Fireman owned Station House BBQ is bringing the heat (and smoke) to Tampa’s food scene

Trays of bbq meats arranged on a plate. A rack of ribs, and a sandwich oozing with bbq sauce

I’ve always known that firefighters spend a lot of time in the heat. What I didn’t know, however, is how much of that heat comes from the kitchen. Allison Fonseca, co-owner of North Tampa’s Station House BBQ, filled me in on that.

“When a firefighter joins the squad as a rookie,” she said, “part of their responsibility is cooking food for everyone else. New recruits are always in the kitchen.”

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16 years ago, her husband Anthony joined the force under a captain fluent in the language of barbecue. His rookie duties, therefore, were often centered around a smoke pit and juicy meats. While many young firefighters cooked out of necessity, Anthony enthusiastically enjoyed his time in the kitchen.

Man holding a plate of brisket. He's wearing a black hat and a black apron.

“The other guys really started to like Anthony’s cooking,” Allison continued. “In 2016, one of them even asked him to cater his wedding. We had never made barbecue for an event before, but everyone loved it. That was kind of the launching point for Station House.”

After a few years as a catering and mobile food truck service, the Fonsecas shifted their attention to opening a brick and mortar storefront. In October 2020, Station House BBQ—the restaurant—officially opened in Tampa, thus making Anthony a full-time chef and Allison a full-time “dot connector.”

Spreading love through barbecue

There’s nothing the Fonsecas love more than serving others. When Anthony got his job as a chef, then, he didn’t see it as a replacement for his role as a firefighter. Instead, he viewed it as a second way to provide to the community. To this day, he continues to work both jobs.

“Our mission is to be God’s hands and feet here on earth and spread his love—via barbecue and firefighting—as far and wide as we can,” Allison said. “That’s the servants way.”

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And if that doesn’t tug at your heart strings? The couple also cooks for the homeless, churches and non-profit charities. Like, all the time.

A brisket sandwich and a plate of brisket with charred bark..

Detailed dishes with dynamic flavors

Despite his busy schedule, Anthony has managed to create a stellar menu for Station House. Though his heartwarming ethics are great, it is ultimately his creative cooking that has established his young barbecue restaurant as a new cult favorite.

Today, I stopped into the fire station-themed spot for a tasting. Expecting a no-nonsense, “bro” menu of smoked meats, I was incredibly surprised to find myself presented with course after course of detailed, dynamic plates.

If you’re into crispy sandwiches piled with slaw, smoky Gouda queso, or Thai-inspired barbecue sauce, stay tuned—it’s time to check out the highlights.

The food

A plate of ribs covered in bbq sauce.

Famous Ribs

Before I get into the crazy side of Station House’s menu, let’s cover a couple of their traditional BBQ meats. The best? Their pork ribs.

Sweet, smoky and with a hint of spice, these 1st place “Tampa Bay Throwdown” ribs have a refreshingly unique taste that’s definitely worth trying.

A plate of Texas toast with ribs arranged on a platter.

Five Alarm Sampler

Though Anthony and his team are known for their ribs, they also smoke brisket, chicken, sausage, pork and more. Loaded with all of those—plus creamy slaw and buttery Texas toast—the Five Alarm Sampler is a great way for meat-loving groups to get a taste of everything.

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The Station 40

Basics aside, it’s time to get into the real heroes of Station House’s menu: the sandwiches, tacos and more. The king of these offerings is the above “Station 40”—AKA the restaurant’s best-selling dish.

Featuring a mountain of brisket and pork under a hot stream of Gouda cheese, the “Station 40” is a masterclass of a sandwich. From the bottom layer of house-made slaw, to the finishing topping of rich bacon jam, every component on this soft potato bun is better than the last.

A pressed a Cuban sandwich on charred bread in a basket.

The Smokin’ Cuban

With a blend of smoky meats and cleverly crafted sauces from scratch, this is not your average Cuban. But don’t just take my word for it—ask the judges of Kissimmee’s Cuban Sandwich Festival.

I’m sure they’ll be happy to tell you about the barbecue sandwich that stole their top prize.

a small egg roll covered in a bbq sauce and mustard.

Brisket Mac and Cheese Egg Rolls

There’s no better way to start a Station House meal than with an order of these indulgent treats.

Filled with multi-cheese mac and slow-cooked brisket, Anthony and team’s egg rolls are fried to perfection, drizzled with chipotle aioli, and finished with guava barbecue sauce.

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If you weren’t salivating before, I’d bet you are now.

three pulled pork tacos covered in cheese and bbq sauce

Tacos

In flavors such as BBQ brisket or “Mexican Street Corn” with choice of meat, Station House’s tacos are another one of their most popular dishes. Loaded with house-made sauces, fresh veggies and—of course—Anthony’s tender meats, it’s not hard to see why.

a bbq sandwich covered in sauce, and cheese.

The Bama Belle

In 2022, “spicy chicken sandwich” is the name of the game. Station House’s version, The Bama Belle, however, takes that concept to new heights.

My personal favorite dish on the menu, the sandwich features an all-dark meat cutlet that shines under a spicy layer of homemade Alabama white sauce. And when I say “layer,” I don’t mean a simple glaze or swipe; I mean a thick, generous dousing of sauce that sinks into—and oozes from—every crevice of the crispy fried patty.

Hungry for more?

If those dishes sound good to you, there are at least 12 more on Station House’s menu. For a full list of offerings, foodies can click here.

Or you could just stop into the restaurant and have Anthony explain them to you himself.

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Because, if there’s anything hotter than barbecue, it’s firefighters cooking it.

Station House BBQ is open for dine-in Tuesday through Sunday at 16319 N Florida Ave. Take-out and catering options are available on the restaurant’s official website.

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