Ribber, Phoenix

Unfortunately, of all the items on Gecko Grill's limited menu, the ribs are the least compelling. Instead of being lifted to hog heaven, I felt like I was trapped in pig purgatory.

The problem? The ribs splintered every time I put my teeth to the bone. I don't know why every bone in this rack snapped like a twig at the merest tug, but it significantly interfered with my enjoyment.

Too bad, because the ribs were coated with an absolutely scrumptious barbecue sauce, thick and fruity, with a sweet-and-tart zing. It comes in three strengths: mild, medium and hot. The hot is particularly awesome--the chile kick provides a great boost.

Location Info


Gecko Grill

2401 E. Baseline Road
Gilbert, AZ 85234-2407

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Gilbert

Its full powers are revealed when brushed on the deeply flavorful chicken, a lovely bird with a juicy interior and a crispy edge. This fowl is fair. The shredded-pork sandwich is also a turn-on, with its mound of moist meat dripping out the sides of a bun.

I didn't expect much from the top-sirloin-steak sandwich, which usually turns out, in places like this, to be a mass of inedible gristle. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by about six ounces of tender beef, soft enough to gum.

Sandwiches come with potato chips and warehouse-club-quality coleslaw. The rib and chicken platters are more effectively teamed with a nifty twice-baked potato draped with cheese and beans drenched in the same wonderful barbecue sauce that zips up the meats.

I hope Gecko Grill can get its rib act together, because everything else is quite good. As Bonnie Raitt sang a few years ago, let's give them something to pork about.

Memphis Blues & Barbecue, 1264 West University, Mesa, 688-9334. Hours: Lunch and Dinner, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to close.

This down-home roadhouse sure looks like it holds great barbecue promise. You hear either live blues entertainment or recorded Janis Joplin spilling out over the music system. A colorful mural of a guitar player strumming in the desert decorates the back wall in the dining room.

The bar area showed signs of life. But some touches had us scratching our heads, like the cloth napkins stuffed inside glasses at the tables. Barbecue with cloth napkins? We also wondered why we were the only people eating here.

It didn't take us long to figure out that mystery. Not to put too fine a point on it, the food here ranges from third-rate to awful.

Memphis Blues & Barbecue serves some bayou-accented dishes, as well as the usual barbecue-parlor fare. In retrospect, appetizers like hot wings and Memphis gumbo signaled what we were in for. For instance, the menu promises that the wings come with veggies and a dip. They didn't. And the gumbo, a bland mix of underheated potatoes, mushy rice and zipless sausage, should have alerted us that the kitchen was apparently content just to go through the motions.

The main dishes proved it. It's almost impossible to make ribs boring, but somehow this place pulled off this dubious culinary achievement. The meat had no smoky aroma, no charred texture and no discernible flavor. The barbecue sauce turned out just as snooze-worthy.

Pulled barbecue was instantly forgettable, devoid of zip or energy. So were the smoked hot links, about which the menu boasts, ". . . and we mean HOT!" Somebody must be kidding. What we got looked and tasted like a ballpark frank.

With the beef brisket, however, the meal turned ugly. Thick, tough slabs of meat required a chain saw to cut, the bicuspids of a wolf to chew and the courage of a lion to swallow. Side dishes furnished no letup to our letdown: charmless beans; employee-cafeteria-quality coleslaw and potato salad; dull steamed collard greens; and over-the-hill green chile corn bread.

This place is aptly named: If you want Memphis barbecue and the blues, you'll get them here.

Smoked-turkey sandwich
Rack of ribs

Gecko Grill:
Rack of ribs (platter)

Memphis Blues
& Barbecue:
Pulled barbecue (sandwich)
Rack of ribs

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