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.
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.
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.
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.
Mark Smith and Gary Clark wouldn’t be where they are today without a 50-year-old barbecue recipe. When the two childhood friends started a catering service in college to cover their living expenses, they soon became renowned for their barbecue, made with a Tennessee-style recipe passed down through several generations. Bolstered by demand, they bought a truck and a portable barbecue pit—but soon traded these for a brick-and-mortar location, a rustic storefront on East Van Buren Street. More than 25 years later, the pair are still serving smoked meats at Honey Bear’s BBQ, boosting their output with a second location on North Central Avenue and a separate catering center.
Their recipe has only improved with age, earning them accolades such as the Phoenix’s Best BBQ Sauce 2010 Award from the Phoenix New Times. Inside the Honey Bear BBQ kitchens, chefs brush this signature Tennessee sauce onto pulled pork, shredded chicken, and beef brisket, which they serve by the pound, pile onto sandwiches, or stuff into face-level catapults. They complement the mesquite flavors with traditional Southern sides such as potato salad, cowbro beans, collard greens, and tater tots. For faraway fans, they also bottle and ship their signature sauce around the country.
The 1950s were a simpler time in America. Long before we were confronted with the rapid rise of technology and the messy implications of time travel, our grandparents’ generation saw their hopes and dreams reflected in the polished body of a Cadillac or the shiny, streamlined façade of the local diner. Those days seem a world away, but 5 & Diner offers guests a privileged glimpse into the past with its unapologetic veneration of everything ‘50s. There are now several 5 & Diner locations across Arizona and the Southwest, but most of them have certain key elements in common. Sleek, rounded corners and a profusion of reflective aluminum are unifying features that harken back to an age when space travel was the talk of every town. Of course, the most important thing they have in common is the food. No matter which 5 & Diner you visit, you’ll find 12 signature burgers, creamy malts and milkshakes, and classic diner desserts such as apple pie and bread pudding.