started and the question is, ‘Is anybody going to come by?’ and, ‘Is anybody going to like this stuff?’ It’s been really fun and exciting to really see the growth to where we started to where we are today.”
All the hard work and effort put into their craft — which begins a few days ahead of time — has paid off. That old grill they started with is still in use, but the brothers bought an additional grill to help cook the 600 pounds of pork spare rib, chicken, brisket, pulled pork and sausage they now serve every Saturday.
The food the brothers serve there on the side of Avalon Road — which also will be served up in a ghost kitchen at 18 N. Dollins Ave. in Orlando beginning in April — is a celebration of both good food and of a father who first instilled into them a passion that has survived for all these years.
“It means a lot, especially when you’re continuing a legacy,” Jeremy Smith said. “It’s funny how 30 years ago, no one in our family was barbecuing, and now 30 years later, we’re known for it.”