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.
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.
What is Montrose? For the first 6+ years I lived in LA I probably would have answered that it is some sort of mythical creature composed of combining a mongoose with an albatross. The fact is that it is neither. Instead, it is a town up near Pasadena, built into the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. And in that town is a restaurant called Zeke’s Smokehouse.
When you travel for business, you don’t really stop to think about just how much food you’re taking in. Thus, I felt it necessary to follow up my first BBQ dinner in Alpharetta, Georgia with another one. This time I went to ‘Cue and split ribs and brisket in an attempt to get enough meat to compare to the night prior at Smokejack.
Alpharetta, Georgia isn’t exactly a food blogger’s destination of choice. Yet, when the day job sends you off to such an exotic place, you make do. And that’s what I did when I made my way to Smokejack, a BBQ that I hoped would represent The South well. Smokejack is located in what can best be described as Alpharetta’s Main Street (because it is), and while all the other restaurants nearby looked good, Smokejack just drew me in.
BBQ. Those who don’t love it don’t love life. But you know where people love life? Eagle Rock. That’s where you’ll find Max City BBQ dishing out the goods. And this isn’t some Santa Maria-style BBQ that’s basically grilling, this is slow-smoked action. The only trouble is that the food comes in a limited quantity and if you show up too late the goods might be gone.
For our last night in Portland we went out big, heading to Tasty n Sons. Our waitress tried to make the claim that the food was meant to be shared by the table like tapas, but everything seemed like an entree and that really seemed like a ploy to get us to order more food. Thus, my buddy and I decided to go splitsies and then decide whether sharing was the right course of action.
Bludso’s in Compton is very often hailed as the best BBQ in LA. Yet, for some reason, a number of people find it difficult to make it to that part of town. Thus, Bludso’s spun off into Hollywood with a bar and que concept that creatively includes a bar along with BBQ. In other words, my long-awaited trip to BBQ heaven (and possibly like real heaven) in Compton was put on hold to make the trip to Hollywood.
South Pasadena is a unique place. As a wholly independent city, it’s often thought of as a more hoity toity part of the area. Yet, it retains a charm that is distinctly “main street.” The part of Fair Oaks that runs through town features a pharmacy straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, but more importantly it has Gus’s Bar-B-Q, which has been around since 1946.