Eli Crawford, 71, died on March 14. The Tampa Bay Times' Andrew Meacham reported Friday that Crawford passed away after a battle with leukemia.
It was late last year that our food critic Jon Palmer Claridge and I put together a compendium of local barbecue hot spots. At the top of the list was Eli's in Dunedin. Open only two days a week, the faithful made the pilgrimage in search of barbecue enlightenment since the joint opened in 2001.
"Perhaps because I’m a lapsed Catholic, Eli’s reminds me of waiting for confession," Claridge wrote last August. "Groups of disciples stand in line, silently waiting to approach the window, then speak one-on-one, and slowly retreat to await their heavenly reward."
Claridge fell hard for Eli's ribs.
"The ribs are so juicy and perfectly touched by wood that I taste the two tomatoey sauces just so I can report that even the mild one packs heat on the finish," Claridge wrote.
Friends and customers posted on Eli's Bar-B-Que Facebook page.
"We've lost a great cook, a great dancer and a great smiling wonderful man," wrote Dave Barmore. "There will be Bar B que tonight in heaven."
"He was a perfect match for his 67 Buick 225. Both the best in Town," wrote Todd Raymond.
"What a beautiful person, inside and out," wrote Stephanie Jones. "I'll miss his big beaming smile!"
A service for Eli Crawford is planned for 1 p.m. Saturday, March 23, Mount Olive M.B. Church, 1124 Harveys Lane, Clearwater.