Spicy Smoked Wahoo Dip

Florida barbecue gets a seat at the table thanks to West Palm Beach’s Tropical Smokehouse


Florida most likely isn’t the first place you think of when craving some barbecue, but Rick Mace is on a mission to change that. At Tropical Smokehouse in West Palm Beach, where Mace is owner and executive chef, Dominican, Jamaican, Cuban, and Haitian influences meld with traditional barbecue to create a unique perspective on the genre. 

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The James Beard–nominated “Best Chef: South” brings a diverse culinary background to his current role, having grown up on a farm in Ohio and later working with acclaimed French chef Daniel Boulud before moving to South Florida. He has compiled a menu that includes brisket empanadas, barbecue jackfruit, Cajun gator sausage, and crispy yuca. “I started to really pay attention to the multicultural aspects of Florida,” Mace says. “I fell for the place pretty hard. It’s crazy for all the right reasons.” 

Chef RIck Mace.

Tropical Smokehouse and its barbecue savants also specialize in smoked fish and chicken cooked in their five-hundred-gallon Florida oak and hickory smoker. While he admits it was not an original thought, the joint is certainly one of the first to execute the idea of Florida barbecue. “There is plenty of room at the barbecue table,” he says.

It isn’t just the concept that Mace focuses on. “Our quality matters, and I am helping people understand that good groceries make good barbecue,” he says. His larger ambition is for Tropical Smokehouse to be a place that creates good jobs, where the community can gather. “This is a restaurant for everybody,” he says, adding, “I’m happy to be alongside other chefs who are doing the same around the area.”

The smoked fish dip is a prime example of the Sunshine State flavors found at Tropical. A fresh filet and quality smoker make all the difference when trying a hand at Mace’s recipe, which he shares below.


  • Tropical Smokehouse’s Spicy Wahoo DIp

    • 2 lb. fresh wahoo filets (preferably skin-on; substitute kingfish or mahi if not available)

    • ¼ cup kosher salt

    • 2 tbsp. brown sugar

    • ¾ cup mayonnaise

    • ¾ cup sour cream

    • 2 large jalapeños

    • 2 limes, zest from one and juice from both

    • 1 scotch bonnet pepper, all ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped

    • 1½ tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

    • ¼ cup chopped cilantro

    • 1 tbsp. hot sauce

    • 2 tbsp. barbecue sauce


  1. To make smoked fish, combine kosher salt and brown sugar in a bowl. Season the fish liberally with the salt/sugar mixture. Place in a rack or in a self-draining container and place into the refrigerator uncovered overnight to cure.

  2. The next day, the fish should be tacky to the touch. If not, place under a fan at room temperature briefly until it is tacky.

  3. Preheat the smoker to 175°F. Place the fish into the smoker and smoke until the fish is cooked through and appears to have a light caramel color from the smoke. The smoking time will vary depending on the type and thickness of filets. 

  4. While the fish is smoking, place 2 large jalapeños directly into the embers of the fire with a pair of tongs. Cool briefly, turning to char all sides. Remove to a small, covered container and allow to cool before removing the skin, seeds, ribs, and stems. Chop the charred jalapeño coarsely and reserve.  

  5. Once the fish is smoked, chill in the refrigerator. Once chilled, flake fish into a mixing bowl. Combine the prepared fish with mayonnaise, sour cream, lime zest and juice, scotch bonnet pepper, Worcestershire sauce, cilantro, barbecue sauce, and hot sauce. Mix thoroughly, making sure to leave some nice large flakes of fish intact. 

  6. Place in a serving dish and serve with warm tortilla chips, pickled jalapeños, and limes.