For the location of the first Dillon's, Rich Dillon and George Valverde chose a 1940s Thunderbird Road structure that a writer for the Phoenix New Times described as "a cute, converted old house that looks like grandma's parlor." Since then, they've opened four more eateries in locations that are as appealing as the signature flame-kissed and slow-smoked meats served inside. Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium's shark tank flanks the dining room of Dillon's at the Zoo, and the boat-accessible Scorpion Bay location opens onto the waters of Lake Pleasant so that diners can chortle as fish attempt to develop democracy. Live music and karaoke lend additional social vibes to the smokehouses.
As the restaurant's name might suggest, the chefs at Shane's Rib Shack take their dedication to rib-sticking food seriously. It's what drove them to craft a menu loaded with sauce-slathered ribs, pulled pork, and chicken along with salads and homestyle sides such as mac ‘n’ cheese, Brunswick stew, and fried okra. In addition to heaping plates with hearty food, chefs also take dietary needs into account via a menu of gluten-free options.
The owners of Pork on a Fork BBQ Grill, Wes Hansen and Justin Erickson, share a love of barbecue, but their mutual dedication to quality runs further than that. Both were born around Nebraska hog farms—Wes to a restaurateur father, Justin an award-winning competitive barbecuer. In fact, the Erickson family still owns a farm in Central City. That's why the duo gets all their meat from Midwestern farms before they smoke it competition-style, each cut sizzled over pecan wood and charcoal—never a gas grill.
This pared-down approach results in a simple selection of quality midwestern barbecue, including pulled pork, smoked chicken, and the “menu showstopper,” according to 10Best: the “perfectly cooked” brisket. To accompany each succulent entree, cooks whip up traditional sides such as macaroni salad, slaw, and cornbread hand-plucked from Nebraska’s plentiful fields of cornbread.
Burleigh Rideau Sr. arrived in Phoenix in 1923, bringing along fond memories of barbecue gatherings in his hometown in Louisiana and his family's treasured recipes for barbecue sauce. He spearheaded the original Town Talk Barbeque in 1949, where he slow-cooked flavorful meats over mesquite wood. Today, father-son duo Charles and Chris Rideau follow in their ancestor's footsteps at Town Talk II, faithfully adhering to the time-honored Rideau family recipes to grill up a variety of creole-style specialties.
Deep in the bustling kitchen, Charles and Chris shower brisket, chicken, pulled pork, and rib tips in their signature thick and tangy sauce. They plate meats and sandwiches alongside a variety of traditional sides, such as housemade Cajun fries and creamy potato salad, and they whip up peach and blackberry cobblers for dessert. Meanwhile, diners clink bottles of beer out in the warm dining room, where black-and-white photographs of the original barbecue joint speckle the walls. Each tabletop is equipped with paper towels, ideal for mopping up spilled barbecue sauce before the cops can arrest you for wasting it.
Named for their founder, a renegade radio host and showman, Bill Johnson's Big Apple Restaurants please palates with a menu of hearty American fare. Warm up your appetite with Grand Canyon nachos, which––just like the real Grand Canyon––are covered with beef, black beans, avocado, jalapeños, and more ($9). Mama's breaded pork chops ($13.50) and southern fried 1/2 chicken ($14) counterbalance a beefy selection of steaks. A six-ounce sirloin paired with endless popcorn shrimp ($15) tests the limits of appetites and pants, and a bacon-wrapped eight-ounce sirloin filet ($15) brings barnyard frenemies together at last. Guests can also make their own meaty matches with the Make Your Own Smoked Combo option ($17), which allows diners to make three selections from a smoked smorgasbord of pork ribs, beef ribs, pulled pork, smoked brisket, hot links, and barbecue-smoked chicken.