Sound of the smoker 

Thursday through Saturday night you can expect to hear the growing conversational roar of a building crowd when you step into the courtyard at New World Brewery, as folks stream in to claim a space before the bands arrive. But on Wednesday nights New World has a different vibe: calm, convivial, like a neighborhood bar or biergarten. Draughts of Lagunitas IPA or Cigar City Jai Alai stud the bar and every scarred wooden table throughout the place. Hell, for one of Ybor's premier music venues, the jukebox isn't even very loud.

One thing you don't see very often, however, is food. Drinking, sure, but it's rare to find a plate alongside those bottles and pint glasses. That's a shame, because on Wednesday nights New World Brewery is easily the best place in the neighborhood to grab dinner.

New World serves food all week, actually, and most regulars know all about the stellar pizzas that come from the bar kitchen, pizzas that inevitably surprise first-timers who underestimate the beer bar's culinary chops.

The crust is thin, combining an almost ideal blend of crackle and chew, with enough flavor that you'll likely gnaw slices all the way to your fingers. Toppings are prevalent but never overwhelming, a scattering of sweet chopped tomatoes, gooey feta and shredded basil on one, a colorful sweep of fresh spinach and banana peppers across another.

New World's white pizzas are the best of the bunch, scented with nutty garlic and rich olive oil that work perfectly with the crust, and never too much cheese to weigh down the pie. They also have the usual tomato sauce pizzas, as well as tasty signature creations based on black beans instead on sauce or oil. There are the typical toppings, but one of the best is the bar's homemade smoked chicken.

Which brings us back to Wednesday nights. If you live or work near the west end of Ybor, you'll know it's a Wednesday by the aroma of smoke that wafts from New World's courtyard throughout the day. It smells more like a backyard barbecue than a bar, or even a barbecue joint.

Barbecue night at New World Brewery is a simple affair, just chicken legs and thighs — and the occasional surprise of ribs — paired with baked beans and garlic bread for $5. Simple, but just about perfect.

The weekly chicken is stained a deep mahogany by hardwood smoke and a subtle and salty spice rub that's been carried by smoke and fat deep into the meat. That dark meat fat is almost entirely rendered out by the long, slow smoke, doing its job to keep the meat moist and tender. It's incredible, the kind of find that you normally expect from one out of 10 roadside barbecue stands. Except here, they have two dozen draught beers that change regularly.

New World's ribs, when they have them, are almost as good as the chicken, but not quite. No worries, you can only get the meaty bones on a combo plate that includes the chicken, all for the whopping price of $8 — think of it like adding a lobster tail to your ribeye at a ritzy steakhouse.

And don't let the lack of side selections get you down, because you will want the baked beans. Bright with tomato and sweet with brown sugar, there's also a noticeable tang from fresh chiles, along with a warming wave of heat.

New World also serves a reasonable salad, decent hummus and a gooey baked goat cheese paired with spiced flatbread based on the pizza dough, all worthy enough to fortify anyone who needs a nosh at the bar before a show, but all mere setup for the pizzas and once-a-week barbecue.

And, as much as you might wish New World would break out the smoker every day, instead of just reserving it for the mid-week hump, I get why they don't do it. Music venue, beer bar, neighborhood watering hole — that's what New World is all about.

Start serving that wonderful chicken every night and people might start thinking of New World as Ybor's best barbecue joint instead. And you can always order the pizza with smoked chicken, even if it's not a Wednesday.

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