In Miami, we are used to waiting. We are experts here at delayed gratification. We have to be.
We wait for traffic to clear on the Palmetto and I-95. We wait for slow bridges and fast trains. We wait in school pick-up lines and at the DMV, for home repairs to be finished and for highway construction to end.
And at the Killian Greens Golf Club in Kendall, we wait for some of the best barbecue in Miami.
At Apocalypse BBQ, the insanely popular spot at which you will always see a string of hungry customers lining up outside for ribs, brisket, pulled pork and cornbread made in a skull mold, the question of how long is too long is not theoretical. It’s reality. Despite the hard work of its staff, the wait at Apocalypse can stretch on for an hour, two hours. On the weekend, sometimes three.
And yet the crowds keep lining up, because the barbecue is transcendent.
Managing the popularity of the small, frantically busy restaurant has been a challenge, says owner Jeff Budnechky.
“It’s definitely been a wild ride,” he says. “Learning how to handle this workload has pushed us.”
Like so many other Miami entrepreneurs, Budnechky, who grew up in Coral Gables, created Apocalypse BBQ in 2020 at home. With help from his wife Laura, then his girlfriend, he started smoking meats in his Kendall backyard on a 22-inch Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker.
Eventually, they began to sell the smoked meats at a Coconut Grove farmers market, then gravitated to that one-time (and long gone) food incubator Boxelder Craft Beer Market in Wynwood. The beloved neighborhood spot, which closed in 2021, gave birth to many new concepts including the popular El Bagel, which later opened in Miami’s MiMo neighborhood and is opening a second location in Coconut Grove.
Apocalypse BBQ was a hit at Boxelder and went on set up shop at the golf course a year ago in December 2022. Two months later at the 2023 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Budnechky and Co. won the Swine & Wine competition for its delicious cafecito ribs, slow-smoked spare ribs seasoned with the most Miami of ingredients: a Cuban coffee-based rub and finished with Oro Negro, a colada-infused barbecue sauce.
“It was our way of giving Miami flair in our barbecue,” Budnechky explains. “It’s a nod to our city and what makes it special. When we started talking about the parallels between our city and our barbecue and culture, the first thing that stood out was that you eat barbecue with family and friends. It’s communal. You never have a colada by yourself. You share with your co-workers or your family. This was the foundation.”
Budnechky and his staff started putting coffee in the rub on the ribs, and the customers went wild. But Budnechky wanted to expand on the theme by incorporating the flavors of a colada. There was just one problem.
“I did not actually know how to make a colada,” he confesses.
Laura Budnechky, a nurse at Baptist Health who helps out at Apocalypse in her spare time, taught her husband how to make a colada, and after word of the Swine & Wine win got around, the crowds began to arrive, and a new struggle began. Even though Apocalypse was light years beyond its modest Weber beginnings, with two 2,000 gallon smokers and a couple of smaller smokers, keeping up with the huge number of customers became an issue.
The first course of action was making sure people kept coming. Budnechky knew the waits would be long, especially on weekends, and that the weather would be hot and sticky most days outside the small restaurant. How to make patrons more comfortable became a priority.
“I thought, ‘What would I do if these people were coming to my house?’ “ he says. “What I’d do is offer them a drink. Barbecue places in Texas do that all the time. If I were out there, I’d love a beer.”
Now, waiting guests are offered a cold beer or soda, and sometimes French fries when the lines get long. Most are good-natured about the wait, Budnechky says, sipping their drinks and chatting with others, making the experience something of a social occasion.
“For the most part people are very understanding,” Budnechky says. “There are always going to be unfortunate situations, but it’s about managing the conversation and expectations. We try to be communicative so they have the right expectations.”
The staff is making efforts to lessen the wait times, pushing to move tables more quickly, and Apocalypse is adding two more smokers to its four-smoker stable. Budnechky is considering his options in expanding the outdoor space, and the restaurant no longer accepts take-out orders, because take-out only made them run out of food faster, which felt unfair.
“When we were doing takeout, the people who were waiting two or three hours, who were looking forward to the experience, were getting the short end of the stick,” Budnechky says. “We weren’t getting a chance to take care of people. We made the really tough decision to prioritize the people waiting. Besides, the food is better when it’s hot and fresh.”
The best tips for getting a seat? Go during the week and avoid the weekend. Go early or try less popular hours, like 3 p.m. Don’t arrive with a large group; in fact, go by yourself, grab a seat at the bar and let your friends and family fend for themselves. But none of these methods are foolproof. Everybody is going to have to wait, so have a beer, and have patience.
Despite the limitations of the restaurant’s space, Budnechky says he’s committed to staying at Killian Greens for the foreseeable future. A Kendall resident, he feels that the loyal neighborhood deserves a place where everybody in Miami wants to go.
“I have bones to pick with the way we perceive Miami, how everybody thinks Miami happens east of 95,” he says. “We have amazing things here in Kendall. We have really cool places to eat. You don’t have to go to Wynwood or Miami Beach. This is my community, and I want to see my community have really great culture. I want to participate in that culture.”
Where: Killian Greens Golf Club, 9980 SW 104th St., Miami
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday-Tuesday