BBQ Mountain Region

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Q Tips, a new section lists unsolicited BBQ restaurant recommendations that showed up in my email.  Congratulations to my wife Connie for coming up with the name. Q Tips.  

Our neighbors to the north also enjoy BBQ 


 Honey Bear’s BBQ

7670 S. Priest Dr.
Tempe, AZ

Take the Elliot Rd. exit off I10 East, take a right at the first light, take the first left into the Applebees parking lot, go past the Applebees, and Honey Bear’s will be directly ahead.

I had a pulled pork sandwich with Texas red-hots (aka sausages) and a piece of sweet potato pie.  The red-hots were very good – hot sausages filled with red pepper flakes.  However, the pulled pork was so mild, almost bland, that it needed BBQ sauce to get it going.  However, the only sauce (in a heated soup tureen, by the way – nice touch) is a thin red sauce chock full of floating red pepper flakes.  It tasted good, but my mouth was so anaesthetized by the time I finished the sandwich that I couldn’t taste anything else – a shame, because I love sweet potato pie.  Having a milder sauce available would better balance out the different foods.

Overall rating – Good, based largely on the imbalance between the different foods.

Big City BBQThis chain closed sometime before December, 2013. Pity. They were really good.

5118 S. Rural Rd.
Tempe, AZ

In a shopping mall on Rural Rd. (which may have been rural once, but is now a major main drag) about a quarter mile south of Rt. 60 and a very easy shot to and from the airport.

Somewhat nondescript looking, like most good BBQ places, but neat and well laid out.  You order at a small counter and someone then brings the food to your table.

I had a two-meat combo, brisket and hot links, with mac-n-cheese and candied yams.  The brisket was excellent, thick chunks that needed almost no chewing and that were covered with a thick, slightly spicy sauce with, I think, a hefty dose of molasses.  Unusually, the brisket wasn’t sliced.  Instead, it was in chunks, more like pulled pork.  The hot links were also good, chewy and with a good bite but not enough to anaesthetize the mouth like Honey Bear’s.  The mac-n-cheese was excellent, slightly grainy as if it was made with real cheddar.  Finally, the yams were outstanding – chunks of yam in a thick sweet sauce.  Add a pie crust and some whipped cream and you’d have the makings of a first-class sweet potato pie.

Overall rating – Outstanding.

Thanks to Maggie Haenel, Jay Jolly, and Karen Pasley for bringing me here, treating me to dinner, and polishing off my leftovers.

Lucille’s Smokehouse B-B-Q (Sept. 2010)

Tempe Marketplace
2030 East Rio Salado Pkwy
Tempe , AZ 85281
480-966-RIBS (7427)

A California chain with a small presence in Arizona and Nevada. The AZ restaurant is in a modern “marketplace” (aka mall) about five miles from Sky Harbor, so it’s much more upscale than a traditional BBQ joint. It’s basically a restaurant that serves BBQ, among other things. It’s got a large bar, and the place is done up heavily in dark wood, leather, brass, etc. Again, not your typical BBQ joint.

There’s an extensive menu, including a lot of salads (including smoked brisket and shrimp and tasso ham salads), catfish, jambalaya, gumbo, pork chops, and a good selection of BBQ including baby back, St. Louis, and beef ribs, chicken, brisket, pulled pork, hot links, tri-tip (kind of unusual), and a range of sides including various regular and sweet potatoes, cheese grits, greens, cole slaw, mac and cheese, peanut slaw, and more. Basically, a very eclectic menu covering various BBQ styles plus Cajun/creole.

I’ve always wanted to try tri-tip so, in a break with tradition, I ordered the tri-tip plate with mac and cheese and peanut slaw. The tri-tip was excellent – tender, juicy, and with a nice smoke ring. The mac and cheese was also excellent, creamy (a bit too much so according to one dinner companion) and salty enough (hi mom) that I didn’t need to add any. The peanut slaw, like cole slaw but without mayo and with peanuts instead, was very good, just a little odd. Lucille’s is also a little pricey, as befits a restaurant – the tri-tip plate was $18.95, a standard two-meat plate was $24.95, and an iced tea was $2.95.

They’ve got three sauces – regular, hot, and Memphis (as I recall) style. All very good, with the regular being just a little sweet and the hot being just hot enough to taste but without anesthetizing your lips.

Overall rating – Very good, based on the quality of the tri-tip, the mac and cheese, and the peanut slaw, with some points off for the cost. I’d certainly go back.

Thanks to Deb Gabriel, Jan Kruze, Maggie Haenel, and Tom Barnett from the Phoenix chapter of STC for taking me here and giving me the opportunity to finally try tri-tip.

Hap’s Pit Barbecue

4801 E Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85034
(602) 267-0181

Hap’s is small, with six or seven tables and booths in a little restaurant mall on the northeast side of Sky Harbor airport and a stone’s throw off the Hohokam Expressway. So it’s a handy place to fill up on BBQ before a flight.

I had a two-meat combo – pulled pork and beef brisket with cole slaw and corn bread. The pork was excellent, a combination of chunks and threads with no mushiness. (I ate there at 1 PM, so the meat hadn’t yet spent the day on a steam table.) The brisket was chopped, which I don’t care for, but the consistency was good. The problem was that neither meat seemed to have much smokiness – they were both good but needed the sauce to give them BBQ flavor. The sauce itself was good – smoky and with just enough spice bite to register but not enough to kill your taste buds. The cole slaw and corn bread were both good.

Overall rating – Good, based on the quality of the meat but the lack of smokiness.



The Claim Jumper

4905 South Virginia St. (Redfield Promenade)
Reno, NV
(775) 829-0200

Easy to find – about a mile south of the Peppermill casino and almost directly across from the Olive Garden.

Not a BBQ place but a restaurant with a broad menu that includes chicken, baby back ribs, St. Louis ribs, and beef ribs.  Very nice looking, but expensive and lacking standard BBQ joint elements like neon signs for cheap beers and tacky vinyl tableclothes.

I got St. Louis ribs with cole slaw and the cheesy potato cakes – fried potato cakes mixed with three kinds of cheese and topped with a 1000-island style dressing.  Ribs were very good – meaty and tender but very mild and with little smoke flavor.  The idea seems to be to use the BBQ sauce if  you want to jazz up the meat.  The sauce was a tomato-based sauce with what I thought was a strong molasses note but the waitress said there wasn’t any molasses in it.  Whatever it was, it tasted good, with enough bite to spice up the ribs.  The cole slaw was standard good.  The potato cakes were very good but dry and could have used extra dressing on the side.

Overall rating – As a restaurant, excellent.  As a BBQ joint, good.

(Thanks to Kim Radzik of Intuit for this recommendation.)