Some of this spring's best restaurant news came to me serendipitously.

Several weeks ago, driving across a familiar stretch of Indian School Road, just west of the 51, I noticed something that hadn't been there before: a bright purple building, spray-painted with big, sassy, graffiti-esque letters.

BBQ.

Don't call it a comeback: Stacy Phipps returns to the dining scene bearing a plate full of ribs.
Jackie Mercandetti
Don't call it a comeback: Stacy Phipps returns to the dining scene bearing a plate full of ribs.

Location Info

Map

Stacy's Smoke Dem Bones Pit Stop

1650 E. Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85016

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: East Phoenix

Details

Regular pulled pork sandwich: $4.50
Half order of beef ribs: $7.50
One piece of catfish: $1.99
Greens: $2.95
602-230-6724
Hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Stacy's Smokehouse, 1650 East Indian School Road

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Errrrch!

I usually slam on the brakes and pull a U-ie when I spot a new place to eat.

Okay, the building had been there all along, but it sure hadn't been purple. It last housed Memphx, the short-lived Southwestern soul food joint, and had since been sitting dark for quite a while. To see it slicked with a fresh coat of paint — and brightened with a much-needed front window — made me smile.

But what made me even happier, once I did another drive-by, was actually getting a glimpse of the name: Stacy's Smokehouse.

Could it be the Stacy, as in Stacy Phipps, whose eponymous Jefferson Street soul food restaurant left a huge void in many hearts when it closed nearly two years ago? You bet.

I knew right off the bat that word of his resurfacing would please a lot of hungry people.

Located right across the street from New Times, Stacy's was a longtime staff favorite, especially with the Southerners among our ranks, who dreamed about the greens and fantasized about the fried chicken whenever they craved a taste of home cooking. (I used to go there for a splurge, too, although not often enough for Phipps to know me when I showed up at his new place.) It was also a social hub for the African-American community.

No one ever could've imagined such a popular place going out of business — not even Phipps himself, who got a 30-day notice to vacate when new landlords took over the building with plans to open their own soul food restaurant. (That never panned out — now it's occupied by 12 East Café, which serves breakfast food and sandwiches.)

But he's back, and his food's just as delicious as ever.

Stacy's Smokehouse won't win any accolades for décor — the space is Spartan, with only a handful of tables, some small, framed pieces of decorative art, and a few funky sculptures of jazz musicians on otherwise bare white walls. The menu's written on a chalkboard posted above the counter, and just beyond that, you can see right into Phipps' kitchen. Half-audible strains of R&B emanate from a radio tucked somewhere behind the antiquated cash register. (Which doesn't seem to work, by the way. Somebody will figure out your tab on a handheld calculator, and they only take cash.)

However, I couldn't ask for any more atmosphere than the mouthwatering aroma of barbecue, which enticed me as soon as I stepped out of my car. Shiny metal meat smokers burning almond and hickory wood are tucked alongside the eatery, so even the rear parking lot smells like a kitchen. And once the feast landed on my table, I wasn't paying attention to anything but the next bite.

Stacy's smoked meats were fantastic, slathered in sweet, rich sauce. I sampled moist chicken and sliced beef sandwiches packed so full that I could barely hold them together; the soft bun was more a formality than a practical component. On another visit, I swooned over the tender pulled pork, which turned out to be one of my favorite dishes.

The brisket was another winner. I ordered a half-pound of it to share with my sweetie, and surprised myself with how quickly we gobbled it up. Even after I'd stuffed myself on some corn bread muffins, crispy onion rings, and a few dessert-like "sweet fries" — thick-cut sweet potato fries coated in cinnamon and sugar — I still kept sneaking more nibbles of that brisket.

The beef ribs were the most primal food experience I've had in ages, and I thought about them for days afterward. My dining companion ordered them with sauce on the side, and as it turned out, they didn't need it anyway — the smoky, darkly caramelized meat was really flavorful.

Although barbecue is in the spotlight at Stacy's Smokehouse, there's also plenty of lick-your-plate soul food, like expertly seasoned, cornmeal-battered catfish, which was just as I remembered it from Phipps' old restaurant. And the juicy, golden fried chicken is some of the best around, definitely worthy of a visit to this no-frills spot. It's not available until after 3 p.m., though, so unleash your cravings accordingly.

I could've just filled up on the side dishes here. And faced with the choice of Southern-style greens, sticky-sweet candied yams, or crunchy hush puppies, I couldn't deny myself any of them. Peppery cole slaw was nothing special, but it was nice to see corn on the cob on the menu, available plain, smoked in the husk, or deep-fried. Black-eyed peas had a kick to them, and so did the lightly peppery gravy that smothered a scoop of mashed potatoes. Fried okra was killer, too. I thought I'd try just a couple bites, but the dynamic between crunchy, salty cornmeal and tangy, tender okra was irresistible.

Desserts were just as seductive as the savory stuff. Sweet potato pie was easy to love, a cool, custardy foil to spicy barbecue sauce. One night, I happened to stop by right after a fresh batch of peach cobbler came out of the oven, and it called to me. Dense buttery pastry was the best thing about it. It was just the right level of sweetness, too. But I did wish the peaches had been fresh, not canned; alas, they're not in season yet.

Interestingly, pecan pie and red velvet cake were listed as "seasonal desserts," and weren't available the times I visited.

Honestly, I already had plenty of reasons to go back to Stacy's Smokehouse, but a couple more can't hurt.

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2 comments
James B
James B

Absolutely the WORST service anywhere. Try going in there at lunch and it can be a 20 minute wait to put in an order while being continuously cut in front of. The fine counter help will let you fend for yourself. NEVER EVER AGAIN will I waste my to short lunch period standing in line there. Stacy's Smokehouse put the appeal back into McDonalds.

Steve Ross
Steve Ross

I loved Stacy's old restaurant and called him up to congratulate him on his reopening. He grunted a response. That was a preview of what was to come. My friend and I came at noontime on Saturday. The first thing I noticed was that his fried chicken, which used to be the best anywhere, was not available on Saturday. The brusque woman at the counter took my order grudgingly. I counted out what I thought were 28 dollars and change and walked away. A minute later she came to my table to collect another dollar. We ordered two pieces of catfish, rib tips, beef ribs, macaroni and cabbage. Forty minutes later we were still waiting for our order, long after the customers in front of us had ordered and finished eating. When I went up to the counter, the woman looked around and found our order on a table behind her. She told me at that time that they didn't have cabbage. I asked for black-eyed peas. The black-eyed peas were swimming in a liquid that looked like dishwater. The rip tips were fatty and the meat on the beef ribs was tough as shoe leather. The catfish was virtually tasteless. We had to ask for tartar sauce. It was also difficult to cut anything with a plastic knife. Since the barbecue sauce was the best part of the meal, I was hoping that it would come with a slice on white bread, which is standard in most barbecue places. There wasn't any, so I went back to the counter to ask for a slice. The woman at the counter told me that it was 99 cents for two slices of bread. "Surprise, surprise!" was my jaundiced response. She couldn't find any bread, so she brought out one hamburger roll. Maybe I hit his place on a bad day, but it seems like he has declined from running one of the best restaurants in Phoenix to running one of the most unpleasant and inedible rib shacks.

 
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