Opened in 2009 and featured in the news quite a bit recently, I’m late to the party when it comes to talking about Bryan’s BBQ. If you haven’t heard of this place however, let this review be the one that convinces you to go. It is worth the trip. For items priced around $8-10 you can get some of the best barbecue in the valley in my opinion, but in a way Bryan’s can’t be compared to other local barbecue restaurants. Why not? Here are some reasons why.
1. It is not a typical sit down restaurant where you wait for a person to take your order and they bring your food out to you. At Bryan’s, you get in line and look at the menu up on the wall first to decide what you’ll be having. After you place your order up front it’s time to find a seat and wait until they call your name. Oh and don’t forget to fill up on some of his Southern-style barbecue sauce just right of the counter.
2. The menu is smaller than other places. The owner, Bryan Dooley, tells me he wanted to focus on offering fewer items that tasted great. His goal wasn’t to please everyone by offering everything other barbecue spots offer, but instead to deliver the food he knew well in the best way possible. I was really impressed by this notion and if I were to open my own place I would probably do the same.
3. The whole ambiance of the place gives a vibe of a hangout with good food rather than a destination for dinner… (a hangout with really good food that is). The staff is very friendly and came to check on tables every now and then to see how they were doing. People who finished eating didn’t pay a bill and get up to leave, but instead would sit at the table for another 20 or 30 minutes and just chat while enjoying the beautiful weather. Since Bryan’s is located up in Cave Creek, the surroundings are also pretty quiet in the evenings so there was no road or city noise and it made the patio a prime spot to chill.
As for the food, everything my table ordered was delicious. Bryan’s was voted Best Brisket by the New Times for 2010, so of course I had to make sure someone in our party ordered the brisket. I also heard that their baked beans were a must-try, so I had to remember to include that as well. Walking up to the menu I immediately had my eye on the 1/2 slab of Pork Ribs however. There was no way I was going to finish a 1/2 slab, brisket sandwich and baked beans though, so I looked over at Jeff and he was already ordering the brisket sandwich for himself. Jackpot! Knowing I could steal some of his, I decided to go with the Pork Ribs which came with two sides so I opted for the baked beans and potato salad. My other friends Becky and Michelle both went with the brisket sandwich as well, but changed up their sides to include fries and coleslaw.
The brisket came out first and Becky wasted no time diving in. All 3 said that their sandwich was one of the better briskets they’ve ever had. I tried some and I would have to agree with them. The brisket was so tender that when you bit into the sandwich you couldn’t even tell there was meat because you didn’t have to chew through a large piece. But the flavor accompanied with the barbecue sauce was great and I later found out this was no coincidence, as Bryan told me it was specifically made that way to complement the meat. Each brisket also came out with a roasted jalapeno in case you wanted to add a little spice to the meal.
My ribs came out and man, did they look good. Smoked for 14 hours with nothing but a dry rub, these ribs were tasty. I wouldn’t say they were “fall of the bone” but they certainly weren’t tough. The half slab had a layer of that barbecue sauce on top and two pieces of white bread underneath, to mop up whatever fell off in the basket. The dry rub was what really came through in the taste though. There was a slight peppery layer to the meat that would come off on your fingers a bit and made for good seasoning when licking them afterwards. The baked beans were also as good as promised and had a nice flavor to them. They weren’t too filling though as is the case with some recipes.
After feeling completely satisfied with our meals and sitting back in our chairs a little, Bryan came out to check on us. We thought we were done for the evening, but then I remembered seeing a picture of root beer battered apple slices from Bryan’s Twitter account a few weeks back, and I asked if they had that on the menu. Turned out it was the first night they were being offered, so of course we had to try them. Out came a basket with about 8 apple slices battered in root beer, sprinkled with powdered sugar and pink peppercorns, all served around a cup of vanilla ice cream. Yum. Very creative and very good. We wound up folding the apple slices with ice cream in the middle like an ice cream sandwich and popping them like nothing. If you go to Bryan’s this month, make sure to try these.
Looking back at that night, there wasn’t one thing our table didn’t like. With the small menu every item is almost a safe bet, but I still wish you good luck in trying to choose just one.
Tip: They have a wide selection of beer behind the counter, but the Dogfish 60 minute IPA goes great with the pork ribs and a spicy barbecue sauce.
6130 E. Cave Creek Rd.
Cave Creek, AZ