The pork ribs, as mentioned, are stellar — quality meat with a tasty rub and just the right amount of smoke. They're very tender but also substantial, offering perfect resistance as you start gnawing into them. I haven't had better anywhere in Phoenix. The hot link hoagie is also very good; sausages are pretty standard and the French-trained chef knows how to use brown mustard and Vidalia onions well. You're safe ordering either of these with the cole slaw or baked beans — sides sadly come as a single, cereal bowl-size portion — avoiding the re-heated macaroni and cheese.

Also pay careful attention to the name of the main chicken dish. It's roasted chicken, meaning no smoke whatsoever. Not much in the way of other flavor, either. The pulled pork was surprisingly inconsistent, coming out tough and dry on one visit and moist and meaty the other. Pork shoulder is one type of barbecue that even purists usually like to sauce, and Desert Smoke's shortcomings really hurt here.

The brisket, on the other hand, was simply a disaster. On my first visit, for an early weekday dinner, it was sold out. On the second, at least half of the portion we received was gelatinous white fat. No one dropped by to ask how it was until we'd picked scraps of beef off the fat for much of our meal. A manager comped our drinks as a result — a nice gesture, but not much consolation as I stared up at those T-shirts, wondering why he was too busy to prevent that plate from ever leaving the kitchen.

If you're going to Big Earl's BBQ, stick to the ribs.
Jackie Mercandetti
If you're going to Big Earl's BBQ, stick to the ribs.

Location Info


Big Earl's BBQ

7213 E. First Ave.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Category: Restaurant > Barbecue

Region: Central Scottsdale


Big Earl's BBQ
7213 East First Avenue, Scottsdale
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

Deep-fried pickles: $4.99
Barbacoa nachos: $8.99
Hot link hoagie: $6.99
Pork ribs (whole slab): $19.99

Dessert proved to be a salve. The date and pecan pie was good, as were the chocolate chip cookies. The banana pudding with Nilla wafers and a chocolate-tinged whipped cream was the real keeper. That humble dish realized the potential of the Big Earl's concept better than anything else, blending good old-fashioned Nilla wafers, sliced bananas, perfect pudding and fancy French whipped cream.

Cool, creamy pudding feels pretty good on a pickle juice-ravaged tongue.

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