Is 400 miles to far to ride for some great BBQ? How about to visit your family AND eat great BBQ? I had read that the best BBQ in Arizona could be had not more than 20 miles from my son’s place, so the answer to both these questions is an unqualified “NO!” So, I hopped on the R12RT and set a course east on Interstate 10 for the little city of Maricopa AZ.
The ride was pretty uneventful as riding the “slab” can be, but the never-ending desert scenery was pretty, and made prettier by the recent rains. And, I took a well deserved break in Quartzite, AZ for lunch, which broke the ride up a bit. Quartzite is an amazing place. In the summer it’s hot and deserted. In the winter months, everyone from the northern climes moves here, so the desert floor is speckled with RV parks. In town they hold a swap meet that has all kinds of stuff no one buys. Or at least I hope no one buys. How about a giant plastic chicken? Or a rug with a giant beer can stitched on it? What about a cow skull? I wonder how the shoppers can cram their new found treasures into their RVs? I imagine the conversations when the ‘snowbirds’ migrate north again: “That’s a big plastic chicken, doncha know?” “You betcha, eh?”
After a bemused visit to the vendors, I stopped at “Sweet Darlene’s” restaurant. Built in a big steel shed, this restaurant probably sat 300 people at a time! It was huge, with waittresses scurrying around, customers visiting each other, and loads of food being delivered. Darlene hit all the right notes for a successful place: very inexpensive, good food, easy parking, and fast turn over. I sat next to Ron, an 80+ year old man who told me about his life in the special forces, his work at JPL, and finally as he warmed up, all his conspiracy theories about energy, 911, and President Obama. I was pleasantly entranced by his conversation as I finished off a plate of $2.39 bacon, eggs, and hash browns. I really liked Ron. Here he is:
Despite being constantly amazed by how much adventure one can find simply by stopping and talking to people, I was on a mission.
So, 400 tire-squaring miles later, I downshifted into my son’s driveway where I was met by my hungry son, James, his lovely wife, Chanin, and their baby, Gavin. Or, as I like to refer to him as “El Jefe.” Of course I had forgotten the time zone change, so I didn’ t immediately notice the glazed look of hunger in there eyes.
We hopped into their car and took off for Gilbert, AZ, a rapidly growing suburb of Phoenix. Gilbert is trying to hold onto it’s old west individuality, so the down town area is quaint, but I couldn’t help remembering the Gilbert of 30 years ago!
All those thoughts were pushed aside, because downtown Gilbert is the home of “Joe’s Real BBQ.” And real it is. The meats are laboriously slow cooked over pecan wood fires which leaves the meat red, juicy, hot, and loaded with a smoky finish that is delightful!
Well, apparently everyone else in Arizona also thinks it’s delightful. We pulled up and were greeted by a forty-minute wait that spilled out into the street…surprisingly the line moved fairly quickly. The menu here is pretty bssic: ribs, chicken, pulled pork, and bbq’d beef are the mainstays. I suppose you could order a salad, but hey, what are you, a communist or something? I will say they have a huge selection of soft drinks including homemade rootbeer that is pretty good. You pick what you want off a selection board, then move to a serving counter where a courteous yet business- like young person gives you the meat and side dishes you orderd. Fortunately, there are lots of tables, and we got to our table with stomach’s rumbling.
Chanin ordered the giant baked potato with pulled pork while James and I orded the pork ribs. Gavin ate Cheerios and anything else we put with his little one year old grasp! Well, we made short work of our meals. The ribs were great. Nearly fall-off-the-bone tender with just the right amount of charring, they were pretty much irresistable. The baked potato was gigantic, and the side dishes such as macaroni and cheese, corn, and corn bread were pretty good, though the mac ‘n cheese could have used a nice baked finish…
An hour later we waddled out, and my wallet for the three of us was only lighter by about $38. Not bad for the best BBQ I’ve tasted in Arizona!
By the way, here is the contact information for Joe’s should you decide to go down there and sample it yourself:
Joe’s Real BBQ
Until next time, enjoy the road, and the adventure!