There’s really very little in life that can compare to a true apples to apples comparison. Or, if you’re in Lockhart, Texas, a meat to meat comparison. You see, Lockhart is the BBQ capital of Texas and literally after finishing up the brisket (or shoulder clod depending on who you are asking) at Kreuz Market, I headed right around the corner to Black’s BBQ, which a member of my family said was even better. In few moments, I would quickly decide whether he was foolish or praiseworthy.
There are five pillars in the religion of Islam. One of these is the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca. Being unvegan has no such pillars, but if there had to be a Mecca, it would probably be Lockhart, Texas. Sure, there are holy unvegan sites scattered around the globe, but BBQ is arguable the most unvegan food, Texas is arguably the best state to eat BBQ in and Lockhart is arguably the BBQ capital of Texas. But, determining the actual Kaaba worth circling around (aka best BBQ restaurant) was my most important task and it began at Kreuz Market.
Last week the Phoenix area hit 100 degrees for the first time this year and it was the fourth earliest date on record. Thus, one would think that the season for outdoor events would be coming to an end. One would be wrong, as this past weekend brought in the Scottsdale Culinary Fest and the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, an outdoor Taste of Chicago-esque festival showcasing food from all over the area and of all types.
Some were household names with tons of locations around the Valley of the Sun, like Grimaldi’s and Zoe’s, but others seemed a bit more special and I sought them out (along with some booze, of course).
The Italiano – Aioli Burger
I’d been hearing murmurings of how great this place was for a while now, and its victory at Burger Battle 2018 further cemented my desire to get there. This burger wasn’t perfect, nor would I expect it to be in such a situation, but the combination of mozzarella, bacon, basil garlic aioli, balsamic reduction and a discarded tomato made me more eager to seek out the real deal.
The Super Bowl is set! And while everyone is pumped to see the Patriots again, and the Eagles again (but not nearly as again), it is important to realize that for most people the Super Bowl is about food and commercials. So, food, right? Lil’ smokies might sound good for another year, but sometimes it’s smart to just hit up a bar. I was just given an opportunity to check out the goods* at B2 Burgers and Brews, which is looking forward to hosting a bunch of people with some pretty exciting specials.
There are certain aspects of the Phoenix area that are tough to get used to. Not in the sense that they are bad in any way, just that they are different. You see, I spent much of my life thinking that good food is a pretty rare find in a strip mall or as a standalone building in the parking lot of a strip mall. But, when a city is basically all strip malls, the good food simply has to be there. Thus, while my expectations of BBQ spots are generally a bit less pristine than a strip mall, I couldn’t pass up the chance to check out Naked BBQ in Scottsdale.
It’s hard to make BBQ trendy. It is inherently something that people have very specific expectations for, and anything “new” and good is almost always a minor tweak that makes a real difference. So where can innovation come from? Booze. At least that’s what Bootleggers BBQ in Phoenix was thinking, offering a pretty snazzy modern divey bar that also serves up BBQ. It’s like a gastropub meets a BBQ spot and I was eager to see how the meat would hold up.
Like in LA, food trucks are a thing in the Phoenix area. And it makes much more sense here because everything is so damn spread out. Pasadena spoiled me. But I digress. The good news is that my office is all about bringing food trucks in every month (not for free, of course) to mix things up and to keep us from driving literal miles to the nearest food. This last time, it was Sweet Magnolia Smokehouse, serving up BBQ.
Good food is always made better if it’s found in a strange place. You know, like the Cheetos you find in the couch cushion. No, but seriously, like BBQ at a gas station. Such is Tom’s Thumb in Scottsdale. And while it may be more of a restaurant that happens to have a gas station attached than the other way around, that shouldn’t take away from the fact that this is literally a gas station and BBQ place.
BBQ is pretty much the best. But the Bay Area is a long way from where the best BBQ is supposed to be. Yet, while there for a quickie trip I made my way to 3 Pigs BBQ in San Carlos. The place definitely has a rustic feel, with an homage to the southern source of great BBQ in the form of an American flag made from Bud and Bud Light beer cans. It seemed like my kind of place and I set to work on ordering.
It would have been much more convenient to go to Blue Tractor BBQ in Ann Arbor. After all, I seem to get there about once a year. The trouble is that every time I’m there I can’t help but stop at Zingerman’s, with an occasional other restaurant thrown in once every blue (or maize) moon. Instead, I went to the location a number of hours further away in Traverse City, Michigan, not far from Sleeping Bear Dunes.