“Mouthwatering ribs that deliver gnaw-off-the-bone pleasure,” and “heavenly sauce [that’s worth a] drive across town without complaint.” That’s how the Phoenix New Times sums up The Barbecue Company Grill and Cafe. Since 1987, this renowned catering company has fed hordes of hungry party-goers with St. Louis style ribs, pulled pork, and tender beef brisket deemed worthy of awards and recognition, including the National Championship award from Sparks Nugget Rib Cook-Off in Reno. And though catering continues to be their bread and butter—they sell meats and Southern-style sides by the pound and fruit cobbler by the pan—the company expanded its one-leg business model into a dine-in eatery. During lunch hours Monday through Friday, The Barbecue Company opens its doors to customers with a full menu of award-winning barbecue piled onto hearty platters or sandwiches. The cooks also deliver their decadent fare to office-dwellers who can't take a break or convince their boss it's New Year’s Day again.
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.
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 Wildlife World 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.
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.
Papa Joe brings his slow-cooked meats to Phoenix by way of Texas, where he learned the fine art of cooking over mesquite wood. At Papa Joe’s Fish-N-Que, he does just that, imparting smoky flavor into pork ribs, pulled brisket, and Italian sausages before brushing them with his homemade barbeque sauce and piling them onto the plate with sides such as fried okra and jalapeño hushpuppies. Of course, the name of the shop is Fish-N-Que. And so, with equal skill and finesse, Papa Joe dishes out perfectly cooked plates of fried spicy or mild catfish, whiting, and cod. Of course, no good barbecue joint would ever skimp on dessert, so Joe's kitchen also serves up slices of Granny Ann’s sweet potato pie or helpings of a peach cobbler so sweet it could talk its way into a member’s only apple orchard.
Steak and lobster is a classic pairing, but Bobby-Q serves up a different combination: grilled sirloin and a half rack of baby back ribs. The barbecue and steaks, which are all aged in-house, arrive at tables alongside housemade cornbread and sides such as pecan coleslaw.