After a day of exploring Florida’s Folk History we pointed the Bonfantimobile in the direction of the panhandle and sped down I-10. As we approached the Live Oak area the tiny backseat drivers began to complain of hunger. Their request to stop was boosted by a sideways glance from the wife. We pulled off at Exit 283 and began to search for a non-fast food option. We eventually stumbled onto Ken’s Bar-B-Que located in the South Oaks Square that is also home to a Publix and a pizzeria. Ken’s is a small North Florida chain with five locations in Lake City, Live Oak, and Madison.
We unbuckled the kids and walked towards the restaurant with its named spelled out in large red letters above its brick exterior. The entrance is on the left hand side of the building and opening the door we were cheerfully greeted by a smiling waitress. She appeared to have been serving up BBQ for years, and told us to sit wherever we liked. We selected a booth near the window covered with a simple red and white checkerboard tablecloth. The restaurant was decorated in a country theme with old tools and metal signs lining the walls. Ceiling fans and plants hung from the ceiling while a the latest non-event droned from a cable news presenter from a television in the corner.
Despite it being the middle of suppertime on a Saturday there were no other customers in the restaurant. Our waitress came over, greeted us, dropped off several menus and took our drink order. She returned quickly with four plastic tumblers. My sweet tea was good and I sipped on it while looking over the menu. Ken’s offers standard BBQ fare with all of the expected fixings. I settled on the pork and rib combo with beans and slaw. Becky opted for the chicken while we ordered the kids a side of mac n’ cheese. We also ordered a basket of onion rings as an appetizer.
Without any other orders to clog up the kitchen our food arrived within minutes. The onion rings were served in a paper lined green plastic tray and had arrived on our table via the frozen food aisle. The eight store bought onion rings and accompanying dipping sauce were underwhelming, but at least they were served hot.
My meal was served on a an oblong beige plastic plate. Four thick ribs and several slices of pork occupied one side of the plate while baked beans and a slab of Texas toast anchored the other. Sauce, as it should be was served on the side and Ken’s offered up three flavors all of the thick tomato based variety. My favorite was the spicy with provided a kick without too much heat. The ribs were well cooked, had a slightly smokey flavor, and pulled away from the bone with a slight tug. The pork was for lack of a better word, odd. I was expecting chopped or pulled rather than sliced. The waitress said they smoke pork loins rather than pork butts. The pork loin had a pink smoke ring but was dry. As for the sides, they were decent supporting cast offering up no major surprises. The kids and Becky both enjoyed their meals.
Overall Ken’s was okay. The taste of the ‘que, decor, and the way the food was served reminded me of Sonny’s BBQ. In the future I would probably skip it, but if you’re in the mood for something safe while travelling between Tallahassee and Jacksonville it is an acceptable option. The Ken’s we visited is located at 1542 Ohio Ave S., Live Oak, Florida. They have no online presence, but can be contacted by telephone at (386) 362-4054 for additional information including their hours of operation.
Sweet Tea & Bourbon’s Rating: